Open Source Shakespeare

Troilus and Cressida

Act I


Scene 1. Troy. Before Priam’s palace.

Scene 2. The Same. A street.

Scene 3. The Grecian camp. Before Agamemnon’s tent.

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  • Chorus. In Troy, there lies the scene. From isles of Greece
    The princes orgulous, their high blood chafed,
    Have to the port of Athens sent their ships,
    Fraught with the ministers and instruments
    Of cruel war: sixty and nine, that wore 5
    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. 10
    To Tenedos they come;
    And the deep-drawing barks do there disgorge
    Their warlike fraughtage: now on Dardan plains
    The fresh and yet unbruised Greeks do pitch
    Their brave pavilions: Priam's six-gated city, 15
    Dardan, and Tymbria, Helias, Chetas, Troien,
    And Antenorides, with massy staples
    And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts,
    Sperr up the sons of Troy.
    Now expectation, tickling skittish spirits, 20
    On one and other side, Trojan 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, 25
    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: 30
    Now good or bad, 'tis but the chance of war.


Act I, Scene 1

Troy. Before Priam’s palace.


[Enter TROILUS armed, and PANDARUS]

  • Troilus. Call here my varlet; I'll unarm again:
    Why should I war without the walls of Troy,
    That find such cruel battle here within? 35
    Each Trojan that is master of his heart,
    Let him to field; Troilus, alas! hath none.
  • Pandarus. Will this gear ne'er be mended?
  • Troilus. The Greeks are strong and skilful to their strength,
    Fierce to their skill and to their fierceness valiant; 40
    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 unpractised infancy.
  • Pandarus. Well, I have told you enough of this: for my part, 45
    I'll not meddle nor make no further. He that will
    have a cake out of the wheat must needs tarry the grinding.
  • Troilus. Have I not tarried?
  • Pandarus. Ay, the grinding; but you must tarry
    the bolting. 50
  • Troilus. Have I not tarried?
  • Pandarus. Ay, the bolting, but you must tarry the leavening.
  • Troilus. Still have I tarried.
  • Pandarus. Ay, to the leavening; but here's yet in the word
    'hereafter' the kneading, the making of the cake, the 55
    heating of the oven and the baking; nay, you must
    stay the cooling too, or you may chance to burn your lips.
  • Troilus. Patience herself, what goddess e'er she be,
    Doth lesser blench at sufferance than I do.
    At Priam's royal table do I sit; 60
    And when fair Cressid comes into my thoughts,—
    So, traitor! 'When she comes!' When is she thence?
  • Pandarus. Well, she looked yesternight fairer than ever I saw
    her look, or any woman else.
  • Troilus. I was about to tell thee:—when my heart, 65
    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, 70
    Is like that mirth fate turns to sudden sadness.
  • Pandarus. 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 75
    somebody had heard her talk yesterday, as I did. I
    will not dispraise your sister Cassandra's wit, but—
  • Troilus. O Pandarus! I tell thee, Pandarus,—
    When I do tell thee, there my hopes lie drown'd,
    Reply not in how many fathoms deep 80
    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, 85
    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; 90
    But, saying thus, instead of oil and balm,
    Thou lay'st in every gash that love hath given me
    The knife that made it.
  • Pandarus. I speak no more than truth.
  • Troilus. Thou dost not speak so much. 95
  • Pandarus. 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.
  • Troilus. Good Pandarus, how now, Pandarus!
  • Pandarus. I have had my labour for my travail; ill-thought on of 100
    her and ill-thought on of you; gone between and
    between, but small thanks for my labour.
  • Troilus. What, art thou angry, Pandarus? what, with me?
  • Pandarus. 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 105
    fair on Friday as Helen is on Sunday. But what care
    I? I care not an she were a black-a-moor; 'tis all one to me.
  • Troilus. Say I she is not fair?
  • Pandarus. 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 110
    I'll tell her the next time I see her: for my part,
    I'll meddle nor make no more i' the matter.
  • Troilus. Pandarus,—
  • Pandarus. Not I.
  • Troilus. Sweet Pandarus,— 115
  • Pandarus. Pray you, speak no more to me: I will leave all as I
    found it, and there an end.

