Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

This is the fifth rehearsal update in Matthew's blog. This week he talks abut the differences between the Pandarus of history and of Shakespeare, and abouthow the final speech has been changed drasticallly.

Transcript of Podcast

Back story

I have a back story but it’s not applicable really. What do we know about Pandarus? We know his brother is a traitor which makes his position incredibly dodgy. We know that Cressida stayed with her father and so Pandarus doesn’t live with his niece, but I imagine their houses are close; there is an orchard between the two, where they walk.

In historical terms Pandarus is actually Priam’s grandson; he was an archer and I think he went out with Aeneas and shot Agamemnon. Historically it was Diomedes who fatally wounded him, although not in this play. His real back story has nothing to do with Troilus and Cressida at all – I think ‘Pandarus’ is just a name that has been pulled out because of the connotations with ‘pandering’.

Relationship with Cressida

The play is very moralistic and judgemental I suppose. Pandarus does keep going on about false women being ‘Cressids’. She has a really rough time. Cressida is with no other women in the play at all, completely on her opwn; it’s not like she and Helen get together to chat. So it is really important for her to have someone who is safe and fun, like Pandarus, they do stick together.

I think she is put in a very difficult position in that awful scene where she is kissed by all the men. The way it’s been staged is really threatening and she is tiny! So what is she going to do? She has to have a protector and it turns out Diomedes is her protector in the end. Troilus just goes on and on at her, “You must be true – you will be true won’t you?” and then he goes and checks up on her! He doesn’t understand her plight at all, so he is as bad as everybody else. She is a victim of circumstance.


One thing that I have discovered this week is that, not only does Pandarus reject Cressida, but Troilus in turn rejects Pandarus. Pandarus is betrayed very badly by Troilus in the final scene, and it seems to be a similar pattern to betrayals that can be see all over Shakespeare. You think of how Prince Hal rejects and betrays Falstaff, which breaks his heart and in effect kills him. (Henry IV Part 2), or how as Henry V, he betrays Bardolph and Nim (Henry V, 3.6) and in fact he has them hanged. There are interesting resonances.

I think it is quite often thought that Pandarus’ position in Trojan society has probably become untenable. They say he is scheming and cynical, but I don’t think he is. I think that firstly he is an enthusiast, secondly he wants to make Troilus happy and lastly, he is in out of his depth in the greater schemes of the war. I think he is a very jolly person to be with (Troilus wouldn’t like or trust somebody like Pandarus if he was just a cynical, frustrated, leaching, old man!) … until things go wrong and then he’s got no time for wit or charm.

Final Speech

What Matthew [Dunster, director] has done with the final speech is, rather than make Pandarus a figure of hate for the audience, he is appealing to the audience. Shakespeare’s original speech is completely indecipherable – Winchester geese and references to syphilis and so on – but Matt Dunster has taken Shakespeare’s words and re-written the last speech. He has used Pandarus’s lines from throughout the play so that you almost get a recap from Pandarus’ point of view, but spliced in between that, you also have other lines from different parts of the play, which accuse the audience. What that speech has become then is Pandarus saying to the audience, “It’s all very well you looking on and laughing, but you’re all responsible. It’s no good watching this play and then thinking, ‘We can go home safe now’. You are just as bad as everyone else!” He is going to be confronting the audience at the end.

Then the director has decided that Pandarus dies instantly which is good. I mean, there is nowhere else for him to go anyway. I was sorry to have lost the line “bequeath you my diseases” (5.10.55) but I think you get enough of a threat with “how can you escape the damnation of hell!”.

These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.

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