THIS STAR OF ENGLAND
Man of the Renaissance
by Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn
AT TIMES, in reading Troilus and Cressida, one has the impression that the story of these lovers and the garrulous Pandarus may have been a kind of preliminary study for that of Hamlet, Ophelia, and Polonius. For Troilus and Hamlet are indisputably self-portraits; Pandarus is Capulet developing into Polonius; while Ophelia is Anne, and Cressida partially so, at least until the flagrant betrayal, when she becomes Elizabeth. There is one scene (IV.5) in which she is the wanton, Anne Vavasor, bestowing kisses and pert answers upon a group of men. Oxford had called Elizabeth Cressid before he had ever married Anne, or certainly before he had ever suspected that Anne was false. In A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, he speaks of false Cressid in at least one-third of the poems written over the posy, Meritum petere, grave; and it is Elizabeth, not Anne, he is addressing there. (1) So that in this play Cressida represents the three women who were, in one way or another before their course was run, to have deceived or been unfaithful to Oxford. She herself says, if she proves untrue, let her name be a synonym of falsity and all betrayers henceforth be called “As false as Cressid.”
Later, Oxford is clearly thinking of Elizabeth’s defection to Ralegh, after all the pledges of love she had given him, when he has Cressida say at the conclusion of her scene with Diomedes (V.2.104-9):
Troilus, farewell! one eye yet looks on thee,
But. with my heart the other eye doth see.
Ah! poor our sex; this fault in us I find,
The error of our eye directs our mind.
What error leads must err. O! then conclude
Minds sway’d by eyes are full of turpitude.
After hearing these words, Troilus remains,
To make a recordation to my soul
Of every syllable that here was spoke.
He cannot accept what he has heard,
Sith yet there is a credence in my heart,
An esperance so obstinately strong,
That doth invert the attest of eyes and ears.
But at last he is forced to face the realization of her defection (V.2.175-7):
Troilus. O Cressid! O false Cressid! false, false, false!
Let all untruths stand by thy stained name,
And they’ll seem glorious.
Oxford has touched the very depths of disillusionment. He has returned to the court to find that the dashing young Ralegh has supplanted him in Elizabeth’s favor and love. She was pledged to him, but she has played him false, simply because she has the lust of the eye, and he has been temporarily absent from her. Because Troilus stands for truth, Edward de Vere had identified himself with Troilus, and therefore, as we have said, his faithless mistress with Cressida from his earliest manhood, when Elizabeth had wavered to Hatton, then back to Leicester after having pledged him her faith. But although her lightness had enraged and humiliated him then, somehow this desertion to Ralegh, a man of his own age, is bitterer: for she had been Leicester’s mistress before she had been Oxford’s, actually while Oxford himself was still a young boy, while as for Hatton, he’d never regarded him as much of a man. Her other affairs had not apparently disturbed him so deeply—with Simier and with Alençon—for they were casual and fleeting; but now she was paying Ralegh the honor and giving him the recognition which were Oxford’s own due, because of the sacred bond between him and the Queen. (2) And he was corroded with scorn.
But Helen is the obvious Elizabeth, and Paris, who has stolen her from Menelaus-Leicester, is the obvious Ralegh, the new lover and favorite, put into the relationship of brother to Troilus-Oxford, since he has recently interceded for the Earl and got him restored to favor. Paris is a colorless character, because to Oxford Ralegh was a person of no tradition or quality, but he is sufficiently respectful here, owing to a decent gratitude. As Troy has to be violated and destroyed in order that Paris may keep Helen, so a great truth is desecrated by Ralegh’s hold on Elizabeth.
We are given a neat clue to the situation in Pandarus’s foolish-seeming song; for if it be remembered that the city of Leicester, from which Dudley’s title was taken, stands on the river Sore, and that he was the “sore L” in the Love’s Labour’s Lost rhyme (IV.2.57- 61), it is all quite clear:
Love, love, nothing but love, still more!
For oh! love’s bow
Shoots buck and doe;
The shaft confounds,
Not that it wounds,
But tickles still the sore.
These lovers cry O! O! they die!
Yet that which seems the wound to kIll,
Doth turn O! O! to hat hat he!
So dying love lives still:
O! O! a while, but hal hat hal
O! O! groans out for ha! ha! ha! (3) (III.1.118-29.)
We take this to mean there’s “nothing but love” and “still more love” in Elizabeth’s orbit, at court. She is only recently done with Simier and Alençon, she has Hatton and the perennial Leicester, she has made O. ridiculous; but Cupid has pierced her heart again. The shaft has struck both “buck and doe”—Ralegh and the Queen—and they are like to “die” of infatuation. Leicester is “confounded,” though not deeply affected, only “tickled” in a sensitive spot. Oxford has been turned into a laughing.stock, which amuses Burghley to the point of hilarity, and even makes O. himself groan with laughter. For after all, the Queen is becoming pretty fatuous if she can die for love of this rather flashy adventurer, Captain Ralegh—a good companion at a stag dinner with whom to discuss philosophical questions, a brave soldier, but a provincial, not a man of tradition or standing, anything but a polished courtier. (It had been more than twenty years since William Cecil had said Elizabeth wished “to be like her father.” This was an astute observation; for her amorous behavior quite followed the line of Henry’s: only she did not marry and literally murder her lovers—as Oxford has recently reminded her that Semiramis did.)
