In Troilus and Cressida we are taken to the Trojan wars and into the Greek and Trojan camps respectively. This play was written in about 1602 (soon after Hamlet) and was entered on the stationers’ register in early 1603. Some people think it was never performed during Shakespeare’s life time as a later edition of the play claims it was never “clapper-clawed” (ie applauded) by the common multitude. The play however seems to have had something of a revival in the 20th Century. Where ever it is staged the play needs to create a very clear division between the scenes in the Greek and Roman Camps. On the modern stage this is of course easy enough to achieve – different lighting, distinctive military uniforms and even split or revolving stages!
Shakespeare, if he did stage the play, had rather less at his disposal. As we have already explored Shakespeare did not use costume to do much more than lend an atmosphere to his plays, so it is very unlikely that he costumed the Greeks and Trojan’s distinctly differently. He would more likely have used a few simple carry on – carry off props to signal to the audience when we are in Greek or Trojan territory. We do not have a list of the props which were owned by Shakespeare’s company but we do have a list of props belonging to his rivals and in the best spirit of ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ we can imagine that Shakespeare’s company had a similar list. Here are just a selection of the props inventoried by Philip Henslowe – imagine dressing the Trojan and Greek camps from them… (I have modernised the spelling for simplicity’s sake)
One golden sceptre,
One bay tree,
One little alter,
One boar’s head,
Two fans of feathers,
One tree of golden apples,
By use of a few simple signifying props Shakespeare’s company could easily have risen to the challenge of staging two distinct places on one simple stage.