List iconTroilus and Cressida:
Act 2, scene 2
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Troilus and Cressida
Act 2, scene 2



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,…


This preface appears in some copies of the play’s first printing in quarto in 1609.


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 2
Enter Priam, Hector, Troilus, Paris and Helenas.

 After so many hours, lives, speeches spent,
 Thus once again says Nestor from the Greeks:
 “Deliver Helen, and all damage else—
 As honor, loss of time, travel, expense,
5 Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed
 In hot digestion of this cormorant war—
 Shall be struck off.”—Hector, what say you to ’t?
 Though no man lesser fears the Greeks than I
 As far as toucheth my particular,
10 Yet, dread Priam,
 There is no lady of more softer bowels,
 More spongy to suck in the sense of fear,
 More ready to cry out “Who knows what follows?”
 Than Hector is. The wound of peace is surety,
15 Surety secure; but modest doubt is called
 The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches
 To th’ bottom of the worst. Let Helen go.
 Since the first sword was drawn about this question,
 Every tithe soul, ’mongst many thousand dismes,
20 Hath been as dear as Helen; I mean, of ours.
 If we have lost so many tenths of ours
 To guard a thing not ours—nor worth to us,
 Had it our name, the value of one ten—

Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 2

 What merit’s in that reason which denies
25 The yielding of her up?
TROILUS  Fie, fie, my brother,
 Weigh you the worth and honor of a king
 So great as our dread father’s in a scale
 Of common ounces? Will you with counters sum
30 The past-proportion of his infinite,
 And buckle in a waist most fathomless
 With spans and inches so diminutive
 As fears and reasons? Fie, for godly shame!
 No marvel though you bite so sharp at reasons,
35 You are so empty of them. Should not our father
 Bear the great sway of his affairs with reason,
 Because your speech hath none that tell him so?
 You are for dreams and slumbers, brother priest.
 You fur your gloves with reason. Here are your
40 reasons:
 You know an enemy intends you harm;
 You know a sword employed is perilous,
 And reason flies the object of all harm.
 Who marvels, then, when Helenus beholds
45 A Grecian and his sword, if he do set
 The very wings of reason to his heels
 And fly like chidden Mercury from Jove
 Or like a star disorbed? Nay, if we talk of reason,
 Let’s shut our gates and sleep. Manhood and honor
50 Should have hare hearts, would they but fat their
 With this crammed reason. Reason and respect
 Make livers pale and lustihood deject.
 Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost
55 The keeping.
TROILUS  What’s aught but as ’tis valued?

Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 2

 But value dwells not in particular will;
 It holds his estimate and dignity
 As well wherein ’tis precious of itself
60 As in the prizer. ’Tis mad idolatry
 To make the service greater than the god;
 And the will dotes that is attributive
 To what infectiously itself affects
 Without some image of th’ affected merit.
65 I take today a wife, and my election
 Is led on in the conduct of my will—
 My will enkindled by mine eyes and ears,
 Two traded pilots ’twixt the dangerous shores
 Of will and judgment. How may I avoid,
70 Although my will distaste what it elected,
 The wife I choose? There can be no evasion
 To blench from this and to stand firm by honor.
 We turn not back the silks upon the merchant
 When we have soiled them, nor the remainder
75 viands
 We do not throw in unrespective sieve
 Because we now are full. It was thought meet
 Paris should do some vengeance on the Greeks.
 Your breath with full consent bellied his sails;
80 The seas and winds, old wranglers, took a truce
 And did him service. He touched the ports desired,
 And for an old aunt whom the Greeks held captive,
 He brought a Grecian queen, whose youth and
85 Wrinkles Apollo’s and makes pale the morning.
 Why keep we her? The Grecians keep our aunt.
 Is she worth keeping? Why, she is a pearl
 Whose price hath launched above a thousand ships
 And turned crowned kings to merchants.
90 If you’ll avouch ’twas wisdom Paris went—

Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 2

 As you must needs, for you all cried “Go, go”—
 If you’ll confess he brought home worthy prize—
 As you must needs, for you all clapped your hands
 And cried “Inestimable”—why do you now
95 The issue of your proper wisdoms rate
 And do a deed that never Fortune did,
 Beggar the estimation which you prized
 Richer than sea and land? O, theft most base,
 That we have stol’n what we do fear to keep!
100 But thieves unworthy of a thing so stol’n,
 That in their country did them that disgrace
 We fear to warrant in our native place.
CASSANDRA, within 
 Cry, Trojans, cry!
PRIAM  What noise? What shriek is this?
105 ’Tis our mad sister. I do know her voice.
CASSANDRA, within Cry, Trojans!
HECTOR It is Cassandra.

Enter Cassandra raving.

