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Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida

4. War and Appetite

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the themes of war and appetite in the play, focusing in particular on the use of metaphors of food to describe sex and romance, the sexualisation of Cressida (compared to the innocence of Juliet), and the relationship between the structure of the play and the moral failings of its characters.


In this course, Professor Cedric Watts (University of Sussex) explores Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. We begin by thinking about the strangeness of the play: is it a history, a comedy, or a tragedy? was it performed in Shakespeare's lifetime? if so, where? After that, we move on to think specifically about its status as a 'problem play' – a slippery term in Shakespearean scholarship if ever there was one – before thinking about the staging of the play and its burgeoning appeal and success in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the final two modules, we explore some of the key themes in the play: first, the connected themes of war and appetite, both alimentary and sexual; second, true and false valuation.


Cedric Watts is an Emeritus Professor of English at Sussex University. He served in the Royal Navy before gaining a first class BA in English at Cambridge University. He has written six books on Conrad and his works: A Preface to Conrad, The Deceptive Text, Joseph Conrad, 'Heart of Darkness': A Critical and Contextual Discussion, Joseph Conrad: A Literary Life, and Joseph Conrad: 'Nostromo'(a Penguin critical study).

Cedric Watts's novel, Final Exam (written under the pseudonym 'Peter Green'), earned this tribute from Ian McEwan: 'I was fascinated and pleased by Final Exam - a stimulating blend of high-energy intellectual and sexual tease.'

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Watts, C. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida - War and Appetite [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Watts, C. "Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida – War and Appetite." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,