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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Watercolors of Shakespearean Characters 
~ Bastards, Frauds & Tellers of the Truth  ~


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THERSITES in TROILUS & CRESSIDA
by Hannah Tompkins
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Thersites Watercolor by Hannah Tompkins

 

Thersites is described in the cast as a "deformed and scurrilous Grecian", and he is that indeed! His language is coarse, briny and pungent in its vulgar abuses. He rails on against everyone, exposing their shams and hypocrisies.

Like Faulconbridge, he is also a truth-teller, so we are inclined to be more tolerant of his indelicacies. And like Faulconbridge, he is also resigned to the 'accident' of his birth.

In Act V sc.vii a battle excursion takes place in the field between the Greek and Trojan camps. It is here that Thersites, the Greek comes upon Margarelon, the Trojan:
Margarelon: "Turn, slave, and fight."

Thersites : "What art thou?"

Margarelon: "A bastard son of Priam's."*

Thersites: "I am a bastard too; I love bastards: I am a bastard begot, bastard instructed, bastard in mind, bastard in valor, in everything illegitimate. One bear will not bite another and wherefore should one bastard? Take heed, the quarrel's most ominous to us: if the son of a whore fight for a whore ** he tempts judgement: farewell, bastard." (exit)

Margarelon: "The devil take thee, coward."
But Thersites has been weather-proofed against name-calling; besides he has become such a master in the technique that it has little effect on him.
* Priam was the King of Troy, and 5 of his legitimate sons appear in the play. This is the only scene in which Margarelon appears and he is too fleeting a character to be given separate attention as a bastard.

** This reference is Thersite's description of Helen of Troy for whom the wars were fought. To him, the war itself was illegitimate and obscene, and he was not at all deceived by the patriotic propaganda or themes of "honor" for which Helen was the emblem.
(see also Cassandra in 'Truth-Tellers')


Copyright © 1982 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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