Film Review – Troilus and Cressida (1981)

Apologies for lateness on the film reviews, fair reader. I had some access issues with my library but everything is hunky-dory now. Thus, I will attempt to fit in all of the film reviews I owe you within the next two weeks. However, please note that the film review for Coriolanus will be delayed as I’m planning to review the new Ralph Fiennes adaptation which isn’t released until later in August.

Moving on to Troilus and Cressida, as is the new rule for Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare films, I only watched one act, in this case Act IV. And surprisingly, it was pretty decent. Before I dish about the acting though, a couple notes. First, although the play is set in ancient Troy, the costumes are Elizabethan (which is how Shakespeare would have done it, but let’s have some imagination BBC). Also, the sets are somewhere in the middle range of possibilities for this film series with buildings actually looking relatively building-esque (although not very ancient Troy) but the “outdoors” being a dismal attempt at making a stage look like outside.

The cast is decent with Troilus being one of the stand-out actors. Also noteworthy for those of you familiar with the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice (yes, the one with Colin Firth) is that Ulysses is played by Mr. Bennet. If that doesn’t serve as a hint, my major complaint about this cast is that everyone is too old to be playing their characters (except for Cressida). Major casting offeders are Paris for his hideous beard (and I’m a girl who is not opposed to facial hair), Ajax for not being the mountain of muscle he’s supposed to be, and Hector for being particularly too old.

So what made the act worth watching? It was entirely about Troilus and Cressida who are absolutely adorable. I chose Act IV as it includes their very cute morning after scene as well as Cressida being hauled back to the Greek camp. The pair of them are very sweet and Troilus in particular is thoroughly believable as being in love with Cressida. However, it should be noted that from the moment Cressida receives the news that she is going to be sent away from Troilus, she spends the rest of the scene wailing and delivering her lines through tears. While an acceptable acting choice, it could be irritating to some viewers. I think Troilus’ sweetness cancels it out. My only complaint is that no hint is given through visual cues during Act IV as to why on earth Cressida decides to break her vow to Troilus. I was almost tempted to watch Act V to see how the adaptation dealt with it, but the key word is almost.

Troilus and Cressida

Cressida and Troilus, much more clothed then when I saw them in Act IV.

Julius Caesar

The Play’s the Thing: The play opens with the rabble exulting and celebrating the arrival of Caesar. Two Romans (whose names don’t really matter because they won’t be hanging around long), scold them, there’s some banter exchanged about cobbling, and the Romans send the rabble home and decide to go through the city to clean it up. Caesar arrives on the scene with his entourage and meets a soothsayer who tells him to beware the ides of March. Caesar ignores him and moves on but Brutus and Cassius stay behind. They have a conversation in which Cassius bemoans the fact that Caesar, who is an entirely ordinary man has been elevated to the status of a god. He then hints that he and Brutus should do something about this. This conversation is punctuated by three cheers from a distance. Caesar and his entourage return, and he spends some time talking with Antony and indicating he’s suspicious of Cassius. Here Caesar says one of my favourite lines of the play in describing Cassius, “He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.” Caesar: not the intellectual type. Brutus then has Casca give a play-by play of what just went on with Caesar. Marc Antony offered him a crown three times and each time Caesar passed although each time he looked more and more reluctant. Then Caesar passed out because the commoners have really bad breath (I kid not). Brutus and Cassius then set up a meeting for the next day or so to discuss the whole Caesar situation further. Later, on the streets of Rome, there’s a crazy thunderstorm going on and some extra freaky stuff like lions wandering around downtown and men who are fire but aren’t burned. In the midst of this, Cassius meets up with Casca and Cinna who are all conspirators in the plot to assassinate Caesar. They plan to meet up at Brutus’ as they make a final push to have him join them.

