Troilus (TROY-luhs), the heroic young son of Priam. An idealistic and trusting young lover, he first wins Cressida with the aid of Pandarus, then loses first her presence and afterward her faith. He becomes bitter in disillusionment. He is a good fighter, showing no compassion toward his enemies.
Cressida (KREHS-ih-duh), the daughter of Calchas. She is a beautiful woman but not gifted with the power to say “no.” She yields to Troilus after a certain amount of coyness, and she shows real regret when she has to leave him to go to her father with the Greeks. She swears eternal truth to him, but in her fickleness she soon accepts Diomedes as her lover. William Shakespeare’s Cressida is much less complex and less appealing than Geoffrey Chaucer’s Criseyde. Ulysses in the play finds her contemptible, and audiences do not greatly disagree with him.
Pandarus (PAN-duh-ruhs), the uncle of Cressida and the go-between for Troilus and Cressida. Much simplified and considerably degraded from his complex original in Chaucer’s fine poem, he is an off-color jester, especially in the presence of the lovers. He speaks a particularly unpleasant dirty epilogue, which a number of scholars have ascribed to some unknown play-dresser instead of to Shakespeare.
Hector (HEHK-tohr), the greatest of Priam’s sons and chief defender of his country. He has better judgment than most of his fellows, but he yields to pressure and consents to Helen remaining in Troy instead of being sent back to the Greeks. Troilus accuses him of excessive clemency to fallen foes. In keeping with the medieval tradition of Hector as one of the Nine Worthies, he is given great prowess. His death at the hands of Achilles and his Myrmidons is depicted as the murder of an unarmed man by numerous opponents.
Achilles (uh-KIHL-eez), the most famous of the Greek champions. Painted from the point of view of the legendarily Trojan-descended English, he is a most unpleasant character, self-centered, stupid, arrogant, and ruthless. He avoids combat partly because of pique and...
(The entire section is 961 words.)