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Troilus and Cressida

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Act III, Scene 3

The Grecian camp. Before Achilles’ tent.



  • Calchas. Now, princes, for the service I have done you,
    The advantage of the time prompts me aloud
    To call for recompense. Appear it to your mind
    That, through the sight I bear in things to love,
    I have abandon'd Troy, left my possession, 1870
    Incurr'd a traitor's name; exposed myself,
    From certain and possess'd conveniences,
    To doubtful fortunes; sequestering from me all
    That time, acquaintance, custom and condition
    Made tame and most familiar to my nature, 1875
    And here, to do you service, am become
    As new into the world, strange, unacquainted:
    I do beseech you, as in way of taste,
    To give me now a little benefit,
    Out of those many register'd in promise, 1880
    Which, you say, live to come in my behalf.
  • Agamemnon. What wouldst thou of us, Trojan? make demand.
  • Calchas. You have a Trojan prisoner, call'd Antenor,
    Yesterday took: Troy holds him very dear.
    Oft have you—often have you thanks therefore— 1885
    Desired my Cressid in right great exchange,
    Whom Troy hath still denied: but this Antenor,
    I know, is such a wrest in their affairs
    That their negotiations all must slack,
    Wanting his manage; and they will almost 1890
    Give us a prince of blood, a son of Priam,
    In change of him: let him be sent, great princes,
    And he shall buy my daughter; and her presence
    Shall quite strike off all service I have done,
    In most accepted pain. 1895
  • Agamemnon. Let Diomedes bear him,
    And bring us Cressid hither: Calchas shall have
    What he requests of us. Good Diomed,
    Furnish you fairly for this interchange:
    Withal bring word if Hector will to-morrow 1900
    Be answer'd in his challenge: Ajax is ready.
  • Diomedes. This shall I undertake; and 'tis a burden
    Which I am proud to bear.


[Enter ACHILLES and PATROCLUS, before their tent]

  • Ulysses. Achilles stands i' the entrance of his tent:
    Please it our general to pass strangely by him,
    As if he were forgot; and, princes all,
    Lay negligent and loose regard upon him:
    I will come last. 'Tis like he'll question me 1910
    Why such unplausive eyes are bent on him:
    If so, I have derision medicinable,
    To use between your strangeness and his pride,
    Which his own will shall have desire to drink:
    It may be good: pride hath no other glass 1915
    To show itself but pride, for supple knees
    Feed arrogance and are the proud man's fees.
  • Agamemnon. We'll execute your purpose, and put on
    A form of strangeness as we pass along:
    So do each lord, and either greet him not, 1920
    Or else disdainfully, which shall shake him more
    Than if not look'd on. I will lead the way.
  • Achilles. What, comes the general to speak with me?
    You know my mind, I'll fight no more 'gainst Troy.
  • Agamemnon. What says Achilles? would he aught with us? 1925
  • Nestor. Would you, my lord, aught with the general?



  • Achilles. What, does the cuckold scorn me?
  • Ajax. How now, Patroclus! 1935
  • Ajax. Ay, and good next day too.


