W. R. Elton
AND THE PROBLEM
OF VALUE 1
*While Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (ca. 1601-2) remains perhaps the most enigmatic play in the canon, its very genre being still in question, its language has been shown to contain an unusually frequent and pervasive series of references to value. 2 Terms and concepts, that is, relating to exchange, commerce, estimation, worth, price, buying and selling, trading, and so on, seem central to at least one meaning-level of the play. As a mode of entry into that level, I have chosen to examine the "value" speeches of Ulysses, who appears to represent the "establishment," or hierarchical position of the state, and whose famous "degree speech" is often taken to be an expression of Shakespeare's, or at least the play's, orthodox conception of order. 3
Since Ulysses' speeches occur within a dramatic sequence of dialogue and action, their comprehension should benefit from a contextual glance at the play's other references to value. For, as Hobbes reminds us, "they that insist upon single texts, without considering the main design, can derive nothing from them clearly." 4
At the start, Shakespeare's "arm'd" Prologue to Troilus and Cressida, entering "not in confidence / Of Authors pen ..." (II. 24-25), suggests a reply, it is generally held, to Ben Jonson's armed Prologue in Poetaster (1601). There, with "well erected confidence" (I. 13), Jonson's Prologue asserts,
put case our Authour should, once more;
Sweare that his play were good ... (11.15-16) 5
Jonson's self-proclaimed "goodness" is again asserted in Cynthia's Revels (1600-I), whose Epilogue concludes authoritatively with a quotation from the writer himself:____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Odysseus/Ulysses. Contributors: Harold Bloom - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 144.
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