Brutus is wandering around his orchard and having an internal debate with himself out loud. He muses that while Caesar hasn’t accepted a crown yet, the threat is too great of what he could do to Roman society if he were to accept the crown. Brutus also realizes that the coming day is the ides of March. Cassius and his crew arrive at Brutus’ house and they make the final plans to assassinate Caesar. There’s also a brief discussion about killing Antony (a plan Cassius is in favour of) but Brutus vetoes this idea because he thinks Antony is no real threat. There’s also some fear that Caesar won’t come to the Capitol as he’s been more superstitious of late, but one of the conspirators says he can flatter Caesar into coming. Everyone then leaves. Brutus then has a conversation with his wife, Portia, who can tell something is bothering her husband and is upset he won’t share it with her. She’s even stabbed herself in the thigh to prove to him that if she can handle that, she can handle his secrets. He promises to tell her in a little bit. At Caesar’s palace (not the one in Vegas), he’s a little apprehensive and his wife, Calphurnia, is thoroughly freaked out by a dream she’s had and wants him to stay home for the day. He agrees, but then one of the conspirators arrive and puts a positive twist on the interpretation of Calphurnia’s dream, hints at the potential mockery that will come Caesar’s way if it’s perceived he’s too scared to go to the Capitol, and then says the senate plans to give him a crown today. That gets Caesar all primed to head to the Capitol and the entire crew of conspirators arrive to escort Caesar to the Capitol. Meanwhile, in another part of Rome, Artemidorus goes over a note to Caesar that warns him of the plot against his life. Portia has a bit of a meltdown waiting for news and wishes her husband the best of luck.

In the street, Caesar meets the soothsayer and points out that it’s now the ides of March. The soothsayer says the day isn’t over yet. Artemidorus shows up with his note for Caesar but the conspirators keep Caesar from reading it. The senate starts going into session and there’s a bit about asking Caesar to pardon the brother of one of the conspirators and everyone asking him and then the assassins stab Caesar to death. Brutus has everyone bathe their hands and swords in Caesar’s blood and sends them throughout town to explain to the commoners that they’ve done this to preserve everyone’s freedom. Antony then shows up, is appalled at the sight of Caesar’s body, and offers himself up if they plan to kill him too. Brutus reassures him and Antony makes a show of shaking hands with all of the assassins. Brutus gives Antony permission to speak at Caesar’s funeral (despite Cassius saying this is a bad idea) and the assassins head off to go through town. Antony then apologizes to Caesar’s corpse for his show of alliance with his killers and promises to avenge his death. He then sends a messenger to try and prevent Octavius, Caesar’s heir and who is anticipated to arrive soon, from coming to Rome. In the forum, Brutus gives a speech that gets the masses thinking he’s a hero for killing Caesar. Then Antony arrives afterwards and gives a speech that riles the masses up against the assassins and thinking Antony and Caesar are best men ever. The mob heads out to lynch the conspirators and kill a poet just for having the same name as one of the conspirators.

At Antony’s house, he, Octavius, and Lepidus form a triumvirate and Antony expresses his doubts about the the usefulness of Lepidus. Octavius tells him to stifle, this is how Octavius wants it and that’s how it’ll be. On the battlefield, Cassius and Brutus have a bit of a spat over something that turns out to be nothing. After making up, Brutus tells Cassius that Portia is dead. She went crazy, swallowed fire, and died as a result. Cassius and Brutus then discuss military strategy and Brutus ignores Cassius once again (seriously, just once Brutus should listen to Cassius) and decides the army will march to Philippi rather than risk losing momentum. Brutus then sends everyone to sleep, has some soldiers to come sleep in his tent, and has his servant sing a song. Everyone falls asleep and then Brutus sees Caesar’s ghost who says he’ll see him again at Philippi. Brutus freaks out a bit but preps to go to Philippi.

Antony and Octavius prep to go against Brutus and Cassius and have a spat over who will take which side of the field with Octavius winning. They then have a brief parley with Brutus and Cassius with everyone arguing and heading off to battle. Brutus and Cassius say their farewells to each other in case they die during the battle. During the battle, Cassius sends one of his men to get the skinny on what’s going on and has another of his men stand on the hill to see what’s going on. Some visual misinterpretation happens and Cassius kills himself (by having his servant hold the sword) because he thinks all is lost. However, the guy he sent comes back with good news about the battle and kills himself because Cassius is dead. Brutus then arrives and has a sad. He heads off to battle some more but his side has begun to lose. He tries to get three different guys to hold his sword so he can run himself through with it, but all of them refuse. Finally, the fourth guy Brutus asks agrees. Antony and Octavius then arrive and are a little sad that Brutus is dead because he was the most honourable of all the conspirators. They promise to give Brutus a good burial and take Brutus’ body to Octavius’ tent.

Heroes and Villains: Undoubtedly my favourite character is Brutus, the honourable man who has been drawn into killing his friend and leader for the perceived good it will do for his country. Now if only he’d listen to Cassius at least once, things would have been so much better for him.


