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Troilus and Cressida
Biography of Shakespeare
Since William Shakespeare lived more than 400 years ago, and many records from that time are lost or never existed in the first place, we don't know everything about his life. For example, we know that he was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, 100 miles northwest of London, on April 26, 1564. But we don't know his exact birthdate, which must have been a few days earlier.
We do know that Shakespeare's life revolved around two locations: Stratford and London. He grew up, had a family, and bought property in Stratford, but he worked in London, the center of English theater. As an actor, a playwright, and a partner in a leading acting company, he became both prosperous and well-known. Even without knowing everything about his life, fans of Shakespeare have imagined and reimagined him according to their own tastes, just as we see with the 19th-century portrait of Shakespeare wooing his wife at the top of this page.
William Shakespeare was probably born on about April 23, 1564, the date that is traditionally given for his birth. He was John and Mary Shakespeare's oldest surviving child; their first two children, both girls, did not live beyond infancy. Growing up as the big brother of the family, William had three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard, and Edmund, and two younger sisters: Anne, who died at seven, and Joan.
Their father, John Shakespeare, was a leatherworker who specialized in the soft white leather used for gloves and similar items. A prosperous businessman, he married Mary Arden, of the prominent Arden family. John rose through local offices in Stratford, becoming an alderman and eventually, when William was five, the town bailiff—much like a mayor. Not long after that, however, John Shakespeare stepped back from public life; we don't know why.
Shakespeare, as the son of a leading Stratford citizen, almost certainly attended Stratford's grammar school. Like all such schools, its curriculum consisted of an intense emphasis on the Latin classics, including memorization, writing, and acting classic Latin plays. Shakespeare most likely attended until about age 15.
For several years after Judith and Hamnet's arrival in 1585, nothing is known for certain of Shakespeare's activities: how he earned a living, when he moved from Stratford, or how he got his start in the theater.
Following this gap in the record, the first definite mention of Shakespeare is in 1592 as an established London actor and playwright, mocked by a contemporary as a "Shake-scene." The same writer alludes to one of Shakespeare's earliest history plays, Henry VI, Part 3, which must already have been performed. The next year, in 1593, Shakespeare published a long poem, Venus and Adonis. The first quarto editions of his early plays appeared in 1594. For more than two decades, Shakespeare had multiple roles in the London theater as an actor, playwright, and, in time, a business partner in a major acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (renamed the King's Men in 1603). Over the years, he became steadily more famous in the London theater world; his name, which was not even listed on the first quartos of his plays, became a regular feature—clearly a selling point—on later title pages.
Shakespeare prospered financially from his partnership in the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later the King's Men), as well as from his writing and acting. He invested much of his wealth in real-estate purchases in Stratford and bought the second-largest house in town, New Place, in 1597.
Among the last plays that Shakespeare worked on was The Two Noble Kinsmen, which he wrote with a frequent collaborator, John Fletcher, most likely in 1613. He died on April 23, 1616—the traditional date of his birthday, though his precise birthdate is unknown. We also do not know the cause of his death. His brother-in-law had died a week earlier, which could imply infectious disease, but Shakespeare's health may have had a longer decline.
The memorial bust of Shakespeare at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford is considered one of two authentic likenesses, because it was approved by people who knew him. (The bust in the Folger's Paster Reading Room, shown at left, is a copy of this statue.) The other such likeness is the engraving by Martin Droeshout in the 1623 First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays, produced seven years after his death by his friends and colleagues from the King's Men.
