photo of queen TROY
Activities for Shakespeare's Troilus & Cressida


  NOTE the chili peppers!!! One means a pretty easy Activity, two means a harder one, and three means a challenging Activity. It is up to you.

1. Read The Trojan War, Chapter 12: "Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: Human Beings Alone."

2. Explore the links on the Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida page.

 3. Read through all of the Activities on this list before making your selection. Notice that some of the Activities are quite easy and may only require reading one text, while others are far more difficult, and may require reading more than one text or doing online research plus reading texts.

Select Activities that interest you and are appropriate to the time you have to spend on them. You will not get a higher grade because you select more difficult Activities. Some Activities that are especially complex will offer double credit; if so, that will be stated in the Activity question. If you select the double credit option, you must write "double credit" on your Activity AND you must develop your Activity in more depth, in order to qualify for the double credit. 

Select one or two of these Activities. Follow the directions in your Blackboard course site to complete the activities.

Priam and Hector's Body: A Renaissance Vision

Priam and Hector

The Trojan Horse: A Renaissance Vision

Trojan Horse by Tiepolo

graphic of one chili pepper1. Is Shakespeare's Ulysses a "good guy" or a "bad guy?" Discuss his role in the play and explain in specific, developed detail why you think he is one or the other, or both. Pay close attention to his famous speech on "degree," and his motives for manipulating Achilles and Troilus. Be sure to cite plenty of supporting examples from the text.
graphic of two chili pepper2. Compare Chaucer's Criseyde to Shakespeare's Cressida. How are they similar? How are they different? Why do you think Shakespeare has treated her so harshly, while Chaucer treated her so gently? Support your ideas with specific examples from both texts. (Double credit: worth up to 100 points if thoroughly developed.)
graphic of two chili pepper3. Troy stories have always dealt with the connections between love and war. Indeed, this may be the key to their very long run as story material. How does Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida fit into this ancient tradition? Do you see any strong continuities? Any striking differences? And, so what? Support your ideas with specific examples from Shakespeare's play and from the long tradition of Troy stories.
graphic of two chili pepper4. Compare Shakespeare's Troilus to Chaucer's Troilus. What significant changes do you see? What sort of continuities can you find? Support your ideas using specific examples from both versions.
graphic of three chili pepper5. Chaucer's Narrator is very fond of the God of Love, which he understands as a necessary, generative force under God. Even his Pandarus is treated with surprising gentleness, considering his role in the story. However, Shakespeare's Ulysses lumps love into the same category with other destructive appetites and indeed, calls appetite "an universal wolf" (I iii 121), while his Pandarus, an expert on lust, remarks: "is this the generation of love? Hot blood, hot thoughts, and hot deeds? Why they are vipers. Is love a generation of vipers?" (III ii 127-129). Compare the very different attitudes toward love in Chaucer's and Shakespeare's retellings of the story of Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida. (Double credit: worth up to 100 points if thoroughly developed.)
graphic of three chili pepper6. Compare the Hymn to Love at the opening of Book III of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde to Ulysses' speech on degree in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (I iii 75-137). Consider the stability of Chaucer's fictional world and the chaos of Shakespeare's fictional world. In this activity, I want you to focus on the two different world views, not just the role of love in those worlds. Do you have any ideas about why Chaucer tells a story about a world that ultimately can be understood, while Shakespeare tells a story about a world that does not makes sense? In order to do this Activity, you will probably want to look at some of the material about the Renaissance on the Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida page. (Double credit: worth up to 100 points if thoroughly developed.)
graphic of three chili pepper7. Read Henryson's The Testament of Cresseid (in Middle English, but with plenty of help alongside the text) and compare the role of Cresseid to that of Shakespeare's Cressida. What interesting similarities and differences do you find? Why do you think Cresseid has degenerated from a charming, if unstable, medieval woman into this debased creature? Support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Double credit: worth up to 100 points if thoroughly developed.) Note: the link above goes to a Middle English version. There are modern translations available. Also, check out The Testament of Cresseid with modernized spelling done by M. Murphy.  
graphic of three chili pepper8. Chaucer had a "solution" to the problem of the fickle, unstable nature of the world--heaven for Christians and at least a sky-life after death for Troilus. Does Shakespeare present any "solution" to the problems of the chaotic world of the Trojan War? If so, what is that solution? If not, why do you think there is no solution? In either case, explain why you think they tell such different versions of the same story. Develop your ideas with specific examples from the texts. (Double credit: worth up to 100 points if thorougly developed.)
graphic of three chili pepper9. Explore some of the Renaissance sites on the Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida page. Then review Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida for any qualities which seem to you specifically of the Renaissance. What, exactly, do you think these Renaissance qualities are and how do you think they affect Shakespeare's treatment of the story? Be specific in your response, using examples from the Renaissance sites and from Shakespeare's play to support your ideas.
graphic of three chili pepper10. Describe and discuss the role of Thersites in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Why do you think Shakespeare added him to Chaucer's cast of characters? How does he help the audience to understand the point of the play? What do you think we, the audience, are intended to think about Thersites? Why? Use specific examples of his behavior and function in the play to support your ideas.
graphic of three chili pepper11. Read my essay, The Greek Gods Become Human: Raoul Lefevre’s The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. See if you can connect the ideas in this essay (making the Greek gods into human beings makes their ancient actions weird and meaningless) with the flurry of action without meaning or values in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. If you can do a very thorough job with this complex issue, citing examples from both the essay and the play, this Activity can be worth double credit if thoroughly developed. Let me know if you are doing it for double credit when you post it.

BTW, the sections quoting from the Recuyell look very strange, but if you pronounce the words out loud, you can figure out what most of it means. Caxton really could have used a spell checker!
12. If you are interested in Shakespeare's Ulysses (Greek Odysseus) as graphic of three chili peppera man who is willing to deceive his fellow Greeks in order to conquer Troy, read Philoctetes by Sophocles and compare the ancient role of Odysseus there to his more modern role in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. In each play, Odysseus/Ulysses deceitfully manipulates other people in order to help the Greek army to succeed at Troy. After examining his role in each play, conclude with some comments about what you think about deceiving and manipulating people in order to achieve a positive outcome. This is worth double credit if thoroughly developed.
graphic of three chili pepper13. Make up an interesting question of your own. Send it to me for approval before you answer it! If I do not approve your question in advance, I will not read it, nor may you redo it. This is to protect you from wasting your time working on a topic that is not relevant to the material and the course. This Activity can range from easy to difficult, and from single to double credit. You plan it and let me know your ideas in advance.
Updated: 8/2/2017

© Thompson: 9/22/1998