The first version of Troilus and Cressida, in the form we know, belongs incontrovertibly to the year 1584, though this version is obviously based upon a very early play or interlude. It was presented as Agamemnon and Ulisses on the day after The Dream, in December. Pandarus’s exertions to bring the two lovers together are Burghley’s efforts to restore Oxford’s and Anne’s union at the close of 1581, after their long separation, which had apparently resulted, by 1584, in a renewed disaffection, on Oxford’s part, toward Anne. We are distinctly told that this is a reconciliation, in Helen’s speech to Pandarus (III.1.106):
Falling in, after falling out, may make them three.
It has been a subject for much speculation that Hamlet was a university student at the beginning of his drama, and thirty years old at the end, though the action seems consecutive. In Macbeth, there is a similar condition. Macbeth is saying to his wife in Act I (7.72),
Bring forth men children only;
while in Act V (3.22 et seq.), he declares himself an old man:
I have liv’d long enough: my May of life
Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age. . . etc.
The dramatist is concerned not so much with realistic, as with essential, truth. This is the case here as elsewhere. He makes a flexible medium of time, as well as of the characters he portrays, thus achieving a larger realism and encompassing a broader—to say nothing of an autobiographical—truth.(4)
The deep concern expressed in the conference held by the Greek leaders (I.3) for the success of their cause, is the anxiety animating Elizabeth and her councillors in 1584, occasioned by England’s unpreparedness in the face of Spain’s threatened attack. After the death of William of Orange, Leicester, Walsingham, Knollys, and Bedford, backed by the Puritans, pressed the Queen to take possession of the Dutch provinces and meet Spain in open warfare, but—according to Hume—Burghley’s temporizing method was followed instead. Mendoza wrote Philip that the Lord Treasurer had advised Elizabeth that “she had not sufficient strength to struggle with your Majesty, particularly with so small a contribution as that offered by the States. Leicester and the rest of them are trying to persuade her to send five or six thousand men thither.” (5)
None of this is particularly realistic in the play, and it is difficult to identify all the characters; but certain striking points stand out. Elizabeth is Agamemnon; Nestor partially Burghley. Leicester, who was inordinately proud, is Achilles in this version, Thersites his Puritan followers. Ajax in his better aspect (IV.5) stands for Philip Sidney, while Ulysses’s great speech to Agamemnon is Oxford’s warning and reminder to the Queen. No one else in Elizabeth’s court could have spoken with such power, eloquence, and nobility.
But not a little confusion is caused in the Greek-Trojan section of the play by the fact that, near the turn of the century, it changed its character entirely and became a literary war, with Oxford as partial prototype of Achilles sulking in his tent, Ajax, the “beef-witted lord,” representing Ben Jonson, and so on. (We shall discuss this aspect in its proper chronological sequence.)
What grief hath set the jaundice on your cheeks?
The ample proposition that hope makes
In all designs begun on earth below
Fails in the promis’d largeness: checks and disasters
Grow in the veins of actions highest rear’d,
As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infect the sound pine and divert his grain
Tortive and errant from his course of growth.
Nor, princes, is it matter new to us
That we come short of our suppose so far
That after seven years’ siege yet Troy’s walls stand.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thou great commander, nerve and bone of Greece,
Heart of our numbers, soul and only spirit,
In whom the tempers and the minds of all
Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks. . . . (I.3.1-58.)
This is the premier Earl of England addressing his sovereign, not the man speaking to the woman now. It is Edward de Vere pointing out to his Queen—as he has done before, in Richard II, Henry VI, etc.—the weaknesses which are afflicting their beloved country:
Ulysses. Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
And the great Hector’s sword had lack’d a master,
But for these instances.
The specialty of rule hath been neglected:
And look how many Grecian tents do stand
Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
The unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask. (I.3.75-84.)
He administers a stern rebuke to the Queen. She has been lax with conspirators and tolerated the Puritans, thus encouraging the “hollow factions.” She has ignored, masked, overridden “degree,” making unworthy men, ambitious nobodies, the equals of those whose ancestors’ lives, as well as their own, have been dedicated in duty to England, who have fought to make England great, who are responsible for her welfare and should be honored as her spokesmen and defenders. They have earned their high position and responsibility.
This speech expresses the essence of Elizabethan philosophy; it states the sixteenth-century theory of the cosmos: everything in its place and maintaining its peculiar function in a hierarchy stretching from the highest to the lowest, in an ordered universe.
. . . O! when degree is shak’d,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark! what discord follows; each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And appetite, a universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey,
And last eat up himself.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness lives, not in her strength. (101-37.)
