Troilus and Cressida
This is one of the oddest of Shakespeare’s plays, and I have to admit it’s one of the ones I like least. Its faults, from my point of view, are numerous: much of it seems rather aimless, there are gratuitously bawdy bits, there’s almost nobody one can admire, and there are long disquisitions about things that seem to lead nowhere, either dramatically or philosophically. It is perhaps interesting that it is in some places classed as a comedy, and in others as a tragedy. In truth, I think, it’s a bit of each — or at least not much of either. But there are people who like it a lot, and you may well be among them. It’s definitely one of those plays that offers more to the second and third viewing. Some of what it has to say about time is penetrating and rich.
It has some allusive interest, as well, if one is already engaged with the Matter of Troy. It’s a story about a pair of lovers separated by the vicissitudes of war, and that’s the chief focus of the narrative. Unlike the Iliad or Book II of the Aeneid, it does not concern itself much at all with the progress or the outcome of the war. That much one might have expected. At the same time, however, the main events of the Iliad are unfolding, more or less in the background — even the deaths of Patroclus and Hector occur between the beginning and the end (though they are presented very differently from what you’ll recall from the Iliad).
Perhaps less predictably, it also does not (unlike, say, Romeo and Juliet) present a romantic vision of love at all. Troilus and Cressida are both basically cynical lovers who can transfer their affections elsewhere whenever it becomes convenient, and their love affair ultimately comes to nothing. Those going into the play expecting a great vindication of love conquering all will receive a cold slap in the face. It’s just not what the play is about.
Accordingly, this play has been a favorite among some scholars, especially those with a taste for the eccentric; perhaps just as predictably, it has never been one of the Bard’s great crowd-pleasers. In consequence, there are very few renditions of this on film. The few that there are lay the matter of the play out reasonably successfully, but none of them seems to lighten its matter and make it very entertaining.