Set towards the end of the Trojan war, Troilus and Cressida is the story of the doomed romance between Troilus, an ineffectually passionate Trojan prince, and Cressida, the spirited daughter of a defected Trojan priest. Their love is facilitated by Cressida's scheming uncle, the voyeuristic Pandarus, only to be abruptly broken off by the cruel necessities of war. Hector, Paris, Helen and the prophetic Cassandra complete the cast of a war-weary Troy, where the very value-systems on which the conflict is founded are brought into question.
Disillusioned Troy is paralleled by the Greek camp, frustrated and factious after seven futile years of siege. Here the glorious Achilles of Homer is reduced to a petulant and effeminate idler, the mighty Agamemnon to a foolish and ineffectual old windbag; blustering Ajax finds himself humiliated by a dirty cynic called Thersites, and even the slippery trouble-maker, Ulysses, struggles to orchestrate the action as he wishes. The play's gritty and chaotic martial conclusion, more disturbing than it is comforting or cathartic, sums up a drama in which age-old ideals - ideals taken for granted in many of Shakespeare's other works - gradually lose their power to remake a world that is continuously being unmade by fate, circumstances and human fallibility.
Come on all you lazy English thesps- this is by far the best way to revise for your Shakespeare exam.