  • Achilles. What mean these fellows? Know they not Achilles?
  • Patroclus. They pass by strangely: they were used to bend
    To send their smiles before them to Achilles;
    To come as humbly as they used to creep
    To holy altars. 1945
  • Achilles. What, am I poor of late?
    'Tis certain, greatness, once fall'n out with fortune,
    Must fall out with men too: what the declined is
    He shall as soon read in the eyes of others
    As feel in his own fall; for men, like butterflies, 1950
    Show not their mealy wings but to the summer,
    And not a man, for being simply man,
    Hath any honour, but honour for those honours
    That are without him, as place, riches, favour,
    Prizes of accident as oft as merit: 1955
    Which when they fall, as being slippery standers,
    The love that lean'd on them as slippery too,
    Do one pluck down another and together
    Die in the fall. But 'tis not so with me:
    Fortune and I are friends: I do enjoy 1960
    At ample point all that I did possess,
    Save these men's looks; who do, methinks, find out
    Something not worth in me such rich beholding
    As they have often given. Here is Ulysses;
    I'll interrupt his reading. 1965
    How now Ulysses!
  • Ulysses. A strange fellow here
    Writes me: 'That man, how dearly ever parted, 1970
    How much in having, or without or in,
    Cannot make boast to have that which he hath,
    Nor feels not what he owes, but by reflection;
    As when his virtues shining upon others
    Heat them and they retort that heat again 1975
    To the first giver.'
  • Achilles. This is not strange, Ulysses.
    The beauty that is borne here in the face
    The bearer knows not, but commends itself
    To others' eyes; nor doth the eye itself, 1980
    That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself,
    Not going from itself; but eye to eye opposed
    Salutes each other with each other's form;
    For speculation turns not to itself,
    Till it hath travell'd and is mirror'd there 1985
    Where it may see itself. This is not strange at all.
  • Ulysses. I do not strain at the position,—
    It is familiar,—but at the author's drift;
    Who, in his circumstance, expressly proves
    That no man is the lord of any thing, 1990
    Though in and of him there be much consisting,
    Till he communicate his parts to others:
    Nor doth he of himself know them for aught
    Till he behold them form'd in the applause
    Where they're extended; who, like an arch, 1995
    The voice again, or, like a gate of steel
    Fronting the sun, receives and renders back
    His figure and his heat. I was much wrapt in this;
    And apprehended here immediately 2000
    The unknown Ajax.
    Heavens, what a man is there! a very horse,
    That has he knows not what. Nature, what things there are
    Most abject in regard and dear in use!
    What things again most dear in the esteem 2005
    And poor in worth! Now shall we see to-morrow—
    An act that very chance doth throw upon him—
    Ajax renown'd. O heavens, what some men do,
    While some men leave to do!
    How some men creep in skittish fortune's hall, 2010
    Whiles others play the idiots in her eyes!
    How one man eats into another's pride,
    While pride is fasting in his wantonness!
    To see these Grecian lords!—why, even already
    They clap the lubber Ajax on the shoulder, 2015
    As if his foot were on brave Hector's breast
    And great Troy shrieking.
  • Achilles. I do believe it; for they pass'd by me
    As misers do by beggars, neither gave to me
    Good word nor look: what, are my deeds forgot? 2020
  • Ulysses. Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
    Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
    A great-sized monster of ingratitudes:
    Those scraps are good deeds past; which are devour'd
    As fast as they are made, forgot as soon 2025
    As done: perseverance, dear my lord,
    Keeps honour bright: to have done is to hang
    Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
    In monumental mockery. Take the instant way;
    For honour travels in a strait so narrow, 2030
    Where one but goes abreast: keep then the path;
    For emulation hath a thousand sons
    That one by one pursue: if you give way,
    Or hedge aside from the direct forthright,
    Like to an enter'd tide, they all rush by 2035
    And leave you hindmost;
    Or like a gallant horse fall'n in first rank,
    Lie there for pavement to the abject rear,
    O'er-run and trampled on: then what they do in present,
    Though less than yours in past, must o'ertop yours; 2040
    For time is like a fashionable host
    That slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand,
    And with his arms outstretch'd, as he would fly,
    Grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles,
    And farewell goes out sighing. O, let not 2045
    virtue seek
    Remuneration for the thing it was;
    For beauty, wit,
    High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
    Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all 2050
    To envious and calumniating time.
    One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,
    That all with one consent praise new-born gawds,
    Though they are made and moulded of things past,
    And give to dust that is a little gilt 2055
    More laud than gilt o'er-dusted.
    The present eye praises the present object.
    Then marvel not, thou great and complete man,
    That all the Greeks begin to worship Ajax;
    Since things in motion sooner catch the eye 2060
    Than what not stirs. The cry went once on thee,
    And still it might, and yet it may again,
    If thou wouldst not entomb thyself alive
    And case thy reputation in thy tent;
    Whose glorious deeds, but in these fields of late, 2065
    Made emulous missions 'mongst the gods themselves
    And drave great Mars to faction.
  • Achilles. Of this my privacy
    I have strong reasons.
  • Ulysses. But 'gainst your privacy 2070
    The reasons are more potent and heroical:
    'Tis known, Achilles, that you are in love
    With one of Priam's daughters.
  • Ulysses. Is that a wonder? 2075
    The providence that's in a watchful state
    Knows almost every grain of Plutus' gold,
    Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive deeps,
    Keeps place with thought and almost, like the gods,
    Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles. 2080
    There is a mystery—with whom relation
    Durst never meddle—in the soul of state;
    Which hath an operation more divine
    Than breath or pen can give expressure to:
    All the commerce that you have had with Troy 2085
    As perfectly is ours as yours, my lord;
    And better would it fit Achilles much
    To throw down Hector than Polyxena:
    But it must grieve young Pyrrhus now at home,
    When fame shall in our islands sound her trump, 2090
    And all the Greekish girls shall tripping sing,
    'Great Hector's sister did Achilles win,
    But our great Ajax bravely beat down him.'
    Farewell, my lord: I as your lover speak;
    The fool slides o'er the ice that you should break. 2095


