The History of Troilus and Cressida
William Shakespeare [Craig edition]

Part 1 out of 4


by William Shakespeare


PRIAM, King of Troy

His sons:
MARGARELON, a bastard son of Priam

Trojan commanders:

CALCHAS, a Trojan priest, taking part with the Greeks
PANDARUS, uncle to Cressida
AGAMEMNON, the Greek general
MENELAUS, his brother

Greek commanders:

THERSITES, a deformed and scurrilous Greek
ALEXANDER, servant to Cressida
SERVANT to Troilus
SERVANT to Paris
SERVANT to Diomedes
HELEN, wife to Menelaus
ANDROMACHE, wife to Hector
CASSANDRA, daughter to Priam, a prophetess
CRESSIDA, daughter to Calchas

Trojan and Greek Soldiers, and Attendants

SCENE: Troy and the Greek camp before it



In Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of Greece
The princes orgulous, their high blood chaf'd,
Have to the port of Athens sent their ships
Fraught with the ministers and instruments
Of cruel war. Sixty and nine that wore
Their crownets regal from the Athenian bay
Put forth toward Phrygia; and their vow is made
To ransack Troy, within whose strong immures
The ravish'd Helen, Menelaus' queen,
With wanton Paris sleeps--and that's the quarrel.
To Tenedos they come,
And the deep-drawing barks do there disgorge
Their war-like fraughtage. Now on Dardan plains
The fresh and yet unbruised Greeks do pitch
Their brave pavilions: Priam's six-gated city,
Dardan, and Tymbria, Ilias, Chetas, Troien,
And Antenorides, with massy staples
And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts,
Sperr up the sons of Troy.
Now expectation, tickling skittish spirits
On one and other side, Troyan and Greek,
Sets all on hazard. And hither am I come
A prologue arm'd, but not in confidence
Of author's pen or actor's voice, but suited
In like conditions as our argument,
To tell you, fair beholders, that our play
Leaps o'er the vaunt and firstlings of those broils,
Beginning in the middle; starting thence away,
To what may be digested in a play.
Like or find fault; do as your pleasures are;
Now good or bad, 'tis but the chance of war.


SCENE 1. Troy. Before PRIAM'S palace

[Enter TROILUS armed, and PANDARUS.]

Call here my varlet; I'll unarm again.
Why should I war without the walls of Troy
That find such cruel battle here within?
Each Trojan that is master of his heart,
Let him to field; Troilus, alas! hath none.

Will this gear ne'er be mended?

The Greeks are strong, and skilful to their strength,
Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant;
But I am weaker than a woman's tear,
Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance,
Less valiant than the virgin in the night,
And skilless as unpractis'd infancy.

Well, I have told you enough of this; for my part, I'll not
meddle nor make no further. He that will have a cake out of the
wheat must tarry the grinding.

Have I not tarried?

Ay, the grinding; but you must tarry the bolting.

Have I not tarried?

Ay, the bolting; but you must tarry the leavening.

Still have I tarried.

Ay, to the leavening; but here's yet in the word 'hereafter' the
kneading, the making of the cake, the heating of the oven, and
the baking; nay, you must stay the cooling too, or you may chance
to burn your lips.

Patience herself, what goddess e'er she be,
Doth lesser blench at suff'rance than I do.
At Priam's royal table do I sit;
And when fair Cressid comes into my thoughts,
So, traitor! 'when she comes'! when she is thence?

Well, she look'd yesternight fairer than ever I saw her
look, or any woman else.

I was about to tell thee: when my heart,
As wedged with a sigh, would rive in twain,
Lest Hector or my father should perceive me,
I have, as when the sun doth light a storm,
Buried this sigh in wrinkle of a smile.
But sorrow that is couch'd in seeming gladness
Is like that mirth fate turns to sudden sadness.

An her hair were not somewhat darker than Helen's, well,
go to, there were no more comparison between the women. But, for
my part, she is my kinswoman; I would not, as they term it,
praise her, but I would somebody had heard her talk yesterday, as
I did. I will not dispraise your sister Cassandra's wit; but--

O Pandarus! I tell thee, Pandarus,
When I do tell thee there my hopes lie drown'd,
Reply not in how many fathoms deep
They lie indrench'd. I tell thee I am mad
In Cressid's love. Thou answer'st 'She is fair';
Pour'st in the open ulcer of my heart
Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice,
Handlest in thy discourse. O! that her hand,
In whose comparison all whites are ink
Writing their own reproach; to whose soft seizure
The cygnet's down is harsh, and spirit of sense
Hard as the palm of ploughman! This thou tell'st me,
As true thou tell'st me, when I say I love her;
But, saying thus, instead of oil and balm,
Thou lay'st in every gash that love hath given me
The knife that made it.

I speak no more than truth.

Thou dost not speak so much.

Faith, I'll not meddle in't. Let her be as she is: if
she be fair, 'tis the better for her; an she be not, she has the
mends in her own hands.

Good Pandarus! How now, Pandarus!

I have had my labour for my travail, ill thought on of
her and ill thought on of you; gone between and between, but
small thanks for my labour.

What! art thou angry, Pandarus? What! with me?

Because she's kin to me, therefore she's not so fair as
Helen. An she were not kin to me, she would be as fair on Friday
as Helen is on Sunday. But what care I? I care not an she were a
blackamoor; 'tis all one to me.

Say I she is not fair?

I do not care whether you do or no. She's a fool to stay
behind her father. Let her to the Greeks; and so I'll tell her
the next time I see her. For my part, I'll meddle nor make no
more i' the matter.


Not I.

