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Troilus and Cressida
Act 1, scene 3

Synopsis:

Contents

Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Set during the Trojan War, Troilus and Cressida recounts the love affair of its title characters. Inside the besieged city of Troy,…

Prologue

Act 1, scene 1

Troilus refuses to fight because he is too disturbed by his unrequited love for Cressida. Pandarus, her uncle, complains of…

Act 1, scene 2

Cressida gossips with her servant Alexander, and then with Pandarus, who strives to interest her in Troilus. After Pandarus and…

Act 1, scene 3

As the general, Agamemnon, and his councillors Nestor and Ulysses discuss the refusal of their principal warriors, Achilles and Ajax,…

Act 2, scene 1

Ajax beats Thersites for refusing to tell him the terms of the challenge, terms that are provided by Achilles when…

Act 2, scene 2

The Trojan leaders discuss whether to keep Helen and thereby continue the war. They decide to do so in spite…

Act 2, scene 3

Thersites rails against Achilles and Ajax, and then, joined by Achilles and Patroclus, ridicules them to their faces. As Agamemnon…

Act 3, scene 1

Pandarus asks Paris to make excuses for Troilus’s absence from his father Priam’s supper table that night. At Helen’s insistence,…

Act 3, scene 2

Pandarus brings together Troilus and a seemingly reluctant Cressida, who finally acknowledges her love for Troilus.

Act 3, scene 3

Calchas asks the Greek leaders to demand his daughter Cressida from the Trojans in exchange for Antenor, whom the Greeks…

Act 4, scene 1

Aeneas, summoned to Priam’s palace, meets Paris and a deputation from the Greek camp bringing Antenor to be exchanged for…

Act 4, scene 2

As morning breaks after Troilus and Cressida’s night of lovemaking, Troilus, Pandarus, and Cressida each learn in turn that Cressida…

Act 4, scene 3

Paris sends Troilus to bring Cressida to Diomedes.

Act 4, scene 4

As Troilus and Cressida part, he urges her to be faithful to him, and he promises to visit her in…

Act 4, scene 5

The Greek leaders, Menelaus and Ulysses excepted, kiss Cressida as Diomedes brings her to the Greek camp. After Hector and…

Act 5, scene 1

Achilles receives a letter from Queen Hecuba of Troy requiring him to keep an oath he has sworn to seek…

Act 5, scene 2

Diomedes pressures Cressida to keep her promise to have sex with him; they are overheard by an enraged Troilus, an…

Act 5, scene 3

Andromache and Cassandra enlist Priam in their efforts to persuade Hector to refrain from battle. He, in turn, futilely attempts…

Act 5, scene 4

A railing Thersites watches Troilus and Diomedes go off fighting and, surprised by Hector, escapes death only through the Trojan’s…

Act 5, scene 5

Diomedes sends the horse he has won from Troilus to Cressida. Agamemnon and Nestor recount the slaughter of Greeks by…

Act 5, scene 6

Troilus fights both Diomedes and Ajax. Hector bests Achilles but allows him to live, and pursues another Greek in order…

Act 5, scene 7

Achilles, now accompanied by Myrmidons, searches for Hector.

Act 5, scene 8

Thersites comments on the combat between Menelaus and Paris. Then, surprised by Priam’s bastard son, Thersites escapes by refusing to…

Act 5, scene 9

Hector, having killed the Greek in the splendid armor, unarms himself and is surprised by Achilles, who orders his Myrmidons…

Act 5, scene 10

The rest of the Greek forces hear the shouts of the Myrmidons announcing Hector’s death.

Act 5, scene 11

Troilus announces Hector’s death to the Trojans. Marching back to Troy, Troilus meets Pandarus and reviles him.

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Scene 3
Sennet. Enter Agamemnon, Nestor, Ulysses, Diomedes,
Menelaus, with others.