  • Patroclus. To this effect, Achilles, have I moved you:
    A woman impudent and mannish grown
    Is not more loathed than an effeminate man
    In time of action. I stand condemn'd for this; 2100
    They think my little stomach to the war
    And your great love to me restrains you thus:
    Sweet, rouse yourself; and the weak wanton Cupid
    Shall from your neck unloose his amorous fold,
    And, like a dew-drop from the lion's mane, 2105
    Be shook to air.
  • Achilles. Shall Ajax fight with Hector?
  • Patroclus. Ay, and perhaps receive much honour by him.
  • Achilles. I see my reputation is at stake
    My fame is shrewdly gored. 2110
  • Patroclus. O, then, beware;
    Those wounds heal ill that men do give themselves:
    Omission to do what is necessary
    Seals a commission to a blank of danger;
    And danger, like an ague, subtly taints 2115
    Even then when we sit idly in the sun.
  • Achilles. Go call Thersites hither, sweet Patroclus:
    I'll send the fool to Ajax and desire him
    To invite the Trojan lords after the combat
    To see us here unarm'd: I have a woman's longing, 2120
    An appetite that I am sick withal,
    To see great Hector in his weeds of peace,
    To talk with him and to behold his visage,
    Even to my full of view.
    [Enter THERSITES] 2125
    A labour saved!
  • Thersites. Ajax goes up and down the field, asking for himself.
  • Thersites. He must fight singly to-morrow with Hector, and is so
    prophetically proud of an heroical cudgelling that he
    raves in saying nothing.
  • Thersites. Why, he stalks up and down like a peacock,—a stride 2135
    and a stand: ruminates like an hostess that hath no
    arithmetic but her brain to set down her reckoning:
    bites his lip with a politic regard, as who should
    say 'There were wit in this head, an 'twould out;'
    and so there is, but it lies as coldly in him as fire 2140
    in a flint, which will not show without knocking.
    The man's undone forever; for if Hector break not his
    neck i' the combat, he'll break 't himself in
    vain-glory. He knows not me: I said 'Good morrow,
    Ajax;' and he replies 'Thanks, Agamemnon.' What think 2145
    you of this man that takes me for the general? He's
    grown a very land-fish, language-less, a monster.
    A plague of opinion! a man may wear it on both
    sides, like a leather jerkin.
  • Achilles. Thou must be my ambassador to him, Thersites. 2150
  • Thersites. Who, I? why, he'll answer nobody; he professes not
    answering: speaking is for beggars; he wears his
    tongue in's arms. I will put on his presence: let
    Patroclus make demands to me, you shall see the
    pageant of Ajax. 2155
  • Achilles. To him, Patroclus; tell him I humbly desire the
    valiant Ajax to invite the most valorous Hector
    to come unarmed to my tent, and to procure
    safe-conduct for his person of the magnanimous
    and most illustrious six-or-seven-times-honoured 2160
    captain-general of the Grecian army, Agamemnon,
    et cetera. Do this.
  • Patroclus. I come from the worthy Achilles,— 2165
  • Patroclus. Who most humbly desires you to invite Hector to his tent,—
  • Patroclus. And to procure safe-conduct from Agamemnon.
  • Thersites. God b' wi' you, with all my heart.
  • Thersites. If to-morrow be a fair day, by eleven o'clock it will
    go one way or other: howsoever, he shall pay for me
    ere he has me.
  • Thersites. Fare you well, with all my heart. 2180
  • Achilles. Why, but he is not in this tune, is he?
  • Thersites. No, but he's out o' tune thus. What music will be in
    him when Hector has knocked out his brains, I know
    not; but, I am sure, none, unless the fiddler Apollo
    get his sinews to make catlings on. 2185
  • Achilles. Come, thou shalt bear a letter to him straight.
  • Thersites. Let me bear another to his horse; for that's the more
    capable creature.
  • Achilles. My mind is troubled, like a fountain stirr'd;
    And I myself see not the bottom of it. 2190


  • Thersites. Would the fountain of your mind were clear again,
    that I might water an ass at it! I had rather be a
    tick in a sheep than such a valiant ignorance.