  • you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things (I.i)
  • beware the ides of March (I.ii)
  • “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (I.ii)
  • it was Greek to me (I.ii)
  • “Cowards die many times before their deaths;/The valiant never taste of death but once.” (II.ii)
  • “Et tu, Brute?” (III.i)
  • “Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war” (III.i)

Speech to KnowJulius Caesar has one of the more identifiable speeches in it, which comes from Marc Antony after Caesar’s death.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hat Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest, –
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men, –
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him?
O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! – Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.” (III.ii)

View from the PitJulius Caesar despite its title is really all about Brutus, and Brutus is a fascinating character. He is essentially a good man who is drawn into the assassination because he truly believes it is the best thing he can do for his fellow citizens to keep them from falling under the rule of a king. But in the process of this action Brutus loses everything, his wife, the respect of the Romans, and ultimately his life. While I have always found the Roman habit of running themselves through with swords idiotic, it is a fitting end for Brutus, who would not serve well as a prisoner. What is fascinating to watch in this play is the growth of Marc Antony from a slightly doltish jock to a manipulative political entity. Of course, his political skills leave something to be desired as will come back to bite him in the next play he appears in.


The Play’s the Thing: Some rioting citizens of Rome meet up on a street corner to provide some back story. Essentially the citizens are hungry and are convinced the ruling class are hording grain for themselves and not sharing like they should. They particularly blame Caius Marcius and are convinced if they kill him then they can’t grain at their own price. There’s a bit of a debate over whether Caius Marcius is really such a bad guy; he’s a war hero who’s fought for his country. However, someone else points out that everything he’s done has been to please  his mother. Menenius Agrippa then shows up to talk down the plebs. Once he’s calmed them down, Caius Marcius shows up and starts complaining about how quickly the mob change their minds. Menenius asks about what went down on the other side of town and we find out the mob was granted the request of nominating five tribunes to represent them to the senate. Two of the tribunes are Junius Brutus and Sicinius Velutus. Right after this news has been passed on a messenger shows up tell Marcius that the Volsces are “in arms.” Marcius heads off with Cominius to go fight the Volsces. Sicinius and Brutus stay behind to trash talk Marcius and talk about how proud and conniving he is. In Corioli, Tullus Aufidius talks with the senators about his battle plans and we learn that Aufidius and Marcius have faced off multiple times. Back in Rome, Marcius’ mother, Volumnia, and his wife, Virgilia, are hanging out when their friend, Valeria arrives. Virgilia is worried sick about her husband and doesn’t want to leave home while he’s gone. Volumnia, on the other hand, thinks that whether her son lives or dies, his honour will be greater for the battle. Valeria just wants the girls to come out with her. Eventually she and Volumnia go and Virgilia remains at home. Finally we get many scenes of the battle at Corioli. A lot of things go down but suffice it to say that Marcius wins against all odds and in addition to his battle prizes, is given the honorary name of Coriolanus. Elsewhere, Aufidius vows to eventually defeat his long-time enemy

Menenius is chatting with Sicinius and Brutus about the rumours that there will be news soon. S&B (they are never apart so let’s just call them that from now on) are once again bitching about Coriolanus’ flaws, especially his pride. Menenius defends Coriolanus to them until the three Vs walk by with the news Coriolanus is about to arrive in Rome. Mommy V and Menenius trade some talk about Coriolanus’ battle scars which will go a long way towards winning the hearts of the plebs. Coriolanus then shows up, spends more time talking to Mommy V then Wifey V (there’s a fun home dynamic) and heads off to the Capitol. S&B trash talk him some more and note that they’ll be able to use their influence with the commoners to turn them against him and hold on to their power and prevent him from being made consul. There’s then some prep for Coriolanus standing for consul, Coriolanus then speaks before the Senate who decide to make him a consul. The only catch is he must also get the support of the plebs. This requires him to stand on a street corner and ask people for their support. Coriolanus has a lot of disdain for the plebs and doesn’t want to but Menenius talks him into it. Coriolanus manages to get the support of the people, although he refuses to show off his battle scars (apparently a thing other people have done before). However, after Coriolanus has gone in to the senate, S&B show up and get the citizens to turn on him.

Coriolanus is chatting with his pal, Cominius about the news that Aufidius and the Volsces are ramping up for battle again. They then run into S&B who tell Coriolanus not to go into the marketplace as the citizens are seriously pissed. Coriolanus gets uppity and is all, “Well, screw them. I hate the unwashed masses way more than they hate me.” There’s a lot of political maneuvering with S&B working super hard to make sure Coriolanus gets nowhere near power. S&B maneuver to have Coriolanus executed. Menenius tries to talk them down and is sent to fetch Coriolanus, who is getting a bit of a scolding from Mommy V for not working with others better. Coriolanus gets talked into trying and appeasing the plebs by Mommy V, Menenius, and Cominius. But when he gets to the marketplace, S&B wind him up and Coriolanus ends up insulting the mob. He’s then banished from Rome.