Sweet Pandarus--

Pray you, speak no more to me: I will leave all
as I found it, and there an end.

[Exit PANDARUS. An alarum.]

Peace, you ungracious clamours! Peace, rude sounds!
Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair,
When with your blood you daily paint her thus.
I cannot fight upon this argument;
It is too starv'd a subject for my sword.
But Pandarus, O gods! how do you plague me!
I cannot come to Cressid but by Pandar;
And he's as tetchy to be woo'd to woo
As she is stubborn-chaste against all suit.
Tell me, Apollo, for thy Daphne's love,
What Cressid is, what Pandar, and what we?
Her bed is India; there she lies, a pearl;
Between our Ilium and where she resides
Let it be call'd the wild and wandering flood;
Ourself the merchant, and this sailing Pandar
Our doubtful hope, our convoy, and our bark.

[Alarum. Enter AENEAS.]

How now, Prince Troilus! Wherefore not afield?

Because not there. This woman's answer sorts,
For womanish it is to be from thence.
What news, Aeneas, from the field to-day?

That Paris is returned home, and hurt.

By whom, Aeneas?

Troilus, by Menelaus.

Let Paris bleed: 'tis but a scar to scorn;
Paris is gor'd with Menelaus' horn.


Hark what good sport is out of town to-day!

Better at home, if 'would I might' were 'may.'
But to the sport abroad. Are you bound thither?

In all swift haste.

Come, go we then together. [Exeunt.]


SCENE 2. Troy. A street

[Enter CRESSIDA and her man ALEXANDER.]

Who were those went by?

Queen Hecuba and Helen.

And whither go they?

Up to the eastern tower,
Whose height commands as subject all the vale,
To see the battle. Hector, whose patience
Is as a virtue fix'd, to-day was mov'd.
He chid Andromache, and struck his armourer;
And, like as there were husbandry in war,
Before the sun rose he was harness'd light,
And to the field goes he; where every flower
Did as a prophet weep what it foresaw
In Hector's wrath.

What was his cause of anger?

The noise goes, this: there is among the Greeks
A lord of Troyan blood, nephew to Hector;
They call him Ajax.

Good; and what of him?

They say he is a very man per se,
And stands alone.

So do all men, unless they are drunk, sick, or have no legs.

This man, lady, hath robb'd many beasts of their particular
additions: he is as valiant as a lion, churlish as the bear, slow
as the elephant--a man into whom nature hath so crowded
humours that his valour is crush'd into folly, his folly sauced
with discretion. There is no man hath a virtue that he hath not a
glimpse of, nor any man an attaint but he carries some stain of
it; he is melancholy without cause and merry against the hair; he
hath the joints of every thing; but everything so out of joint
that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use, or purblind
Argus, all eyes and no sight.

But how should this man, that makes me smile, make Hector

They say he yesterday cop'd Hector in the battle and
struck him down, the disdain and shame whereof hath ever since
kept Hector fasting and waking.


Who comes here?

Madam, your uncle Pandarus.

Hector's a gallant man.

As may be in the world, lady.

What's that? What's that?

Good morrow, uncle Pandarus.

Good morrow, cousin Cressid. What do you talk of?--Good
morrow, Alexander.--How do you, cousin? When were you at Ilium?

This morning, uncle.

What were you talking of when I came? Was Hector arm'd
and gone ere you came to Ilium? Helen was not up, was she?

Hector was gone; but Helen was not up.

E'en so. Hector was stirring early.

That were we talking of, and of his anger.

Was he angry?

So he says here.

True, he was so; I know the cause too; he'll lay about
him today, I can tell them that. And there's Troilus will not
come far behind him; let them take heed of Troilus, I can tell
them that too.

What, is he angry too?

Who, Troilus? Troilus is the better man of the two.

O Jupiter! there's no comparison.

What, not between Troilus and Hector? Do you know a man
if you see him?

Ay, if I ever saw him before and knew him.

Well, I say Troilus is Troilus.

Then you say as I say, for I am sure he is not Hector.

No, nor Hector is not Troilus in some degrees.

'Tis just to each of them: he is himself.

Himself! Alas, poor Troilus! I would he were!

So he is.

Condition I had gone barefoot to India.

He is not Hector.

Himself! no, he's not himself. Would 'a were himself!
Well, the gods are above; time must friend or end. Well, Troilus,
well! I would my heart were in her body! No, Hector is not a
better man than Troilus.

Excuse me.

He is elder.

Pardon me, pardon me.

Th' other's not come to't; you shall tell me another tale
when th' other's come to't. Hector shall not have his wit this

He shall not need it if he have his own.

Nor his qualities.

No matter.

Nor his beauty.

'Twould not become him: his own's better.

You have no judgment, niece. Helen herself swore th'
other day that Troilus, for a brown favour, for so 'tis, I must
confess--not brown neither--

No, but brown.

Faith, to say truth, brown and not brown.

To say the truth, true and not true.

She prais'd his complexion above Paris.

Why, Paris hath colour enough.

So he has.

Then Troilus should have too much. If she prais'd him
above, his complexion is higher than his; he having colour
enough, and the other higher, is too flaming praise for a good
complexion. I had as lief Helen's golden tongue had commended
Troilus for a copper nose.

I swear to you I think Helen loves him better than Paris.

Then she's a merry Greek indeed.

Nay, I am sure she does. She came to him th' other day
into the compass'd window--and you know he has not past three or
four hairs on his chin--

Indeed a tapster's arithmetic may soon bring his
particulars therein to a total.

Why, he is very young, and yet will he within three pound
lift as much as his brother Hector.

Is he so young a man and so old a lifter?

