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Troilus and Cressida

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Act II, Scene 3

The Grecian camp. Before Achilles’ tent.


[Enter THERSITES, solus]

  • Thersites. How now, Thersites! what lost in the labyrinth of 1215
    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 railed at me. 'Sfoot, I'll learn to
    conjure and raise devils, but I'll see some issue of 1220
    my spiteful execrations. Then there's Achilles, a
    rare enginer! 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, 1225
    Mercury, lose all the serpentine craft of thy
    caduceus, if ye take not that little, little less
    than little wit from them that they have! which
    short-armed ignorance itself knows is so abundant
    scarce, it will not in circumvention deliver a fly 1230
    from a spider, without drawing their massy irons and
    cutting the web. After this, the vengeance on the
    whole camp! or rather, the bone-ache! for that,
    methinks, is the curse dependent on those that war
    for a placket. I have said my prayers and devil Envy 1235
    say Amen. What ho! my Lord Achilles!


  • Patroclus. Who's there? Thersites! Good Thersites, come in and rail.
  • Thersites. If I could have remembered a gilt counterfeit, thou
    wouldst not have slipped out of my contemplation: but 1240
    it is no matter; thyself upon thyself! The common
    curse of mankind, folly and ignorance, be thine in
    great revenue! heaven bless thee from a tutor, and
    discipline come not near thee! Let thy blood be thy
    direction till thy death! then if she that lays thee 1245
    out says thou art a fair corse, I'll be sworn and
    sworn upon't she never shrouded any but lazars.
    Amen. Where's Achilles?
  • Patroclus. What, art thou devout? wast thou in prayer?


  • Achilles. Where, where? Art thou come? why, my cheese, my
    digestion, why hast thou not served thyself in to 1255
    my table so many meals? Come, what's Agamemnon?
  • Thersites. Thy commander, Achilles. Then tell me, Patroclus,
    what's Achilles?
  • Patroclus. Thy lord, Thersites: then tell me, I pray thee,
    what's thyself? 1260
  • Thersites. Thy knower, Patroclus: then tell me, Patroclus,
    what art thou?
  • Thersites. I'll decline the whole question. Agamemnon commands 1265
    Achilles; Achilles is my lord; I am Patroclus'
    knower, and Patroclus is a fool.
  • Achilles. He is a privileged man. Proceed, Thersites. 1270
  • Thersites. Agamemnon is a fool; Achilles is a fool; Thersites
    is a fool, and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a fool.
  • Thersites. Agamemnon is a fool to offer to command Achilles;
    Achilles is a fool to be commanded of Agamemnon; 1275
    Thersites is a fool to serve such a fool, and
    Patroclus is a fool positive.
  • Thersites. Make that demand of the prover. It suffices me thou
    art. Look you, who comes here? 1280
  • Achilles. Patroclus, I'll speak with nobody.
    Come in with me, Thersites.


  • Thersites. Here is such patchery, such juggling and such
    knavery! all the argument is a cuckold and a 1285
    whore; a good quarrel to draw emulous factions
    and bleed to death upon. Now, the dry serpigo on
    the subject! and war and lechery confound all!



  • Patroclus. Within his tent; but ill disposed, my lord.
  • Agamemnon. Let it be known to him that we are here.
    He shent our messengers; and we lay by
    Our appertainments, visiting of him: 1295
    Let him be told so; lest perchance he think
    We dare not move the question of our place,
    Or know not what we are.


  • Ulysses. We saw him at the opening of his tent:
    He is not sick.
  • Ajax. Yes, lion-sick, sick of proud heart: you may call it
    melancholy, if you will favour the man; but, by my
    head, 'tis pride: but why, why? let him show us the 1305
    cause. A word, my lord.

