Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  Troilus and Cressida

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

Act II. Scene III.

Troilus and Cressida

The Grecian Camp.Before ACHILLES’ Tent.


Ther.How now, Thersites! what, lost in the labyrinth of 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 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, 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 from a spider, without drawing their massy irons and cutting the web. After this, the vengeance on the whole camp! or, rather, the Neapolitan bone-ache! for that, methinks, is the curse dependant on those that war for a placket. I have said my prayers, and devil Envy say Amen. What, ho! my Lord Achilles!


Patr.Who’s there? Thersites! Good Thersites, come in and rail.

Ther.If I could have remembered a gilt counterfeit, thou wouldst not have slipped out of my contemplation: but 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 out says thou art a fair corpse, I’ll be sworn and sworn upon ’t she never shrouded any but lazars. Amen. Where’s Achilles?

Patr.What! art thou devout? wast thou in prayer?

Ther.Ay; the heavens hear me!


Achil.Who’s there?

Patr.Thersites, my lord.

Achil.Where, where? Art thou come? Why, my cheese, my digestion, why hast thou not served thyself in to my table so many meals? Come, what’s Agamemnon?

Ther.Thy commander, Achilles. Then tell me, Patroclus, what’s Achilles?

Patr.Thy lord, Thersites. Then tell me, I pray thee, what’s thyself?

Ther.Thy knower, Patroclus. Then tell me, Patroclus, what art thou?

Patr.Thou mayst tell that knowest.

Achil.O! tell, tell.

Ther.I’ll decline the whole question. Agamemnon commands Achilles; Achilles is my lord; I am Patroclus’ knower; and Patroclus is a fool.

Patr.You rascal!

Ther.Peace, fool! I have not done.

Achil.He is a privileged man. Proceed, Thersites.

Ther.Agamemnon is a fool; Achilles is a fool; Thersites is a fool; and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a fool.

Achil.Derive this; come.

Ther.Agamemnon is a fool to offer to command Achilles; Achilles is a fool to be commanded of Agamemnon; Thersites is a fool to serve such a fool; and Patroclus is a fool positive.

Patr.Why am I a fool?

Ther.Make that demand to the Creator. It suffices me thou art. Look you, who comes here?

Achil.Patroclus, I’ll speak with nobody. Come in with me, Thersites.[Exit.

Ther.Here is such patchery, such juggling, and such knavery! all the argument is a cuckold and a 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![Exit.


Agam.Where is Achilles?

Patr.Within his tent; but ill-dispos’d, my lord.

Agam.Let it be known to him that we are here.

He shent our messengers; and we lay by

Our appertainments, visiting of him:

Let him be told so; lest perchance he think

We dare not move the question of our place,

Or know not what we are.

Patr.I shall say so to him.[Exit.

Ulyss.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 a cause. A word, my lord.[Takes AGAMEMNON aside.

Nest.What moves Ajax thus to bay at him?

Ulyss.Achilles hath inveigled his fool from him.

Nest.Who, Thersites?


Nest.Then will Ajax lack matter, if he have lost his argument.

Ulyss.No; you see, he is his argument that has his argument, Achilles.

Nest.All the better; their fraction is more our wish than their faction: but it was a strong composure a fool could disunite.

Ulyss.The amity that wisdom knits not folly may easily untie. Here comes Patroclus.


Nest.No Achilles with him.

Ulyss.The elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy: his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure.

Patr.Achilles bids me say, he is much sorry

If any thing more than your sport and pleasure

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,

An after-dinner’s breath.

Agam.Hear you, Patroclus:

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,

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

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,

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

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:’

A stirring dwarf we do allowance give

Before a sleeping giant: tell him so.

Patr.I shall; and bring his answer presently.[Exit.

Agam.In second voice we’ll not be satisfied;

We come to speak with him. Ulysses, enter you.[Exit ULYSSES.

Ajax.What is he more than another?

Agam.No more than what he thinks he is.

