Troilus and Cressida and Othello - Love Tokens
One Glove's Just That—a Glove. But Given in Love, a Strawberry's Blood.
William Shakespeare wrote a huge number of plays in his life, most of which are categorized as a comedy, history, tragedy, or romance. While most are not strictly any single one of these, the designation of a play as belonging to one of these categories can change how one reads the work. Troilus and Cressida, one of Shakespeare's lesser-known works, is one usually deemed a comedy. In it, the two lusty young characters for whom the play is titled find themselves coming together and then being torn apart by circumstances connected with the ever-continuing Trojan War. One of Shakespeare's more famous tragedies is Othello, the Moor of Venice, in which jealousy, manipulation, and an insatiable hunger for power culminate in the death of nearly all of the main characters by the fall of the curtain. While these two plays are seemingly unrelated, they have similar components that are subtly used to expose the true natures of their characters. In relation to the monumental events that come to pass between characters in each of these plays, the love tokens they give one another may initially seem to be of only minor importance, crucial only to the plot as they change hands and intents. However, the underlying meanings of the tokens are an integral component to an understanding of each individual character as well as how he or she regards the person to whom the token is given. The events that transpire surrounding these items shed a telling light on the characters in each play and the relations that develop among them.
In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare plays with two lovers who, once they are finally able to act on their feelings for one another, are separated by a trade-off of prisoners of war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Cressida, who lives in Troy but whose father is a Greek, has been deemed an even trade for the Trojan prince Antenor who was captured by the Greeks in battle. This bartering of people between the sides is a bit ironic, as Troilus and Hector earlier in the play refer to Helen as goods (2.2.68-96) passing between kings turned merchants (2.2.83). In their discussion of her, they allude to her as spoiled silks being returned to the merchant (2.2.69-70), a blatant reference to Helen's soiled honor. The decision to trade Cressida for Antenor and, consequently, the trade itself, transpire the morning aft...