Version to Version: John Dryden and William Shakespeare
Jessica Marie Allen Peterson
Spring 2012

John Dryden (1631-1700) was talented in many areas of the literary arts. Dryden was an accomplished in writing dramas, criticisms, and poetry. He wrote many different literary pieces, “from 1664, when he published his first critical essay, to 1700, when he published his last” (Kirsch, ix). In 1679, Dryden completed his adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Troilus and Cressida” written in 1602. In comparing the two versions of the play, the two versions have points that hold many similarities and other parts that contrast the opposing version.
The novelty of his adaptation, as it is defined in the preface, amounts primarily to the correction of the imperfections of the Shakespearean source… His main objective was to show his own plays to be improvements upon largely obsolete or… structurally flawed originals (Brady, 186)
            To begin with one of the more obvious comparisons, the language in Dryden’s adaptation has been altered from Shakespeare’s version. In Act one scene two Troilus questions Pandarus, “Why should I fight without the Trojan walls, who without fighting am o’erthrown with in?”(Dryden, 312) in contrast to act one scene one “Why should I war without the walls of Troy, that find such cruel battle here within” (Shakespeare, 448). In adapting an author’s work to oneself, a writer will alter language to help make the piece suitable for their own individual style and adapt the piece to what they feel it should be.
In addition to the altered speech, Dryden also chose to shift scenes in the play as well, which can be seen in scene one of Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” as it was modified and placed in scene two of Dryden’s. Brady refers to this reordering as “ultra logical”, on page 186; the play improves from reordering and tweaking different aspects of Shakespeare’s work. In this, Shakespeare began with a whining Troilus, whereas Dryden chose to begin the play with the Greek commanders, Diomedes, Agamemnon, Nestor, and Ulysses, discussing the war. The tone of each play begins in different realms.
Looking at the list of characters, in Dryden’s adaptation of “Troilus and Cressida” and comparing to Shakespeare’s, a large difference in numbers is seen. Dryden took roles of lesser importance and removed them from his version on the play and he chose to concentrate on improving the more important characters. Dryden cut eleven characters including four of Priam’s six sons and his daughter, leaving the main children in the play, Troilus and Hector, which fits because they are two of the most important characters. Some of the importance seemed to be getting lost in Shakespeare’s version,
Troilus and Cressida everywhere reflects the sheer professionalism that Dryden brought to his work in the theater, in the ultra-logical reordering of scenes, in the telescoping of Shakespeare’s large cast, (the cast shrinks from well over a third) (Brady, 186)
The characters that title the play, in both Shakespeare and Dryden’s versions, remain the same, Troilus and Cressida, “secondary figures in the Trojan war: Cressida can never compare with Helen of Troy, nor Troilus rival Hector’s singular value to the Trojan cause” (Brady, 186). Shakespeare’s root of the love affair between Troilus and Cressida contrasts the earliest versions of the two characters; however Chaucer had plotted the two as lovers in his version of “Troylus and Crisseid”, thus Shakespeare carried this trait to his adaptation and Dryden to his (Tillyard, 48).
Another factor that may be look to in both works of “Troilus and Cressida” is the anxiety that the characters exhibit (Brady, 186), throughout both plays, comparisons are made to improve different traits of the character. In act one scene two, “Pandarus and Cressida talk in prose together; they are in the same world” (Tillyard, 57). As the soldiers pass through in act one scene two of both Shakespeare and Dryden’s works, Cressida notices that Achilles is coming through noting, “the Greeks Achilles, a better man than Troilus” (Shakespeare, 453)  and calling him “a brave man” (Dryden, 320). In turn, Pandarus puts down Achilles character, in Shakespeare calling him “a drayman, a porter, a very camel” (Shakespeare, 453) and Dryden similarly referring to Achilles as “a carman, a beast of burden; a very camel” (Dryden, 320). Both versions having Pandaurus question his niece, Cressida, of her knowledge of the traits of a “real man”. This plays on Cressida’s emotions; causing anxiety over her ability to decipher a proper judgment of a man. Pandaurus is playing on his niece being a female and just telling her she doesn’t know what she is talking abo0ut. He knows he can lie to her and say Troilus is some kind of warrior, when in reality, at this point, he is not.
Cressida lives in Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida”, which is unjust. Diomedes comes to Troy with the proposition to trade Antenor, a Trojan warrior, for Cressida to go to the Greek camp with her father, Calchus (Shakespeare, 476). Once in the Greek camp, Cressida begins to banter with Ulysses about a kiss, “Ulysses: It were no match, your nail against his horn. May I, sweet lady, beg a kiss of you? Cressida: You may.”(Shakespeare, 480) Cressida is not deserving of living in a tragedy nor is the play that of a tragedy,
Tragedy is thus defined by Aristotle (omitting what I thought unnecessary in his definition). ‘Tis an imitation of one entire, great, and probable action; not told, but represented; which by moving in us fear and pity, is conductive to the purging of those two passions in our minds. More largely thus, tragedy describes or paints an action, which action must have all the properties named above. (Dryden, 128)
 Dryden’s Cressida is in love with Troilus and does not seize to love him; however her father has her pretend to love Diomede’s to give them protection in Greece (Dryden, 404). Dryden has Cressida kill herself in front of Diomede’s and Troilus (Dryden, 406), which gives her role an opposing view to Shakespeare’s play. The split in the character of Cressida, between Shakespeare and Dryden, allows for a different story to be told. Shakespeare’s version seems flawed in the fact that Cressida did not die and in Dryden’s version she stabs herself because Troilus doubts her love. It seems that Shakespeare is missing the full tragedy by allowing Cressida to live and Dryden having her commit suicide has the full tragedy.             John Dryden’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” puts forth similar qualities, yet divergent endings. Dryden moves scenes, changes the language style, and deletes characters that were present in Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida”; the play being changed in these ways formed it into a style that was different than Shakespeare’s. Dryden wrote with “emphasis on the “lively” while remaining committed to classical rules, though they are applied with flexibility” (McHenry, 3). Both styles had anxiety in the characters. The characters were constantly being compared to someone else or lies being used to deceive a character. This could cause both endings and allows both works, Shakespeare and Dryden, to be understandable.  The use of both Troilus and Cressida being lovers in both versions remained; however Shakespeare’s version of the two seemed less committed to each other; more lustful than in love. Dryden adaptation had the lovers truly in love with one another and forced to be separated and their love ending in death. The ending from Dryden with Cressida dying lets the feeling of a tragedy come to the surface. Without her death the play is lacking part of the tragedy.

Works Cited

Brady, Jennifer. "Anxious Comparison in John Dryden's Troilus and Cressida." Enchanted Ground: Reimagining John Dryden. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2004. 185+. Print

Dryden, John. Preface. Literary Criticism of John Dryden. Ed. Arthur C. Kirsch. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. 124+. Print.

Dryden, John. "Troilus and Cressida." The Works of John Dryden. Edinborough: T and A Constable to Her Magesty, 1883. 308+. Print.

Kirsch, Arthur C., ed. Literary Criticism of John Dryden. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. ix. Print.

McHenry Jr., Robert W. "The Just and the Lively: The Literary Criticism of John Dryden,." Eighteenth-Century Studies 34.1 (2000): 1-5. Project Muse. Web. 12 Nov. 2010.

Shakespeare, William. Troilus and Cressida. 448+

Tillyard, E. M. W. Shakespeare's Problem Plays. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1949. 36+. Print.