This is a Vere pronouncing an Elizabethan nobleman’s creed. This is not merely a poet, his “eye in a fine frenzy rolling”; it is an English knight addressing his sovereign with the religious fervor of his patriotism.
The meeting of the Trojan Aeneas with the Greek lords (I.3), as well as that of the Trojan Hector with the Greek warriors (IV.5), and the two contests fought, are not Greek and Trojan affairs: they are observances of English chivalry. These men are English knights, courteous when unarmed, ruthless in combat; and the fights they engage in exemplify here the tournament of 1584. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, whom Oxford respected and may have loved, was released from confinement in his home to take part in this tournament and would seem to stand for Hector. The dramatist adheres to the legend for Hector’s defeat by Achilles and his minions; and the Catholic Philip Howard could never have withstood Leicester and his Puritans. In the 1598-1600 version, the minions are Oxford’s playwright friends; Patroclus is the Fair Youth.
What can it be but the code of chivalry Agamemnon observes in his greeting to Hector (IV.5.162 et seq.):
What’s past and what’s to come is strew’d with husks
And formless ruin of oblivion;
But in this extant moment, faith and troth,
Strain’d purely from all hollow bias-drawing,
Bids thee, with most divine integrity,
From heart of very heart, great Hector, welcome.
Hector. I thank thee, most imperious Agamemnon.
These, we repeat, are English courtiers, very like Oxford, for the moment, and Philip Howard, laying aside enmity for a while before their contest at arms in the tournament of 1584, observing the knights’ code, foundation of the English ideal of sportsmanship.
Later Achilles encounters Hector.
Achilles. Tomorrow do I meet thee, fell as death;
Tonight all friends.
Hector.Thy hand upon that match. (IV.5.268-9.)
Aeneas speaks of his fellow-Trojans as
Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarm’d,
As bending angels; that’s their fame in peace:
But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
Good arms, strong joints, true swords. (I.3.235-8.)
That Oxford himself was a feudal knight steeped in this attitude and practice may account for the fact that in personal correspondence with Burghley and Robert Cecil he was unfailingly courteous and friendly, but in contest—when he wielded his spear: “true swords,” as he says here, or true words—he was ruthless, aiming at the very heart of the truth.
It should be noted that the dog, Thersites, has much in common with Caliban, for the original version of the play; he is the cynical, grudging, insensitive element of the populace, the scoffers at nobility, who yet pray and are sycophantic. His Puritan-agitator aspect for the original version appears in some of his early speeches:
Thersites. How now, Thersites! what, lost in the labyrinth of thy fury I Shall the elephant Ajax carry it thus? he beats me, and I rail at him: O worthy satisfaction! . . . ‘Sfoot, I’ll learn to conjure and raise devils, but I’ll see some issue of my spiteful expectations. Then there’s Achilles, a rare engineer. . . . After this, the vengeance on the whole camp! or rather, the Neapolitan bone-ache! . . . I have said my prayers, and devil Envy say Amen. What, ho! my Lord Achilles! (II.3.1-21.)
He is immediately respectful when he thinks Achilles has come. But it is Patroclus, who, after Thersites has spoken again, and repeated “Amen,” says:
What! art thou devout? wast thou in prayer?
Thersites. Ay; the heavens hear me!
The character, Thersites, relates this play to The Tempest; both were written at a period when the Puritans were becoming vociferous. Oxford abominated them. Both plays were rewritten when he was having trouble with surly men in the theatrical world.
At times it seems as though Achilles is intended to represent Oxford partially even in the original play and, if this is the case, we are probably to understand that he was loath to engage in a tournament with Philip Howard, though he did so in the end and defeated him. When Aeneas greets Achilles, the phraseology is so awkward that one can only infer it is made so for a purpose (IV.5.75-6):
Aeneas. If not Achilles, sir,
What is your name?
Achilles. If not Achilles, nothing. [I.e., O.]
And Nestor has said (I.3.333-6):
. . . whom may you else oppose,
That can from Hector bring those honours off,
If not Achilles? Though it be sportful combat,
Yet in the trial much opinion dwells.
This is a tourney he speaks of; for the actual contest between Hector and Achilles was not intended as a “sportful combat,” it was war to the death. Yet Achilles’s behavior is not that of Oxford, who would not have taken advantage of his rival. While the play follows history or legend, here, we cannot but feel that some bitterness caused Oxford to step even momentarily into this role. Of course much necessary confusion arises from the fact that this Greek-Trojan contest was first legendary, secondly, it was the 1584 tournament, and thirdly, a campaign in the poetomachia, or poets’ war, of fifteen years later. The Troilus and Cressida story is simpler.
Even here two periods are covered, however; for, although the dramatist is obviously telling of the reconciliation between himself and his wife after five years’ separation, he nevertheless speaks of them as a very young pair of lovers. (This is one indication that there was a 1572 version.) It is significant that Pandarus is Cressida’s uncle and that when she leaves Troilus, it is to go to her father. Oxford simply meant by this that although Burghley was eager to bring him and Anne back together, still he kept her first allegiance: she was compelled to go back to her father. It is Polonius who comes first with Ophelia, not Hamlet; and that’s the trouble there too.
