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The composition of this play is attributed by Malone to the date of 1602. That it was written and acted before the decease of Queen Elizabeth, is evident from the manner in which it is entered on the Stationers' books ; being registered on February 7, 1602-3, 'as acted by my lord chamberlen's men,' who, in the year of the accession of King James, obtained a license for their theatre, and were denominated his majesty's servants.'
Chaucer had celebrated the loves of Troilus and Cressida in a translation from a Latin poem of one Lollius, an old Lombard author: but Shakspeare is supposed to have received the greatest part of his materials for the structure of this drama from Guido of Columpna, a native of Messina in Sicily, who wrote his History of Troy in Latin. This work appears to have been soon after translated by Raoul le Fevre into French, from whom Caxton rendered it into English in 1471, under the title of 'Recuyles, or Destruction of Troy.' Our author has in his story followed, for the greater part, the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular; but the character of Thersites, of which it makes no mention, is a proof that this play was written after Chapman had published his version of Honier in 1596.
* This play,' says Dr. Johnson, 'is more correctly written than most of Shakspeare's compositions, but it is not one of those in which either the extent of his views or elevation of his fancy is fully displayed. As the story abounded with materials, be has exerted little invention ; but he has diversified his characters with great variety, and preserved them with great exactness. His vicious characters disgust, but cannot corrupt; for both Cressida and Pandarus are detested and contemned. The comic characters seem to have been the favorites of the writer: they are of the superficial kind, and exhibit more of manners than nature : but they are copiously álled and powerfully impressed
Calchas, a Trojan priest of Apollo, deserts the cause of his
country, and traitorously joins the camp of the Grecians, to whom he renders most important services, in recompense of which he intercedes for the ransom of a powerful Trojan captive named Antenor, for his daughter Cressida, who resides in Troy, under the protection of her uncle Pandarus, where ber beauty and accomplishments make a deep impression on prince Troilus, the son of king Priam, whose addresses she is induced to accept, when their felicity is suspended by the arrival of Diomed, who is commissioned to effect the exchange, and restore Cressida to her father. Vows of mutual fidelity are interchanged by the separated overs, and Troilus soon finds an opportunity to repair becretly to the Grecian tents. where he has the mortification of witnessing the inconstance of his mistress, who has transferred her affections to Diomed. In the mean time, Hector, disregarding the predictions of his sister Cassandra, and the entreaties of his wife Andromache, repairs to the fieid of battle, where he slays Patroclus, the friend of Achilles, who soon after revenges his death on bis conqueror, whose dead body be cruelly attaches to his chariot, which be drives round the walls of the city.