chapter  10
16 Pages

Music for Helen: The Fitful Changes of Troilus and Cressida

ByErin Minear

Despite continual references to her and repeated arguments over her value, Helen of Troy makes only one appearance in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. This much-anticipated entrance occurs at the center of the play, in a scene saturated with music. The scene advances the plot-such as it is-not at all, and is generally read as a sharply satirical deflation of the heroic and romantic claims set forth as reasons for the war. Both Helen’s scene and Helen herself constitute an “empty center” in some way emblematic or paradigmatic of the workings of the play as a whole.1 I want to think more about this scene and the context in which it occurs. For the absence at the center is, as Paris says of Pandarus, “full of harmony” (III, i, 48).2