Coriolanus says goodbye to his two friends and the Mommy and Wifey Vs and leaves Rome. Mommy V then verbally attacks S&B and gets seriously worked up. On a random highway a Roman and a Volsce meet up and trade gossip. The Volsce learns Coriolanus is banished and the Roman learns the Volscans are about to attack again. At Aufidius’s house, Coriolanus is the world’s haughtiest party crasher. He comes in and tell everyone that due to his mistreatment by the Romans he’s going to join the Volscans in their attack and lead their army. Back in Rome, S&B are gloating and enjoying being the big men on campus and telling each other how lovely everything is now that Coriolanus is gone. Of course, they then get rumours that the Volscans are about to attack which they try to smother only to have believable news saying the same thing with the added note that Coriolanus is leading the army. Menenius and Cominius tell S&B that they hope the pair are happy after everything they’ve done. In the Volscan camp, Aufidius talks with his Lieutenant about Coriolanus’ insane charisma which draws soldiers to him like nobodies business. Aufidius hints that when they’ve taken Rome, he will do everything in his power to take out Coriolanus.

In Rome, S&B talk Menenius into trying to convince Coriolanus not to to attack Rome. Menenius fails. Coriolanus is in the midst of telling Aufidius that nothing will get him to stop the attack on Rome when the Mommy and Wifey Vs with Coriolanus Jr. and the third V in tow. Mommy, Wifey, and Jr all plead with Coriolanus and eventually Mommy (of course) is successful. The Volscans murmur about it but Coriolanus decides not to attack Rome. In Rome, Menenius and S discuss the odds of the 3 Vs success and receive word that the plebs are beating on B. They then get notice that the 3 Vs worked their magic and Coriolanus won’t be attacking, much to the delight of the Romans. In Antium, Aufidius plots with some co-conspirators to assassinate Coriolanus to make sure he stops stealing Aufidius’ thunder. Coriolanus comes into town and is lauded by everyone as a hero until Aufidius calls him a traitor, the two men have a verbal showdown, the citizens turn against him, and Aufidius and his conspirators kill him. The lords of Antium shame Aufidius for killing such a good man and Aufidius suddenly has an attack of conscience. He serves as one of the men who carry Coriolanus’ body off stage.

Heroes and Villains: There really aren’t any characters in this play that I have strong feelings about either way, so no favourite character this time around.


  • against the grain (II.iii)
  • thwack (IV.v)
  • death by inches (V.iv)

Speech to Know: Coriolanus may be an annoying and arrogant character, but he knows how to give an impassioned and mildly insulting speech.

“You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead caracasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, – I banish you;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till at length
Your ignorance, – which finds not till it feels, –
Making not reservation of yourselves –
Still your own foes, – deliver you, as most
Abated captives, to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising,
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere.” (III.iii)

View from the Pit: As a study in characters, Coriolanus is an interesting play (which is probably why my instructor chose it as one of the plays for my Shakespeare class in undergrad). The dynamic between Coriolanus and his mother is fascinating; add in the limp dish rag that is his wife, Virgilia, and there’s all kinds of psychological speculations to make about a man with such a dominant mother having such a passive wife. Coriolanus himself is an intriguing mix of the military hero who wishes to maintain his privacy and the member of the upper class who detests the general population. In this conflict between Coriolanus and the citizens of Rome, neither side is particularly appealing. Coriolanus is condescending, arrogant, and elitist while the masses are easily led and capricious. While this might lead the audience to then favour Aufidius, but his assassination of Coriolanus is cowardly and his own immediate regret over the action makes him even less likable. I’d respect him far more if he’d killed Coriolanus and had enough conviction in his actions to feel no remorse. Ultimately, a play with an interesting mix of characters but none of them are particularly likable and the plot is likely to appeal only to those who are particularly interested in (predictable) political maneuverings.

The Tempest – Freewill Shakespeare Festival

As promised a couple weeks ago, here is the second of my reviews from the Freewill Shakespeare Festival in Hawrelak Park. Along with Julius Caesar, the festival is also doing a production of The Tempest, which was the first play I read for the blog (you can refresh your memory here).