AGAMEMNON 
 Princes, what grief hath set the jaundice o’er your
 cheeks?
 The ample proposition that hope makes
 In all designs begun on Earth below
5 Fails in the promised largeness. Checks and disasters
 Grow in the veins of actions highest reared,
 As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
 Infects the sound pine and diverts his grain

43
Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

 Tortive and errant from his course of growth.
10 Nor, princes, is it matter new to us
 That we come short of our suppose so far
 That after seven years’ siege yet Troy walls stand,
 Sith every action that hath gone before,
 Whereof we have record, trial did draw
15 Bias and thwart, not answering the aim
 And that unbodied figure of the thought
 That gave ’t surmisèd shape. Why then, you princes,
 Do you with cheeks abashed behold our works
 And call them shames, which are indeed naught else
20 But the protractive trials of great Jove
 To find persistive constancy in men?
 The fineness of which metal is not found
 In Fortune’s love; for then the bold and coward,
 The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
25 The hard and soft seem all affined and kin.
 But in the wind and tempest of her frown,
 Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan,
 Puffing at all, winnows the light away,
 And what hath mass or matter by itself
30 Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.
NESTOR 
 With due observance of thy godlike seat,
 Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply
 Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance
 Lies the true proof of men. The sea being smooth,
35 How many shallow bauble boats dare sail
 Upon her patient breast, making their way
 With those of nobler bulk!
 But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage
 The gentle Thetis, and anon behold
40 The strong-ribbed bark through liquid mountains cut,
 Bounding between the two moist elements,
 Like Perseus’ horse. Where’s then the saucy boat
 Whose weak untimbered sides but even now

45
Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

 Corrivaled greatness? Either to harbor fled
45 Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so
 Doth valor’s show and valor’s worth divide
 In storms of Fortune. For in her ray and brightness
 The herd hath more annoyance by the breese
 Than by the tiger, but when the splitting wind
50 Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
 And flies flee under shade, why, then the thing of
 courage,
 As roused with rage, with rage doth sympathize,
 And with an accent tuned in selfsame key
55 Retorts to chiding Fortune.
ULYSSES  Agamemnon,
 Thou great commander, nerves and bone of Greece,
 Heart of our numbers, soul and only sprite,
 In whom the tempers and the minds of all
60 Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks.
 Besides th’ applause and approbation,
 The which, (to Agamemnon) most mighty for thy
 place and sway,
 (To Nestor) And thou most reverend for thy
65 stretched-out life,
 I give to both your speeches, which were such
 As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece
 Should hold up high in brass; and such again
 As venerable Nestor, hatched in silver,
70 Should with a bond of air, strong as the axletree
 On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears
 To his experienced tongue, yet let it please both,
 Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.
AGAMEMNON 
 Speak, Prince of Ithaca, and be ’t of less expect
75 That matter needless, of importless burden,
 Divide thy lips than we are confident
 When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws
 We shall hear music, wit, and oracle.

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Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

ULYSSES 
 Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
80 And the great Hector’s sword had lacked a master
 But for these instances:
 The specialty of rule hath been neglected,
 And look how many Grecian tents do stand
 Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
85 When that the general is not like the hive
 To whom the foragers shall all repair,
 What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
 Th’ unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
 The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center
90 Observe degree, priority, and place,
 Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
 Office, and custom, in all line of order.
 And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
 In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
95 Amidst the other, whose med’cinable eye
 Corrects the influence of evil planets,
 And posts, like the commandment of a king,
 Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets
 In evil mixture to disorder wander,
100 What plagues and what portents, what mutiny,
 What raging of the sea, shaking of Earth,
 Commotion in the winds, frights, changes, horrors
 Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
 The unity and married calm of states
105 Quite from their fixture! O, when degree is shaked,
 Which is the ladder of all high designs,
 The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
 Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
 Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
110 The primogeneity and due of birth,
 Prerogative of age, crowns, scepters, laurels,
 But by degree stand in authentic place?
 Take but degree away, untune that string,