Within seventy-two lines in the opening scene of the play, Pandarus declares three times that he will not meddle:
I’ll not meddle nor make no further (1.1.14);
Faith, I’ll not meddle in it . . . gone between, and between, but small thanks for my labour (68-75);
For my part, I’ll meddle nor make no more i’ the matter (87).
In 1572, Gilbert Talbot had written the Earl of Shrewsbury that Lady Burghley resented the Queen’s monopoly of her daughter’s young husband, adding, “At all these love-matters my Lord Treasurer winketh and will not meddle in any way.”
With his habit of going back to old letters and documents, as well as to his own former works, when writing the plays, Oxford had patently read this letter; and it suited his purpose here to combine the matchmaking Burghley with the peacemaker Burghley of a later day. He has Pandarus say (I.2.244) that Troilus “ne’er saw three and twenty,” which was precisely the fact when Talbot’s letter was written: Oxford was at that time twenty-two years of age.
After having remained away from his wife for so long, to say nothing of having fallen from his eminence also, Lord Oxford was probably somewhat diffident about approaching her. He was feeling contrite and unworthy; so that Burghley, who had been from the first working for a reconciliation, had to urge him. Whether he had to urge Anne is more of a question; but it would seem here that Anne may not have wished him to know how eager she was to be taken back.
Pandarus, in describing Cressida, is of course describing Anne, who is always dark, “brown in hue,” ete., comparing her to Helen-Elizabeth, who, in 1572, had been her rival. Actually, he is craftily wooing Troilus-Oxford away from her to Cressida-Anne:
Pandarus. An her hair were not somewhat darker than Helen’s,—well, go to,—there were no more comparison between the women: but, for my part, she is my kinswoman; I would not, as they term it, praise her; but I would somebody had heard her talk yesterday as I did. . . . I speak no more than truth. . . . (I.1.43 et seq.)
He is absolute Burghley when he says (77 et seq.):
Because she’s kin to me, therefore she’s not so fair as Helen. . . .
Troilus’s soliloquy is interesting (93-108):
. . . Helen must needs be fair,
When with your blood you daily paint her thus.
I cannot fight upon this argument;
It is too starv’d a subject for my sword.
But Pandarus,—O gods! how do you plague me,
I cannot come to Cressid but by Pandar;
And he’s as techy to be woo’d to woo
As she is stubborn-chaste against all suit
Tell me, Apollo, for thy Daphne’s love,
What Cressid is, what Pandar, and what we?
Her bed is India; there she lies, a pearl:
Between our Ilium and where she resides
Let it be call’d the wild and wandering flood;
Ourself the merchant, and this sailing Pandar
Our doubtful hope, our convoy and our bark.
Helen’s beauty—that is, Elizabeth’s—to which everybody pays tribute, is “too starv’d a subject” now for Troilus’s sword, or Oxford’s pen. He has employed it in Elizabeth’s service for many years, and now that she has Ralegh, the subject has no nourishment for him. Troilus has no interest in fighting for Paris’s Helen. He cannot get at Anne save through her pandering father, and he’s techy, as he demonstrates when he says, above, “Because she’s kin to me, therefore she’s not so fair as Helen.” He had also been obliged to approach the Queen through Burghley of late.
Oxford makes use of the imagery of his early poems again when he speaks of “Apollo” and “Daphne.” And before very long he will be brooding remorsefully about Anne and adding to his final speech as Othello the confession that he had been one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away,
Richer than all his tribe.
He winds up here with an allusion to himself as “the merchant,” Antonio, and Pandar as Shylock, who was, indeed, a “doubtful hope.” It is a speech fraught with personal significance.
The scene between Pandarus and Cressida (I.2.38 et seq.) is clearly a realistic representation of a conversation between Burghley and Anne; there are unmistakable overtones of both Capulet and Polonius. Pandarus is now working on his niece in favor of Troilus, as he has heretofore been stressing her charms to him. And in Cressida’s pretense that she thinks Hector the better man, we are informed that her craft is a match for his. Pandarus’s “time must friend or end” (78-9) is characteristic of Burghley, who was addicted to aphorisms.
As the dialogue continues, we are given graphic sidelights upon Oxford’s appearance, with the customary name-clues thrown in. From his portraits, he can be seen to have had reddish-brown hair, a rather high color, and a beautifully modelled chin; and Pandarus bears this out (95 et seq.):
Helen herself swore th’ other day, that Troilus, for a brown favour–for so ’tis, I must confess,—not brown neither—
Cressida. No, but brown.
Pandarus. Faith, to say truth, brown and not brown.
Cressida. To say the truth, true and not true.
(He was willing to give Anne’s side too. He had not been true to her.)
Pandarus. She prais’d his complexion above Paris.
Cressida. Why, Paris hath colour enough.
Pandarus. So he has.
