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Troilus and Cressida
Act 2, scene 3

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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
Enter Thersites, alone.

THERSITES 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
5 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
10 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 you take not that little, little, less than
 little wit from them that they have, which short-armed
15 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!
20 For that, methinks, is the curse depending
 on those that war for a placket. I have said my
 prayers, and devil Envy say “Amen.”—What ho,
 my lord Achilles!
PATROCLUS, within Who’s there? Thersites? Good
25 Thersites, come in and rail.
THERSITES If I could ’a remembered a gilt counterfeit,
 thou couldst not have slipped out of my contemplation.
 But it is no matter. Thyself upon thyself! The
 common curse of mankind, folly and ignorance,
30 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 corse, I’ll be

93
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ACT 2. SC. 3

 sworn and sworn upon ’t she never shrouded any
35 but lazars. Amen.

Enter Patroclus.

 Where’s Achilles?
PATROCLUS What, art thou devout? Wast thou in
 prayer?
THERSITES Ay. The heavens hear me!
[PATROCLUS 40Amen.]
ACHILLES, within Who’s there?
PATROCLUS Thersites, my lord.
ACHILLES, within Where? Where? O, where?

Enter Achilles.

 To Thersites. Art thou come? Why, my cheese, my
45 digestion, why hast thou not served thyself in to my
 table so many meals? Come, what’s Agamemnon?
THERSITES Thy commander, Achilles.—Then, tell me,
 Patroclus, what’s Achilles?
PATROCLUS Thy lord, Thersites. Then, tell me, I pray
50 thee, what’s Thersites?
THERSITES Thy knower, Patroclus. Then, tell me, Patroclus,
 what art thou?
PATROCLUS Thou must tell that knowest.
ACHILLES O tell, tell.
THERSITES 55I’ll decline the whole question. Agamemnon
 commands Achilles, Achilles is my lord, I am
 Patroclus’ knower, and Patroclus is a fool.
PATROCLUS You rascal!
THERSITES Peace, fool. I have not done.
ACHILLES, to Patroclus 60He is a privileged man.—Proceed,
 Thersites.
THERSITES Agamemnon is a fool, Achilles is a fool,
 Thersites is a fool, and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a
 fool.
ACHILLES 65Derive this. Come.

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ACT 2. SC. 3

THERSITES 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 this Patroclus is a fool positive.
PATROCLUS 70Why am I a fool?
THERSITES Make that demand of the creator. It suffices
 me thou art.

Enter at a distance Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor,
Diomedes, Ajax, and Calchas.


 Look you, who comes here?
ACHILLES Patroclus, I’ll speak with nobody.—Come in
75 with me, Thersites.He exits.
THERSITES Here is such patchery, such juggling, and
 such knavery. All the argument is a whore and a
 cuckold, a good quarrel to draw emulous factions
 and bleed to death upon. Now the dry serpigo on
80 the subject, and war and lechery confound all!
He exits.
AGAMEMNON, to Patroclus Where is Achilles?
PATROCLUS 
 Within his tent, but ill-disposed, my lord.
AGAMEMNON 
 Let it be known to him that we are here.
 He shent our messengers, and we lay by
85 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.
PATROCLUS I shall say so to him.He exits.
ULYSSES 
90 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 favor the man, but, by my

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ACT 2. SC. 3

 head, ’tis pride. But, why, why? Let him show us a
95 cause.—A word, my lord.
He and Agamemnon walk aside.
NESTOR What moves Ajax thus to bay at him?
ULYSSES Achilles hath inveigled his fool from him.
NESTOR Who, Thersites?
ULYSSES He.
NESTOR 100Then will Ajax lack matter, if he have lost his
 argument.
ULYSSES No. You see, he is his argument that has his
 argument: Achilles.
NESTOR All the better. Their fraction is more our wish
105 than their faction. But it was a strong composure a
 fool could disunite.
ULYSSES The amity that wisdom knits not, folly may
 easily untie.

Enter Patroclus.

 Here comes Patroclus.
NESTOR 110No Achilles with him.
ULYSSES The elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy;
 his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure.
PATROCLUS, to Agamemnon 
 Achilles bids me say he is much sorry
 If anything more than your sport and pleasure
115 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.
AGAMEMNON  Hear you, Patroclus:
120 We are too well acquainted with these answers,
 But his evasion, winged 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,
125 Not virtuously on his own part beheld,

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Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 3

 Do in our eyes begin to lose their gloss,
 Yea, and 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
130 If you do say we think him overproud
 And underhonest, in self-assumption greater
 Than in the note of judgment; and worthier than
 himself
 Here tend the savage strangeness he puts on,
135 Disguise the holy strength of their command,
 And underwrite in an observing kind
 His humorous predominance—yea, watch
 His course and time, his ebbs and flows, as if
 The passage and whole carriage of this action
140 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.”
145 A stirring dwarf we do allowance give
 Before a sleeping giant. Tell him so.
PATROCLUS 
 I shall, and bring his answer presently.
AGAMEMNON 
 In second voice we’ll not be satisfied;
 We come to speak with him.—Ulysses, enter you.
Ulysses exits, with Patroclus.
AJAX 150What is he more than another?
AGAMEMNON 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?
AGAMEMNON No question.
AJAX 155Will you subscribe his thought and say he is?
AGAMEMNON No, noble Ajax. You are as strong, as
 valiant, as wise, no less noble, much more gentle,
 and altogether more tractable.

