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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Multi-Color Graphics on Shakespearean Themes

"TROILUS & CRESSIDA"
Description of Wood-cut 3 colors 12" x 18"
by Hannah Tompkins

 

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Of the various interpretations of this play, I have chosen the anatomy of aggressive war as the theme of this print. The war in question is the Trojan War, fought for a cause involving
".. a theft most base that we have stol'n what we do fear to keep", as spoken by Troilus and seconded by Hector with "..nor fear of bad success in a bad cause".

Nevertheless, the men are unanimous that any cause, good or bad, will serve to bring them 'honor' and 'glory'.
It is their sister Cassandra who champions the women's voice as she cries her plea in the streets, rousing anti-war sentiments with the title quote of the prints
"Cry, Trojans, cry! Practice your eyes with tears!"
The two kneeling women framed by tombstone shapes, (echoing the silhouette of the central figure), represent all bereaved womankind who mourn their war dead, laid out in rows, lower left.

The skeletal figure with oversized hands (symbol of giving) hovers over them like a haunting memory. The 'Tree of Life' behind °Memory' is also dead and stands in a similar configuration of crucifixion, minus the hands. This absence together with the other chopped off limbs signify loss and deprivation.

The stark contrast of yawning tombs and the endless vacuum of gray space in the background contribute to this expression. The suppressed color scheme and dominant vertical forms establish an emotional tension.

There is however, a hidden sign of hope: the miracle of regeneration. When the print is turned counter-clockwise on its side, and the foremost corpse gives the impression of a baby cradled in its mother's arms, continuing the life cycle.

To quote Father Laurence in "Romeo & Juliet":
"The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb;
What is her burying grave, that is her womb."


Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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