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The Tragedy of Troilus and Cressida

Plot Summary

For seven years the Greeks and Trojans have been at war following the Trojan prince Paris' abduction of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, from her Greek husband Menelaus. The besieging Greek army is encamped under the walls of Troy and, at the point at which the play begins, the war has reached stalemate. The Greeks are quarrelling amongst themselves. Achilles, their greatest champion, refuses to fight and has withdrawn to his tent with his lover, Patroclus. Ulysses tries to entice Achilles back to the field by arousing his jealously against Ajax, a rival warrior, whom he acclaims as their new hero and elects to meet Hector, the Trojan champion, in single combat. Equally at odds with themselves, the Trojans are debating the value of continuing the war merely for the sake of keeping Helen. Hector declares her not worth the lives she costs but when his brother Troilus contends that honour demands they continue to fight for her, Hector is brought round to his point of view. Although the single combat between Ajax and Hector ends in a show of amity, hostilities are resumed the following day. Troilus, however, is much distracted from these military concerns by his love for Cressida, the daughter of Calchas, a Trojan who has defected to the Greek camp whilst leaving his daughter in Troy. The young lovers are eagerly abetted by Cressida's uncle Pandarus, who acts as their go-between. However, after only one night together they are parted when, in exchange for the captured general Antenor, Cressida is sent to join her father in the Greek camp. Almost immediately she betrays Troilus with the Greek Diomedes and, discovering this, Troilus is plunged into despair. Despite his sister Cassandra's prophecies of doom, Hector goes into battle and is treacherously murdered by Achilles, who has finally been roused into action by the death of Patroclus. With the fall of Troy certain, Troilus, disillusioned as a lover, assumes Hector's role as the Trojan champion and vows revenge on Achilles. The dying, disease-ridden Pandarus is left to end the play.

 

RSC Staging History 1960-2007

1960 RST/1962 Aldwych: Peter Hall, John Barton

Leslie Hurry (design); John Wyckham (lighting); Humphrey Searle (music)

Denholm Elliott/Ian Holm (Troilus), Dorothy Tutin (Cressida), Peter O'Toole/Gordon Gostelow (Thersites), Max Adrian (Pandarus), Eric Porter/Michael Hordern (Ulysses), Patrick Allen (Achilles), Derek Godfrey (Hector), Peter Jeffrey/John Nettleton (Agamemnon), David Buck (Diomedes), Paul Hardwick/Roy Dotrice (Ajax), Clifford Rose/Donald Layne-Smith (Priam), Dinsdale Landen/Peter McEnery (Patroclus), Elizabeth Sellars/Maxine Audley (Helen), Frances Cuka (Cassandra), Diana Rigg/Cherry Morris (Andromache), Trevor Martin (Menelaus), Philip Voss, William Wallis (Soldiers)

1968 RST/1969 Aldwych: John Barton

Timothy O'Brien (design); John Bradley (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music)

Michael Williams/Bernard Lloyd (Troilus), Helen Mirren (Cressida), Norman Rodway (Thersites), David Waller (Pandarus), Sebastian Shaw (Ulysses), Alan Howard (Achilles), Patrick Stewart (Hector), Bernard Lloyd (Paris), Bryan Robson (Agamemnon), Eric Allan/Bruce Myers (Diomedes), Richard Moore (Ajax), John Kay (Priam), John Shrapnel/Richard Jones Barry (Patroclus), Sheila Allen/Hildegard Neil (Helen), Clifford Rose (Nestor), Susan Fleetwood (Cassandra), Diane Fletcher (Andromache), Ben Kingsley (Aeneas), Gareth Thomas (Prologue)

1976 RST/1977 Aldwych: John Barton, Barry Kyle

Chris Dyer (design); Clive Morris (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music adaptation)

Mike Gwilym (Troilus), Francesca Annis (Cressida), John Nettles (Thersites), David Waller (Pandarus), Tony Church (Ulysses), Robin Ellis/Paul Shelley (Achilles), Michael Pennington (Hector), Richard Durden (Paris), Ivan Beavis (Agamemnon), Paul Shelley/Hilton McRae (Diomedes), Brian Coburn (Ajax), Dennis Clinton (Priam), Paul Moriarty (Patroclus), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Helen), Norman Tyrrell (Nestor), Barbara Shelley/Carmen Du Sautoy (Cassandra), Meg Davies/Avril Carson (Andromache), Jacob Witkin/Martin Read (Menelaus), Clyde Pollitt (Calchas), Paul Whitworth/Paul Wagar (Helenus), Nickolas Grace (Aeneas), Richard Griffiths/Kim Begley (Paris's Servant), Leonard Preston/Rod Culbertson (Antenor), Peter Woodward (Deiphobus), David Lyon/Alfred Molina (Margarelon), Greg Hicks, Pippa Guard (unnamed parts)

