Ulysses Is Not the Hero of Troilus and Cressida
Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida is a notoriously bleak and problematic play: a dark comedy, a witty tragedy, an X-rated romance. A love story set during the Trojan War, the play appears to treat both love and war with utter cynicism. Ulysses drives the plot, craftily luring a despondent Achilles back onto the battlefield, and exposing Troilus to the betrayal of his beloved Cressida. A world-class manipulator and debunker of love and honor, Ulysses casts a shadow over this sour play, though he seems curiously unaffected by his skeptical outlook. A few critics have argued that Ulysses is the hero of Troilus and Cressida, a clear-sighted philosopher who may well speak for Shakespeare himself. I will argue against that view. I will also suggest that Troilus, if not the hero of this play, is perhaps its only sympathetic character.
The Review of Politics