Cressida. Then Troilus should have too much, if she praised him above. . .
Pandarus. I swear to you, I think Helen loves him better than Paris.
Cressida. Then she’s a merry Greek (6) indeed.
Pandarus. Nay, I am sure she does. She came to him th’ other day, into the compassed window, and, you know, he has not past three or four hairs on his chin—
Here again we are taken back to the early 1570’s, when Elizabeth had twitted Oxford for having only a hair or two on his chin. Burghley may have been there at the time; at any rate, Pandarus gives a vivid account of the incident.
Pandarus. But to prove to you that Helen loves him: she came and puts me her white hand to his cloven chin—
Cressida. Juno have mercy! how came it cloven?
Pandarus. Why, you know, ’tis dimpled. . . . I cannot choose but laugh to think how she tickled his chin: indeed,’ she has a marvell’s white hand, I must needs confess—
Cressida. Without the rack.
This tart retort reminds us that Anne was partially “Kate the curst,” “Kate of Kate’s Hall” in The Taming of the Shrew, as well as the sharp-tongued Hermia of The Dream. For (according to Phillips),
it was Cecil who first made the rack and other implements of torture the normal means of compelling prisoners to say what was required. On some occasions, Cecil himself did the questioning.
Pandarus gossips on; and there is a great deal of sous-entendu about the hairs on Troilus’s chin and the laughter the scene had provoked.
Cressida. An’t had been a green hair, I should have laughed too.
This is arresting, in view of the fact that in the immediately preceding play, Oberon-Oxford has asked Titania-Elizabeth for the “little changeling boy,” who is actually Oxford’s son and “heir.” He is so young that he may be called “green”; and, indeed, the Earl was at about this time writing a sonnet to him, in which he made this very point:
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. (104.)
There would seem to be another allusion to this same “heir” in a subsequent passage between Helen and Pandarus (III.1.143-8):
Helen. He [Troilus] hangs the lip at something: you know all, Lord Pandarus.
Pandarus. Not I, honey-sweet queen. . . . You’ll remember your brother’s excuse?
Paris. To a hair.
This appears to be another throwback to the early 1570’s. The Earl is putting it all in, but disguise is imperative, for it is a forbidden subject.
Returning to Act I, scene 2, we have a reference to Oxford’s youthful, and doubtless continued, tendency to weep upon occasion.
Pandarus. I’ll be sworn ’tis true: he will weep you, an ’twere a man born in April. (180-1.)
Oxford was “born in April.”
After a digression, the autobiography proceeds. The Earl’s popularity is glanced at in Pandarus’s,
Hark! do you not hear the people cry, “Troilus”? (232) . . . ‘Tis Troilus! there’s a man, niece! Hem! Brave Troilus! the prince of chivalry! (237-8.) . . . Paris is dirt to him; and, I warrant, Helen, to change, would give an eye to boot.
Cressida. Here come more.
Pandarus. Asses, fools, dolts! chaff and bran, chaff and bran! porridge after meat! . . . I had rather be such a man as Troilus than Agamemnon and all Greece.
Cressida. There is among the Greeks Achilles, a better man than Troilus. Pandarus. Achilles! a drayman, a porter, a very camel.
Cressida. Well, well.
Pandarus. “Well, well!” (247-61.)
Since Achilles is to be the older Oxford, this estimate is interesting. Burghley was proud to bursting of getting the young de Vere (Troilus) for his son-in-law, but he hated the career Oxford followed, his affiliation with vulgar men; so later he was, instead of “the prince of chivalry,” “a very camel” Cressida’s two “well’s” means two wylls, or springs, two Vers: one Troilus and one Achilles.
Pandarus continues, naming the points of the young Vere:
Do you know what a man he is? Is not birth, beauty, good shape, dis- course, manhood, learning, gentleness, virtue, youth, liberality, and so forth, the spice and salt that season a man?
Cressida. Ay, a minced man: and then to be baked with no date in the pie, for then the man’s date’s out. (262-8.)
This can only mean that Pandarus is mixing the dates of the man he is praising, just as we had surmised: he is now only partly the young Troilus-Vere, he is partly also the mature Achilles-Vere, who has vulgar minions.
(Later Ulysses will say to Achilles-III.3.193-5:
‘Tis known, Achilles, that you are in love
With one of Priam’s daughters.
Achilles. Ha! known!
One of Priam’s daughters is, for this point, of course Elizabeth.)
There follows a bawdy passage (I.2.269-90) such as is frequently given to the character representing Anne Cecil—notably in Helena’s conversation with Parolles (A. W.: 1.1) and Ophelia’s songs, together with Hamlet’s rather deliberate coarseness with Ophelia (III.2.113-24.)
It is significant that when the Boy comes to summon Pandarus to Troilus, he says that Troilus is waiting
At your own house; there he unarms him. (285.)
For where should the young husband be but at the house of his father-in-law, waiting, now thoroughly disarmed?