As I’d guessed in my review for Julius Caesar, the blue stage works tremendously well for the play and adds that slightly strange atmosphere that the island requires. Thanks also go to mother nature who rained for the entire play and provided some nice ambiance (yay for the tent and rubber boots!). The rotating section of the stage is used very effectively throughout and the small piece of ship was a great (and impressive) touch.

The costumes were beautiful and visually interesting. Prospero’s cape was just the right level of unusual you’d expect of a sorcerer. Miranda’s costume was simple, functional, and reflected her innocent character. All of the shipwrecked royals were mild biker gang garb (leather jackets, dark jeans, big black boots) and I was particularly fond of Ferdinand’s jacket (I like clothes that lace up, what can I say).  Trinculo and Stefano were dressed just as you’d expect of fools. Caliban’s costume made him look a bit sea-monster-ish but it worked really well. But the most impressive costume was Ariel’s which was visually interesting, reflective of her unearthlyness, and just gorgeous. I particularly loved the feather mohawk on her head piece.

On to the production itself. The cast did an excellent job of making a play that can seem extremely weird on the page (or even in some film productions) thoroughly enchanting. They even added additonal moments of much-need humour even when Trinculo and Stefano aren’t around (special shout out to Mat Simpson as Ferdinand who really brought some subtle comedy to many of his scenes). John Wright is brilliant as Prospero and made a character who can come off as capricious and a bit crazy very sympathetic. His interactions with Miranda (played by Calyley Thomas-Haug) play a major role in this. As you’ll remember from my original encounter with the play, I’m very fond of Miranda and Ferdinand, whose courtship is just so innocent and endearing. Cayley Thomas-Haug and Mat Simpson did not disappoint and were thoroughly adorable. However, my favourite performance came from Amber Borotsik as Ariel. She made the character utterly fascinating to watch and I was always thrilled when she popped up.

Definitely a fun production to check out, even if it is raining. The Freewill Shakespeare Festival runs until 22 July 2012.

Timon of Athens

The Play’s the Thing: The play opens with a poet, a painter, a merchant, and a jeweler all trading notes about the awesomeness of Timon who is always willing to purchase any of their wares. They watch some Senators go in to Timon and then talk about how generally well thought of Timon is by everyone in Athens. However, there is a bit of blatant foreshadowing from the poet who reminds us that when Fortune turns against those she’s favoured, all the friends of the one who was favoured will watch him decline without lending him aid. Timon himself then shows up and shows off his magnanimity by lending five talents to a friend in prison for a debt and then setting up a marriage between one of his servants and a woman in town, by giving the money the woman’s father thinks is necessary. Timon looks at the wares that the poet, painter, merchant, and jeweler have all brought to him and agrees to take them all. Then Apemantus arrives. His character description in my edition is “a churlish philosopher” and he lives up to that title by being super cynical over all the people fawning over Timon and Timon’s ongoing shows of wealth. Timon receives word that the general, Alcibiades, and twenty of his men are about to arrive. Timon says to add them to the dinner party and welcomes Alcibiades himself. At the dinner party all of the guests flatter Timon and thank for the extravagant gifts he’s given them, except for Apemantus, who continues to be cynical about Timon’s flatterers. Then a guy dressed as cupid and a bunch of ladies arrive. Everyone dances and Timon sends the ladies on to dinner. Timon then sends his servant Flavius to go fetch one of his jewels. In an aside, Flavius hints that Timon really shouldn’t be doing all the gift giving that he has been because Timon is flat broke, but Flavius realizes that this is not the right time to bring it up. Timon gives some gifts to everyone but Apemantus and then everyone heads home.

Over at one of the Senator’s houses, he’s tabulating up all of the debts that he knows Timon owes (about 25 000 talents) and can’t figure out why Timon continues to give such extravagant gifts. He then sends his servant to go claim some of the money Timon owes him. At Timon’s house, Flavius is lamenting the extravagant spending Timon continues to do, mostly for the benefit of others. He then runs into servants from three different men of Athens all claiming money from Timon. Timon arrives and tries to put everyone off for a day but they refuse. He turns to Flavius in confusion who takes him aside. There’s a brief interlude with Apemantus, the servants, and a fool that’s mostly just an excuse to throw insults around and then we go back to Timon and Flavius who is shocked at how in debt he is. Flavius is all, “I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen.” Timon is convinced he can fix the situation by selling land and then learns that most of it has been mortgaged already. Then he decides to send servants to a few of his friends to ask them to lend him money. He’s sure that they’ll be more than willing after all of the gifts they’ve lavished on him. Oh Timon…

