Troilus and Cressidabegins with a prologue that sets the scene and tells the audience what the play is to be about. The character playing Prologue, dressed in armor, says the play is set in the ancient city of Troy, during the Trojan War. Sixty-nine Greek ships sailed to Phrygia (modern-day Turkey), to attack and ransack the city of Troy. The cause of the war was that the Trojan prince Paris took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The Greeks are now camped outside of Troy and are laying siege to the city, which has six gates. The Prologue says that the play starts in the middle of the conflict.
The Trojan War is famous in Greek mythology, the subject, for example, of Homer’s Iliad, which is one of Shakespeare’s sources for the play. However, the Prologue does not seem to treat the Trojan War as an epic encounter between great warriors. Setting the tone for the rest of the play, the Prologue ends by saying “Like or find fault: do as your pleasures are: / Now good, or bad, ‘tis but the chance of war.” He means that the audience is free to take their own meaning from the play, in whatever way they want to:It doesn’t matter either way. The last line undercuts the idea of heroic struggle: sometimes war goes in favor of one side, sometimes the other, it’s just a matter of chance. It seems as if the Prologue is debunking the myths of heroic conflict, great warriors, valor in battle, and indeed, this attitude will be confirmed as the play unfolds.