Troilus & Cressida Sources | Breaking Bard Episode 15


“For now will I go straight to my matter,

In which you may the double sorrows hear

Of Troilus in loving of Criseyde,

And how that she forsook him ere she died.”

  • Troilus and Creseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer


Troilus and Cressida is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, and I kind of understand why. The ending is not the most satisfying. However, Shakespeare did not come up with this story. Chaucer did. Or at least, Chaucer wrote it down. Of course, Shakespeare adapted the story for the stage, but the core elements are there.

The key difference between Shakespeare’s version and Chaucer’s is that Chaucer was making a clear statement about courtly love. The idea that loving someone brought you closer to the divine. Shakespeare’s play does not have such a clear message. In fact, by shortening the timeline and making the characters more blunt, Shakespeare seems to have an almost nihilistic view of the situation. All the mushy love stuff is stripped away and we are left with harsh reality. 

Shakespeare adapting source material is nothing new, however, this example is notable because of what changed. Today, Eli and I will be discussing Troilus and Cressida, so strap on your armor, we’re heading to Troy.


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