Troilus and Cressida - Act 1, scene 3
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Act 1, scene 3
As the general, Agamemnon, and his councillors Nestor and Ulysses discuss the refusal of their principal warriors, Achilles and Ajax, to fight, Aeneas enters to deliver a challenge from Hector to single combat with any Greek. Ulysses and Nestor then scheme to deny Achilles the combat and give it to Ajax because, they say, Achilles is too proud already.⟨Sennet.⟩ Enter Agamemnon, Nestor, Ulysses, Diomedes,
Menelaus, with others.
0454 Princes, what grief hath set ⟨the⟩ jaundice o’er your
0456 The ample proposition that hope makes
0457 In all designs begun on Earth below
0458 5 Fails in the promised largeness. Checks and disasters
0459 Grow in the veins of actions highest reared,
0460 As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
0461 Infects the sound pine and diverts his grain
0463 10 Nor, princes, is it matter new to us
0464 That we come short of our suppose so far
0465 That after seven years’ siege yet Troy walls stand,
0466 Sith ⟨every⟩ action that hath gone before,
0467 Whereof we have record, trial did draw
0468 15 Bias and thwart, not answering the aim
0469 And that unbodied figure of the thought
0470 That gave ’t surmisèd shape. Why then, you princes,
0471 Do you with cheeks abashed behold our works
0472 And call them shames, which are indeed naught else
0473 20 But the protractive trials of great Jove
0474 To find persistive constancy in men?
0475 The fineness of which metal is not found
0476 In Fortune’s love; for then the bold and coward,
0477 The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
0478 25 The hard and soft seem all affined and kin.
0479 But in the wind and tempest of her frown,
0480 Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan,
0481 Puffing at all, winnows the light away,
0482 And what hath mass or matter by itself
0483 30 Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.
0484 With due observance of ⟨thy⟩ godlike seat,
0485 Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply
0486 Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance
0487 Lies the true proof of men. The sea being smooth,
0488 35 How many shallow bauble boats dare sail
0489 Upon her ⟨patient⟩ breast, making their way
0490 With those of nobler bulk!
0491 But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage
0492 The gentle Thetis, and anon behold
0493 40 The strong-ribbed bark through liquid mountains cut,
0494 Bounding between the two moist elements,
0495 Like Perseus’ horse. Where’s then the saucy boat
0496 Whose weak untimbered sides but even now
0498 45 Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so
0499 Doth valor’s show and valor’s worth divide
0500 In storms of Fortune. For in her ray and brightness
0501 The herd hath more annoyance by the breese
0502 Than by the tiger, but when the splitting wind
0503 50 Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
0504 And flies ⌜flee⌝ under shade, why, then the thing of
0506 As roused with rage, with rage doth sympathize,
0507 And with an accent tuned in selfsame key
0508 55 ⌜Retorts⌝ to chiding Fortune.
ULYSSES 0509 Agamemnon,
0510 Thou great commander, nerves and bone of Greece,
0511 Heart of our numbers, soul and only sprite,
0512 In whom the tempers and the minds of all
0513 60 Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks.
0514 Besides th’ applause and approbation,
0515 The which, (⌜to Agamemnon⌝) most mighty for thy
0516 place and sway,
0517 (⌜To Nestor⌝) And thou most reverend for ⟨thy⟩
0518 65 stretched-out life,
0519 I give to both your speeches, which were such
0520 As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece
0521 Should hold up high in brass; and such again
0522 As venerable Nestor, hatched in silver,
0523 70 Should with a bond of air, strong as the axletree
0524 On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears
0525 To his experienced tongue, yet let it please both,
0526 Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.