The scene ends with Cressida’s expression of worldly wisdom which is not that of a girl in her ‘teens, but of a woman who has learned the ways of men:
Men prize the thing ungain’d more than it is:
That she was never yet, that ever knew
Love got so sweet as when desire did sue. (300-2.)
There is more in the scene between Pandarus and the Servant (III.1) than we may stay to give it, but we are shown the garrulous Cecil, newly created Lord Burghley—
Pandarus. Grace! not so, friend; honour and lordship are my titles;— [still very much like Capulet, whom the servant crosses, as Hamlet will soon cross Polonius]:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Pandarus. Know you the musicians?
Servant. Wholly, sir.
Pandarus. Who play they to?
Servant. To the hearers, sir.
Pandarus. At whose pleasure, friend?
Servant. At mine, sir, and theirs that love music.
Pandarus. Command, I mean, friend.
Servant. Who shall I command, sir? (16 et seq.)
And Pandarus’s flowery speech of greeting to Paris and Helen—
Fair be to you, my lord, and to all this fair company! fair desires, in all fair measures, fairly guide them! especially to you, fair queen! fair thoughts be your fair pillow!—
is followed by Helen’s,
Dear lord, you are full of fair words (50);
whereas another Queen will say to another prolix old man,
More matter with less art.
Of course, in this early aspect of the Paris-Helen and Troilus-Cressida relationship, Paris stands for Leicester, as Claudius chiefly will in Hamlet.
In the following scene we have, not—as it would superficially seem—a match made between two fresh young lovers, but a reconciliation between two who have been separated, endured much, and are feeling shaken by their reunion. Oxford was romantic ,and excitable and no doubt felt much as Troilus does:
Troilus. I am giddy, expectation whirls me round. The imaginary relish is so sweet
That it enchants my sense. What will it be
When that the watery palate tastes indeed
Love’s thrice-repured nectar? (III.2.17-21.)
This means the thrice-purified love between himself and Anne. First, he had run away from his wedding and returned; then, there had evidently been a brief breach, as is indicated in an early poem; (8) now comes the third reconciliation.
Pandarus fetches the seemingly reluctant Cressida.
Pandarus. Come, come, what need you blush? shame’s a baby. . . . Come your ways. . . .
Troilus. You have bereft me of all words, lady.
Pandarus. Words pay no debts, give her deeds. . . .
(Thus the father-in-law to the erring husband.)
Cressida. Will you walk in, my lord?
Troilus. O Cressida! how often have I wished me thus!
When she still seems loath to be convinced, Troilus’s argument concludes characteristically with (95-8):
Few words to fair faith: Troilus shall be such to Cressid, as what envy can say worst shall be a mock for his truth; and what truth can speak truest not truer than Troilus.
It is striking, indeed, that here we find Edward de Vere saying in a Greek play virtually what he had said to his young wife in the Greek Testament he had given her shortly before the birth of their first child—in part as follows:
Words of truth are fitting to a Vere; lies are foreign to the truth, and only true things stand fast. . . .
Pandarus returns, with his facetious chatter:
. . . if my lord get a boy of you, you’ll give him me. Be true to my lord. . . .
(Burghley wanted a boy of them, as Oxford well knew.)
. . . Nay, I’ll give my word for her too. Our kindred, though they be long ere they are wooed, they are constant being won: they are burrs, I can tell you; they’ll stick where they are thrown.
No apter word was ever spoken. Anne had clung like a “burr” to her lord. It will be recalled that Lysander-Oxford calls Hermia-Anne “a burr” in The Dream.
Cressida. . . . Prince Troilus, I have lov’d you night and day
For many weary months.
(Does not this suggest Ophelia’s,
Good my lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?
To which Hamlet’s reply is,
Well, well, well.)
Troilus. Why was my Cressid then so hard to win?
Cressida. Hard to seem won; but I was won, my lord,
With the first glance that ever—pardon me—
If I confess much, you will Play the tyrant. . . .
Oxford has, alas, played the tyrant. As Bottom, who was to show up for an ass, he had recently said his “chief humour was for a tyrant.”
In the ensuing dialogue, Cressida-Anne subtly reveals herself as her father’s daughter, full of craft. It is almost pathetic, the way she cannot help betraying herself:
I love you now; but till now, not so much
But I might master it: in faith, I lie;
My thoughts were like unbridled children, grown
Too headstrong for their mother. See, we fools!
Why have I blabb’d? who shall be true to us
When we are so unsecret to ourselves?
But though I lov’d you well, I woo’d you not;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . Sweet, bid me hold my tongue;
For in this rapture I shall surely speak
The thing I shall repent. . . .
. . . Stop my mouth.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My lord, I do beseech you, pardon me;
‘Twas not my purpose thus to beg a kiss:
I am asham’d: O heavens! what have I done?
For this time I will take my leave, my lord.
Troilus. Your leave, sweet Cressid?
Pandarus. Leave! an you take leave till tomorrow morning—
Cressida. Pray you, content you.
Troilus. What offends you, lady?
Cressida. Sir, mine own company.