But to prove to you that Helen loves him: she came and
puts me her white hand to his cloven chin--

Juno have mercy! How came it cloven?

Why, you know, 'tis dimpled. I think his smiling becomes
him better than any man in all Phrygia.

O, he smiles valiantly!

Does he not?

O yes, an 'twere a cloud in autumn!

Why, go to, then! But to prove to you that Helen loves

Troilus will stand to the proof, if you'll prove it so.

Troilus! Why, he esteems her no more than I esteem an
addle egg.

If you love an addle egg as well as you love an idle
head, you would eat chickens i' th' shell.

I cannot choose but laugh to think how she tickled his
chin. Indeed, she has a marvell's white hand, I must needs

Without the rack.

And she takes upon her to spy a white hair on his chin.

Alas, poor chin! Many a wart is richer.

But there was such laughing! Queen Hecuba laugh'd that
her eyes ran o'er.

With millstones.

And Cassandra laugh'd.

But there was a more temperate fire under the pot of her
eyes. Did her eyes run o'er too?

And Hector laugh'd.

At what was all this laughing?

Marry, at the white hair that Helen spied on Troilus'

An't had been a green hair I should have laugh'd too.

They laugh'd not so much at the hair as at his pretty

What was his answer?

Quoth she 'Here's but two and fifty hairs on your chin,
and one of them is white.'

This is her question.

That's true; make no question of that. 'Two and fifty
hairs,' quoth he 'and one white. That white hair is my father,
and all the rest are his sons.' 'Jupiter!' quoth she 'which of
these hairs is Paris my husband?' 'The forked one,' quoth he,
'pluck't out and give it him.' But there was such laughing! and
Helen so blush'd, and Paris so chaf'd; and all the rest so
laugh'd that it pass'd.

So let it now; for it has been a great while going by.

Well, cousin, I told you a thing yesterday; think on't.

So I do.

I'll be sworn 'tis true; he will weep you, and 'twere a
man born in April.

And I'll spring up in his tears, an 'twere a nettle
against May.

[Sound a retreat.]

Hark! they are coming from the field. Shall we stand up
here and see them as they pass toward Ilium? Good niece, do,
sweet niece Cressida.

At your pleasure.

Here, here, here's an excellent place; here we may see
most bravely. I'll tell you them all by their names as they pass
by; but mark Troilus above the rest.

[AENEAS passes.]

Speak not so loud.

That's Aeneas. Is not that a brave man? He's one of the
flowers of Troy, I can tell you. But mark Troilus; you shall see

[ANTENOR passes.]

Who's that?

That's Antenor. He has a shrewd wit, I can tell you; and
he's a man good enough; he's one o' th' soundest judgments in
Troy, whosoever, and a proper man of person. When comes Troilus?
I'll show you Troilus anon. If he see me, you shall see him nod
at me.

Will he give you the nod?

You shall see.

If he do, the rich shall have more.

[HECTOR passes.]

That's Hector, that, that, look you, that; there's a
fellow! Go thy way, Hector! There's a brave man, niece. O brave
Hector! Look how he looks. There's a countenance! Is't not a
brave man?

O, a brave man!

Is 'a not? It does a man's heart good. Look you what
hacks are on his helmet! Look you yonder, do you see? Look you
there. There's no jesting; there's laying on; take't off who
will, as they say. There be hacks.

Be those with swords?

Swords! anything, he cares not; an the devil come to him,
it's all one. By God's lid, it does one's heart good. Yonder
comes Paris, yonder comes Paris.

[PARIS passes.]

Look ye yonder, niece; is't not a gallant man too, is't not? Why,
this is brave now. Who said he came hurt home to-day? He's not
hurt. Why, this will do Helen's heart good now, ha! Would I could
see Troilus now! You shall see Troilus anon.

[HELENUS passes.]

Who's that?

That's Helenus. I marvel where Troilus is. That's
Helenus. I think he went not forth to-day. That's Helenus.

Can Helenus fight, uncle?

Helenus! no. Yes, he'll fight indifferent well. I marvel
where Troilus is. Hark! do you not hear the people cry 'Troilus'?
Helenus is a priest.

What sneaking fellow comes yonder?

[TROILUS passes.]

Where? yonder? That's Deiphobus. 'Tis Troilus. There's a
man, niece. Hem! Brave Troilus, the prince of chivalry!

Peace, for shame, peace!

Mark him; note him. O brave Troilus! Look well upon him,
niece; look you how his sword is bloodied, and his helm more
hack'd than Hector's; and how he looks, and how he goes! O
admirable youth! he never saw three and twenty. Go thy way,
Troilus, go thy way. Had I a sister were a grace or a daughter a
goddess, he should take his choice. O admirable man! Paris? Paris
is dirt to him; and, I warrant, Helen, to change, would give an
eye to boot.

Here comes more.

[Common soldiers pass.]

Asses, fools, dolts! chaff and bran, chaff and bran!
porridge after meat! I could live and die in the eyes of Troilus.
Ne'er look, ne'er look; the eagles are gone. Crows and daws,
crows and daws! I had rather be such a man as Troilus than
Agamemnon and all Greece.

There is amongst the Greeks Achilles, a better man than

Achilles? A drayman, a porter, a very camel!

Well, well.

Well, well! Why, have you any discretion? Have you any
eyes? Do you know what a man is? Is not birth, beauty, good
shape, discourse, manhood, learning, gentleness, virtue, youth,
liberality, and such like, the spice and salt that season a man?

Ay, a minc'd man; and then to be bak'd with no date in
the pie, for then the man's date is out.

