<Previous Page

The Shakespeare Art Museum   Home Page

Next Page>  

Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Oil Paintings on Shakespearean Themes

#101 "TROILUS & CRESSIDA" 
Description of Painting - Oil on Canvas 28" x 34"
by Hannah Tompkins

 

shakespeare, shakespeare’s plays, william shakespeare, shakespearean, troilus and cressida, shakespeare in art, troilus & cressida, analysis of shakespeare’s writing, helen of troy, helen, art on shakespeare, thersites, hannah tompkins, artist hannah tompkins, shakespeare art collection, troilus, cressida, profiles of shakespearean characters, shakespeare in paintings, greeks, trojans, menalaus, oil painting of troilus and cressida, trojan war, trojans, cassandra, hector, venus' glove, shakespeare art museum

 

Lechery and War..Rape and Violence is the theme Shakespeare extracted from the Greek legend of Helen and the destruction of Troy. Helen is the argument. But Thersites says "All the argument is a cuckold and a whore" for whom both Greeks and Trojans died. Helen becomes a symbol of prostituted patriotism that sanctions rape and violence and force. "Force", Ulysses says, is like a "universal wolf that eats up himself". Agamemnon warns that vainglorious pride also eats up itself, and Thersites comment on grisly diets is that " lechery eats up itself". All of which emphasize the self-consumptive nature of society's continued practice of destructive violence.

In the painting, set at the bottom of a cess-pool, is the "universal wolf" having just committed rape on humanity, in the act of carnivorous self-consumption. He has already devoured the flesh of his left arm and is voraciously ravaging the other as he eyes his prostrate victim with insatiable bloody eyes.

To the left is Helen, the 'whore', an emaciated hag adorned in lavish gold. Her right hand is gloved and holds a mask, a gaudy, bawdy invitation and fraudulent incentive.

When they are forced to part, it is a glove that Cressida gives Troilus as a token of her love and fidelity, which she later betrays. Troilus tells her:
"Be thou true
For 1 will throw my glove to death himself."
Helen herself is well practiced in deception and infidelity. In the brief fraternization during the truce, Hector intimates this to her husband Menelaus
"Your quondum wife swears still by Venus' glove"
She is perched atop her conquests, a pile of somber, anonymous coffins draped in blue bunting which cascades down across the violated Humanity, scattering medals on the desecrated form:
"..the rich advantage of a promised glory".
Behind her is a pale shaft of light which leads to the circular opening of the iniquitous pit, through which can be seen the sun and moon.. day and night..Time.
"Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion."
And such is the lesson of war, which every generation and age so soon forgets. Yet:
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin...
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all."
If this be so, we can agree with Hector who proclaims:
"The obligation of our blood forbids
A gory emulation 'twixt us twain..
The issue is embracement,
We'll answer it!"
FIN


Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

   <Previous Page

The Shakespeare Art Museum   Home Page

Next Page>