[Exit PANDARUS. An alarum]

  • Troilus. Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds!
    Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair, 120
    When with your blood you daily paint her thus.
    I cannot fight upon this argument;
    It is too starved a subject for my sword.
    But Pandarus,—O gods, how do you plague me!
    I cannot come to Cressid but by Pandar; 125
    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: 130
    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]

  • Aeneas. How now, Prince Troilus! wherefore not afield?
  • Troilus. Because not there: this woman's answer sorts,
    For womanish it is to be from thence.
    What news, AEneas, from the field to-day?
  • Aeneas. That Paris is returned home and hurt. 140
  • Troilus. By whom, AEneas?
  • Aeneas. Troilus, by Menelaus.
  • Troilus. Let Paris bleed; 'tis but a scar to scorn;
    Paris is gored with Menelaus' horn.


  • Aeneas. Hark, what good sport is out of town to-day!
  • Troilus. Better at home, if 'would I might' were 'may.'
    But to the sport abroad: are you bound thither?
  • Aeneas. In all swift haste.
  • Troilus. Come, go we then together. 150



Act I, Scene 2

The Same. A street.



  • Cressida. Who were those went by?
  • Alexander. Queen Hecuba and Helen.
  • Cressida. And whither go they? 155
  • Alexander. 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 moved:
    He chid Andromache and struck his armourer, 160
    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. 165
  • Cressida. What was his cause of anger?
  • Alexander. The noise goes, this: there is among the Greeks
    A lord of Trojan blood, nephew to Hector;
    They call him Ajax.
  • Cressida. Good; and what of him? 170
  • Alexander. They say he is a very man per se,
    And stands alone.
  • Cressida. So do all men, unless they are drunk, sick, or have no legs.
  • Alexander. This man, lady, hath robbed many beasts of their
    particular additions; he is as valiant as the lion, 175
    churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant: a man
    into whom nature hath so crowded humours that his
    valour is crushed 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 180
    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. 185
  • Cressida. But how should this man, that makes
    me smile, make Hector angry?
  • Alexander. They say he yesterday coped Hector in the battle and
    struck him down, the disdain and shame whereof hath
    ever since kept Hector fasting and waking. 190
  • Cressida. Who comes here?
  • Alexander. Madam, your uncle Pandarus.