You are such a woman! A man knows not at what ward you

Upon my back, to defend my belly; upon my wit, to defend
my wiles; upon my secrecy, to defend mine honesty; my mask, to
defend my beauty; and you, to defend all these; and at all these
wards I lie at, at a thousand watches.

Say one of your watches.

Nay, I'll watch you for that; and that's one of the
chiefest of them too. If I cannot ward what I would not have hit,
I can watch you for telling how I took the blow; unless it swell
past hiding, and then it's past watching

You are such another!


Sir, my lord would instantly speak with you.


At your own house; there he unarms him.

Good boy, tell him I come.Exit Boy
I doubt he be hurt. Fare ye well, good niece.

Adieu, uncle.

I will be with you, niece, by and by.

To bring, uncle.

Ay, a token from Troilus.

By the same token, you are a bawd.


Words, vows, gifts, tears, and love's full sacrifice,
He offers in another's enterprise;
But more in Troilus thousand-fold I see
Than in the glass of Pandar's praise may be,
Yet hold I off. Women are angels, wooing:
Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing.
That she belov'd knows nought that knows not this:
Men prize the thing ungain'd more than it is.
That she was never yet that ever knew
Love got so sweet as when desire did sue;
Therefore this maxim out of love I teach:
Achievement is command; ungain'd, beseech.
Then though my heart's content firm love doth bear,
Nothing of that shall from mine eyes appear.



SCENE 3. The Grecian camp. Before AGAMEMNON'S tent

and others.]

What grief hath set these jaundies o'er your cheeks?
The ample proposition that hope makes
In all designs begun on earth below
Fails in the promis'd largeness; checks and disasters
Grow in the veins of actions highest rear'd,
As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infects the sound pine, and diverts his grain
Tortive and errant from his course of growth.
Nor, princes, is it matter new to us
That we come short of our suppose so far
That after seven years' siege yet Troy walls stand;
Sith every action that hath gone before,
Whereof we have record, trial did draw
Bias and thwart, not answering the aim,
And that unbodied figure of the thought
That gave't surmised shape. Why then, you princes,
Do you with cheeks abash'd behold our works
And call them shames, which are, indeed, nought else
But the protractive trials of great Jove
To find persistive constancy in men;
The fineness of which metal is not found
In fortune's love? For then the bold and coward,
The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
The hard and soft, seem all affin'd and kin.
But in the wind and tempest of her frown
Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan,
Puffing at all, winnows the light away;
And what hath mass or matter by itself
Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.

With due observance of thy godlike seat,
Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply
Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance
Lies the true proof of men. The sea being smooth,
How many shallow bauble boats dare sail
Upon her patient breast, making their way
With those of nobler bulk!
But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage
The gentle Thetis, and anon behold
The strong-ribb'd bark through liquid mountains cut,
Bounding between the two moist elements
Like Perseus' horse. Where's then the saucy boat,
Whose weak untimber'd sides but even now
Co-rivall'd greatness? Either to harbour fled
Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so
Doth valour's show and valour's worth divide
In storms of fortune; for in her ray and brightness
The herd hath more annoyance by the breeze
Than by the tiger; but when the splitting wind
Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
And flies fled under shade--why, then the thing of courage
As rous'd with rage, with rage doth sympathise,
And with an accent tun'd in self-same key
Retorts to chiding fortune.

Thou great commander, nerve and bone of Greece,
Heart of our numbers, soul and only spirit
In whom the tempers and the minds of all
Should be shut up--hear what Ulysses speaks.
Besides the applause and approbation
The which,


most mighty, for thy place and sway,


And, thou most reverend, for thy stretch'd-out life,
I give to both your speeches--which were such
As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece
Should hold up high in brass; and such again
As venerable Nestor, hatch'd in silver,
Should with a bond of air, strong as the axle-tree
On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears
To his experienc'd tongue--yet let it please both,
Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.

Speak, Prince of Ithaca; and be't of less expect
That matter needless, of importless burden,
Divide thy lips than we are confident,
When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws,
We shall hear music, wit, and oracle.

Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
And the great Hector's sword had lack'd a master,
But for these instances:
The specialty of rule hath been neglected;
And look how many Grecian tents do stand
Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
When that the general is not like the hive,
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
Th' unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre,
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order;
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthron'd and spher'd
Amidst the other, whose med'cinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts, like the commandment of a king,
Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents, what mutiny,
What raging of the sea, shaking of earth,
Commotion in the winds! Frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate,
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixture! O, when degree is shak'd,
Which is the ladder of all high designs,
The enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenity and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows! Each thing melts
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores,
And make a sop of all this solid globe;
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead;
Force should be right; or, rather, right and wrong--
Between whose endless jar justice resides--
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then everything includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
Follows the choking.
And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
It hath to climb. The general's disdain'd
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so ever step,
Exampl'd by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation.
And 'tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

Most wisely hath Ulysses here discover'd
The fever whereof all our power is sick.

The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
What is the remedy?