0527 Speak, Prince of Ithaca, and be ’t of less expect
0528 75 That matter needless, of importless burden,
0529 Divide thy lips than we are confident
0530 When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws
0531 We shall hear music, wit, and oracle.⟩
0532 Troy, yet upon his ⟨basis,⟩ had been down,
0533 80 And the great Hector’s sword had lacked a master
0534 But for these instances:
0535 The specialty of rule hath been neglected,
0536 And look how many Grecian tents do stand
0537 Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
0538 85 When that the general is not like the hive
0539 To whom the foragers shall all repair,
0540 What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
0541 Th’ unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
0542 The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center
0543 90 Observe degree, priority, and place,
0544 Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
0545 Office, and custom, in all line of order.
0546 And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
0547 In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
0548 95 Amidst the other, whose med’cinable eye
0549 Corrects the influence of evil planets,
0550 And posts, like the commandment of a king,
0551 Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets
0552 In evil mixture to disorder wander,
0553 100 What plagues and what portents, what mutiny,
0554 What raging of the sea, shaking of Earth,
0555 Commotion in the winds, frights, changes, horrors
0556 Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
0557 The unity and married calm of states
0558 105 Quite from their fixture! O, when degree is shaked,
0559 Which is the ladder of all high designs,
0560 The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
0561 Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
0562 Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
0563 110 The primogeneity and due of birth,
0564 Prerogative of age, crowns, scepters, laurels,
0565 But by degree stand in authentic place?
0566 Take but degree away, untune that string,
0568 115 In mere oppugnancy. The bounded waters
0569 Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
0570 And make a sop of all this solid globe;
0571 Strength should be lord of imbecility,
0572 And the rude son should strike his father dead;
0573 120 Force should be right, or, rather, right and wrong,
0574 Between whose endless jar justice resides,
0575 Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
0576 Then everything ⟨includes⟩ itself in power,
0577 Power into will, will into appetite,
0578 125 And appetite, an universal wolf,
0579 So doubly seconded with will and power,
0580 Must make perforce an universal prey
0581 And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
0582 This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
0583 130 Follows the choking.
0584 And this neglection of degree it is
0585 That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
0586 It hath to climb. The General’s disdained
0587 By him one step below, he by the next,
0588 135 That next by him beneath; so every step,
0589 Exampled by the first pace that is sick
0590 Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
0591 Of pale and bloodless emulation.
0592 And ’tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
0593 140 Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
0594 Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.
0595 Most wisely hath Ulysses here discovered
0596 The fever whereof all our power is sick.
0597 The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
0598 145 What is the remedy?
0599 The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns
0601 Having his ear full of his airy fame,
0602 Grows dainty of his worth and in his tent
0603 150 Lies mocking our designs. With him Patroclus,
0604 Upon a lazy bed, the live-long day
0605 Breaks scurril jests,
0606 And with ridiculous and silly action,
0607 Which, slanderer, he imitation calls,
0608 155 He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon,
0609 Thy topless deputation he puts on,
0610 And, like a strutting player whose conceit
0611 Lies in his hamstring and doth think it rich
0612 To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
0613 160 ’Twixt his stretched footing and the scaffollage,
0614 Such to-be-pitied and o’erwrested seeming
0615 He acts thy greatness in; and when he speaks,
0616 ’Tis like a chime a-mending, with terms ⟨unsquared⟩
0617 Which from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropped
0618 165 Would seem hyperboles. At this fusty stuff,
0619 The large Achilles, on his pressed bed lolling,
0620 From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause,
0621 Cries “Excellent! ’Tis Agamemnon right.
0622 Now play me Nestor; hem and stroke thy beard,
0623 170 As he being dressed to some oration.”
0624 That’s done, as near as the extremest ends
0625 Of parallels, as like as Vulcan and his wife;
0626 Yet god Achilles still cries “Excellent!
0627 ’Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus,
0628 175 Arming to answer in a night alarm.”
0629 And then, forsooth, the faint defects of age
0630 Must be the scene of mirth—to cough and spit,
0631 And, with a palsy fumbling on his gorget,
0632 Shake in and out the rivet. And at this sport
0633 180 Sir Valor dies, cries “O, enough, Patroclus,
0634 Or give me ribs of steel! I shall split all
0635 In pleasure of my spleen.” And in this fashion,
0636 All our abilities, gifts, natures, shapes,
0638 185 Achievements, plots, orders, preventions,
0639 Excitements to the field, or speech for truce,
0640 Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
0641 As stuff for these two to make paradoxes.
0642 And in the imitation of these twain,
0643 190 Who, as Ulysses says, opinion crowns
0644 With an imperial voice, many are infect:
0645 Ajax is grown self-willed and bears his head
0646 In such a rein, in full as proud a place
0647 As broad Achilles; keeps his tent like him,
0648 195 Makes factious feasts; rails on our state of war,
0649 Bold as an oracle, and sets Thersites—
0650 A slave whose gall coins slanders like a mint—
0651 To match us in comparisons with dirt,
0652 To weaken ⟨and⟩ discredit our exposure,
0653 200 How rank soever rounded in with danger.