  • Cressida. Hector's a gallant man.
  • Alexander. As may be in the world, lady. 195
  • Pandarus. What's that? what's that?
  • Cressida. Good morrow, uncle Pandarus.
  • Pandarus. Good morrow, cousin Cressid: what do you talk of?
    Good morrow, Alexander. How do you, cousin? When
    were you at Ilium? 200
  • Cressida. This morning, uncle.
  • Pandarus. What were you talking of when I came? Was Hector
    armed and gone ere ye came to Ilium? Helen was not
    up, was she?
  • Cressida. Hector was gone, but Helen was not up. 205
  • Pandarus. Even so: Hector was stirring early.
  • Cressida. That were we talking of, and of his anger.
  • Pandarus. Was he angry?
  • Cressida. So he says here.
  • Pandarus. True, he was so: I know the cause too: he'll lay 210
    about him to-day, 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.
  • Cressida. What, is he angry too?
  • Pandarus. Who, Troilus? Troilus is the better man of the two. 215
  • Cressida. O Jupiter! there's no comparison.
  • Pandarus. What, not between Troilus and Hector? Do you know a
    man if you see him?
  • Cressida. Ay, if I ever saw him before and knew him.
  • Pandarus. Well, I say Troilus is Troilus. 220
  • Cressida. Then you say as I say; for, I am sure, he is not Hector.
  • Pandarus. No, nor Hector is not Troilus in some degrees.
  • Cressida. 'Tis just to each of them; he is himself.
  • Pandarus. Himself! Alas, poor Troilus! I would he were.
  • Cressida. So he is. 225
  • Pandarus. Condition, I had gone barefoot to India.
  • Cressida. He is not Hector.
  • Pandarus. 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 230
    in her body. No, Hector is not a better man than Troilus.
  • Cressida. Excuse me.
  • Pandarus. He is elder.
  • Cressida. Pardon me, pardon me.
  • Pandarus. Th' other's not come to't; you shall tell me another 235
    tale, when th' other's come to't. Hector shall not
    have his wit this year.
  • Cressida. He shall not need it, if he have his own.
  • Pandarus. Nor his qualities.
  • Cressida. No matter. 240
  • Pandarus. Nor his beauty.
  • Cressida. 'Twould not become him; his own's better.
  • Pandarus. You have no judgment, niece: Helen
    herself swore th' other day, that Troilus, for
    a brown favour—for so 'tis, I must confess,— 245
    not brown neither,—
  • Cressida. No, but brown.
  • Pandarus. 'Faith, to say truth, brown and not brown.
  • Cressida. To say the truth, true and not true.
  • Pandarus. She praised his complexion above Paris. 250
  • Cressida. Why, Paris hath colour enough.
  • Pandarus. So he has.
  • Cressida. Then Troilus should have too much: if she praised
    him above, his complexion is higher than his; he
    having colour enough, and the other higher, is too 255
    flaming a praise for a good complexion. I had as
    lief Helen's golden tongue had commended Troilus for
    a copper nose.
  • Pandarus. I swear to you. I think Helen loves him better than Paris.
  • Cressida. Then she's a merry Greek indeed. 260
  • Pandarus. Nay, I am sure she does. She came to him th' other
    day into the compassed window,—and, you know, he
    has not past three or four hairs on his chin,—
  • Cressida. Indeed, a tapster's arithmetic may soon bring his
    particulars therein to a total. 265
  • Pandarus. Why, he is very young: and yet will he, within
    three pound, lift as much as his brother Hector.
  • Cressida. Is he so young a man and so old a lifter?
  • Pandarus. But to prove to you that Helen loves him: she came
    and puts me her white hand to his cloven chin— 270
  • Cressida. Juno have mercy! how came it cloven?
  • Pandarus. Why, you know 'tis dimpled: I think his smiling
    becomes him better than any man in all Phrygia.
  • Cressida. O, he smiles valiantly.
  • Pandarus. Does he not? 275
  • Cressida. O yes, an 'twere a cloud in autumn.
  • Pandarus. Why, go to, then: but to prove to you that Helen
    loves Troilus,—
  • Cressida. Troilus will stand to the proof, if you'll
    prove it so. 280
  • Pandarus. Troilus! why, he esteems her no more than I esteem
    an addle egg.
  • Cressida. If you love an addle egg as well as you love an idle
    head, you would eat chickens i' the shell.
  • Pandarus. I cannot choose but laugh, to think how she tickled 285
    his chin: indeed, she has a marvellous white hand, I
    must needs confess,—
  • Cressida. Without the rack.
  • Pandarus. And she takes upon her to spy a white hair on his chin.
  • Cressida. Alas, poor chin! many a wart is richer. 290
  • Pandarus. But there was such laughing! Queen Hecuba laughed
    that her eyes ran o'er.
  • Cressida. With mill-stones.
  • Pandarus. And Cassandra laughed.
  • Cressida. But there was more temperate fire under the pot of 295
    her eyes: did her eyes run o'er too?
  • Pandarus. And Hector laughed.
  • Cressida. At what was all this laughing?
  • Pandarus. Marry, at the white hair that Helen spied on Troilus' chin.
  • Cressida. An't had been a green hair, I should have laughed 300
  • Pandarus. They laughed not so much at the hair as at his pretty answer.
  • Cressida. What was his answer?
  • Pandarus. Quoth she, 'Here's but two and fifty hairs on your
    chin, and one of them is white. 305
  • Cressida. This is her question.
  • Pandarus. 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, 310
    my husband? 'The forked one,' quoth he, 'pluck't
    out, and give it him.' But there was such laughing!
    and Helen so blushed, an Paris so chafed, and all the
    rest so laughed, that it passed.
  • Cressida. So let it now; for it has been while going by. 315
  • Pandarus. Well, cousin. I told you a thing yesterday; think on't.
  • Cressida. So I do.
  • Pandarus. I'll be sworn 'tis true; he will weep you, an 'twere
    a man born in April.
  • Cressida. And I'll spring up in his tears, an 'twere a nettle 320
    against May.