Troilus. You cannot shun yourself.
Cressida. Let me go and try:
I have a kind of self resides with you;
But an unkind self, that itself will leave
To be another’s fool. I would be gone:
Where is my wit? I speak I know not what.
Troilus. Well know they what they speak that speak so wisely.
Cressida. Perchance, my lord, I show more craft than love;
And fell so roundly to a large confession,
To angle for your thoughts. . .
Every word of this dialogue is important and revealing, but too long to quote. Troilus says that if he could really trust Cressida to remain true to him,
How were I then uplifted! but alas!
I am as true as truth’s simplicity
And simpler than the infancy of truth.
True swains in love shall in the world to come
Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rimes,
Full of protest, of oath, and big compare,
Want similes, truth tir’d with iteration,
As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,
As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,
As iron to adamant, as earth to the centre,
Yet after all comparisons of truth,
As truth’s authentic author to be cited,
‘As true as Troilus’ shall crown up the verse And sanctify the numbers. (167-82.)
“Truth’s authentic author” is Vere; and he is addressing Elizabeth here, as well as Anne. He is saying, in effect, Vero Nihil Verius: Nothing truer than Vere. It is the signature of the “authentic author.”
We have spoken before of Cressida’s reply, to the effect that if she prove false, her name shall stand, even “when time is old,” for falsity.
Pandarus caps the bargain:
If ever you prove false to one another, since I have taken such pains to bring you together, let all pitiful goers-between be called. . . Pandars.
And promptly sends them to bed-showing that they are of course already married:
Whereupon I will show you a chamber and a bed. . .
Troilus’s departure from Cressida the following morning (IV.2) is reminiscent of that of Romeo from Juliet, except that Cressida is not quite genuine, not innocent:
Cressida. Are you aweary of me?
Troilus. O Cressida! but that the busy day,
Wak’d by the lark, hath rous’d the ribald crows,
And dreaming night will hide our joys no longer,
I would not from thee.
Cressida. Night hath been too brief. .
Troilus. Beshrew the witch! with venomous wights she stays
As tediously as hell, but flies the grasps of love
With wings more momentary-swift than thought. . . . (7-14.)
(Hamlet will soon be saying:
. . . with wings more swift
Than meditation or the thoughts of love.
There is so much correspondence between the two plays that they would needs be placed near together in time of composition, even if we had no other clue.)
Cressida. Prithee, tarry:
You men will never tarry.
She always strikes a slightly false note.
Pandarus enters, teasing the lovers, and Cressida bids him answer a knocking at the door, inviting Troilus within again:
My lord, come you again into my chamber:
You smile and mock me, as it I meant naughtily. (36-7.)
She seems fated to be always a little off-key. Pandarus returns. A messenger has come to say Cressida is to be exchanged for a Trojan prisoner and sent to the Greek camp.
Pandarus. . . . Thou must to thy father, and be gone from Troilus. (94-5.)
This is what happens immediately after their renewed pledges of love. Useless for her to protest that she has forgot her father, and all that. Go to her father she must, and go she does.
This, we feel, is the final word, or virtually so, about the reunion of Oxford with his wife, Anne Cecil. Cressida then becomes Elizabeth for the affair with Diomed; who is now Ralegh. It would be gratifying to know if Ralegh is described realistically in Ulysses’s words (IV.5. 14-16):
‘Tis he, I ken the manner of his gait;
He rises on the toe: that spirit of his
In aspiration lifts him from the earth.
In the end, all Pandarus’s wily efforts towards effecting a union— or reunion—between Troilus and Cressida have failed, because of the girl’s instability. In the concluding scene, the old go-between is scorned by Troilus, although superficially—in the play—Pandarus has had nothing to do with Cressida’s faithlessness. It is actually because he is the father to whom she has returned, instead of the “uncle” who gave her to Troilus, that the disillusioned young man is so bitter towards him.
Pandarus. A goodly medicine for my aching bones! O world I world! world! thus is the poor agent despis’d. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As many as be here of pandar’s hall,
Your eyes, half out, weep out at Pandar’s fall;
Or, if you cannot weep, give yet some groans,
Though not for me, yet for your aching bones
Brethren and sisters of the hold-door trade,
Some two months hence my will shall here be made:
It should be now, but that my fear is this,
Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss.
Till then I’ll sweat, and seek about for eases;
And at that time bequeath you my diseases. (V.10.35-55.)
We are left in no doubt as to the identity of Pandarus at any time during the play, least of all here. For Burghley had “aching bones”—gout—as both Pandarus and Gonzalo, in The Tempest) had. When a boy, probably in Lincolnshire, William Cecil had plucked geese. (9) But at this time—and now we are back in 1572 again—he had been appointed Lord Treasurer, to succeed William Paulet, First Marquis of Winchester, who died during that year. No doubt the Second Marquis, a man of about fifty-five, had expected the office, and thus was the latest of the “galled geese” Cecil had plucked. It would appear that the Marquis was hissing, and that two months had to elapse before Cecil, who had been created Lord Burghley so that his daughter might marry de Vere, could cease to “sweat” in suspense and make a new will.