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Troilus and Cressida
ACT 2. SC. 3

AJAX Why should a man be proud? How doth pride
160 grow? I know not what pride is.
AGAMEMNON 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
165 deed devours the deed in the praise.
AJAX I do hate a proud man as I hate the engendering
 of toads.
NESTOR, aside 
 And yet he loves himself. Is ’t not strange?

Enter Ulysses.

ULYSSES 
 Achilles will not to the field tomorrow.
AGAMEMNON 
170 What’s his excuse?
ULYSSES  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.
AGAMEMNON 
175 Why, will he not, upon our fair request,
 Untent his person and share th’ air with us?
ULYSSES 
 Things small as nothing, for request’s sake only,
 He makes important. Possessed he is with greatness
 And speaks not to himself but with a pride
180 That quarrels at self-breath. Imagined worth
 Holds in his blood such swoll’n and hot discourse
 That ’twixt his mental and his active parts
 Kingdomed Achilles in commotion rages
 And batters down himself. What should I say?
185 He is so plaguy proud that the death-tokens of it
 Cry “No recovery.”
AGAMEMNON  Let Ajax go to him.—

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ACT 2. SC. 3

 Dear lord, go you and greet him in his tent.
 ’Tis said he holds you well and will be led
190 At your request a little from himself.
ULYSSES 
 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
195 And never suffers matter of the world
 Enter his thoughts, save such as doth revolve
 And ruminate himself—shall he be worshipped
 Of that we hold an idol more than he?
 No. This thrice-worthy and right valiant lord
200 Shall not so stale his palm, nobly acquired,
 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
205 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.”
NESTOR, aside to Diomedes 
 O, this is well; he rubs the vein of him.
DIOMEDES, aside to Nestor 
210 And how his silence drinks up this applause!
AJAX 
 If I go to him, with my armèd fist
 I’ll pash him o’er the face.
AGAMEMNON O, no, you shall not go.
AJAX 
 An he be proud with me, I’ll feeze his pride.
215 Let me go to him.
ULYSSES 
 Not for the worth that hangs upon our quarrel.
AJAX A paltry, insolent fellow.

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ACT 2. SC. 3

NESTOR, aside How he describes himself!
AJAX Can he not be sociable?
ULYSSES, aside 220The raven chides blackness.
AJAX I’ll let his humorous blood.
AGAMEMNON, aside He will be the physician that
 should be the patient.
AJAX An all men were of my mind—
ULYSSES, aside 225Wit would be out of fashion.
AJAX —he should not bear it so; he should eat swords
 first. Shall pride carry it?
NESTOR, aside An ’twould, you’d carry half.
ULYSSES, aside He would have ten shares.
AJAX 230I will knead him; I’ll make him supple.
NESTOR, aside He’s not yet through warm. Force him
 with praises. Pour in, pour in; his ambition is dry.
ULYSSES, to Agamemnon 
 My lord, you feed too much on this dislike.
NESTOR, to Agamemnon 
 Our noble general, do not do so.
DIOMEDES, to Agamemnon 
235 You must prepare to fight without Achilles.
ULYSSES 
 Why, ’tis this naming of him does him harm.
 Here is a man—but ’tis before his face;
 I will be silent.
NESTOR  Wherefore should you so?
240 He is not emulous, as Achilles is.
ULYSSES 
 Know the whole world, he is as valiant—
AJAX A whoreson dog, that shall palter with us thus!
 Would he were a Trojan!
NESTOR What a vice were it in Ajax now—
ULYSSES 245If he were proud—
DIOMEDES Or covetous of praise—
ULYSSES Ay, or surly borne—
DIOMEDES Or strange, or self-affected—

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ACT 2. SC. 3

ULYSSES, to Ajax 
 Thank the heavens, lord, thou art of sweet
250 composure.
 Praise him that gat thee, she that gave thee suck;
 Famed be thy tutor, and thy parts of nature
 Thrice famed beyond, beyond thy erudition;
 But he that disciplined thine arms to fight,
255 Let Mars divide eternity in twain
 And give him half; and for thy vigor,
 Bull-bearing Milo his addition yield
 To sinewy Ajax. I will not praise thy wisdom,
 Which like a bourn, a pale, a shore confines
260 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 tempered,
265 You should not have the eminence of him,
 But be as Ajax.
AJAX  Shall I call you father?
NESTOR 
 Ay, my good son.
DIOMEDES  Be ruled by him, Lord Ajax.
ULYSSES 
270 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. Tomorrow
 We must with all our main of power stand fast.
275 And here’s a lord—come knights from east to west
 And cull their flower, Ajax shall cope the best.
AGAMEMNON 
 Go we to council. Let Achilles sleep.
 Light boats sail swift, though greater hulks draw deep.
They exit.