Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Troilus & Cressida: Achilles slays Hector

One of the few advantages for us poor immigrants to the Anglo-Saxon world is that we know English well enough to appreciate Shakespeare.

In Troilus & Cressida, Shakespeare follows closely the narrative of The Iliad to provide a shocking and savage indictment of human cruelty, deceit and vanity. It is a tragedy in which all the protagonists are deemed unworthy of tragic dignity or apotheosis. There are no gods to appeal to, or to guide, restrain or offer protection. Motives are relentlessly base, informed not by honour or glory but weakness and selfishness. The Greek and Trojan warriors are particularly arrogant, callous and stupid and Achilles’ slaying of Hector – which is the scene above, from the BBC production – is depicted by Shakespeare as nothing more than contemptible, cowardly thuggery, far removed from Homer.

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