49
Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

 And hark what discord follows. Each thing meets
115 In mere oppugnancy. The bounded waters
 Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
 And make a sop of all this solid globe;
 Strength should be lord of imbecility,
 And the rude son should strike his father dead;
120 Force should be right, or, rather, right and wrong,
 Between whose endless jar justice resides,
 Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
 Then everything includes itself in power,
 Power into will, will into appetite,
125 And appetite, an universal wolf,
 So doubly seconded with will and power,
 Must make perforce an universal prey
 And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
 This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
130 Follows the choking.
 And this neglection of degree it is
 That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
 It hath to climb. The General’s disdained
 By him one step below, he by the next,
135 That next by him beneath; so every step,
 Exampled by the first pace that is sick
 Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
 Of pale and bloodless emulation.
 And ’tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
140 Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
 Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.
NESTOR 
 Most wisely hath Ulysses here discovered
 The fever whereof all our power is sick.
AGAMEMNON 
 The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
145 What is the remedy?
ULYSSES 
 The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns

51
Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

 The sinew and the forehand of our host,
 Having his ear full of his airy fame,
 Grows dainty of his worth and in his tent
150 Lies mocking our designs. With him Patroclus,
 Upon a lazy bed, the live-long day
 Breaks scurril jests,
 And with ridiculous and silly action,
 Which, slanderer, he imitation calls,
155 He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon,
 Thy topless deputation he puts on,
 And, like a strutting player whose conceit
 Lies in his hamstring and doth think it rich
 To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
160 ’Twixt his stretched footing and the scaffollage,
 Such to-be-pitied and o’erwrested seeming
 He acts thy greatness in; and when he speaks,
 ’Tis like a chime a-mending, with terms unsquared
 Which from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropped
165 Would seem hyperboles. At this fusty stuff,
 The large Achilles, on his pressed bed lolling,
 From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause,
 Cries “Excellent! ’Tis Agamemnon right.
 Now play me Nestor; hem and stroke thy beard,
170 As he being dressed to some oration.”
 That’s done, as near as the extremest ends
 Of parallels, as like as Vulcan and his wife;
 Yet god Achilles still cries “Excellent!
 ’Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus,
175 Arming to answer in a night alarm.”
 And then, forsooth, the faint defects of age
 Must be the scene of mirth—to cough and spit,
 And, with a palsy fumbling on his gorget,
 Shake in and out the rivet. And at this sport
180 Sir Valor dies, cries “O, enough, Patroclus,
 Or give me ribs of steel! I shall split all
 In pleasure of my spleen.” And in this fashion,
 All our abilities, gifts, natures, shapes,

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Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

 Severals and generals of grace exact,
185 Achievements, plots, orders, preventions,
 Excitements to the field, or speech for truce,
 Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
 As stuff for these two to make paradoxes.
NESTOR 
 And in the imitation of these twain,
190 Who, as Ulysses says, opinion crowns
 With an imperial voice, many are infect:
 Ajax is grown self-willed and bears his head
 In such a rein, in full as proud a place
 As broad Achilles; keeps his tent like him,
195 Makes factious feasts; rails on our state of war,
 Bold as an oracle, and sets Thersites—
 A slave whose gall coins slanders like a mint—
 To match us in comparisons with dirt,
 To weaken and discredit our exposure,
200 How rank soever rounded in with danger.
ULYSSES 
 They tax our policy and call it cowardice,
 Count wisdom as no member of the war,
 Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
 But that of hand. The still and mental parts
205 That do contrive how many hands shall strike
 When fitness calls them on and know by measure
 Of their observant toil the enemy’s weight—
 Why, this hath not a fingers dignity.
 They call this bed-work, mapp’ry, closet war;
210 So that the ram that batters down the wall,
 For the great swinge and rudeness of his poise,
 They place before his hand that made the engine
 Or those that with the fineness of their souls
 By reason guide his execution.
NESTOR 
215 Let this be granted, and Achilles’ horse
 Makes many Thetis’ sons.Tucket.

55
Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

AGAMEMNON What trumpet? Look, Menelaus.
MENELAUS From Troy.

Enter Aeneas, with a Trumpeter.