PRIAM, King of Troy
His sons: HECTOR TROILUS PARIS DEIPHOBUS HELENUS MARGARELON, a bastard son of Priam
Trojan commanders: AENEAS ANTENOR
CALCHAS, a Trojan priest, taking part with the Greeks PANDARUS, uncle to Cressida AGAMEMNON, the Greek general MENELAUS, his brother
Greek commanders: ACHILLES AJAX ULYSSES NESTOR DIOMEDES PATROCLUS
THERSITES, a deformed and scurrilous Greek ALEXANDER, servant to Cressida SERVANT to Troilus SERVANT to Paris SERVANT to Diomedes HELEN, wife to Menelaus ANDROMACHE, wife to Hector CASSANDRA, daughter to Priam, a prophetess CRESSIDA, daughter to Calchas
Trojan and Greek Soldiers, and Attendants
SCENE: Troy and the Greek camp before it
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
In Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of Greece The princes orgulous, their high blood chaf'd, Have to the port of Athens sent their ships Fraught with the ministers and instruments Of cruel war. Sixty and nine that wore Their crownets regal from the Athenian bay Put forth toward Phrygia; and their vow is made To ransack Troy, within whose strong immures The ravish'd Helen, Menelaus' queen, With wanton Paris sleeps--and that's the quarrel. To Tenedos they come, And the deep-drawing barks do there disgorge Their war-like fraughtage. Now on Dardan plains The fresh and yet unbruised Greeks do pitch Their brave pavilions: Priam's six-gated city, Dardan, and Tymbria, Ilias, Chetas, Troien, And Antenorides, with massy staples And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts, Sperr up the sons of Troy. Now expectation, tickling skittish spirits On one and other side, Troyan and Greek, Sets all on hazard. And hither am I come A prologue arm'd, but not in confidence Of author's pen or actor's voice, but suited In like conditions as our argument, To tell you, fair beholders, that our play Leaps o'er the vaunt and firstlings of those broils, Beginning in the middle; starting thence away, To what may be digested in a play. Like or find fault; do as your pleasures are; Now good or bad, 'tis but the chance of war.
SCENE 1. Troy. Before PRIAM'S palace
[Enter TROILUS armed, and PANDARUS.]
TROILUS. Call here my varlet; I'll unarm again. Why should I war without the walls of Troy That find such cruel battle here within? Each Trojan that is master of his heart, Let him to field; Troilus, alas! hath none.
PANDARUS. Will this gear ne'er be mended?
TROILUS. The Greeks are strong, and skilful to their strength, Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant; But I am weaker than a woman's tear, Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance, Less valiant than the virgin in the night, And skilless as unpractis'd infancy.
PANDARUS. Well, I have told you enough of this; for my part, I'll not meddle nor make no further. He that will have a cake out of the wheat must tarry the grinding.
TROILUS. Have I not tarried?
PANDARUS. Ay, the grinding; but you must tarry the bolting.
TROILUS. Have I not tarried?
PANDARUS. Ay, the bolting; but you must tarry the leavening.
TROILUS. Still have I tarried.
PANDARUS. Ay, to the leavening; but here's yet in the word 'hereafter' the kneading, the making of the cake, the heating of the oven, and the baking; nay, you must stay the cooling too, or you may chance to burn your lips.
TROILUS. Patience herself, what goddess e'er she be, Doth lesser blench at suff'rance than I do. At Priam's royal table do I sit; And when fair Cressid comes into my thoughts, So, traitor! 'when she comes'! when she is thence?
PANDARUS. Well, she look'd yesternight fairer than ever I saw her look, or any woman else.
TROILUS. I was about to tell thee: when my heart, As wedged with a sigh, would rive in twain, Lest Hector or my father should perceive me, I have, as when the sun doth light a storm, Buried this sigh in wrinkle of a smile. But sorrow that is couch'd in seeming gladness Is like that mirth fate turns to sudden sadness.
PANDARUS. An her hair were not somewhat darker than Helen's, well, go to, there were no more comparison between the women. But, for my part, she is my kinswoman; I would not, as they term it, praise her, but I would somebody had heard her talk yesterday, as I did. I will not dispraise your sister Cassandra's wit; but--
TROILUS. O Pandarus! I tell thee, Pandarus, When I do tell thee there my hopes lie drown'd, Reply not in how many fathoms deep They lie indrench'd. I tell thee I am mad In Cressid's love. Thou answer'st 'She is fair'; Pour'st in the open ulcer of my heart Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice, Handlest in thy discourse. O! that her hand, In whose comparison all whites are ink Writing their own reproach; to whose soft seizure The cygnet's down is harsh, and spirit of sense Hard as the palm of ploughman! This thou tell'st me, As true thou tell'st me, when I say I love her; But, saying thus, instead of oil and balm, Thou lay'st in every gash that love hath given me The knife that made it.
