Brush Up on “The Iliad”

Even if you’re familiar with Homer’s The Iliad, you might want to brush up on the characters in the story because Shakespeare borrows many of them for Troilus and Cressida. The story of the Trojan War is one of the defining epics of Western literature. Shakespeare challenged his audience’s familiarity with the legends of the story by showing us a different side of their persona in his play. Think about what your expectations are for the “heroes” and how that might change after you see the show.

The Greeks


One of the greatest Greek heroes. He is known for his incredible strength and courage, except his one vulnerability – his “Achilles heel.” Homer’s The Illiad tells the stories of his valiant adventures during the Trojan War, but Shakespeare takes the character through a very different perspective.


A Greek hero also known as Odysseus, his Greek name. He is the King of Ithaca and the hero of Homer’s The Odyssey. He is the cleverest, most sly and manipulative of the army. He plays a major role in bringing down Troy by building the Trojan Horse to enter and sack the city.


The Queen of Sparta and the wife of King Menalaus. She is said to be the most beautiful mortal woman in the world. Paris of Troy takes her from the King to elope with her. This becomes the immediate cause of the decade long Trojan War.


The General of the Greek army. He later becomes the King of Mycenae. He is the brother of King Menelaus of Sparta, who starts the Trojan War to retrieve Menelaus’s wife, Helen.


A Greek commander. He shares a special bond with Achilles.


A Greek commander, a son of King Telamon and Periboea. He is known for his great stature and strength. He shares both Greek and Trojan blood, as he is related to the Trojan King.


The King of Pylos, who helps Jason retrieve the Golden Fleece during the Argonautic Expedition. He plays the wise man for the Greeks during the Trojan War, giving advice and often settling disputes among the heroes.


A Greek soldier. When Cressida is traded off to the Greek army, he pursues to win her heart over. Cressida eventually consents to be his lover, triggering Troilus’ jealousy leading to his demise.


A low-class Greek who runs around bad- mouthing the war, insulting everyone in sight, and offering many brutal social commentaries. He is considered as a classic Shakespearean “fool,” minus the comical aspect as he is rather raw and vile with his words.

The Trojans


A young Trojan prince, a son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. He falls in love with Cressida, a daughter of a Trojan traitor. This young prince has a prophecy upon him saying that if he lives up to 20 years old, Troy will not fall.


A daughter of a Trojan traitor. She falls in love with Troilus, promising her fidelity to him. Then she is traded off to the Greek army, where her devotion is tested.


A Trojan prince, a son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. He wins the favor of Aphrodite in the Judgement of Paris. The Goddess promises him Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, to be his lover. He elopes with Helen and causes the Trojan War.


A Trojan prince, the first-born of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. He is known as the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War.


The last King of Troy before its fall. He is the father of Paris, Hector, Troilus, Helenus, and Cassandra.


A daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. She is gifted with the ability to foresee the future, but she is cursed that no one will believe in her prophecies.


A Trojan hero, a son of Prince Anchises and the Goddess of love, Aphrodite. His stories of adventure continue in Virgil’s The Aeneid after the fall of Troy.