[Takes AGAMEMNON aside]

  • Nestor. What moves Ajax thus to bay at him?
  • Ulysses. Achilles hath inveigled his fool from him.
  • Nestor. Then will Ajax lack matter, if he have lost his argument.
  • Ulysses. No, you see, he is his argument that has his
    argument, Achilles.
  • Nestor. All the better; their fraction is more our wish than 1315
    their faction: but it was a strong composure a fool
    could disunite.
  • Ulysses. The amity that wisdom knits not, folly may easily
    untie. Here comes Patroclus.

[Re-enter PATROCLUS]

  • Nestor. No Achilles with him.
  • Ulysses. The elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy:
    his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure.
  • Patroclus. Achilles bids me say, he is much sorry,
    If any thing more than your sport and pleasure 1325
    Did move your greatness and this noble state
    To call upon him; he hopes it is no other
    But for your health and your digestion sake,
    And after-dinner's breath.
  • Agamemnon. Hear you, Patroclus: 1330
    We are too well acquainted with these answers:
    But his evasion, wing'd thus swift with scorn,
    Cannot outfly our apprehensions.
    Much attribute he hath, and much the reason
    Why we ascribe it to him; yet all his virtues, 1335
    Not virtuously on his own part beheld,
    Do in our eyes begin to lose their gloss,
    Yea, like fair fruit in an unwholesome dish,
    Are like to rot untasted. Go and tell him,
    We come to speak with him; and you shall not sin, 1340
    If you do say we think him over-proud
    And under-honest, in self-assumption greater
    Than in the note of judgment; and worthier
    than himself
    Here tend the savage strangeness he puts on, 1345
    Disguise the holy strength of their command,
    And underwrite in an observing kind
    His humorous predominance; yea, watch
    His pettish lunes, his ebbs, his flows, as if
    The passage and whole carriage of this action 1350
    Rode on his tide. Go tell him this, and add,
    That if he overhold his price so much,
    We'll none of him; but let him, like an engine
    Not portable, lie under this report:
    'Bring action hither, this cannot go to war: 1355
    A stirring dwarf we do allowance give
    Before a sleeping giant.' Tell him so.
  • Patroclus. I shall; and bring his answer presently.


  • Agamemnon. In second voice we'll not be satisfied; 1360
    We come to speak with him. Ulysses, enter you.


  • Ajax. What is he more than another?
  • Agamemnon. No more than what he thinks he is.
  • Ajax. Is he so much? Do you not think he thinks himself a 1365
    better man than I am?
  • Ajax. Will you subscribe his thought, and say he is?
  • Agamemnon. No, noble Ajax; you are as strong, as valiant, as
    wise, no less noble, much more gentle, and altogether 1370
    more tractable.
  • Ajax. Why should a man be proud? How doth pride grow? I
    know not what pride is.
  • Agamemnon. Your mind is the clearer, Ajax, and your virtues the
    fairer. He that is proud eats up himself: pride is 1375
    his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle;
    and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours
    the deed in the praise.
  • Ajax. I do hate a proud man, as I hate the engendering of toads.
  • Nestor. Yet he loves himself: is't not strange? 1380


[Re-enter ULYSSES]