PANDARUS. I speak no more than truth.
TROILUS. Thou dost not speak so much.
PANDARUS. Faith, I'll not meddle in't. Let her be as she is: if she be fair, 'tis the better for her; an she be not, she has the mends in her own hands.
TROILUS. Good Pandarus! How now, Pandarus!
PANDARUS. I have had my labour for my travail, ill thought on of her and ill thought on of you; gone between and between, but small thanks for my labour.
TROILUS. What! art thou angry, Pandarus? What! with me?
PANDARUS. Because she's kin to me, therefore she's not so fair as Helen. An she were not kin to me, she would be as fair on Friday as Helen is on Sunday. But what care I? I care not an she were a blackamoor; 'tis all one to me.
TROILUS. Say I she is not fair?
PANDARUS. I do not care whether you do or no. She's a fool to stay behind her father. Let her to the Greeks; and so I'll tell her the next time I see her. For my part, I'll meddle nor make no more i' the matter.
PANDARUS. Not I.
TROILUS. Sweet Pandarus--
PANDARUS. Pray you, speak no more to me: I will leave all as I found it, and there an end.
[Exit PANDARUS. An alarum.]
TROILUS. Peace, you ungracious clamours! Peace, rude sounds! Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair, When with your blood you daily paint her thus. I cannot fight upon this argument; It is too starv'd a subject for my sword. But Pandarus, O gods! how do you plague me! I cannot come to Cressid but by Pandar; And he's as tetchy to be woo'd to woo As she is stubborn-chaste against all suit. Tell me, Apollo, for thy Daphne's love, What Cressid is, what Pandar, and what we? Her bed is India; there she lies, a pearl; Between our Ilium and where she resides Let it be call'd the wild and wandering flood; Ourself the merchant, and this sailing Pandar Our doubtful hope, our convoy, and our bark.
[Alarum. Enter AENEAS.]
AENEAS. How now, Prince Troilus! Wherefore not afield?
TROILUS. Because not there. This woman's answer sorts, For womanish it is to be from thence. What news, Aeneas, from the field to-day?
AENEAS. That Paris is returned home, and hurt.
TROILUS. By whom, Aeneas?
AENEAS. Troilus, by Menelaus.
TROILUS. Let Paris bleed: 'tis but a scar to scorn; Paris is gor'd with Menelaus' horn.
AENEAS. Hark what good sport is out of town to-day!
TROILUS. Better at home, if 'would I might' were 'may.' But to the sport abroad. Are you bound thither?
AENEAS. In all swift haste.
TROILUS. Come, go we then together. [Exeunt.]
SCENE 2. Troy. A street
[Enter CRESSIDA and her man ALEXANDER.]
CRESSIDA. Who were those went by?
ALEXANDER. Queen Hecuba and Helen.
CRESSIDA. And whither go they?
ALEXANDER. Up to the eastern tower, Whose height commands as subject all the vale, To see the battle. Hector, whose patience Is as a virtue fix'd, to-day was mov'd. He chid Andromache, and struck his armourer; And, like as there were husbandry in war, Before the sun rose he was harness'd light, And to the field goes he; where every flower Did as a prophet weep what it foresaw In Hector's wrath.
CRESSIDA. What was his cause of anger?
ALEXANDER. The noise goes, this: there is among the Greeks A lord of Troyan blood, nephew to Hector; They call him Ajax.
CRESSIDA. Good; and what of him?
ALEXANDER. They say he is a very man per se, And stands alone.
CRESSIDA. So do all men, unless they are drunk, sick, or have no legs.