AGAMEMNON What would you ’fore our tent?
AENEAS 
220 Is this great Agamemnon’s tent, I pray you?
AGAMEMNON Even this.
AENEAS 
 May one that is a herald and a prince
 Do a fair message to his kingly eyes?
AGAMEMNON 
 With surety stronger than Achilles’ arm
225 ’Fore all the Greekish host, which with one voice
 Call Agamemnon head and general.
AENEAS 
 Fair leave and large security. How may
 A stranger to those most imperial looks
 Know them from eyes of other mortals?
AGAMEMNON 230 How?
AENEAS 
 Ay. I ask that I might waken reverence
 And bid the cheek be ready with a blush
 Modest as morning when she coldly eyes
 The youthful Phoebus.
235 Which is that god in office, guiding men?
 Which is the high and mighty Agamemnon?
AGAMEMNON 
 This Trojan scorns us, or the men of Troy
 Are ceremonious courtiers.
AENEAS 
 Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarmed,
240 As bending angels—that’s their fame in peace.
 But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,

57
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ACT 1. SC. 3

 Good arms, strong joints, true swords, and—great
 Jove’s accord—
 Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Aeneas.
245 Peace, Trojan. Lay thy finger on thy lips.
 The worthiness of praise distains his worth
 If that the praised himself bring the praise forth.
 But what the repining enemy commends,
 That breath fame blows; that praise, sole pure,
250 transcends.
AGAMEMNON 
 Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself Aeneas?
AENEAS Ay, Greek, that is my name.
AGAMEMNON What’s your affair, I pray you?
AENEAS 
 Sir, pardon. ’Tis for Agamemnon’s ears.
AGAMEMNON 
255 He hears naught privately that comes from Troy.
AENEAS 
 Nor I from Troy come not to whisper with him.
 I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
 To set his sense on the attentive bent,
 And then to speak.
AGAMEMNON 260 Speak frankly as the wind;
 It is not Agamemnon’s sleeping hour.
 That thou shalt know, Trojan, he is awake,
 He tells thee so himself.
AENEAS  Trumpet, blow loud!
265 Send thy brass voice through all these lazy tents;
 And every Greek of mettle, let him know
 What Troy means fairly shall be spoke aloud.
Sound trumpet.
 We have, great Agamemnon, here in Troy
 A prince called Hector—Priam is his father—
270 Who in this dull and long-continued truce
 Is resty grown. He bade me take a trumpet
 And to this purpose speak: “Kings, princes, lords,

59
Troilus and Cressida
ACT 1. SC. 3

 If there be one among the fair’st of Greece
 That holds his honor higher than his ease,
275 That seeks his praise more than he fears his peril,
 That knows his valor and knows not his fear,
 That loves his mistress more than in confession
 With truant vows to her own lips he loves
 And dare avow her beauty and her worth
280 In other arms than hers—to him this challenge.
 Hector, in view of Trojans and of Greeks,
 Shall make it good, or do his best to do it,
 He hath a lady wiser, fairer, truer
 Than ever Greek did couple in his arms
285 And will tomorrow with his trumpet call,
 Midway between your tents and walls of Troy,
 To rouse a Grecian that is true in love.
 If any come, Hector shall honor him;
 If none, he’ll say in Troy when he retires
290 The Grecian dames are sunburnt and not worth
 The splinter of a lance.” Even so much.
AGAMEMNON 
 This shall be told our lovers, Lord Aeneas.
 If none of them have soul in such a kind,
 We left them all at home. But we are soldiers,
295 And may that soldier a mere recreant prove
 That means not, hath not, or is not in love!
 If then one is, or hath, or means to be,
 That one meets Hector. If none else, I am he.
NESTOR, to Aeneas 
 Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man
300 When Hector’s grandsire sucked. He is old now,
 But if there be not in our Grecian host
 A noble man that hath one spark of fire
 To answer for his love, tell him from me
 I’ll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver
305 And in my vambrace put my withered brawns
 And, meeting him, will tell him that my lady

