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The divergences may be grouped as follows:1. Passages wanting in one text (nearly always in the Quarto). These include:
(i) Passages clearly Shakespearean. Several of these seem rather due to skilful insertion in the one text, than to accidental omission in the other. Thus: iv. 4. 78: Q has
The Grecian youths are full of qualitie,
The Grecian youths are full of qualitie, Their loving well compos'd, with guift of nature, Flawing [flowing] and swelling ore with Arts and exercise. The addition converts the lines from Shakespeare's early to his mature manner.
So, in iii. 3. 161, the fine simile of 'the gallant horse fall'n in first rank' is omitted in Q. Its Shakespearean quality is beyond doubt, but it adds only to the beauty of the passage, not to its sense or clearness; the metre it even disturbs. So, probably, in iv. 5. 165-170, the style of which strikingly contrasts with the early manner of the preceding couplets.
On the other hand, the speech of Agamemnon in i. 3. 70-75, seems to be an integral part of the scene, omitted perhaps, on account of a too transparent allusion to Dekker, in the copy from which Q was printed.
(ii) Passages clearly non-Shakespearean (in F): e.g. v. 3. 112: F1 has
Pand. Why, but heare you?
Troil. Hence broker-lackie! ignomine and shame
These lines F repeats, with slight variation, in
V. 10. 32.
(i) Blunders in Q are corrected in F.
These are mostly obvious and due to carelessness. The more phonetic and archaic spelling of Q is also reduced by F to a more modern type.
One of the most curious blunders in Q is in ii. 3. 222:
'I'll tell his humours blood' for 'I'll let his humours blood.'
(ii) But the F makes fresh blunders of its own. Thus in Troilus' speech, ii. 2. 45, the two lines 45 and 46 are inverted in F, making nonsense.
(iii) In a few cases, a reading in Q not in itself suspicious is replaced by a more forcible one in F: Thus: ii. 2. 279:
(Q) makes pale the morning.
(iv) But in a far larger number of cases, it is Q which exhibits the more forcible, the more Shakespearean and the more difficult reading, F which substitutes one tamer and more conventional.
Thus ii. 2. 58:
Q The will dotes, that is attributive
Q ii. 3. III:
[The elephant's] legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure, F flight.
So iii. 3. 137:
iv. 4. 4:
where apparently it was sought to regulate the metre.
V. 2. 144:
These variations point to the following conclusions: The Quarto text was printed somewhat carelessly and ignorantly from an authentic and fairly accurate copy of Shakespeare's MS.: the Folio text, also carelessly printed, had undergone revision, here and there from Shakespeare's hand, but to a much greater extent and probably after his death, by a correcting and polishing editor of somewhat inferior quality.
Apart from slight additions possibly made by Shakespeare between the dates of the Q and the F, the date of the Quarto, 1609, may then be taken as the downward limit for the composition of the play. It is certain that Shakespeare had been concerned with the story of Troilus and Cressida at least ten years earlier; for the dramatic satire, Histriomastix, which cannot be later than 1599, contains the following burlesque of a play on this subject, pointed with a pun on Shakespeare's name:
Troy. Come, Cressida, my cresset light,
Cress. O knight, with valour in thy face,
In April 1599 another play, Troilus and Cressida, was produced by Dekker and Chettle for Henslowe.1 Its title seems to have been finally altered to The Tragedy of Agamemnon, under which Henslowe records it a few weeks later. On 7th February 1602-3 a 'book' called Troilus and Cressida, 'as it is acted by the Lord Chamberlain's men,' was entered in the 1 Henslowe's Diary, under this date.
Stationers' Register in the name of James Roberts, to be printed 'when he hath gotten sufficient authority for it.' This he evidently did not get; but the reference to Shakespeare's company leaves no doubt that it was, in some form or other, Shakespeare's play.
We thus have evidence of a Shakespearean Troilus and Cressida that was satirised in 1599, of one that was being performed in 1602-3, and of one that was published in 1609. The published version alone exists. What is its relation to the others?
The plot, as we have it, revolves about two themes which are never brought into close relation, viz. the love-romance of Troilus and Cressida, and the epic story of the Wrath of Achilles. It is convenient to distinguish them as 'The Romance' and 'The (Greek or Trojan) Camp-scenes,' although some later scenes of the Romance are also laid in the Greek camp. Many critics have held that these two elements represent work of different periods.1
Certain discrepancies point to an imperfect accommodation of old to new, In the second scene Cressida vents her ironical admiration upon the Trojan warriors as they come from the field; but in the third (i. 3. 362) Æneas regretfully tells Agamemnon how Prince Hector has 'grown rusty' in 'this dull and long-continued truce.'
More important are the unmistakable diversities of style. The verse of the Camp-scenes stands out at once by its sinewy (but not yet rugged) strength, its easy magnificence of manner, its close-knit thought and swift splendour of phrase. The verse of the Romances preserves much of the fluid sweetness of
V. 1., 2. (contains much older work), 3. 1-97 (Life and Work of Shakespeare, p. 221).
1 Mr. Fleay has specified as later work the following scenes: i. 3. ii. 1.-3.; iii. 3. 34 to end; iv. 5. (except lines 12-53);
the early Comedies. Many similarities of motive and phrase also connect the Camp-scenes with the work of the Hamlet period. The sense of the foibles of the spoiled child of fortune, which permitted Shakespeare to touch with hesitant and half-involuntary ridicule the figure of Cæsar, discharges itself in unreserved caricature in the sketch of Achilles. When Achilles will not to the field, his will has to be a sufficient reason to the Camp, as Cæsar's to the Senate (ii. 3. 173):
Agam. What's his excuse?
He doth rely on none.
Ulysses, preparing to set the lancet to his swollen. blood,' is found by him, as Hamlet by Polonius, 'reading,' and answers his victim's inquiries by an account of what the 'strange fellow' has written (cf. Hamlet, ii. 2. 198). Troilus echoes the First Player (Hamlet, ii. 2. 495) when he speaks of 'fan and wind' of Hector's sword. He echoes Hamlet when he asks: 'What is aught but as 'tis valued?' All this tends to show that the Camp-scenes, as we have them, may probably be dated betwen 1602 and 1605; while in the Romance much survives which belonged to the earlier version burlesqued in 1599.
It is difficult, again, to feel that the Troilus of the Romance, who declares himself
weaker than a woman's tear,
Less valiant than the virgin in the night,
is conceived quite in the same vein as the eloquent and heroic Troilus of the council chamber and the battlefield, who defends the retention of Helen as 'a spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds' (ii. 2.), and reproves Hector for showing mercy to the fallen.