We have already observed that Cressida briefly becomes Anne Vavasor (IV.5):
Ulysses. There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body.
O! these encounterers, so glib of tongue,
That give a coasting welcome ere it comes,
And wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts
To every tickling reader, set them down
For sluttish spoils of opportunity
And daughters of the game (IV.5.55-63);
and another allusion follows:
Ulysses. She will sing any man at first sight.
Thersites. And any man may sing her, if he can take her cliff; she’s noted. (V.2.9-11.)
It was this Anne, Oxford’s mistress, who could meet him on his own mental ground and hold his interest, who plagued the poet for years. She is one of “Diana’s waiting-women.” (V.2.88.) Thersites calls her a “drab” (V.4.8), which is precisely what Burghley called Anne Vavasor when the scandal first came out. And, as Cressida was the daughter of a man who had forsaken his own people to side with the enemy, so Anne Vavasor was a relative of the conspirator, Howard, a niece of Knyvet, who went over to Howard.
But we omitted to say that when Diomedes instructs a Servant (V.5.1-2):
Go, go, my servant, take thou Troilus’ horse;
Present the fair steed to my Lady Cressid,
Oxford is surely recalling with bitterness how he had sent his young wife a present of two horses on his arrival in Paris. It is as if he were reminding himself that he had been as dead to her by then as Troilus is to Cressida.
Near the close of the play, Troilus speaks of Hector’s death (V.l0.15 et seq.):
Who shall tell Priam so, or Hecuba?
There is a word will Priam turn to stone,
Make wells and Niobes of the maids and wives. .. .
Priam and Hecuba will be the subject of Hamlet’s players, as here they are of Oxford’s, while the Queen will be described as bewailing the death of her husband, “like Niobe, all tears.”
A topical allusion which is rather striking in dating Troilus and Cressida and connecting it with Ralegh occurs in Thersites’ remark (V.2.53-4):
How the devil, Luxury, with his fat rump and potato-finger tickles these together!
Although the slave-trader, Hawkins, had introduced the potato in Ireland as early as 1565, it is generally supposed to have been brought to England “by one of Ralegh’s expeditions, probably the one of 1584.” (10)
It is “the devil Luxury” which has prompted Elizabeth’s affair with Ralegh; whereas the love-affair which had produced “the little western flower” was called “love-in-idleness.”
The “orthodox” scholar, Dowden, with good cause, suspected that, as Goethe wrote Werther to relieve himself of a certain mood, so the author of Troilus and Cressida may have wished “to unburden himself of some bitterness by an indictment of the illusions of romance which had misled him.”
An important fact connected with the highly personal drama, Troilus and Cressida, is that the 1609 quarto was prefaced by name-clues as unmistakable as those in the text of the play itself. A note to the reader is headed:
“A nEver writer to an E.Ver reader.”
A long statement follows, to the effect that here is a play which has never been “staled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palmes of the vulgar. . . but thank fortune for the ‘scape it has made among you, since by the grand possessors’ wills, I believe you should have prayed for them [i.e., these surreptitiously published, intensely personal, plays] rather than have been prayed [to enjoy them.]”
So evidently the Troilus and Cressida story had not been shown with Agamemnon and Ulisses in the public theatres, but only in private theatricals at Oxford’s home or that of some nobleman friend, or perhaps to a select group at court.
Histriomastix, a dull drama of the late1590’s, contains an allusion to this play, showing that it had, however, been seen by at least enough persons to make the points intelligible:
|Troylus.||Come, Cressida, my cresset light,
Thy face doth shine both day and night,
Behold, behold thy garter blue
Thy knight his valiant elbow wears,
That when he SHAKES his furious SPEARE,
The foe in shivering fearful sort
May lay him down in death to snort.
|Cressida.||O knight with valour in thy face,
Here, take my skreene, wear it for grace;
Within thy helmet put the same,
Therewith to make thy enemies lame.
I am now set full light, who erst was dearly lov’d:
Some newfound choyce is more esteemed, than yt which was well prov’d.
Some Diorned is crept into Dame Cressid’s hart:
And trusty Troylus now is taught in vayne to play his part.
2 This will be elucidated when we come to discuss the Sonnets.
Tophas. Commonly my words wound.
Samias. What then do your blows?
ToPhas. Not only wound but also confound. (I.3.73-5.)
Another characteristic line follows (I.4.64): . . . but this will wear out with time that treadeth all things down but truth.
4 Oscar Wilde recognized this. “Of course,” he observed, “the aesthetic value of Shakespeare’s plays does not, in the slightest degree, depend upon their facts, but on their Truth, and Truth is independent of facts always, inventing or selecting them at pleasure.”—The Truth about Masks; p. 222.
6 From the early version undoubtedly, since this would have been a pun on the name Merrygreeke, a character in the then popular Roister Doister: an interesting point, because The Merry Wives shows a distinct connection with that play.