When Troilus hears that Cressida is to be handed over to the Greeks, he exclaims, ‘How my achievements mock me!’ and inadvertently confesses the extent to which he considers her to be a quite unromantic extension of himself. She is a sign of his labour and value, and Troilus is stunned to find that she has become part of larger negotiations that pre-empt his interests.1 At the very centre of the play, Troilus and Cressida act out what I call their ‘trope-plighting’ scene: they swear to become the tropes for faithful and faithless lovers that are their literary destinies. Troilus invents coherent interiority for himself by reading Cressida as a page on which he writes his lyric devotions.2 The play reserves for Cressida enigmatic and compelling representations of selfhood and, simultaneously, strenuous insistence on scripted identity. She emerges as lively and self-possessed in her first appearance, when she bests Pandarus in skirmishes of wit, yet concludes that scene by instructing herself in her contingent.
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