Troilus and Cressida Synopsis


One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
-- ACT 3, SCENE 3
The scene is the siege of Troy by the Greeks. Troilus, one of the sons of Priam, King of Troy, is in love with Cressida, daughter of Calchas, a Trojan priest. She reciprocates his affection, but pretends the opposite, when her uncle, Pandarus, praises Troilus. The Greeks discuss the progress of the war, especially a challenge from Hector, another of Priam's sons, to fight the best man the Greeks can offer. Nestor suggests Ajax, who is presented as an ignorant braggart, because Nestor fears their champion, Achilles, is becoming too opinionated.
The Greek leaders, whose names are familiar in the roster of ancient heroes, bandy sneering remarks, for it seems they were anything but heroes to one another. Achilles, sulking, refuses to fight Hector, and the generals agree to Nestor's choice of Ajax. The Trojans, in council, consider an offer from the Greeks to end the war. The cause of the conflict was the abduction of Helen, Wife of Menelaus, by Paris, son of the King of Troy. The Greeks' sole demand is that she be surrendered, but the Trojans refuse.
Pandarus succeeds in breaking down Cressida's pretended dislike of Troilus, and they spend a night in Pandarus' house. Cressida's father, Calchas, who has deserted to the Greeks, asks them to exchange for his daughter a Trojan they have captured and they agree.
Cressida first refuses to go to the Greek camp, then consents, but promises to be true to Troilus. Arriving at the camp she is kissed by all the Greek generals except Ulysses, who regards her as a trollop. The fight between Ajax and Hector comes to a draw. Cressida falls to the lot of Diomedes.
Achilles finally decides to fight Hector. Troilus fights With Diomedes, who merely takes his horse away from him and sends it to Cressida. Instead of fighting with Hector in single combat, Achilles has his troops surround the Trojan, kill him, and tie his body to the tail of Achilles' horse. The entire play is a satire on the ancient heroes of Greek mythology.