The epicenter of Troilus and Cressida

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Troilus and Cressida.

There are 3368 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1684, or at Act Three, Scene Two, line 103. Now, Rodes’ theory postulated that you could find (within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly summed up a major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions; and since Troilus and Cressida has over 32% of its lines in prose, this forty-line window seems to be all the more important.

The midpoint line in question occurs during the scene in which Pandarus has brokered the meeting of the titular lovers, Troilus and Cressida. He has brought them together, then left them alone. He returns just as they have seemed to agree to go inside to consummate their love.

Sounds perfect so far, right?

It gets better…

The dead center line is Troilus’ to Cressida: “You know now your hostages, your uncle’s word and my firm faith” (III.ii.103). Hostages. Wonderful. Helen, the cause of the war, was once (or is) a hostage (depending on your loyalties). And Antenor, the Trojan leader, will become the Greek hostage for whom Cressida will be exchanged and become a hostage herself.

In the 20 line run-up to the midpoint, we get more representative text. Cressida speaks of “lovers (that) swear more performance than they are able” (III.ii.80-1), fitting both for her earlier “craft” (III.ii.148) and foreshadowing her own swearing beyond her ability to perform. Troilus proclaims his “fair faith” (III.ii.91) and says that truth itself cannot “speak truest not truer than Troilus” (III.ii.93-4). He has confidence in his faith and his own truth. Too much confidence, as we shall learn.

The 20 lines following the midpoint has Cressida admitting that she had “loved (him) night and day // For many weary months” (III.ii.110-1), and Troilus asking then why she was “so hard to win” (III.ii.112). Cressida confesses her craft in only “seem(ing)” (III.ii.113) hard to win. Almost immediately, she regrets her admission: “Why have I blabbed?” (III.ii.120), and poses a question that sets the intellectual scene for the remainder of their story, “Who shall be true to us // When we are so unscrecret to ourselves?” (III.ii.120-1). Troilus will remain true to himself (and Cressida), while Cressida will, in an “unsecret” moment in soliloquy, put the final nail in the coffin of their relationship.

Who shall be true to us?

Professor Rodes, of the midpoint theory, that’s who. He and our “brethren” (V.x.51), Pandarus.

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