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

Act II. Scene I.

Troilus and Cressida

A Part of the Grecian Camp.



Ther.Agamemnon, how if he had boils? full, all over, generally?


Ther.And those boils did run? Say so, did not the general run then? were not that a botchy core?


Ther.Then would come some matter from him: I see none now.

Ajax.Thou bitch-wolf’s son, canst thou not hear?

Feel, then.[Strikes him.

Ther.The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted lord!

Ajax.Speak then, thou vinewedst leaven, speak: I will beat thee into handsomeness.

Ther.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!

Ajax.Toadstool, learn me the proclamation.

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

Ajax.The proclamation!

Ther.Thou art proclaimed a fool, I think.

Ajax.Do not, porpentine, do not: my fingers itch.

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

Ajax.I say, the proclamation!

Ther.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 barkest at him.

Ajax.Mistress Thersites!

Ther.Thou shouldst strike him.


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

Ajax.You whoreson cur.[Beating him.

Ther.Do, do.

Ajax.Thou stool for a witch!

Ther.Ay, do, do; thou sodden-witted lord! thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows; an assinego may tutor thee: thou scurvy-valiant ass! thou art here but to thrash Trojans; 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!

Ajax.You dog!

Ther.You scurvy lord!

Ajax.You cur![Beating him.

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


Achil.Why, how now, Ajax! wherefore do you this?

How now, Thersites! what’s the matter, man?

Ther.You see him there, do you?

Achil.Ay; what’s the matter?

Ther.Nay, look upon him.

Achil.So I do: what’s the matter?

Ther.Nay, but regard him well.

Achil.‘Well!’ why, so I do.

Ther.But yet you look not well upon him; for, whosoever you take him to be, he is Ajax.

Achil.I know that, fool.

Ther.Ay, but that fool knows not himself.

Ajax.Therefore I beat thee.

Ther.Lo, lo, lo, lo, what modicums of wit he utters! his evasions have ears thus long. I have bobbed 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.


Ther.I say, this Ajax,—[AJAX offers to strike him.

Achil.Nay, good Ajax.

Ther.Has not so much wit—

Achil.Nay, I must hold you.

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

Achil.Peace, fool!

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

Ajax.O thou damned cur! I shall—

Achil.Will you set your wit to a fool’s?

Ther.No, I warrant you; for a fool’s will shame it.

Patr.Good words, Thersites.

Achil.What’s the quarrel?

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

Ther.I serve thee not.

Ajax.Well, go to, go to.

Ther.I serve here voluntary.

Achil.Your last service was sufferance, ’twas not voluntary; no man is beaten voluntary: Ajax was here the voluntary, and you as under an impress.

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

Achil.What, with me too, Thersites?

Ther.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.

Achil.What, what?

Ther.Yes, good sooth: to, Achilles! to, Ajax! to!

Ajax.I shall cut out your tongue.

Ther.’Tis no matter; I shall speak as much as thou afterwards.

Patr.No more words, Thersites; peace!

Ther.I will hold my peace when Achilles’ brach bids me, shall I?

Achil.There’s for you, Patroclus.

Ther.I will see you hanged, like clotpoles, ere I come any more to your tents: I will keep where there is wit stirring and leave the faction of fools.[Exit.

Patr.A good riddance.

Achil.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.

Ajax.Farewell. Who shall answer him?

Achil.I know not: it is put to lottery; otherwise,

He knew his man.

Ajax.O, meaning you. I will go learn more of it.[Exeunt.