'Troilus And Cressida' by John Dryden

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Can life be a blessing,
Or worth the possessing,
Can life be a blessing if love were away?
Ah no! though our love all night keep us waking,
And though he torment us with cares all the day,
Yet he sweetens, he sweetens our pains in the taking,
There's an hour at the last, there's an hour to repay.

In ev'ry possessing,
The ravishing blessing,
In ev'ry possessing the fruit of our pain,
Poor lovers forget long ages of anguish,
Whate'er they have suffer'd and done to obtain;
'Tis a pleasure, a pleasure to sigh and to languish,
When we hope, when we hope to be happy again.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Epic Tragedy of Troilus and Cressida by John Dryden

Are you looking for a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the Trojan War? Look no further than John Dryden's epic poem Troilus and Cressida. This masterpiece of English literature explores the themes of love, honor, betrayal, and fate. In this literary criticism, we will delve deeper into Dryden's work to uncover the meanings behind the text and the historical context that influenced it.

Historical Context and Inspiration

Dryden's Troilus and Cressida was first performed in 1679, during the Restoration period of English literature. This was a time of social upheaval and rapid change, as England emerged from the strict Puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell and returned to a more libertine and hedonistic society. This shift is reflected in the play's depiction of love and sexuality, which is more explicit and sensual than in earlier works of literature.

The poem is based on the story of Troilus and Cressida from Greek mythology, which was also a popular subject in Renaissance literature. The Trojan War, which forms the backdrop for the story, was seen as a symbol of the struggle between good and evil, and the triumph of justice over tyranny. Dryden's interpretation of the story is unique, however, in that it focuses more on the personal relationships between the characters than on the grand themes of war and heroism.

Themes and Motifs

One of the central themes of Troilus and Cressida is the nature of love and desire. The poem explores the different forms that love can take, from the passionate and all-consuming love of Troilus for Cressida, to the more cynical and pragmatic love of Pandarus, who sees love as a means to an end. The theme of desire is also prominent, as many of the characters are motivated by their own desires, whether it be for power, wealth, or physical pleasure.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of honor and reputation. The characters are obsessed with their own reputations and how they are perceived by others. This leads to many of the conflicts in the play, as characters are willing to betray others in order to protect their own honor. The idea of fate and destiny is also explored, as the characters struggle to come to terms with their own destiny and the role that fate plays in their lives.

Literary Devices and Techniques

Dryden employs a variety of literary devices and techniques in Troilus and Cressida, which help to give the poem its unique style and tone. One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of heroic couplets, which are rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. This form was popular in the 17th century, and Dryden uses it to give the poem a sense of grandeur and importance.

Another technique that Dryden uses is the use of satire and irony. Many of the characters in the poem are portrayed in a satirical way, which helps to highlight the flaws in their personalities and motivations. This is particularly evident in the character of Pandarus, who is portrayed as a cynical and manipulative character who is willing to use love as a means to an end.

Dryden also uses imagery and metaphor to great effect in the poem. The imagery of war and conflict is used throughout the poem to create a sense of tension and drama. The metaphor of the Trojan War as a symbol of the struggle between good and evil is also used to give the poem a sense of grandeur and significance.

Critical Reception and Legacy

Troilus and Cressida was widely praised by critics when it was first performed, and it remains one of Dryden's most famous works. However, the poem has also been the subject of controversy and criticism, particularly for its depiction of women and its portrayal of the Trojan War.

Despite these criticisms, Troilus and Cressida remains an important work of English literature, and its influence can be seen in later works such as Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and Tennyson's Idylls of the King. The poem's exploration of love, honor, and fate continues to resonate with readers today, making it a timeless classic of English literature.


In conclusion, Troilus and Cressida is a masterpiece of English literature that explores the themes of love, honor, betrayal, and fate. Dryden's use of literary devices and techniques, such as heroic couplets, satire, irony, and imagery, help to create a sense of grandeur and significance that has made the poem a classic of English literature. Despite its controversial depiction of women and its portrayal of the Trojan War, Troilus and Cressida remains a timeless work that continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Troilus and Cressida: A Masterpiece of Love and Tragedy

John Dryden's Troilus and Cressida is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a masterpiece of love and tragedy that explores the complexities of human emotions and relationships. The poem is set during the Trojan War and tells the story of the love between Troilus, a Trojan prince, and Cressida, the daughter of a Trojan priest. The poem is a tragic tale of love, betrayal, and loss that has captivated readers for centuries.

The poem is divided into five acts, each of which explores different aspects of the story. Act I introduces the main characters and sets the stage for the rest of the poem. Troilus is introduced as a young prince who is deeply in love with Cressida. He is torn between his love for her and his duty to his country. Cressida, on the other hand, is portrayed as a young woman who is also in love with Troilus but is forced to leave him and go to the Greek camp as part of a prisoner exchange.

Act II explores the relationship between Troilus and Cressida. Troilus is consumed by his love for her and is unable to focus on anything else. Cressida, however, is torn between her love for Troilus and her loyalty to her father and her country. She is forced to make a difficult decision and ultimately decides to betray Troilus by sleeping with the Greek warrior Diomedes.

Act III is the turning point of the poem. Troilus discovers Cressida's betrayal and is consumed by grief and anger. He becomes determined to seek revenge on the Greeks and is willing to do whatever it takes to win the war. Cressida, on the other hand, is consumed by guilt and regret. She realizes that she has made a terrible mistake and is unable to undo the damage that she has caused.

Act IV explores the consequences of Troilus and Cressida's actions. The war between the Trojans and the Greeks intensifies, and both sides suffer heavy losses. Troilus becomes increasingly reckless and is eventually killed in battle. Cressida, meanwhile, is abandoned by Diomedes and is forced to return to Troy, where she is shunned by her fellow Trojans.

Act V is the final act of the poem and explores the aftermath of the war. The Trojans are defeated, and the city is destroyed. Cressida is left alone and broken-hearted, while Troilus is remembered as a hero who died fighting for his country. The poem ends on a somber note, with the realization that love and war are often intertwined and that the consequences of our actions can be devastating.

One of the most striking aspects of Troilus and Cressida is its exploration of the complexities of human emotions and relationships. The poem portrays love as a powerful force that can both inspire and destroy. Troilus and Cressida's love for each other is intense and all-consuming, but it is ultimately unable to withstand the pressures of war and betrayal. The poem also explores the themes of loyalty, duty, and honor, and how these values can sometimes conflict with our personal desires and emotions.

Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of language and imagery. Dryden's writing is rich and evocative, and he uses vivid descriptions and metaphors to bring the story to life. The poem is filled with memorable lines and passages that have become famous over the years, such as Troilus's declaration of love for Cressida: "Love is not in our choice but in our fate."

Overall, Troilus and Cressida is a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate readers to this day. It is a powerful exploration of love, war, and the human condition, and its themes and messages are just as relevant today as they were when the poem was first written. If you haven't read Troilus and Cressida yet, I highly recommend it – it is a true classic that deserves to be celebrated and cherished for generations to come.

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