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Troilus and Cressida



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Set during the Trojan War, Troilus and Cressida recounts the love affair of its title characters. Inside the besieged city of Troy,…



This preface appears in some copies of the play’s first printing in quarto in 1609.

Act 1, scene 1

Troilus refuses to fight because he is too disturbed by his unrequited love for Cressida. Pandarus, her uncle, complains of…

Act 1, scene 2

Cressida gossips with her servant Alexander, and then with Pandarus, who strives to interest her in Troilus. After Pandarus and…

Act 1, scene 3

As the general, Agamemnon, and his councillors Nestor and Ulysses discuss the refusal of their principal warriors, Achilles and Ajax,…

Act 2, scene 1

Ajax beats Thersites for refusing to tell him the terms of the challenge, terms that are provided by Achilles when…

Act 2, scene 2

The Trojan leaders discuss whether to keep Helen and thereby continue the war. They decide to do so in spite…

Act 2, scene 3

Thersites rails against Achilles and Ajax, and then, joined by Achilles and Patroclus, ridicules them to their faces. As Agamemnon…

Act 3, scene 1

Pandarus asks Paris to make excuses for Troilus’s absence from his father Priam’s supper table that night. At Helen’s insistence,…

Act 3, scene 2

Pandarus brings together Troilus and a seemingly reluctant Cressida, who finally acknowledges her love for Troilus.

Act 3, scene 3

Calchas asks the Greek leaders to demand his daughter Cressida from the Trojans in exchange for Antenor, whom the Greeks…

Act 4, scene 1

Aeneas, summoned to Priam’s palace, meets Paris and a deputation from the Greek camp bringing Antenor to be exchanged for…

Act 4, scene 2

As morning breaks after Troilus and Cressida’s night of lovemaking, Troilus, Pandarus, and Cressida each learn in turn that Cressida…

Act 4, scene 3

Paris sends Troilus to bring Cressida to Diomedes.

Act 4, scene 4

As Troilus and Cressida part, he urges her to be faithful to him, and he promises to visit her in…

Act 4, scene 5

The Greek leaders, Menelaus and Ulysses excepted, kiss Cressida as Diomedes brings her to the Greek camp. After Hector and…

Act 5, scene 1

Achilles receives a letter from Queen Hecuba of Troy requiring him to keep an oath he has sworn to seek…

Act 5, scene 2

Diomedes pressures Cressida to keep her promise to have sex with him; they are overheard by an enraged Troilus, an…

Act 5, scene 3

Andromache and Cassandra enlist Priam in their efforts to persuade Hector to refrain from battle. He, in turn, futilely attempts…

Act 5, scene 4

A railing Thersites watches Troilus and Diomedes go off fighting and, surprised by Hector, escapes death only through the Trojan’s…

Act 5, scene 5

Diomedes sends the horse he has won from Troilus to Cressida. Agamemnon and Nestor recount the slaughter of Greeks by…

Act 5, scene 6

Troilus fights both Diomedes and Ajax. Hector bests Achilles but allows him to live, and pursues another Greek in order…

Act 5, scene 7

Achilles, now accompanied by Myrmidons, searches for Hector.

Act 5, scene 8

Thersites comments on the combat between Menelaus and Paris. Then, surprised by Priam’s bastard son, Thersites escapes by refusing to…

Act 5, scene 9

Hector, having killed the Greek in the splendid armor, unarms himself and is surprised by Achilles, who orders his Myrmidons…

Act 5, scene 10

The rest of the Greek forces hear the shouts of the Myrmidons announcing Hector’s death.

Act 5, scene 11

Troilus announces Hector’s death to the Trojans. Marching back to Troy, Troilus meets Pandarus and reviles him.

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Quill icon
text from the Quarto not found in the FolioA never writer to an ever reader: news.

Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never staled
with the stage, never clapperclawed with the palms of
the vulgar, and yet passing full of the palm comical, for
it is a birth of your brain that never undertook anything
comical vainly. And were but the vain names of comedies
changed for the titles of commodities, or of plays
for pleas, you should see all those grand censors, that
now style them such vanities, flock to them for the
main grace of their gravities, especially this author’s
comedies, that are so framed to the life that they serve
for the most common commentaries of all the actions
of our lives, showing such a dexterity and power of wit
that the most displeased with plays are pleased with
his comedies. And all such dull and heavy-witted
worldlings as were never capable of the wit of a comedy,
coming by report of them to his representations,
have found that wit there that they never found in
themselves and have parted better witted than they
came, feeling an edge of wit set upon them more than
ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on. So
much and such savored salt of wit is in his comedies
that they seem, for their height of pleasure, to be born
in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there
is none more witty than this; and had I time, I would
comment upon it, though I know it needs not, for so
much as will make you think your testern well
bestowed, but for so much worth as even poor I know
to be stuffed in it. It deserves such a labor as well as the
best comedy in Terence or Plautus. And believe this,
that when he is gone and his comedies out of sale, you
will scramble for them and set up a new English
Troilus and Cressida

Inquisition. Take this for a warning, and at the peril of
your pleasure’s loss, and judgment’s, refuse not nor like
this the less for not being sullied with the smoky breath
of the multitude, but thank fortune for the scape it
hath made amongst you, since by the grand possessors’
wills I believe you should have prayed for them rather
than been prayed. And so I leave all such to be prayed
for, for the states of their wits’ healths, that will not
praise it. Vale.text from the Quarto not found in the Folio