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Troilus and Cressida

A scene from Troilus and Cressida

Introduction to the play

For Troilus and Cressida, set during the Trojan War, Shakespeare turned to the Greek poet Homer, whose epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey treat the war and its aftermath, and to Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales and the great romance of the war, Troilus and Criseyde.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Troilus and Cressida

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center
Observe degree, priority, and place

Act 1, scene 3, lines 89–90

Pride is his own glass, his own trumpet

Act 2, scene 3, line 163

Troilus and Cressida in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to Troilus and Cressida. Find more in our digital image collection

Cressida. From The graphic gallery of Shakespeare's heroines ...
Act 5, scene 2: Cressida: "O pretty pretty pledge! -- nay do not snatch it from me ... " By H. Fuseli R.A., del. ; I Neagle, sc.
Act 4, scene 2: Pandarus, Cressida and Troilus. By J. Coghlan.
Thersites. From Troilus and Cressida, a set of seven original drawings. By Byam Shaw.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

Troilus and Cressida

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching Troilus and Cressida

Early printed texts

Troilus and Cressida exists in two different early versions, both of which have complicated histories, although the textual variants are not significant enough for most readers to notice. The play was first published in 1609 as a quarto that exists in two different states. The earlier state (Qa) has a title page describing the play as a “Historie” published “As it was acted by the Kings Majesties servants at the Globe.” The second state (Qb), however, has a title page that does not refer to the play’s performance and includes a prefatory letter, “A never writer, to an ever reader,” that asserts that the play was “never stal’d with the Stage, never clapper-clawd with the palmes of the vulger.” (Scholars are divided on the assertion that the play was never performed.)

The play was then included in the 1623 First Folio (F1) as The Tragedie of Troylus and Cressida, albeit only after some confusion; a few copies of F1 survive without the play and it was never listed in the book’s “Catalogue,” or table of contents. The play seems to have been intially slated to appear in the middle of the tragedies, just after Romeo and Juliet, and a few copies still include a leaf that has the ending of Romeo and Juliet on one side and the start of Troilus and Cressida on the other. (The Folger’s Fo.1 no.45 is one such copy.) But before the full play could be printed, there was apparently a change of plans. The play was moved to appear after the last play in the history section, Henry VIII, and the first play in the tragedy section, Coriolanus. A prologue to the play (not in Q) was also added, facing the ending of Henry VIII.