[A retreat sounded]

  • Pandarus. 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. 325
  • Cressida. At your pleasure.
  • Pandarus. 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.
  • Cressida. Speak not so loud. 330

[AENEAS passes]

  • Pandarus. 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 anon.

[ANTENOR passes]

  • Cressida. Who's that?
  • Pandarus. That's Antenor: he has a shrewd wit, I can tell you;
    and he's a man good enough, he's one o' the soundest
    judgments in whosoever, and a proper man of person.
    When comes Troilus? I'll show you Troilus anon: if 340
    he see me, you shall see him nod at me.
  • Cressida. Will he give you the nod?
  • Pandarus. You shall see.
  • Cressida. If he do, the rich shall have more.

[HECTOR passes]

  • Pandarus. 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?
  • Cressida. O, a brave man! 350
  • Pandarus. 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! 355
  • Cressida. Be those with swords?
  • Pandarus. Swords! any thing, 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] 360
    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. 365

[HELENUS passes]

  • Cressida. Who's that?
  • Pandarus. That's Helenus. I marvel where Troilus is. That's
    Helenus. I think he went not forth to-day. That's Helenus.
  • Cressida. Can Helenus fight, uncle? 370
  • Pandarus. 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.
  • Cressida. What sneaking fellow comes yonder?

[TROILUS passes]

  • Pandarus. Where? yonder? that's Deiphobus. 'Tis Troilus!
    there's a man, niece! Hem! Brave Troilus! the
    prince of chivalry!
  • Cressida. Peace, for shame, peace!
  • Pandarus. Mark him; note him. O brave Troilus! Look well upon 380
    him, niece: look you how his sword is bloodied, and
    his helm more hacked than Hector's, and how he looks,
    and how he goes! O admirable youth! he ne'er saw
    three and twenty. Go thy way, Troilus, go thy way!
    Had I a sister were a grace, or a daughter a goddess, 385
    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.
  • Cressida. Here come more.

[Forces pass]

  • Pandarus. Asses, fools, dolts! chaff and bran, chaff and bran!
    porridge after meat! I could live and die i' 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 395
    all Greece.
  • Cressida. There is among the Greeks Achilles, a better man than Troilus.
  • Pandarus. Achilles! a drayman, a porter, a very camel.
  • Cressida. Well, well.
  • Pandarus. 'Well, well!' why, have you any discretion? have 400
    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?
  • Cressida. Ay, a minced man: and then to be baked with no date 405
    in the pie, for then the man's date's out.
  • Pandarus. You are such a woman! one knows not at what ward you
  • Cressida. Upon my back, to defend my belly; upon my wit, to
    defend my wiles; upon my secrecy, to defend mine 410
    honesty; my mask, to defend my beauty; and you, to
    defend all these: and at all these wards I lie, at a
    thousand watches.
  • Pandarus. Say one of your watches.
  • Cressida. Nay, I'll watch you for that; and that's one of the 415
    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.
  • Pandarus. You are such another! 420

[Enter Troilus's Boy]

  • Boy. Sir, my lord would instantly speak with you.
  • Pandarus. Where?
  • Boy. At your own house; there he unarms him.
  • Pandarus. Good boy, tell him I come. 425
    [Exit boy]
    I doubt he be hurt. Fare ye well, good niece.
  • Cressida. Adieu, uncle.
  • Pandarus. I'll be with you, niece, by and by.
  • Cressida. To bring, uncle? 430
  • Pandarus. Ay, a token from Troilus.
  • Cressida. By the same token, you are a bawd.
    [Exit PANDARUS]
    Words, vows, gifts, tears, and love's full sacrifice,
    He offers in another's enterprise; 435
    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 beloved knows nought that knows not this: 440
    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: 445
    Then though my heart's content firm love doth bear,
    Nothing of that shall from mine eyes appear.



Act I, Scene 3

The Grecian camp. Before Agamemnon’s tent.