We then get several successive scenes of Timon’s servants going to his friends and asking for a loan only to be rejected for a range of ridiculous reasons. Back at Timon’s house, more servants from other men are trying to claim money from Timon. They meet one of Timon’s servants who tells them that Timon is unwell and won’t be coming out today. However, Timon shows up shortly afterwards to yell at the servants and tell them that he has absolutely no money give. Then he has a brainwave and tells Flavius to invite all of his friends over for a dinner party. Meanwhile, the Senate is sitting in judgement on a man accused of murder and have decided he will get the death penalty. Alcibiades is there pleading on behalf of the accused man, arguing that what he did was in the heat of the moment and that his punishment should be lessened. The Senate refuse and when Alcibiades persists, they banish him from Athens. He gets super angry about this as he’s done nothing but fight wars for these people and now they’re turning on him. He vows to come back with an army. Back at Timon’s house, all of his friends are there speculating about why he came to them asking for money and now he’s throwing a fancy dinner party. Timon arrives, gives a blessing on the dinner which basically insults everyone there, and then have the dishes on the table uncovered to reveal just bowls of warm water which he then proceeds to throw at them as he chases them out of his house.

Outside of Athens, Timon curses everyone who lives there for their general lack of sympathy when he was in trouble and then he heads into the woods to live where he’ll never have to see another human again. At Timon’s house, his servants are sad that he’s fallen out of favour. Flavius shares the money he’s saved up with all of the other servants and then they all head out to find new employment. Flavius then gives a great speech about the unfairness of Timon’s fall from grace and heads out to continue to serve him wherever he’s ended up. In the woods, Timon is digging for roots (of the edible variety) outside his cave and railing against humanity when he comes across a bunch of gold. Then Alcibiades happens to come along with two ladies of the night and an army. Timon gives them all gold so that they’ll get as far away from him as possible and he tells Alcibiades that when he attacks Athens with his army not to show mercy to anyone. After the group leaves, Apemantus arrives to see if the rumours that Timon is now acting exactly like him are true. They are and the two men insult each other for a while and then Timon chases off Apemantus by throwing rocks (I kid not). Then some thieves show up hearing that Timon has gold. Timon chats with them and they change their minds about taking gold and head back to Athens. Finally, Flavius arrives (for a cave in the middle of nowhere, there is a LOT of traffic here). Timon is so impressed by his loyalty and Flavius’ willingness to work for him without any expectation of being paid, Timon gives him a bunch of gold and tells him to go live somewhere secluded as Timon doesn’t want any human companions at all.

Back at the cave, the poet and the painter from the beginning of the play are hanging out by Timon’s cave because they’ve heard about all the gold he’s giving out. Timon is unimpressed by their flattery and chases them away. Then Flavius brings a few Senators over to Timon. They’re there to ask him to come back to Athens, where they populace has realized they were too harsh and want to put him in a position of power. Especially if he can convince Alcibiades not to attack Athens. Timon fakes them out a bit and says a few things that sound like he’s going to accept the offer but then he turns them down flat. The Senators return to Athens and pass on the bad news that Timon isn’t going to be giving them any help. Back in the woods, a soldier passes Timon’s cave and sees a tomb. He takes an imprint of the headstone to bring to his leader since he can’t read. In Athens, the Senators convince Alcibiades to be more merciful and only punish those that did harm to him and Timon and to spare the rest of the town. Alcibiades then receives the imprint, which is the epitaph Timon wrote for himself and which reflects only his later hatred of men. Alcibiades then heads into the city to lay down the law.

Heroes and Villains: The definite winner here is Flavius, who is the very definition of a faithful servant. He never condemns Timon for his excessive spending and he continues to remain loyal to Timon, even after his fall from grace. Definitely the kind of friend you want to have.


  • height of our displeasure (III.v)

Speech to Know: Unsurprisingly, this one comes from Flavius, after Timon’s fall from grace.

