Cordelia, with her unearned kiss, symbolizes that moment of grace that forces the tragic action to a temporary halt, and allows a magical synthesis of the bliss of eternity and the tragedy of time that is so powerful in Shakespeare, because it is so rare.
It is moving, yes, but bitterly moving, and our emotions will be turned against us shortly, for the visionary experience of a timeless love cannot compete in Shakespeare with the tragic vision, the grim necessity of history.
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra shares with Troilus and Cressida the obsessive and self-consuming rage of the tragic figure as he confronts and attempts to define “reality.” But, more extravagantly than Troilus and Cressida, this reality is layered with masquerade; forms that are often as lyric as brutal shift and change and baffle expectation. The constant refinement of brute reality into lyric illusion is the work not simply of Antony, Shakespeare’s hero, but the lifelong work of Shakespeare himself.
Troilus and Cressida, that most vexing and ambiguous of Shakespeare’s plays, strikes the modern reader as a contemporary document—its investigation of numerous infidelities, its criticism of tragic pretensions, above all, its implicit debate between what is essential in human life and what is only existential are themes of the twentieth century.