  • Ulysses. Achilles will not to the field to-morrow.
  • Ulysses. He doth rely on none, 1385
    But carries on the stream of his dispose
    Without observance or respect of any,
    In will peculiar and in self-admission.
  • Agamemnon. Why will he not upon our fair request
    Untent his person and share the air with us? 1390
  • Ulysses. Things small as nothing, for request's sake only,
    He makes important: possess'd he is with greatness,
    And speaks not to himself but with a pride
    That quarrels at self-breath: imagined worth
    Holds in his blood such swoln and hot discourse 1395
    That 'twixt his mental and his active parts
    Kingdom'd Achilles in commotion rages
    And batters down himself: what should I say?
    He is so plaguy proud that the death-tokens of it
    Cry 'No recovery.'AGAMEMNON. Let Ajax go to him. 1400
    Dear lord, go you and greet him in his tent:
    'Tis said he holds you well, and will be led
    At your request a little from himself.
  • Ulysses. O Agamemnon, let it not be so!
    We'll consecrate the steps that Ajax makes 1405
    When they go from Achilles: shall the proud lord
    That bastes his arrogance with his own seam
    And never suffers matter of the world
    Enter his thoughts, save such as do revolve
    And ruminate himself, shall he be worshipp'd 1410
    Of that we hold an idol more than he?
    No, this thrice worthy and right valiant lord
    Must not so stale his palm, nobly acquired;
    Nor, by my will, assubjugate his merit,
    As amply titled as Achilles is, 1415
    By going to Achilles:
    That were to enlard his fat already pride
    And add more coals to Cancer when he burns
    With entertaining great Hyperion.
    This lord go to him! Jupiter forbid, 1420
    And say in thunder 'Achilles go to him.'
  • Nestor. [Aside to DIOMEDES] O, this is well; he rubs the
    vein of him.
  • Diomedes. [Aside to NESTOR] And how his silence drinks up
    this applause! 1425
  • Ajax. If I go to him, with my armed fist I'll pash him o'er the face.
  • Ajax. An a' be proud with me, I'll pheeze his pride:
    Let me go to him.
  • Ulysses. Not for the worth that hangs upon our quarrel. 1430
  • Ajax. A paltry, insolent fellow!
  • Nestor. How he describes himself!
  • Ajax. Can he not be sociable?
  • Ulysses. The raven chides blackness.
  • Ajax. I'll let his humours blood. 1435
  • Agamemnon. He will be the physician that should be the patient.
  • Ajax. An all men were o' my mind,—
  • Ulysses. Wit would be out of fashion.
  • Ajax. A' should not bear it so, a' should eat swords first:
    shall pride carry it? 1440
  • Nestor. An 'twould, you'ld carry half.
  • Ulysses. A' would have ten shares.
  • Ajax. I will knead him; I'll make him supple.
  • Nestor. He's not yet through warm: force him with praises:
    pour in, pour in; his ambition is dry. 1445
  • Ulysses. [To AGAMEMNON] My lord, you feed too much on this dislike.
  • Nestor. Our noble general, do not do so.
  • Diomedes. You must prepare to fight without Achilles.
  • Ulysses. Why, 'tis this naming of him does him harm.
    Here is a man—but 'tis before his face; 1450
    I will be silent.
  • Nestor. Wherefore should you so?
    He is not emulous, as Achilles is.
  • Ulysses. Know the whole world, he is as valiant.
  • Ajax. A whoreson dog, that shall pelter thus with us! 1455
    Would he were a Trojan!
  • Nestor. What a vice were it in Ajax now,—
  • Ulysses. Ay, or surly borne,— 1460
  • Diomedes. Or strange, or self-affected!
  • Ulysses. Thank the heavens, lord, thou art of sweet composure;
    Praise him that got thee, she that gave thee suck:
    Famed be thy tutor, and thy parts of nature
    Thrice famed, beyond all erudition: 1465
    But he that disciplined thy arms to fight,
    Let Mars divide eternity in twain,
    And give him half: and, for thy vigour,
    Bull-bearing Milo his addition yield
    To sinewy Ajax. I will not praise thy wisdom, 1470
    Which, like a bourn, a pale, a shore, confines
    Thy spacious and dilated parts: here's Nestor;
    Instructed by the antiquary times,
    He must, he is, he cannot but be wise:
    Put pardon, father Nestor, were your days 1475
    As green as Ajax' and your brain so temper'd,
    You should not have the eminence of him,
    But be as Ajax.
  • Ajax. Shall I call you father?
  • Ulysses. There is no tarrying here; the hart Achilles
    Keeps thicket. Please it our great general
    To call together all his state of war;
    Fresh kings are come to Troy: to-morrow 1485
    We must with all our main of power stand fast:
    And here's a lord,—come knights from east to west,
    And cull their flower, Ajax shall cope the best.
  • Agamemnon. Go we to council. Let Achilles sleep:
    Light boats sail swift, though greater hulks draw deep. 1490