“O, the fierce wretchedness that glory brings us!
Who would not wish to be from wealth exempt
Since riches point to misery and contempt?
Who would be so mock’d with glory? Or to live
But in a dream of friendship?
To have his pomp, and all what state compounds,
But only painted, like his varnish’d friends?
Poor honest lord, brought low by his own heart,
Undone by goodness! strange unusual blood,
When man’s worst sin is, he does too much good!
Who then dares to be half so kind again?
For bounty, that makes gods, does still mar men.
My dearest lord, – bless’d to be most accurs’d,
Rich only to be wretched, – thy great fortunes
Are made thy chief afflictions. Alas kind lord!
He’s flung in rage from this ingrateful seat
Of monstrous friends; nor has he with him to
Supply  his life, or that which can command it.
I’ll follow and enquire him out:
I’ll ever serve his mind with my best will;
Whilst I have gold, I’ll be his steward still.” (IV.ii)

View from the Pit: Timon of Athens is really just a good old-fashioned Greek tragedy, minus any appearances from the Greek gods themselves. Timon isn’t too bad as a main character. He’s extremely likable for his open-heartedness and open-handedness with his friends (and anyone who wanders in his front door, basically) but his character swing when he falls from grace keeps him from being too likable. General resentment of the people who accepted all of his help and gifts but then refused to help him when he needed it is understandable. Expanding his hatred to all humanity is a little extreme. However, the best character to come out of this is Flavius who is such an unendingly loyal employee and friend to Timon, even when his employer is broke and gone ‘round the bend. He’s definitely the best thing about this play, which is enjoyable if you’re into depressing Greek tragedies like I am.

Troilus and Cressida

The Play’s the Thing: The play opens with a prologue letting us know the play is set during the Trojan, reminds us of the basics (Greeks went to war against Trojans for taking Helen), and notes that when the play starts, the war has been underway for a while. The proper action then starts with Troilus, one of Priam’s sons, talking with Pandarus, Cressida’s uncle. Troilus is having Pandarus woo his niece on behalf of Troilus but Pandarus hasn’t been too successful and is getting tired of being a go-between. Pandarus leaves to be replaced by Aeneas who brings word Paris was injured and convinces Troilus to come out to the battle. In the streets of Troy, Cressida is walking with her servant who gives the background of Ajax, who is half Trojan but fighting on the Greek side and has killed tons of Trojans, much to Hector’s chagrin. Pandarus then shows up and serves as commentator on the male fashion parade as the Trojan warriors return home at the end of the day, where he bends over backwards to make Troilus seem as awesome as possible. Then one of Troilus’ servants comes to summon Pandarus to meet him leaving Cressida to have a brief soliloquy in which she reveals that she loves Troilus but is making him work for it. Over in the Greek camp, Agamemnon is scolding his military leaders for failing to defeat the Trojans after 7 years of battle (sorry, Aggie, you’ve still got 3 more years to go). Nestor and Ulysses provide some advice, the gist of which is that Achilles and Patroclus, by refusing to fight, are dragging down morale. Aeneas then shows up to tell the Greeks that Hector is offering to fight one man in single combat. Ulysses and Nestor conspire to make sure Achilles doesn’t fight Hector as it’ll just boost his ego and instead decide to send Ajax to fight Hector.

In another part of the Greek camp, Ajax (not the brightest torch in the fire) is trading blows for insults from Thersites (the ancient Greek equivalent to a fool). Achilles and Patroclus then show up to join in the banter and then give the news that there will be a lottery to see who will fight Hector. Back in Troy, Priam is consulting with his sons about the latest offer from the Greeks where if they return Helen and funds/goods to repay for all the time and loss the Greeks have accrued the Greeks will head back home. Troilus would continue fighting while Hector is all for giving her back. Then Cassandra shows up and says that if they don’t give Helen back, Troy will rue the day. Of course, no one believes her (poor Cassandra) and Hector switches sides and decides to continue with the war after some convincing by Troilus. In the Greek camp, Thersites is back to insulting Achilles and Patroclus when Agamemnon, Ulysses, Ajax, and a couple others show up. Achilles hides in his tent when he sees them coming and refuses to come out and using Ulysses as a go-between refuses to fight the next day. Ulysses uses this to stir Ajax up to fighting Hector and the big lug goes along with it.

In Troy, Pandarus meets with Paris and Helen, mostly to tell Paris to cover for Troilus at dinner in case dad asks where he is. However, Helen also cajoles Pandarus into singing her a song, after Paris agrees to the cover story. Later, in Pandarus’ orchard, he brings Troilus and Cressida together where he woos her, she eventually admits she loves him, and they make a vow of fidelity. Then they head off to Pandarus’ house for some hanky-panky. In the Greek camp, Calchas, Cressida’s father, negotiates with Agamemnon for him to return the Trojan Antenor in exchange for Cressida. Agamemnon agrees and sends him back to Troy with Diomedes who will courier Cressida back. Achilles and Patroclus are hanging out by their tent and Ulysses decides to prick Achilles’ ego by sending a bunch of the military leaders past him and have them mostly ignore him. Achilles, of course, freaks out, Ulysses then flatters him (all part of a bigger plan to have him join the battle) and lets him know that he knows the reason Achilles isn’t fighting is because Achilles is in love with one of Priam’s daughters. Achilles decides to send word to Ajax to have him invite the Trojans over to Achilles’ tent for dinner after the battle.