Ajax.Is he so much? Do you not think he thinks himself a better man than I am?

Agam.No question.

Ajax.Will you subscribe his thought, and say he is?

Agam.No, noble Ajax; you are as strong, as valiant, as wise, no less noble, much more gentle, and altogether more tractable.

Ajax.Why should a man be proud? How doth pride grow? I know not what pride is.

Agam.Your mind is the clearer, Ajax, and your virtues the fairer. He that is proud eats up himself: pride is 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.

Nest.[Aside.]Yet he loves himself: is ’t not strange?

Re-enter ULYSSES.

Ulyss.Achilles will not to the field to-morrow.

Agam.What’s his excuse?

Ulyss.He doth rely on none,

But carries on the stream of his dispose

Without observance or respect of any,

In will peculiar and in self-admission.

Agam.Why will he not upon our fair request

Untent his person and share the air with us?

Ulyss.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: imagin’d worth

Holds in his blood such swoln and hot discourse,

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.’

Agam.Let Ajax go to him.

Dear lord, go you and meet him in his tent:

’Tis said he holds you well, and will be led

At your request a little from himself.

Ulyss.O Agamemnon! let it not be so.

We’ll consecrate the steps that Ajax makes

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

Of that we hold an idol more than he?

No, this thrice-worthy and right valiant lord

Must not so stale his palm, nobly acquir’d;

Nor, by my will, assubjugate his merit,

As amply titled as Achilles is,

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,

And say in thunder, ‘Achilles go to him.’

Nest.[Aside.]O! this is well; he rubs the vein of him.

Dio.[Aside.]And how his silence drinks up this applause!

Ajax.If I go to him, with my armed fist

I’ll pash him o’er the face.

Agam.O, no! you shall not go.

Ajax.An a’ be proud with me, I’ll pheeze his pride.

Let me go to him.

Ulyss.Not for the worth that hangs upon our quarrel.

Ajax.A paltry, insolent fellow!

Nest.[Aside.]How he describes himself!

Ajax.Can he not be sociable?

Ulyss.[Aside.]The raven chides blackness.

Ajax.I’ll let his humours blood.

Agam.[Aside.]He will be the physician that should be the patient.

Ajax.An all men were o’ my mind,—

Ulyss.[Aside.]Wit would be out of fashion.

Ajax.A’ should not bear it so, a’ should eat swords first: shall pride carry it?

Nest.[Aside.]An ’t would, you’d carry half.

Ulyss.[Aside.]A’ would have ten shares.

Ajax.I will knead him; I will make him supple.

Nest.[Aside.]He’s not yet through warm: force him with praises: pour in, pour in; his ambition is dry.

Ulyss.[To AGAMEMNON.]My lord, you feed too much on this dislike.

Nest.Our noble general, do not do so.

Dio.You must prepare to fight without Achilles.

Ulyss.Why, ’tis this naming of him does him harm.

Here is a man—but ’tis before his face;

I will be silent.

Nest.Wherefore should you so?

He is not emulous, as Achilles is.

Ulyss.Know the whole world, he is as valiant.

Ajax.A whoreson dog, that shall palter thus with us! Would he were a Trojan!

Nest.What a vice were it in Ajax now,—

Ulyss.If he were proud,—

Dio.Or covetous of praise,—

Ulyss.Ay, or surly borne,—

Dio.Or strange, or self-affected!

Ulyss.Thank the heavens, lord, thou art of sweet composure;

Praise him that got thee, her that gave thee suck:

Fam’d be thy tutor, and thy parts of nature

Thrice-fam’d, beyond all erudition:

But he that disciplin’d 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,

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;

But pardon, father Nestor, were your days

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?

Ulyss.Ay, my good son.

Dio.Be rul’d by him, Lord Ajax.

Ulyss.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,

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.

Agam.Go we to council. Let Achilles sleep:

Light boats sail swift, though greater hulks draw deep.[Exeunt.