0654 They tax our policy and call it cowardice,
0655 Count wisdom as no member of the war,
0656 Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
0657 But that of hand. The still and mental parts
0658 205 That do contrive how many hands shall strike
0659 When fitness calls them on and know by measure
0660 Of their observant toil the enemy’s weight—
0661 Why, this hath not a fingers dignity.
0662 They call this bed-work, mapp’ry, closet war;
0663 210 So that the ram that batters down the wall,
0664 For the great swinge and rudeness of his poise,
0665 They place before his hand that made the engine
0666 Or those that with the fineness of their souls
0667 By reason guide his execution.
0668 215 Let this be granted, and Achilles’ horse
0669 Makes many Thetis’ sons.⟨Tucket.⟩
MENELAUS 0671 From Troy.
⟨Enter Aeneas, ⌜with a Trumpeter.⌝⟩
AGAMEMNON 0672 What would you ’fore our tent?
0673 220 Is this great Agamemnon’s tent, I pray you?
AGAMEMNON 0674 Even this.
0675 May one that is a herald and a prince
0676 Do a fair message to his kingly eyes?
0677 With surety stronger than Achilles’ arm
0678 225 ’Fore all the Greekish ⌜host,⌝ which with one voice
0679 Call Agamemnon head and general.
0680 Fair leave and large security. How may
0681 A stranger to those most imperial looks
0682 Know them from eyes of other mortals?
AGAMEMNON 0683 230 How?
0684 Ay. I ask that I might waken reverence
0685 And bid the cheek be ready with a blush
0686 Modest as morning when she coldly eyes
0687 The youthful Phoebus.
0688 235 Which is that god in office, guiding men?
0689 Which is the high and mighty Agamemnon?
0690 This Trojan scorns us, or the men of Troy
0691 Are ceremonious courtiers.
0692 Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarmed,
0693 240 As bending angels—that’s their fame in peace.
0694 But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
0696 Jove’s accord—
0697 Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Aeneas.
0698 245 Peace, Trojan. Lay thy finger on thy lips.
0699 The worthiness of praise distains his worth
0700 If that the praised himself bring the praise forth.
0701 But what the repining enemy commends,
0702 That breath fame blows; that praise, sole pure,
0703 250 transcends.
0704 Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself Aeneas?
AENEAS 0705 Ay, Greek, that is my name.
AGAMEMNON 0706 What’s your ⟨affair,⟩ I pray you?
0707 Sir, pardon. ’Tis for Agamemnon’s ears.
0708 255 He hears naught privately that comes from Troy.
0709 Nor I from Troy come not to whisper with him.
0710 I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
0711 To set his ⟨sense⟩ on ⟨the⟩ attentive bent,
0712 And then to speak.
AGAMEMNON 0713 260 Speak frankly as the wind;
0714 It is not Agamemnon’s sleeping hour.
0715 That thou shalt know, Trojan, he is awake,
0716 He tells thee so himself.
AENEAS 0717 Trumpet, blow ⟨loud⟩!
0718 265 Send thy brass voice through all these lazy tents;
0719 And every Greek of mettle, let him know
0720 What Troy means fairly shall be spoke aloud.
0721 We have, great Agamemnon, here in Troy
0722 A prince called Hector—Priam is his father—
0723 270 Who in ⟨this⟩ dull and long-continued truce
0724 Is resty grown. He bade me take a trumpet
0725 And to this purpose speak: “Kings, princes, lords,
0727 That holds his honor higher than his ease,
0728 275 ⟨That seeks⟩ his praise more than he fears his peril,
0729 That knows his valor and knows not his fear,
0730 That loves his mistress more than in confession
0731 With truant vows to her own lips he loves
0732 And dare avow her beauty and her worth
0733 280 In other arms than hers—to him this challenge.
0734 Hector, in view of Trojans and of Greeks,
0735 Shall make it good, or do his best to do it,
0736 He hath a lady wiser, fairer, truer
0737 Than ever Greek did couple in his arms
0738 285 And will tomorrow with his trumpet call,
0739 Midway between your tents and walls of Troy,
0740 To rouse a Grecian that is true in love.
0741 If any come, Hector shall honor him;
0742 If none, he’ll say in Troy when he retires
0743 290 The Grecian dames are sunburnt and not worth
0744 The splinter of a lance.” Even so much.
0745 This shall be told our lovers, Lord Aeneas.
0746 If none of them have soul in such a kind,
0747 We left them all at home. But we are soldiers,
0748 295 And may that soldier a mere recreant prove
0749 That means not, hath not, or is not in love!
0750 If then one is, or hath, ⟨or⟩ means to be,
0751 That one meets Hector. If none else, I am he.
NESTOR, ⌜to Aeneas⌝
0752 Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man
0753 300 When Hector’s grandsire sucked. He is old now,
0754 But if there be not in our Grecian host
0755 A noble man that hath ⟨one⟩ spark of fire
0756 To answer for his love, tell him from me
0757 I’ll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver
0758 305 And in my vambrace put my withered brawns
0759 And, meeting him, ⟨will⟩ tell him that my lady
0761 As may be in the world. His youth in flood,
0762 I’ll prove this troth with my three drops of blood.
0763 310 Now heavens forfend such scarcity of ⟨youth!⟩
ULYSSES 0764 Amen.