The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns
The sinew and the forehand of our host,
Having his ear full of his airy fame,
Grows dainty of his worth, and in his tent
Lies mocking our designs; with him Patroclus
Upon a lazy bed the livelong day
Breaks scurril jests;
And with ridiculous and awkward action--
Which, slanderer, he imitation calls--
He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon,
Thy topless deputation he puts on;
And like a strutting player whose conceit
Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich
To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
'Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage--
Such to-be-pitied and o'er-wrested seeming
He acts thy greatness in; and when he speaks
'Tis like a chime a-mending; with terms unsquar'd,
Which, from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropp'd,
Would seem hyperboles. At this fusty stuff
The large Achilles, on his press'd bed lolling,
From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause;
Cries 'Excellent! 'tis Agamemnon just.
Now play me Nestor; hem, and stroke thy beard,
As he being drest to some oration.'
That's done--as near as the extremest ends
Of parallels, as like Vulcan and his wife;
Yet god Achilles still cries 'Excellent!
'Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus,
Arming to answer in a night alarm.'
And then, forsooth, the faint defects of age
Must be the scene of mirth: to cough and spit
And, with a palsy-fumbling on his gorget,
Shake in and out the rivet. And at this sport
Sir Valour dies; cries 'O, enough, Patroclus;
Or give me ribs of steel! I shall split all
In pleasure of my spleen.' And in this fashion
All our abilities, gifts, natures, shapes,
Severals and generals of grace exact,
Achievements, plots, orders, preventions,
Excitements to the field or speech for truce,
Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
As stuff for these two to make paradoxes.

And in the imitation of these twain--
Who, as Ulysses says, opinion crowns
With an imperial voice--many are infect.
Ajax is grown self-will'd and bears his head
In such a rein, in full as proud a place
As broad Achilles; keeps his tent like him;
Makes factious feasts; rails on our state of war
Bold as an oracle, and sets Thersites,
A slave whose gall coins slanders like a mint,
To match us in comparisons with dirt,
To weaken and discredit our exposure,
How rank soever rounded in with danger.

They tax our policy and call it cowardice,
Count wisdom as no member of the war,
Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
But that of hand. The still and mental parts
That do contrive how many hands shall strike
When fitness calls them on, and know, by measure
Of their observant toil, the enemies' weight--
Why, this hath not a finger's dignity:
They call this bed-work, mapp'ry, closet-war;
So that the ram that batters down the wall,
For the great swinge and rudeness of his poise,
They place before his hand that made the engine,
Or those that with the fineness of their souls
By reason guide his execution.

Let this be granted, and Achilles' horse
Makes many Thetis' sons.


What trumpet? Look, Menelaus.

From Troy.

[Enter AENEAS.]

What would you fore our tent?

Is this great Agamemnon's tent, I pray you?

Even this.

May one that is a herald and a prince
Do a fair message to his kingly eyes?

With surety stronger than Achilles' an
Fore all the Greekish heads, which with one voice
Call Agamemnon head and general.

Fair leave and large security. How may
A stranger to those most imperial looks
Know them from eyes of other mortals?


I ask, that I might waken reverence,
And bid the cheek be ready with a blush
Modest as Morning when she coldly eyes
The youthful Phoebus.
Which is that god in office, guiding men?
Which is the high and mighty Agamemnon?

This Troyan scorns us, or the men of Troy
Are ceremonious courtiers.

Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarm'd,
As bending angels; that's their fame in peace.
But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
Good arms, strong joints, true swords; and, Jove's accord,
Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Aeneas,
Peace, Troyan; lay thy finger on thy lips.
The worthiness of praise distains his worth,
If that the prais'd himself bring the praise forth;
But what the repining enemy commends,
That breath fame blows; that praise, sole pure, transcends.

Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself Aeneas?

Ay, Greek, that is my name.

What's your affair, I pray you?

Sir, pardon; 'tis for Agamemnon's ears.

He hears nought privately that comes from Troy.

Nor I from Troy come not to whisper with him;
I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
To set his sense on the attentive bent,
And then to speak.

Speak frankly as the wind;
It is not Agamemnon's sleeping hour.
That thou shalt know, Troyan, he is awake,
He tells thee so himself.

Trumpet, blow loud,
Send thy brass voice through all these lazy tents;
And every Greek of mettle, let him know
What Troy means fairly shall be spoke aloud.

[Sound trumpet.]

We have, great Agamemnon, here in Troy
A prince called Hector-Priam is his father--
Who in this dull and long-continued truce
Is resty grown; he bade me take a trumpet
And to this purpose speak: Kings, princes, lords!
If there be one among the fair'st of Greece
That holds his honour higher than his ease,
That seeks his praise more than he fears his peril,
That knows his valour and knows not his fear,
That loves his mistress more than in confession
With truant vows to her own lips he loves,
And dare avow her beauty and her worth
In other arms than hers-to him this challenge.
Hector, in view of Troyans and of Greeks,
Shall make it good or do his best to do it:
He hath a lady wiser, fairer, truer,
Than ever Greek did couple in his arms;
And will to-morrow with his trumpet call
Mid-way between your tents and walls of Troy
To rouse a Grecian that is true in love.
If any come, Hector shall honour him;
If none, he'll say in Troy, when he retires,
The Grecian dames are sunburnt and not worth
The splinter of a lance. Even so much.

This shall be told our lovers, Lord Aeneas.
If none of them have soul in such a kind,
We left them all at home. But we are soldiers;
And may that soldier a mere recreant prove
That means not, hath not, or is not in love.
If then one is, or hath, or means to be,
That one meets Hector; if none else, I am he.

Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man
When Hector's grandsire suck'd. He is old now;
But if there be not in our Grecian mould
One noble man that hath one spark of fire
To answer for his love, tell him from me
I'll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver,
And in my vantbrace put this wither'd brawn,
And, meeting him, will tell him that my lady
Was fairer than his grandame, and as chaste
As may be in the world. His youth in flood,
I'll prove this truth with my three drops of blood.

Now heavens forfend such scarcity of youth!


Fair Lord Aeneas, let me touch your hand;
To our pavilion shall I lead you, first.
Achilles shall have word of this intent;
So shall each lord of Greece, from tent to tent.
Yourself shall feast with us before you go,
And find the welcome of a noble foe.

