Troilus and Cressida, by Shakespeare

I attended a fairly famous production of this play in the summer of 1981 but I can’t find any information about it online. It offended hordes of people because the director staged it like an S&M fever dream, with Achilles decked out in full leather gear and Patroclus wearing leather chaps and jock strap. There was a little homosexual kissing, and this and that. I was in London, enrolled in a class called Shakespeare In Performance, and a second class about Virginia Woolf and TS Eliot. We saw about 21 plays in 2 months.

Anyway many of the people in my class were horribly offended and couldn’t stop using the word faggot to describe the actors and the show itself.

Others were offended by the offended and told them to grow up. Basically I think the director was trying to show how Troy, in its 7th year, was simply devolving into decadence, in the same way that William Friedkin tried to show that every gay man in the world was turning to S&M sex in “Cruising,” which came out a few years before. That wasn’t true, of course, and despite what so many weirdo Christians think, Rome didn’t collapse because it was tolerant of homosexuals.

Anyway, every time someone tries to modernize Shakespeare it’s because they want to show the similarities between what he wrote then and what’s happening now. (Most of the time.) This one was good to read — although it was a tough read I must say — because of the fatigue of the war. The Trojan war was said to have lasted a decade and this takes place about the 7th year. Everyone’s forgotten why they are fighting and Helen, herself, doesn’t seem to understand that all these soldiers going and coming from war are fighting because of her. Everyone is corrupt — even to a certain extent the characters who give the play its title. It reminded me of how (as Maureen Dowd put it this morning) a monster is feasting on America. Everyone is exhausted.

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