 Cry, Trojans, cry! Lend me ten thousand eyes,
 And I will fill them with prophetic tears.
HECTOR 110Peace, sister, peace!
 Virgins and boys, mid-age and wrinkled elders,
 Soft infancy, that nothing canst but cry,
 Add to my clamors. Let us pay betimes
 A moiety of that mass of moan to come.
115 Cry, Trojans, cry! Practice your eyes with tears.
 Troy must not be, nor goodly Ilium stand.
 Our firebrand brother Paris burns us all.
 Cry, Trojans, cry! A Helen and a woe!
 Cry, cry! Troy burns, or else let Helen go.She exits.

Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 2

120 Now, youthful Troilus, do not these high strains
 Of divination in our sister work
 Some touches of remorse? Or is your blood
 So madly hot that no discourse of reason
 Nor fear of bad success in a bad cause
125 Can qualify the same?
TROILUS  Why, brother Hector,
 We may not think the justness of each act
 Such and no other than event doth form it,
 Nor once deject the courage of our minds
130 Because Cassandra’s mad. Her brainsick raptures
 Cannot distaste the goodness of a quarrel
 Which hath our several honors all engaged
 To make it gracious. For my private part,
 I am no more touched than all Priam’s sons;
135 And Jove forbid there should be done amongst us
 Such things as might offend the weakest spleen
 To fight for and maintain!
 Else might the world convince of levity
 As well my undertakings as your counsels.
140 But I attest the gods, your full consent
 Gave wings to my propension and cut off
 All fears attending on so dire a project.
 For what, alas, can these my single arms?
 What propugnation is in one man’s valor
145 To stand the push and enmity of those
 This quarrel would excite? Yet, I protest,
 Were I alone to pass the difficulties
 And had as ample power as I have will,
 Paris should ne’er retract what he hath done
150 Nor faint in the pursuit.
PRIAM  Paris, you speak
 Like one besotted on your sweet delights.
 You have the honey still, but these the gall.
 So to be valiant is no praise at all.

Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 2

155 Sir, I propose not merely to myself
 The pleasures such a beauty brings with it,
 But I would have the soil of her fair rape
 Wiped off in honorable keeping her.
 What treason were it to the ransacked queen,
160 Disgrace to your great worths, and shame to me,
 Now to deliver her possession up
 On terms of base compulsion? Can it be
 That so degenerate a strain as this
 Should once set footing in your generous bosoms?
165 There’s not the meanest spirit on our party
 Without a heart to dare or sword to draw
 When Helen is defended, nor none so noble
 Whose life were ill bestowed or death unfamed
 Where Helen is the subject. Then I say,
170 Well may we fight for her whom, we know well,
 The world’s large spaces cannot parallel.
 Paris and Troilus, you have both said well,
 And on the cause and question now in hand
 Have glozed—but superficially, not much
175 Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought
 Unfit to hear moral philosophy.
 The reasons you allege do more conduce
 To the hot passion of distempered blood
 Than to make up a free determination
180 ’Twixt right and wrong, for pleasure and revenge
 Have ears more deaf than adders to the voice
 Of any true decision. Nature craves
 All dues be rendered to their owners. Now,
 What nearer debt in all humanity
185 Than wife is to the husband? If this law
 Of nature be corrupted through affection,
 And that great minds, of partial indulgence
 To their benumbèd wills, resist the same,

Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 2

 There is a law in each well-ordered nation
190 To curb those raging appetites that are
 Most disobedient and refractory.
 If Helen, then, be wife to Sparta’s king,
 As it is known she is, these moral laws
 Of nature and of nations speak aloud
195 To have her back returned. Thus to persist
 In doing wrong extenuates not wrong,
 But makes it much more heavy. Hector’s opinion
 Is this in way of truth; yet, ne’ertheless,
 My sprightly brethren, I propend to you
200 In resolution to keep Helen still,
 For ’tis a cause that hath no mean dependence
 Upon our joint and several dignities.
 Why, there you touched the life of our design!
 Were it not glory that we more affected
205 Than the performance of our heaving spleens,
 I would not wish a drop of Trojan blood
 Spent more in her defense. But, worthy Hector,
 She is a theme of honor and renown,
 A spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds,
210 Whose present courage may beat down our foes,
 And fame in time to come canonize us;
 For I presume brave Hector would not lose
 So rich advantage of a promised glory
 As smiles upon the forehead of this action
215 For the wide world’s revenue.
HECTOR  I am yours,
 You valiant offspring of great Priamus.
 I have a roisting challenge sent amongst
 The dull and factious nobles of the Greeks
220 Will strike amazement to their drowsy spirits.
 I was advertised their great general slept,
 Whilst emulation in the army crept.
 This, I presume, will wake him.
They exit.