[Exeunt all but ULYSSES and NESTOR.]


What says Ulysses?

I have a young conception in my brain;
Be you my time to bring it to some shape.

What is't?

This 'tis:
Blunt wedges rive hard knots. The seeded pride
That hath to this maturity blown up
In rank Achilles must or now be cropp'd
Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil
To overbulk us all.

Well, and how?

This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
However it is spread in general name,
Relates in purpose only to Achilles.

True. The purpose is perspicuous even as substance
Whose grossness little characters sum up;
And, in the publication, make no strain
But that Achilles, were his brain as barren
As banks of Libya--though, Apollo knows,
'Tis dry enough--will with great speed of judgment,
Ay, with celerity, find Hector's purpose
Pointing on him.

And wake him to the answer, think you?

Why, 'tis most meet. Who may you else oppose
That can from Hector bring those honours off,
If not Achilles? Though 't be a sportful combat,
Yet in this trial much opinion dwells
For here the Troyans taste our dear'st repute
With their fin'st palate; and trust to me, Ulysses,
Our imputation shall be oddly pois'd
In this vile action; for the success,
Although particular, shall give a scantling
Of good or bad unto the general;
And in such indexes, although small pricks
To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
The baby figure of the giant mas
Of things to come at large. It is suppos'd
He that meets Hector issues from our choice;
And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
Makes merit her election, and doth boil,
As 'twere from forth us all, a man distill'd
Out of our virtues; who miscarrying,
What heart receives from hence a conquering part,
To steel a strong opinion to themselves?
Which entertain'd, limbs are his instruments,
In no less working than are swords and bows
Directive by the limbs.

Give pardon to my speech.
Therefore 'tis meet Achilles meet not Hector.
Let us, like merchants, show our foulest wares
And think perchance they'll sell; if not, the lustre
Of the better yet to show shall show the better,
By showing the worst first. Do not consent
That ever Hector and Achilles meet;
For both our honour and our shame in this
Are dogg'd with two strange followers.

I see them not with my old eyes. What are they?

What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
Were he not proud, we all should wear with him;
But he already is too insolent;
And it were better parch in Afric sun
Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes,
Should he scape Hector fair. If he were foil'd,
Why, then we do our main opinion crush
In taint of our best man. No, make a lott'ry;
And, by device, let blockish Ajax draw
The sort to fight with Hector. Among ourselves
Give him allowance for the better man;
For that will physic the great Myrmidon,
Who broils in loud applause, and make him fall
His crest, that prouder than blue Iris bends.
If the dull brainless Ajax come safe off,
We'll dress him up in voices; if he fail,
Yet go we under our opinion still
That we have better men. But, hit or miss,
Our project's life this shape of sense assumes--
Ajax employ'd plucks down Achilles' plumes.

Now, Ulysses, I begin to relish thy advice;
And I will give a taste thereof forthwith
To Agamemnon. Go we to him straight.
Two curs shall tame each other: pride alone
Must tarre the mastiffs on, as 'twere their bone.



SCENE 1. The Grecian camp

[Enter Ajax and THERSITES.]


Agamemnon--how if he had boils full, an over, generally?


And those boils did run--say so. Did not the general run
then? Were not that a botchy core?


Then there would come some matter from him;
I see none now.

Thou bitch-wolf's son, canst thou not hear? Feel, then.

[Strikes him.]

The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted

Speak, then, thou whinid'st leaven, speak. I will beat thee
into handsomeness.

I shall sooner rail thee into wit and holiness; but I
think thy horse will sooner con an oration than thou learn a
prayer without book. Thou canst strike, canst thou? A red murrain
o' thy jade's tricks!

Toadstool, learn me the proclamation.

Dost thou think I have no sense, thou strikest me thus?

The proclamation!

Thou art proclaim'd, a fool, I think.

Do not, porpentine, do not; my fingers itch.

I would thou didst itch from head to foot and I had the
scratching of thee; I would make thee the loathsomest scab in
Greece. When thou art forth in the incursions, thou strikest as
slow as another.

I say, the proclamation.

Thou grumblest and railest every hour on Achilles; and
thou art as full of envy at his greatness as Cerberus is at
Proserpina's beauty--ay, that thou bark'st at him.

Mistress Thersites!

Thou shouldst strike him.


He would pun thee into shivers with his fist, as a
sailor breaks a biscuit.

You whoreson cur!

[Strikes him.]

Do, do.

Thou stool for a witch!

Ay, do, do; thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more
brain than I have in mine elbows; an assinico may tutor thee. You
scurvy valiant ass! Thou art here but to thrash Troyans, and thou
art bought and sold among those of any wit like a barbarian
slave. If thou use to beat me, I will begin at thy heel and tell
what thou art by inches, thou thing of no bowels, thou!

You dog!

You scurvy lord!

You cur!

[Strikes him.]

Mars his idiot! Do, rudeness; do, camel; do, do.


Why, how now, Ajax! Wherefore do you thus?
How now, Thersites! What's the matter, man?

You see him there, do you?

Ay; what's the matter?

Nay, look upon him.

So I do. What's the matter?

Nay, but regard him well.

Well! why, so I do.

But yet you look not well upon him; for who some ever
you take him to be, he is Ajax.

I know that, fool.

Ay, but that fool knows not himself.

Therefore I beat thee.

Lo, lo, lo, lo, what modicums of wit he utters! His
evasions have ears thus long. I have bobb'd his brain more than
he has beat my bones. I will buy nine sparrows for a penny, and
his pia mater is not worth the ninth part of a sparrow. This
lord, Achilles, Ajax--who wears his wit in his belly and his guts
in his head--I'll tell you what I say of him.