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ACT 1. SC. 3

 Was fairer than his grandam and as chaste
 As may be in the world. His youth in flood,
 I’ll prove this troth with my three drops of blood.
AENEAS 
310 Now heavens forfend such scarcity of youth!
ULYSSES Amen.
AGAMEMNON 
 Fair Lord Aeneas, let me touch your hand.
 To our pavilion shall I lead you, sir.
 Achilles shall have word of this intent;
315 So shall each lord of Greece from tent to tent.
 Yourself shall feast with us before you go,
 And find the welcome of a noble foe.
All but Ulysses and Nestor exit.
ULYSSES Nestor.
NESTOR What says Ulysses?
ULYSSES 
320 I have a young conception in my brain;
 Be you my time to bring it to some shape.
NESTOR What is ’t?
ULYSSES This ’tis:
 Blunt wedges rive hard knots; the seeded pride
325 That hath to this maturity blown up
 In rank Achilles must or now be cropped
 Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil
 To overbulk us all.
NESTOR Well, and how?
ULYSSES 
330 This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
 However it is spread in general name,
 Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
NESTOR 
 True. The purpose is perspicuous as substance
 Whose grossness little characters sum up;
335 And, in the publication, make no strain
 But that Achilles, were his brain as barren

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ACT 1. SC. 3

 As banks of Libya—though, Apollo knows,
 ’Tis dry enough—will, with great speed of judgment,
 Ay, with celerity, find Hector’s purpose
340 Pointing on him.
ULYSSES And wake him to the answer, think you?
NESTOR 
 Why, ’tis most meet. Who may you else oppose
 That can from Hector bring his honor off
 If not Achilles? Though ’t be a sportful combat,
345 Yet in the trial much opinion dwells,
 For here the Trojans taste our dear’st repute
 With their fin’st palate. And, trust to me, Ulysses,
 Our imputation shall be oddly poised
 In this vile action. For the success,
350 Although particular, shall give a scantling
 Of good or bad unto the general;
 And in such indexes, although small pricks
 To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
 The baby figure of the giant mass
355 Of things to come at large. It is supposed
 He that meets Hector issues from our choice;
 And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
 Makes merit her election and doth boil,
 As ’twere from forth us all, a man distilled
360 Out of our virtues, who, miscarrying,
 What heart receives from hence a conquering part
 To steel a strong opinion to themselves?—
 Which entertained, limbs are his instruments,
 In no less working than are swords and bows
365 Directive by the limbs.
ULYSSES 
 Give pardon to my speech: therefore ’tis meet
 Achilles meet not Hector. Let us like merchants
 First show foul wares and think perchance they’ll sell;
 If not, the luster of the better shall exceed
370 By showing the worse first. Do not consent

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ACT 1. SC. 3

 That ever Hector and Achilles meet,
 For both our honor and our shame in this
 Are dogged with two strange followers.
NESTOR 
 I see them not with my old eyes. What are they?
ULYSSES 
375 What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
 Were he not proud, we all should share with him;
 But he already is too insolent,
 And it were better parch in Afric sun
 Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes
380 Should he scape Hector fair. If he were foiled,
 Why then we do our main opinion crush
 In taint of our best man. No, make a lott’ry,
 And, by device, let blockish Ajax draw
 The sort to fight with Hector. Among ourselves
385 Give him allowance for the better man,
 For that will physic the great Myrmidon,
 Who broils in loud applause, and make him fall
 His crest that prouder than blue Iris bends.
 If the dull brainless Ajax come safe off,
390 We’ll dress him up in voices; if he fail,
 Yet go we under our opinion still
 That we have better men. But, hit or miss,
 Our project’s life this shape of sense assumes:
 Ajax employed plucks down Achilles’ plumes.
NESTOR 
395 Now, Ulysses, I begin to relish thy advice,
 And I will give a taste thereof forthwith
 To Agamemnon. Go we to him straight.
 Two curs shall tame each other; pride alone
 Must tar the mastiffs on, as ’twere a bone.
They exit.