1981 Aldwych: Terry Hands

Farrah (design); Terry Hands, Clive Morris (lighting); Nigel Hess (music)

James Hazeldine (Troilus), Carol Royale (Cressida), Joe Melia (Thersites), Tony Church (Pandarus), John Carlisle (Ulysses), David Suchet (Achilles), Bruce Purchase (Hector), Bille Brown (Paris), Trevor Baxter (Agamemnon), Pip Miller (Diomedes), Terry Wood (Ajax), Raymond Llewellyn (Priam), Chris Hunter (Patroclus), Barbara Kinghorn (Helen), Oliver Ford Davies (Nestor), Catherine Riding (Cassandra), Patricia Skakesby (Andromache), Richard Cordery (Menelaus), Timothy Walker (Helenus), Paul Whitworth (Aeneas)

1985 RST/1986 Barbican: Howard Davies

Ralph Koltai (sets), Liz da Costa (costumes); Jeffrey Beecroft (lighting); Ilona Sekacz (music)

Anton Lesser (Troilus), Juliet Stevenson (Cressida), Alun Armstrong/Christopher Wright (Thersites), Clive Merrison (Pandarus), Peter Jeffrey (Ulysses), Alan Rickman/Clive Mantle (Achilles), David Burke (Hector), Sean Baker (Paris), Joseph O'Conor (Agamemnon), Bruce Alexander/Jeffery Kissoon (Diomedes), Clive Russell (Ajax), Colin Douglas (Priam), Hilton McRae (Patroclus), Lindsay Duncan (Helen), Mark Dignam (Nestor), Mary Jo Randle/Pauline Moran (Cassandra), Janet Dale/Geraldine Wright (Andromache), Paul Spence (Helenus), Christopher Wright (Paris's Servant)

1990 Swan/1991 Pit: Sam Mendes

Anthony Ward (design); Geraint Pughe (lighting); Shaun Davey (music)

Ralph Fiennes (Troilus), Amanda Root (Cressida), Simon Russell Beale (Thersites), Norman Rodway (Pandarus), Paul Jesson (Ulysses), Ciaran Hinds (Achilles), David Troughton (Hector), John Warnaby (Paris), Sylvester Morand (Agamemnon), Grant Thatcher (Diomedes), Richard Ridings (Ajax), Griffith Jones (Priam), Paterson Joseph (Patroclus), Sally Dexter (Helen), Alfred Burke (Nestor), Linda Kerr Scott/Katrina Levon (Cassandra), Lloyd Hutchinson (Alexander), Julie Saunders (Andromache), Michael Gardiner (Menelaus), Michael Bott (Helenus), Richard Avery (Calchas), Mike Dowling (Aeneas), Simon Austin (Antenor)

1996 RST/1996-97 Barbican: Ian Judge

John Gunter (sets), Deirdre Clancy (costumes); Simon Tapping (lighting); Ian Kellam (music)

Joseph Fiennes (Troilus), Victoria Hamilton (Cressida), Richard McCabe (Thersites), Clive Francis (Pandarus), Philip Voss (Ulysses), Philip Quast (Achilles), Louis Hilyer (Hector), Ray Fearon (Paris), Edward de Souza (Agamemnon), Richard Dillane (Diomedes), Ross O'Hennessy (Ajax), Griffith Jones (Priam), Jeremy Sheffield (Patroclus), Katia Caballero (Helen), Arthur Cox (Nestor), Sara Weymouth (Cassandra), Martina Laird (Andromache), Colin Farrell (Menelaus), Raymond Bowers (Calchas), Adrian Schiller (Paris's Servant)

1998 Pit/1998-99 Swan/1999 Small-scale Tour: Michael Boyd

Tom Piper (design); Chris Davey (lighting); John Woolf (music)

William Houston (Troilus), Jayne Ashbourne (Cressida), Lloyd Hutchinson (Thersites), Roy Hanlon (Pandarus), Colin Hurley (Ulysses), Darrell D'Silva (Achilles), Alistair Petrie (Hector), Jack Tarlton (Paris), Sam Graham (Agamemnon), Robert Willox (Diomedes), Paul Hamilton (Ajax), Michael Loughnan (Priam), Elaine Pyke (Patroclus), Sara Stewart (Helen), Robert Calvert (Calchas), Catherine Walker (Cassandra), Jane MacFarlane (Andromahce), Sam Cox (Menelaus), Robert Calvert (Calchas), Rory Murray (Aeneas), Janet Whiteside (Hecuba/Priest)

For a gallery of over 70 production images from a selection of these productions (and some older ones in the pre-RSC Shakespeare Memorial Theatre), together with sample costumes, pages from promptbooks and other visual materials, go to

http://www.rsc.org.uk/search/search.aspx?q=troilus

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