I say this Ajax--

[AJAX offers to strike him.]

Nay, good Ajax.

Has not so much wit--

Nay, I must hold you.

As will stop the eye of Helen's needle, for whom he
comes to fight.

Peace, fool.

I would have peace and quietness, but the fool will not--
he there; that he; look you there.

O thou damned cur! I shall--

Will you set your wit to a fool's?

No, I warrant you, the fool's will shame it.

Good words, Thersites.

What's the quarrel?

I bade the vile owl go learn me the tenour of the
proclamation, and he rails upon me.

I serve thee not.

Well, go to, go to.

I serve here voluntary.

Your last service was suff'rance; 'twas not voluntary. No
man is beaten voluntary. Ajax was here the voluntary, and you as
under an impress.

E'en so; a great deal of your wit too lies in your
sinews, or else there be liars. Hector shall have a great catch
an he knock out either of your brains: 'a were as good crack a
fusty nut with no kernel.

What, with me too, Thersites?

There's Ulysses and old Nestor--whose wit was mouldy ere
your grandsires had nails on their toes--yoke you like draught
oxen, and make you plough up the wars.

What, what?

Yes, good sooth. To Achilles, to Ajax, to--

I shall cut out your tongue.

'Tis no matter; I shall speak as much as thou

No more words, Thersites; peace!

I will hold my peace when Achilles' brach bids me, shall I?

There's for you, Patroclus.

I will see you hang'd like clotpoles ere I come any more
to your tents. I will keep where there is wit stirring, and leave
the faction of fools.


A good riddance.

Marry, this, sir, is proclaim'd through all our host,
That Hector, by the fifth hour of the sun,
Will with a trumpet 'twixt our tents and Troy,
To-morrow morning, call some knight to arms
That hath a stomach; and such a one that dare
Maintain I know not what; 'tis trash. Farewell.

Farewell. Who shall answer him?

I know not; 'tis put to lott'ry. Otherwise. He knew his man.

O, meaning you! I will go learn more of it.



SCENE 2. Troy. PRIAM'S palace


After so many hours, lives, speeches, spent,
Thus once again says Nestor from the Greeks:
'Deliver Helen, and all damage else--
As honour, loss of time, travail, expense,
Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consum'd
In hot digestion of this cormorant war--
Shall be struck off.' Hector, what say you to't?

Though no man lesser fears the Greeks than I,
As far as toucheth my particular,
Yet, dread Priam,
There is no lady of more softer bowels,
More spongy to suck in the sense of fear,
More ready to cry out 'Who knows what follows?'
Than Hector is. The wound of peace is surety,
Surety secure; but modest doubt is call'd
The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches
To th' bottom of the worst. Let Helen go.
Since the first sword was drawn about this question,
Every tithe soul 'mongst many thousand dismes
Hath been as dear as Helen--I mean, of ours.
If we have lost so many tenths of ours
To guard a thing not ours, nor worth to us,
Had it our name, the value of one ten,
What merit's in that reason which denies
The yielding of her up?

Fie, fie, my brother!
Weigh you the worth and honour of a king,
So great as our dread father's, in a scale
Of common ounces? Will you with counters sum
The past-proportion of his infinite,
And buckle in a waist most fathomless
With spans and inches so diminutive
As fears and reasons? Fie, for godly shame!

No marvel though you bite so sharp at reasons,
You are so empty of them. Should not our father
Bear the great sway of his affairs with reasons,
Because your speech hath none that tells him so?

You are for dreams and slumbers, brother priest;
You fur your gloves with reason. Here are your reasons:
You know an enemy intends you harm;
You know a sword employ'd is perilous,
And reason flies the object of all harm.
Who marvels, then, when Helenus beholds
A Grecian and his sword, if he do set
The very wings of reason to his heels
And fly like chidden Mercury from Jove,
Or like a star disorb'd? Nay, if we talk of reason,
Let's shut our gates and sleep. Manhood and honour
Should have hare hearts, would they but fat their thoughts
With this cramm'd reason. Reason and respect
Make livers pale and lustihood deject.

Brother, she is not worth what she doth, cost
The keeping.

What's aught but as 'tis valued?

But value dwells not in particular will:
It holds his estimate and dignity
As well wherein 'tis precious of itself
As in the prizer. 'Tis mad idolatry
To make the service greater than the god--I
And the will dotes that is attributive
To what infectiously itself affects,
Without some image of th' affected merit.

I take to-day a wife, and my election
Is led on in the conduct of my will;
My will enkindled by mine eyes and ears,
Two traded pilots 'twixt the dangerous shores
Of will and judgment: how may I avoid,
Although my will distaste what it elected,
The wife I chose? There can be no evasion
To blench from this and to stand firm by honour.
We turn not back the silks upon the merchant
When we have soil'd them; nor the remainder viands
We do not throw in unrespective sieve,
Because we now are full. It was thought meet
Paris should do some vengeance on the Greeks;
Your breath with full consent benied his sails;
The seas and winds, old wranglers, took a truce,
And did him service. He touch'd the ports desir'd;
And for an old aunt whom the Greeks held captive
He brought a Grecian queen, whose youth and freshness
Wrinkles Apollo's, and makes stale the morning.
Why keep we her? The Grecians keep our aunt.
Is she worth keeping? Why, she is a
Whose price hath launch'd above a thousand ships,
And turn'd crown'd kings to merchants.
If you'll avouch 'twas wisdom Paris went--
As you must needs, for you all cried 'Go, go'--
If you'll confess he brought home worthy prize--
As you must needs, for you all clapp'd your hands,
And cried 'Inestimable!'--why do you now
The issue of your proper wisdoms rate,
And do a deed that never fortune did--
Beggar the estimation which you priz'd
Richer than sea and land? O theft most base,
That we have stol'n what we do fear to keep!
But thieves unworthy of a thing so stol'n
That in their country did them that disgrace
We fear to warrant in our native place!

