Troilus & Cressida

- About this Adaptation

A note from our Director and Adaptor

At around 3300 lines, Troilus & Cressida is one of Shakespeare’s longest plays, and from what we know about theatre performance in his time it can scarcely have been staged uncut even then; most productions today are cut quite freely, as this version is. I have a feeling, though I cannot prove it, that when the play was first printed in 1609 Shakespeare may even have extended the text of what he had written seven years earlier to form a ‘reader’s edition’. The Scenes of debate (Scenes 3 and 5 in our version) were probably expanded in 1609; political and tactical arguments such as they contain and probably easier to follow when read rather than spoken by an actor in a dramatic performance. And some of the existing copies of the 1609 text are supplied with an anonymous preface, which claims that the play had ‘never been clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar’, as if it were now in fact a new play which had never been performed.

On the other hand, I have expanded some of this acting script in the interests of clarity. In an audio version, listeners cannot of course see what is happening on stage, and so because Thersites is throughout a sort of commentator I have added a few lines to his part here and there, trying to make them sound in character, to explain what the audience can’t see for themselves. A few bits from another Thersites-like character, Apemantus in Timon of Athens (c1604-5), have been added to the mix. The battle sequence which ends the play is printed in the standard edition as eight tiny scenes, some of only a very few lines, which are obviously intended to be played without any breaks. I have edited this sequence quite radically, taking out some material which seems redundant, and attempting to re-organise the rest into some semblance of order.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets were published in 1609. at much the same time as the play, though probably they were written over a period of some 15 years from the mid-1590s. They are often taken to be Shakespeare’s most personal utterances, and they appear to chart the development and eventual demise of two sexual relationships, one between the poet and a beautiful young man, probably an aristocrat, who is several years his junior, and the other with a ‘dark lady’ of the poet’s own age and class. In the sequence there are poems of joy, of sadness, of anxiety, of jealousy, of regret, covering in fact a whole gamut of emotional experiences. Some of them chime with the varying moods of Troilus & Cressida, and two are included in our script, one to be spoken by Cressida and the other by Thersites.

Peter Gilbert (2022)