[Sennet. Enter AGAMEMNON, NESTOR, ULYSSES,] [p]MENELAUS, and others]

  • Agamemnon. Princes,
    What grief hath set the jaundice on your cheeks?
    The ample proposition that hope makes
    In all designs begun on earth below
    Fails in the promised largeness: cheques and disasters 455
    Grow in the veins of actions highest rear'd,
    As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
    Infect the sound pine and divert his grain
    Tortive and errant from his course of growth.
    Nor, princes, is it matter new to us 460
    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, 465
    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 470
    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 affined and kin: 475
    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. 480
  • Nestor. 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 485
    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, 490
    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 495
    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, 500
    And flies fled under shade, why, then the thing of courage
    As roused with rage with rage doth sympathize,
    And with an accent tuned in selfsame key
    Retorts to chiding fortune.
  • Ulysses. Agamemnon, 505
    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 To which, 510
    most mighty for thy place and sway,
    [To NESTOR]
    And thou most reverend for thy stretch'd-out life
    I give to both your speeches, which were such 515
    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 520
    To his experienced tongue, yet let it please both,
    Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.
  • Agamemnon. Speak, prince of Ithaca; and be't of less expect
    That matter needless, of importless burden,
    Divide thy lips, than we are confident, 525
    When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws,
    We shall hear music, wit and oracle.
  • Ulysses. Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
    And the great Hector's sword had lack'd a master,
    But for these instances. 530
    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, 535
    What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
    The 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, 540
    Office and custom, in all line of order;
    And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
    In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
    Amidst the other; whose medicinable eye
    Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil, 545
    And posts, like the commandment of a king,
    Sans cheque 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! 550
    Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors,
    Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
    The unity and married calm of states
    Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shaked,
    Which is the ladder to all high designs, 555
    Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,
    Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
    Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
    The primogenitive and due of birth,
    Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels, 560
    But by degree, stand in authentic place?
    Take but degree away, untune that string,
    And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
    In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
    Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores 565
    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, 570
    Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
    Then every thing includes itself in power,
    Power into will, will into appetite;
    And appetite, an universal wolf,
    So doubly seconded with will and power, 575
    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 580
    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 every step,
    Exampled by the first pace that is sick 585
    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. 590
  • Nestor. Most wisely hath Ulysses here discover'd
    The fever whereof all our power is sick.
  • Agamemnon. The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
    What is the remedy?
  • Ulysses. The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns 595
    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 600
    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, 605
    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 610
    He acts thy greatness in: and when he speaks,
    'Tis like a chime a-mending; with terms unsquared,
    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, 615
    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 620
    Of parallels, as like as 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 625
    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 630
    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, 635
    Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
    As stuff for these two to make paradoxes.
  • Nestor. And in the imitation of these twain—
    Who, as Ulysses says, opinion crowns
    With an imperial voice—many are infect. 640
    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, 645
    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.
  • Ulysses. They tax our policy, and call it cowardice, 650
    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 655
    Of their observant toil the enemies' weight,—
    Why, this hath not a finger's dignity:
    They call this bed-work, mappery, closet-war;
    So that the ram that batters down the wall,
    For the great swing and rudeness of his poise, 660
    They place before his hand that made the engine,
    Or those that with the fineness of their souls
    By reason guide his execution.
  • Nestor. Let this be granted, and Achilles' horse
    Makes many Thetis' sons. 665

[A tucket]

  • Agamemnon. What trumpet? look, Menelaus.
  • Menelaus. From Troy.

[Enter AENEAS]