Cry, Troyans, cry.

What noise, what shriek is this?

'Tis our mad sister; I do know her voice.

Cry, Troyans.

It is Cassandra.

[Enter CASSANDRA, raving.]

Cry, Troyans, cry. Lend me ten thousand eyes,
And I will fill them with prophetic tears.

Peace, sister, peace.

Virgins and boys, mid-age and wrinkled eld,
Soft infancy, that nothing canst but cry,
Add to my clamours. Let us pay betimes
A moiety of that mass of moan to come.
Cry, Troyans, cry. Practise your eyes with tears.
Troy must not be, nor goodly Ilion stand;
Our firebrand brother, Paris, burns us all.
Cry, Troyans, cry, A Helen and a woe!
Cry, cry. Troy burns, or else let Helen go.


Now, youthful Troilus, do not these high strains
Of divination in our sister work
Some touches of remorse, or is your blood
So madly hot that no discourse of reason,
Nor fear of bad success in a bad cause,
Can qualify the same?

Why, brother Hector,
We may not think the justness of each act
Such and no other than event doth form it;
Nor once deject the courage of our minds
Because Cassandra's mad. Her brain-sick raptures
Cannot distaste the goodness of a quarrel
Which hath our several honours all engag'd
To make it gracious. For my private part,
I am no more touch'd than all Priam's sons;
And Jove forbid there should be done amongst us
Such things as might offend the weakest spleen
To fight for and maintain.

Else might the world convince of levity
As well my undertakings as your counsels;
But I attest the gods, your full consent
Gave wings to my propension, and cut of
All fears attending on so dire a project.
For what, alas, can these my single arms?
What propugnation is in one man's valour
To stand the push and enmity of those
This quarrel would excite? Yet, I protest,
Were I alone to pass the difficulties,
And had as ample power as I have will,
Paris should ne'er retract what he hath done
Nor faint in the pursuit.

Paris, you speak
Like one besotted on your sweet delights.
You have the honey still, but these the gall;
So to be valiant is no praise at all.

Sir, I propose not merely to myself
The pleasures such a beauty brings with it;
But I would have the soil of her fair rape
Wip'd off in honourable keeping her.
What treason were it to the ransack'd queen,
Disgrace to your great worths, and shame to me,
Now to deliver her possession up
On terms of base compulsion! Can it be
That so degenerate a strain as this
Should once set footing in your generous bosoms?
There's not the meanest spirit on our party
Without a heart to dare or sword to draw
When Helen is defended; nor none so noble
Whose life were ill bestow'd or death unfam'd
Where Helen is the subject. Then, I say,
Well may we fight for her whom we know well
The world's large spaces cannot parallel.

Paris and Troilus, you have both said well;
And on the cause and question now in hand
Have gloz'd, but superficially; not much
Unlike young men, whom Aristode thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy.
The reasons you allege do more conduce
To the hot passion of distemp'red blood
Than to make up a free determination
'Twixt right and wrong; for pleasure and revenge
Have ears more deaf than adders to the voice
Of any true decision. Nature craves
All dues be rend'red to their owners. Now,
What nearer debt in all humanity
Than wife is to the husband? If this law
Of nature be corrupted through affection;
And that great minds, of partial indulgence
To their benumbed wills, resist the same;
There is a law in each well-order'd nation
To curb those raging appetites that are
Most disobedient and refractory.
If Helen, then, be wife to Sparta's king--
As it is known she is-these moral laws
Of nature and of nations speak aloud
To have her back return'd. Thus to persist
In doing wrong extenuates not wrong,
But makes it much more heavy. Hector's opinion
Is this, in way of truth. Yet, ne'er the less,
My spritely brethren, I propend to you
In resolution to keep Helen still;
For 'tis a cause that hath no mean dependence
Upon our joint and several dignities.

Why, there you touch'd the life of our design.
Were it not glory that we more affected
Than the performance of our heaving spleens,
I would not wish a drop of Troyan blood
Spent more in her defence. But, worthy Hector,
She is a theme of honour and renown,
A spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds,
Whose present courage may beat down our foes,
And fame in time to come canonize us;
For I presume brave Hector would not lose
So rich advantage of a promis'd glory
As smiles upon the forehead of this action
For the wide world's revenue.

I am yours,
You valiant offspring of great Priamus.
I have a roisting challenge sent amongst
The dull and factious nobles of the Greeks
Will strike amazement to their drowsy spirits.
I was advertis'd their great general slept,
Whilst emulation in the army crept.
This, I presume, will wake him.



SCENE 3. The Grecian camp. Before the tent of ACHILLES

[Enter THERSITES, solus.]

How now, Thersites! What, lost in the labyrinth of thy
fury? Shall the elephant Ajax carry it thus? He beats me, and I
rail at him. O worthy satisfaction! Would it were otherwise: that
I could beat him, whilst he rail'd at me! 'Sfoot, I'll learn to
conjure and raise devils, but I'll see some issue of my spiteful
execrations. Then there's Achilles, a rare engineer! If Troy be
not taken till these two undermine it, the walls will stand till
they fall of themselves. O thou great thunder-darter of Olympus,
forget that thou art Jove, the king of gods, and, Mercury, lose
all the serpentine craft of thy caduceus, if ye take not that


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