Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.

Keywords

Shakespeare, Drama, Satire, Love, War

Abstract

This thesis is an examination of Shakespeare's 1603 satire Troilus and Cressida that looks at illusion and the value given to it by means of war, Helen of Troy, and ultimately the two lovers themselves. Although it is depressingly obvious throughout the drama that life is an illusion, it is also obvious that there is a need for that illusion, and an equally profound necessity to have the illusion debunked. The first part of the thesis examines the impact of war on Troy. This part concentrates on the myth of the hero, who like Falstaff presents himself to the world as heroic but is actually a coward. The theme of a person who presents himself as one thing but is another recurs throughout the play. Shakespeare did not have a monopoly on this insight. The paper details how two of Shakespeare's contemporaries, Galileo and Cervantes, also addressed this problem. The paper continues with an examination of the convictions and distortions played out by the less than perfect military council and by the insidious politics of the major characters and their flawed commitment to unreliable leaders. The thesis examines the emotional traps the characters set for themselves as well as the bad advice they listen to in order to set themselves free. The paper keeps returning to the theme of illusions, their danger, and their usefulness. The end focuses on the title characters themselves, as well as the homoerotic relationship of Achilles and his live-in lover.

The conclusion attempts to sort out the real from the fiction. The play ends, or so it appears, with the familiar story of two men fighting over a woman. It has come, like many other plays of the period, full circle. The characters seem at peace with themselves, or at least at peace with the haunting and perpetual idea that life is indeed an illusion with both a necessity for that illusion and an equally valid necessity to have that illusion debunked.

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