  • Agamemnon. What would you 'fore our tent? 670
  • Aeneas. Is this great Agamemnon's tent, I pray you?
  • Agamemnon. Even this.
  • Aeneas. May one, that is a herald and a prince,
    Do a fair message to his kingly ears?
  • Agamemnon. With surety stronger than Achilles' arm 675
    'Fore all the Greekish heads, which with one voice
    Call Agamemnon head and general.
  • Aeneas. Fair leave and large security. How may
    A stranger to those most imperial looks
    Know them from eyes of other mortals? 680
  • Agamemnon. How!
  • Aeneas. Ay;
    I ask, that I might waken reverence,
    And bid the cheek be ready with a blush
    Modest as morning when she coldly eyes 685
    The youthful Phoebus:
    Which is that god in office, guiding men?
    Which is the high and mighty Agamemnon?
  • Agamemnon. This Trojan scorns us; or the men of Troy
    Are ceremonious courtiers. 690
  • Aeneas. 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, 695
    Nothing so full of heart. But peace, AEneas,
    Peace, Trojan; lay thy finger on thy lips!
    The worthiness of praise distains his worth,
    If that the praised himself bring the praise forth:
    But what the repining enemy commends, 700
    That breath fame blows; that praise, sole sure,
  • Agamemnon. Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself AEneas?
  • Aeneas. Ay, Greek, that is my name.
  • Agamemnon. What's your affair I pray you? 705
  • Aeneas. Sir, pardon; 'tis for Agamemnon's ears.
  • Agamemnon. He hears naught privately that comes from Troy.
  • Aeneas. Nor I from Troy come not to whisper him:
    I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
    To set his sense on the attentive bent, 710
    And then to speak.
  • Agamemnon. Speak frankly as the wind;
    It is not Agamemnon's sleeping hour:
    That thou shalt know. Trojan, he is awake,
    He tells thee so himself. 715
  • Aeneas. 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.
    [Trumpet sounds] 720
    We have, great Agamemnon, here in Troy
    A prince call'd Hector,—Priam is his father,—
    Who in this dull and long-continued truce
    Is rusty grown: he bade me take a trumpet,
    And to this purpose speak. Kings, princes, lords! 725
    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, 730
    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 Trojans and of Greeks,
    Shall make it good, or do his best to do it, 735
    He hath a lady, wiser, fairer, truer,
    Than ever Greek did compass in his arms,
    And will to-morrow with his trumpet call
    Midway between your tents and walls of Troy,
    To rouse a Grecian that is true in love: 740
    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.
  • Agamemnon. This shall be told our lovers, Lord AEneas; 745
    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, 750
    That one meets Hector; if none else, I am he.
  • Nestor. 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 host
    One noble man that hath one spark of fire, 755
    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 grandam and as chaste 760
    As may be in the world: his youth in flood,
    I'll prove this truth with my three drops of blood.
  • Aeneas. Now heavens forbid such scarcity of youth!
  • Ulysses. Amen.
  • Agamemnon. Fair Lord AEneas, let me touch your hand; 765
    To our pavilion shall I lead you, sir.
    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. 770

[Exeunt all but ULYSSES and NESTOR]

  • Ulysses. Nestor!
  • Nestor. What says Ulysses?
  • Ulysses. I have a young conception in my brain;
    Be you my time to bring it to some shape. 775
  • Nestor. What is't?
  • Ulysses. 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, 780
    Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil,
    To overbulk us all.
  • Nestor. Well, and how?
  • Ulysses. This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
    However it is spread in general name, 785
    Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
  • Nestor. 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 790
    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.
  • Ulysses. And wake him to the answer, think you? 795
  • Nestor. Yes, 'tis most meet: whom may you else oppose,
    That can from Hector bring his honour off,
    If not Achilles? Though't be a sportful combat,
    Yet in the trial much opinion dwells;
    For here the Trojans taste our dear'st repute 800
    With their finest palate: and trust to me, Ulysses,
    Our imputation shall be oddly poised
    In this wild action; for the success,
    Although particular, shall give a scantling
    Of good or bad unto the general; 805
    And in such indexes, although small pricks
    To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
    The baby figure of the giant mass
    Of things to come at large. It is supposed
    He that meets Hector issues from our choice 810
    And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
    Makes merit her election, and doth boil,
    As 'twere from us all, a man distill'd
    Out of our virtues; who miscarrying,
    What heart receives from hence the conquering part, 815
    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.
  • Ulysses. Give pardon to my speech: 820
    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. Do not consent 825
    That ever Hector and Achilles meet;
    For both our honour and our shame in this
    Are dogg'd with two strange followers.
  • Nestor. I see them not with my old eyes: what are they?
  • Ulysses. What glory our Achilles shares from Hector, 830
    Were he not proud, we all should share with him:
    But he already is too insolent;
    And we 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, 835
    Why then, we did our main opinion crush
    In taint of our best man. No, make a lottery;
    And, by device, let blockish Ajax draw
    The sort to fight with Hector: among ourselves
    Give him allowance for the better man; 840
    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, 845
    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.
  • Nestor. Ulysses, 850
    Now I begin to relish thy advice;
    And I will give a taste of it 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. 855