In Troy, Paris meets Aeneas and Diomedes who gives news of the exchange of Antenor for Cressida and Aeneas notes that Troilus is not going to be happy about the deal. In the courtyard of Pandarus’ house, Troilus and Cressida are having some morning after sweet talk when Pandarus shows up and drops a lot of innuendo to make Cressida blush. Aeneas then arrives to bring the news of the impending exchange. Troilus and Cressida make vows to be faithful, Troilus giving Cressida his sleeve and she gives him a glove as tokens of their vow. Troilus then makes Diomedes vow to treat Cressida well and Diomedes insinuates that he thinks she’s a definite hottie. Cressida then heads off to the Greek camp. She arrives just as the Greeks and Trojans are prepping for the fight between Ajax and Hector. Most of the Greek commanders make an excuse to kiss Cressida and then she’s ushered off to Calchas’ tent. Ajax and Hector fight for a bit but then Hector calls it off because he doesn’t want to kill his cousin. He then heads over to meet all the Greek commanders. Meanwhile, Troilus goes with Ulysses to check up on Cressida.

Hector goes to meet Achilles. The two men size each other up, trash talk a bit, and then head off to dinner. In another part of the Greek camp, Troilus and Ulysses watch Cressida who has apparently fallen for Diomedes. She gives him Troilus’ sleeve, then tries to take it back as she values it too much, but Diomedes refuses to give it back. Troilus is disgusted at her faithlessness and vows to track down Diomedes in battle the next day. Back in Troy, Cassandra is trying desperately to convince Hector not to go into battle as it will only lead to bad things. Of course, he doesn’t listen to her (poor Cassandra). We then have several battle scenes where Troilus and Diomedes fight but neither really wins, Patroclus is killed, and Achilles kills Hector. Troilus delivers the news of Hector’s death to the Trojans and also tells Pandarus of niece’s unfaithfulness. And then the play ends.

Heroes and Villains: There’s no real stand out characters in this one. Cressida is initially a very promising character but then her development sort of peters out and we never get any insight into why she decided to break her vow to Troilus and take up with Diomedes. So I’ll pick Cassandra as my favourite because although she has very little page time, I always felt bad for her whenever she came up in Greek mythology.

Insults with Style: Thersites and Ajax have some real gems of insults during their exchange in II.i. Here are some of the highlights:

  • cobloaf
  • stool for a witch
  • thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows
  • wears his wit in his belly, and his guts in his head


  • “give you the nod” (I.ii)
  • “Here, there, and everywhere” (V.v)

Speech to Know: As mentioned above, Cressida starts out pretty well. Her soliloquy about her secret love for Troilus is one of the better speeches in the play.

“Words, vows, gifts, tears, and love’s full sacrifice,
He offers in another’s enterprise:
But more in Troilus thousand-fold I see
Than in the glass of Pandar’s praise may be;
Yet hold I off. Women are angels, wooing:
Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing:
That she belov’d knows naught that knows not this, –
Men prize the thing ungain’d more than it is:
That she was never yet that ever knew
Love got so sweet as when desire did sue:
Therefore this maxim out of love I teach, –
Achievement is command; ungain’d beseech:
then though my heart’s content firm love doth bear,
Nothing of that shall from mine eyes appear.” (I.ii)

View from the PitTroilus and Cressida is really far more Shakespeare’s attempt to do the Iliad. While Troilus and Cressida get some considerable page time, it is not truly their ill-fated romance that is the focus of the play, but rather the Trojan war that is the major focus of the play and both elements end up suffering for the lack of focus. Troilus and Cressida’s relationship disappears almost entirely from the second act and there is never really a satisfactory reason given as for why almost thirty seconds after vowing her eternal love for Troilus, Cressida drops him for Diomedes. The Trojan war also just doesn’t get all of the details that it deserves. Although Shakespeare gets the highlights, there are so many amazing details that he leaves behind. If he’d just left the Iliad to Homer and made it more of a background element to Troilus and Cressida’s relationship, the play would be much stronger. As it is, it’s just decent.