Article Title

The Error of Our Eye in Troilus and Cressida


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Though Shakespeare wrote a number of plays based on material from classical sources, Troilus and Cressida is his only play based on the matter of Troy. A glance at the concordance reveals that most of his allusions to Troy in other plays appear in the first half of his career, and most are allusions to the city's fall: "What fool hath ... brought a fagot to bright-burning Troy?"; "The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy"; " 'Was this fair face the cause,' quoth she,/ 'Why the Grecians sacked Troy?' "1 References to Helen as a paragon of beauty or to Hector as a paragon of chivalry are outnumbered by allusions to the tragic conclusion of the Trojan story. Such an emphasis is consistent with an earlier dramatic interpretation of Troy's history in Peele's Arraignment of Paris, an interpretation already implicit in the Aeneid, appearing again in The Faerie Queene, and contributing to the symbolism in some of the state portraits of Elizabeth I.2

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