ALEXANDER. This man, lady, hath robb'd many beasts of their particular additions: he is as valiant as a lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant--a man into whom nature hath so crowded humours that his valour is crush'd into folly, his folly sauced with discretion. There is no man hath a virtue that he hath not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint but he carries some stain of it; he is melancholy without cause and merry against the hair; he hath the joints of every thing; but everything so out of joint that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use, or purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight.
CRESSIDA. But how should this man, that makes me smile, make Hector angry?
ALEXANDER. They say he yesterday cop'd Hector in the battle and struck him down, the disdain and shame whereof hath ever since kept Hector fasting and waking.
CRESSIDA. Who comes here?
ALEXANDER. Madam, your uncle Pandarus.
CRESSIDA. Hector's a gallant man.
ALEXANDER. As may be in the world, lady.
PANDARUS. What's that? What's that?
CRESSIDA. Good morrow, uncle Pandarus.
PANDARUS. Good morrow, cousin Cressid. What do you talk of?--Good morrow, Alexander.--How do you, cousin? When were you at Ilium?
CRESSIDA. This morning, uncle.
PANDARUS. What were you talking of when I came? Was Hector arm'd and gone ere you came to Ilium? Helen was not up, was she?
CRESSIDA. Hector was gone; but Helen was not up.
PANDARUS. E'en so. Hector was stirring early.
CRESSIDA. That were we talking of, and of his anger.
PANDARUS. Was he angry?
CRESSIDA. So he says here.
PANDARUS. True, he was so; I know the cause too; he'll lay about him today, I can tell them that. And there's Troilus will not come far behind him; let them take heed of Troilus, I can tell them that too.
CRESSIDA. What, is he angry too?
PANDARUS. Who, Troilus? Troilus is the better man of the two.
CRESSIDA. O Jupiter! there's no comparison.
PANDARUS. What, not between Troilus and Hector? Do you know a man if you see him?
CRESSIDA. Ay, if I ever saw him before and knew him.
PANDARUS. Well, I say Troilus is Troilus.
CRESSIDA. Then you say as I say, for I am sure he is not Hector.
PANDARUS. No, nor Hector is not Troilus in some degrees.
CRESSIDA. 'Tis just to each of them: he is himself.
PANDARUS. Himself! Alas, poor Troilus! I would he were!
CRESSIDA. So he is.
PANDARUS. Condition I had gone barefoot to India.
CRESSIDA. He is not Hector.
PANDARUS. Himself! no, he's not himself. Would 'a were himself! Well, the gods are above; time must friend or end. Well, Troilus, well! I would my heart were in her body! No, Hector is not a better man than Troilus.
CRESSIDA. Excuse me.
PANDARUS. He is elder.
CRESSIDA. Pardon me, pardon me.
PANDARUS. Th' other's not come to't; you shall tell me another tale when th' other's come to't. Hector shall not have his wit this year.
CRESSIDA. He shall not need it if he have his own.
ANDARUS. Nor his qualities.
CRESSIDA. No matter.
PANDARUS. Nor his beauty.
CRESSIDA. 'Twould not become him: his own's better.
PANDARUS. You have no judgment, niece. Helen herself swore th' other day that Troilus, for a brown favour, for so 'tis, I must confess--not brown neither--
CRESSIDA. No, but brown.
PANDARUS. Faith, to say truth, brown and not brown.
CRESSIDA. To say the truth, true and not true.
PANDARUS. She prais'd his complexion above Paris.
CRESSIDA. Why, Paris hath colour enough.
PANDARUS. So he has.
CRESSIDA. Then Troilus should have too much. If she prais'd him above, his complexion is higher than his; he having colour enough, and the other higher, is too flaming praise for a good complexion. I had as lief Helen's golden tongue had commended Troilus for a copper nose.
PANDARUS. I swear to you I think Helen loves him better than Paris.
CRESSIDA. Then she's a merry Greek indeed.
PANDARUS. Nay, I am sure she does. She came to him th' other day into the compass'd window--and you know he has not past three or four hairs on his chin--
CRESSIDA. Indeed a tapster's arithmetic may soon bring his particulars therein to a total.