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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Cressida
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0306  Thursday, 8 February 2001

[1]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Feb 2001 13:45:50 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

[2]     From:   Robert Peters <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Feb 2001 19:47:27 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

[3]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Feb 2001 16:08:57 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

[4]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Feb 2001 19:43:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

[5]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Thursday, February 08, 2001
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Feb 2001 13:45:50 EST
Subject: 12.0289 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

When the bonds of heaven are slipped loosed and dissolved what then
remains to sell but the body? Also compare Chaucer and Dryden for the
alternative realities available to the Cressid narrative
line/stereotype. Thirdly, I recommend George Johnson's use of Cressida
as emblematic of the physical-siren-boyish-feminity in his classic novel
My Brother Jack.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Peters <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Feb 2001 19:47:27 +0100
Subject: 12.0289 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

Carol Barton wrote:

> That sounds very much like the sort of question I might ask my
> undergrads on an essay test, Robert. What do you think? Is she?

Well, here is my try. No, I don't think that she's a whore (I understand
whore as a woman who takes money for sleeping with men). But when
reading the play recently I felt anger about Cressida, then about
Troilus, then about myself. Why? First I was angry about Cressida
because she shatters my concept of faith and love. I don't think she
does what she does because she defends herself. Shakespeare is much
bolder: she just finds Diomed sexy and more sexy than Troilus. And this,
being maybe a bourgeois and a typical male (that is: afraid of women's
free will), angered me a lot. Then Troilus angered me because he showed
me my own disappointment concerning Cressida's new choice and his
attitude to punish Diomed - well, Diomed is not responsible for the fact
that Cressida finds him more attractive than Troilus. And then I was
angry about myself: for I want to be more independent and less afraid. -
Well, writing this there comes a new question to my mind: Is Cressida
just a male projection of fear, woman as the creature who is unfaithful,
who cannot be trusted, who will fall for the next nice guy?

Robert Peters

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Feb 2001 16:08:57 -0800
Subject: Re: Cressida
Comment:        SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

Chris Stroffolino wrote:

>I think Shakespeare leaves it ambiguous enough, whether Cressida is even
> unfaithful with Troilus----Thersities doesn't actually call her a whore,
> but says her "mind" is turned whore-- which can pretty much be true of
> most of the main characters in the play--

I think the question of Cressida's fidelity is a really interesting and
potentially controversial one. What does it mean to be "faithful?" She
certainly gives herself to Diomedes, at least she gives her body. But
what about her love? Doesn't she refer to Troilus, in her dialogue with
Diomedes, as "One that loved me better than you will."? Surely she
understands what's going to happen to her. Does she ever not love
Troilus?

For the record: Thersites does refer to her as a whore in the closing
spech of 5.2: "Patroclus will give me anything for the / intelligence of
this whore" (190-91, Arden Edition, 1982).

Another interesting question: Who is more unfaithful, Troilus or
Cressida?  When he learns she is to go to the Greeks, Troilus' first
response ("How my achievements mock me!") seems inwardly directed, not
out of concern for Cressida. This is especially true if we remember that
"atchievements" (I believe that's the original spelling) is a term from
heraldry and represents a knights outward symbols of his honor.

Paul E. Doniger

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Feb 2001 19:43:45 -0500
Subject: 12.0289 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

On whether or not Cressida is a whore, David Lindley cites Coppelia Kahn
and then comments:

>Coppelia Kahn, in an essay 'Whores and Wives in Jacobean Drama', in
>Dorothea Kehler and Susan Bakers, eds, In Another Country) pp. 246-260
>points out that 'the term "whore" is most often applied not to women who
>sleep with many men, but to women who don't - to wives, for the most
>part, who sleep or are thought to sleep with one other man.  If a woman
>does not belong exclusively to one man, like a whore she is thought
>common to many' (p. 252)  (She cites De Flores, in Changeling, 2.2.60-4
>as epitomizing this position.)
>
>On this definition, Cressida is a 'whore' - but of course, the
>interesting questions concern the ways in which that categorisation was
>constructed, and the reasons for which it was deployed.

May I cite from my own work introducing the "marrying the whore" motif
in Middleton's plays?

"Second to the number of repentance scenes in Middleton's city comedies
is the recurring occasion of the marriage of a fallen woman. The woman
is almost always regarded by the other characters as a whore, but her
actions need not include selling her body for men's pleasures. "Whore"
is the presumptive designation for any woman whose sexual behavior is
thought to be illicit. Moll Cutpurse, for example, is supposedly a whore
in The Roaring Girl because she wears men's clothing and refuses to
marry; yet she defends her chastity with a sword. Middleton persistently
questions the male prerogative to name women as whores, especially when
the man himself participates in sexual sin or its moral equivalent. . .
. One lesson Sir Alexander Wengrave learns from Moll Cutpurse is to

                                                     never more
Condemn by common voice, for that's the whore
That deceives man's opinion, mocks his trust,
Cozens his love, and makes his heart unjust.  (5.2.247-250)

Social opinion itself becomes the whore, the merchandise that itself
makes a sexual object of any woman."

Jack Heller

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Thursday, February 08, 2001
Subject: 12.0289 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0289 Re: Cressida

I am very sympathetic to the argument that Cressida's treatment in the
play clearly demonstrates the commodification of women. Nevertheless,
Shakespeare was also clearly familiar with the tradition of what happens
to Cressida after the events recounted in the play as told in
Henrysone's THE TESTAMENT OF CRESSEID:

<Clo.> The matter, I hope, is not great, sir -- begging
but a beggar: Cressida was a beggar.
        (TN 3.1.54-55)

No, to the spittle go,
And from the powd'ring-tub of infamy
Fetch forth the lazar kite of Cressid's kind,
Doll Tearsheet she by name, and her espouse.
        (H5 2.174-77)
 

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