0765 Fair Lord Aeneas, let me touch your hand.
0766 To our pavilion shall I lead you, sir.
0767 Achilles shall have word of this intent;
0768 315 So shall each lord of Greece from tent to tent.
0769 Yourself shall feast with us before you go,
0770 And find the welcome of a noble foe.
⟨All but Ulysses and Nestor exit.⟩
ULYSSES 0771 Nestor.
NESTOR 0772 What says Ulysses?
0773 320 I have a young conception in my brain;
0774 Be you my time to bring it to some shape.
NESTOR 0775 What is ’t?
ULYSSES 0776 ⟨This ’tis:⟩
0777 Blunt wedges rive hard knots; the seeded pride
0778 325 That hath to this maturity blown up
0779 In rank Achilles must or now be cropped
0780 Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil
0781 To overbulk us all.
NESTOR 0782 Well, and how?
0783 330 This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
0784 However it is spread in general name,
0785 Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
0786 True. The purpose is perspicuous as substance
0787 Whose grossness little characters sum up;
0788 335 And, in the publication, make no strain
0789 But that Achilles, were his brain as barren
0791 ’Tis dry enough—will, with great speed of judgment,
0792 Ay, with celerity, find Hector’s purpose
0793 340 Pointing on him.
ULYSSES 0794 And wake him to the answer, think you?
0795 Why, ’tis most meet. Who may you else oppose
0796 That can from Hector bring ⟨his honor⟩ off
0797 If not Achilles? Though ’t be a sportful combat,
0798 345 Yet in the trial much opinion dwells,
0799 For here the Trojans taste our dear’st repute
0800 With their fin’st palate. And, trust to me, Ulysses,
0801 Our imputation shall be oddly poised
0802 In this vile action. For the success,
0803 350 Although particular, shall give a scantling
0804 Of good or bad unto the general;
0805 And in such indexes, although small pricks
0806 To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
0807 The baby figure of the giant mass
0808 355 Of things to come at large. It is supposed
0809 He that meets Hector issues from our choice;
0810 And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
0811 Makes merit her election and doth boil,
0812 As ’twere from forth us all, a man distilled
0813 360 Out of our virtues, who, miscarrying,
0814 What heart receives from hence a conquering part
0815 To steel a strong opinion to themselves?—
0816 ⟨Which entertained, limbs are his instruments,
0817 In no less working than are swords and bows
0818 365 Directive by the limbs.⟩
0819 Give pardon to my speech: therefore ’tis meet
0820 Achilles meet not Hector. Let us like merchants
0821 First show foul wares and think perchance they’ll sell;
0822 If not, the luster of the better shall exceed
0823 370 By showing the worse first. Do not consent
0825 For both our honor and our shame in this
0826 Are dogged with two strange followers.
0827 I see them not with my old eyes. What are they?
0828 375 What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
0829 Were he not proud, we all should share with him;
0830 But he already is too insolent,
0831 And it were better parch in Afric sun
0832 Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes
0833 380 Should he scape Hector fair. If he were foiled,
0834 Why then we do our main opinion crush
0835 In taint of our best man. No, make a lott’ry,
0836 And, by device, let blockish Ajax draw
0837 The sort to fight with Hector. Among ourselves
0838 385 Give him allowance for the better man,
0839 For that will physic the great Myrmidon,
0840 Who broils in loud applause, and make him fall
0841 His crest that prouder than blue Iris bends.
0842 If the dull brainless Ajax come safe off,
0843 390 We’ll dress him up in voices; if he fail,
0844 Yet go we under our opinion still
0845 That we have better men. But, hit or miss,
0846 Our project’s life this shape of sense assumes:
0847 Ajax employed plucks down Achilles’ plumes.
0848 395 Now, Ulysses, I begin to relish thy advice,
0849 And I will give a taste thereof forthwith
0850 To Agamemnon. Go we to him straight.
0851 Two curs shall tame each other; pride alone
0852 Must ⟨tar⟩ the mastiffs on, as ’twere a bone.