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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene III.

Troilus and Cressida

The Grecian Camp.


Cal.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 come,

I have abandon’d Troy, left my possession,

Incurr’d a traitor’s name; expos’d 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;

And here, to do you service, have 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,

Which, you say, live to come in my behalf,

Agam.What wouldst thou of us, Trojan? make demand.

Cal.You have a Trojan prisoner, call’d Antenor,

Yesterday took: Troy holds him very dear.

Oft have you—often have you thanks therefore—

Desir’d 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 negociations all must slack,

Wanting his manage; and they will almost

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.

Agam.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

Be answer’d in his challenge: Ajax is ready.

Dio.This shall I undertake; and ’tis a burden

Which I am proud to bear.[Exeunt DIOMEDES and CALCHAS.

Enter ACHILLES and PATROCLUS, before their tent.

Ulyss.Achilles stands in 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

Why such unplausive eyes are bent on him:

If so, I have derision med’cinable

To use between your strangeness and his pride,

Which his own will shall have desire to drink.

It may do good: pride hath no other glass

To show itself but pride, for supple knees

Feed arrogance and are the poor man’s fees.

Agam.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,

Or else disdainfully, which shall shake him more

Than if not look’d on. I will lead the way.

Achil.What! comes the general to speak with me?

You know my mind; I’ll fight no more ’gainst Troy.

Agam.What says Achilles? would he aught with us?

Nest.Would you, my lord, aught with the general?


Nest.Nothing, my lord.

Agam.The better.[Exeunt AGAMEMNON and NESTOR.

Achil.Good day, good day.

Men.How do you? how do you?[Exit.

Achil.What! does the cuckold scorn me?

Ajax.How now, Patroclus?

Achil.Good morrow, Ajax.


Achil.Good morrow.

Ajax.Ay, and good next day too.[Exit.

Achil.What mean these fellows? Know they not Achilles?

Patr.They pass by strangely: they were us’d to bend,

To send their smiles before them to Achilles;

To come as humbly as they us’d to creep

To holy altars.

Achil.What! am I poor of late?

’Tis certain, greatness, once fall’n out with fortune,

Must fall out with men too: what the declin’d is

He shall as soon read in the eyes of others

As feel in his own fall; for men, like butterflies;

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 places, riches, and favour,

Prizes of accident as oft as merit:

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

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.

How now, Ulysses!

Ulyss.Now, great Thetis’ son!

Achil.What are you reading?

Ulyss.A strange fellow here

Writes me,

That man, how dearly ever parted,

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

To the first giver.

Achil.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—

That most pure spirit of sense—behold itself,

Not going from itself; but eye to eye oppos’d

Salutes each other with each other’s form;

For speculation turns not to itself

Till it hath travell’d and is mirror’d there

Where it may see itself. This is not strange at all.

Ulyss.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—

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, reverberates

The voice again, or, like a gate of steel

Fronting the sun, receives and renders back

His figure and his heat. I was much rapt in this;

And apprehended here immediately

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

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,

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,

As if his foot were on brave Hector’s breast,

And great Troy shrinking.

Achil.I do believe it; for they pass’d by me

As misers do by beggars, neither gave to me

Good word or look: what! are my deeds forgot?

Ulyss.Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,

Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,

A great-siz’d monster of ingratitudes:

Those scraps are good deeds past; which are devour’d

As fast as they are made, forgot as soon

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

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

And leave you hindmost;

Or, like a gallant horse fall’n in first rank,

Lie there for pavement to the abject rear,

O’errun and trampled on: then what they do in present,

Though less than yours in past, must o’ertop yours;

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 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

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

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

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,

Made emulous missions ’mongst the gods themselves,

And drave great Mars to faction.

Achil.Of this my privacy

I have strong reasons.

Ulyss.But ’gainst your privacy

The reasons are more potent and heroical.

’Tis known, Achilles, that you are in love

With one of Priam’s daughters.

Achil.Ha! known!

Ulyss.Is that a wonder?

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.

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

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,

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.[Exit.

Patr.To this effect, Achilles, have I mov’d you.

A woman impudent and mannish grown

Is not more loath’d than an effeminate man

In time of action. I stand condemn’d for this:

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,

Be shook to air.

Achil.Shall Ajax fight with Hector?

Patr.Ay; and perhaps receive much honour by him.

Achil.I see my reputation is at stake;

My fame is shrewdly gor’d.

Patr.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

Even then when we sit idly in the sun.

Achil.Go call Thersites hither, sweet Patroclus:

I’ll send the fool to Ajax and desire him

T’ invite the Trojan lords after the combat

To see us here unarmed. I have a woman’s longing,

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. A labour sav’d!


Ther.A wonder!


Ther.Ajax goes up and down the field, asking for himself.

Achil.How so?

Ther.He must fight singly to-morrow with Hector, and is so prophetically proud of an heroical cudgelling that he raves in saying nothing.

Achil.How can that be?

Ther.Why, he stalks up and down like a peacock, a stride and a stand; ruminates like a 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 in a flint, which will not show without knocking. The man’s undone for ever; for if Hector break not his neck i’ the combat, he’ll break ’t himself in vainglory. He knows not me: I said, ‘Good morrow, Ajax;’ and he replies, ‘Thanks, Agamemnon.’ What think you of this man that takes me for the general? He’s grown a very land-fish, languageless, a monster. A plague of opinion! a man may wear it on both sides, like a leather jerkin.

Achil.Thou must be my ambassador to him, Thersites.

Ther.Who, I? why, he’ll answer nobody; he professes not answering; speaking is for beggars; he wears his tongue in his arms. I will put on his presence: let Patroclus make demands to me, you shall see the pageant of Ajax.

Achil.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 captain-general of the Grecian army, Agamemnon, et cætera. Do this.

Patr.Jove bless great Ajax!


Patr.I come from the worthy Achilles,—


Patr.Who most humbly desires you to invite Hector to his tent,—


Patr.And to procure safe-conduct from Agamemnon.


Patr.Ay, my lord.


Patr.What say you to ’t?

Ther.God be wi’ you, with all my heart.

Patr.Your answer, sir.

Ther.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.

Patr.Your answer, sir.

Ther.Fare you well, with all my heart.

Achil.Why, but he is not in this tune, is he?

Ther.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.

Achil.Come, thou shalt bear a letter to him straight.

Ther.Let me bear another to his horse, for that’s the more capable creature.

Achil.My mind is troubled, like a fountain stirr’d;

And I myself see not the bottom of it.[Exeunt ACHILLES and PATROCLUS.

Ther.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.[Exit.