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Troilus and Cressida - Act 2, scene 2
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Navigate this workTroilus and Cressida - Act 2, scene 2
Act 2, scene 2
The Trojan leaders discuss whether to keep Helen and thereby continue the war. They decide to do so in spite of Cassandra’s prophecies of Troy’s destruction.Enter Priam, Hector, Troilus, Paris and Helenas.
0987 After so many hours, lives, speeches spent,
0988 Thus once again says Nestor from the Greeks:
0989 “Deliver Helen, and all damage else—
0990 As honor, loss of time, travel, expense,
0991 5 Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed
0992 In hot digestion of this cormorant war—
0993 Shall be struck off.”—Hector, what say you to ’t?
0994 Though no man lesser fears the Greeks than I
0995 As far as toucheth my particular,
0996 10 Yet, dread Priam,
0997 There is no lady of more softer bowels,
0998 More spongy to suck in the sense of fear,
0999 More ready to cry out “Who knows what follows?”
1000 Than Hector is. The wound of peace is ⟨surety,
1001 15 Surety⟩ secure; but modest doubt is called
1002 The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches
1003 To th’ bottom of the worst. Let Helen go.
1004 Since the first sword was drawn about this question,
1005 Every tithe soul, ’mongst many thousand dismes,
1006 20 Hath been as dear as Helen; I mean, of ours.
1007 If we have lost so many tenths of ours
1008 To guard a thing not ours—nor worth to us,
1009 Had it our name, the value of one ten—
p. 791010 What merit’s in that reason which denies
1011 25 The yielding of her up?
TROILUS 1012 Fie, fie, my brother,
1013 Weigh you the worth and honor of a king
1014 So great as our dread father’s in a scale
1015 Of common ounces? Will you with counters sum
1016 30 The past-proportion of his infinite,
1017 And buckle in a waist most fathomless
1018 With spans and inches so diminutive
1019 As fears and reasons? Fie, for godly shame!
1020 No marvel though you bite so sharp ⟨at⟩ reasons,
1021 35 You are so empty of them. Should not our father
1022 Bear the great sway of his affairs with reason,
1023 Because your speech hath none that tell him so?
1024 You are for dreams and slumbers, brother priest.
1025 You fur your gloves with reason. Here are your
1026 40 reasons:
1027 You know an enemy intends you harm;
1028 You know a sword employed is perilous,
1029 And reason flies the object of all harm.
1030 Who marvels, then, when Helenus beholds
1031 45 A Grecian and his sword, if he do set
1032 The very wings of reason to his heels
1033 And fly like chidden Mercury from Jove
1034 Or like a star disorbed? Nay, if we talk of reason,
1035 ⟨Let’s⟩ shut our gates and sleep. Manhood and honor
1036 50 Should have hare hearts, would they but fat their
1038 With this crammed reason. Reason and respect
1039 Make livers pale and lustihood deject.
1040 Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost
1041 55 The keeping.
TROILUS 1042 What’s aught but as ’tis valued?
1043 But value dwells not in particular will;
1044 It holds his estimate and dignity
1045 As well wherein ’tis precious of itself
1046 60 As in the prizer. ’Tis mad idolatry
1047 To make the service greater than the god;
1048 And the will dotes that is attributive
1049 To what infectiously itself affects
1050 Without some image of th’ affected merit.
1051 65 I take today a wife, and my election
1052 Is led on in the conduct of my will—
1053 My will enkindled by mine eyes and ears,
1054 Two traded pilots ’twixt the dangerous ⟨shores⟩
1055 Of will and judgment. How may I avoid,
1056 70 Although my will distaste what it elected,
1057 The wife I choose? There can be no evasion
1058 To blench from this and to stand firm by honor.
1059 We turn not back the silks upon the merchant
1060 When we have soiled them, nor the remainder
1061 75 viands
1062 We do not throw in unrespective sieve
1063 Because we now are full. It was thought meet
1064 Paris should do some vengeance on the Greeks.
1065 Your breath with full consent bellied his sails;
1066 80 The seas and winds, old wranglers, took a truce
1067 And did him service. He touched the ports desired,
1068 And for an old aunt whom the Greeks held captive,
1069 He brought a Grecian queen, whose youth and
1071 85 Wrinkles Apollo’s and makes pale the morning.
1072 Why keep we her? The Grecians keep our aunt.
1073 Is she worth keeping? Why, she is a pearl
1074 Whose price hath launched above a thousand ships
1075 And turned crowned kings to merchants.
1076 90 If you’ll avouch ’twas wisdom Paris went—
p. 831077 As you must needs, for you all cried “Go, go”—
1078 If you’ll confess ⟨he⟩ brought home worthy prize—
1079 As you must needs, for you all clapped your hands
1080 And cried “Inestimable”—why do you now
1081 95 The issue of your proper wisdoms rate
1082 And do a deed that never Fortune did,
1083 Beggar the estimation which you prized
1084 Richer than sea and land? O, theft most base,
1085 That we have stol’n what we do fear to keep!
1086 100 But thieves unworthy of a thing so stol’n,
1087 That in their country did them that disgrace
1088 We fear to warrant in our native place.
1089 Cry, Trojans, cry!
PRIAM 1090 What noise? What shriek is this?
1091 105 ’Tis our mad sister. I do know her voice.
CASSANDRA, ⌜within⌝ 1092 Cry, Trojans!
HECTOR 1093 It is Cassandra.
Enter Cassandra raving.
1094 Cry, Trojans, cry! Lend me ten thousand eyes,
1095 And I will fill them with prophetic tears.
HECTOR 1096 110Peace, sister, peace!
1097 Virgins and boys, mid-age and wrinkled elders,
1098 Soft infancy, that nothing canst but cry,
1099 Add to my clamors. Let us pay betimes
1100 A moiety of that mass of moan to come.
1101 115 Cry, Trojans, cry! Practice your eyes with tears.
1102 Troy must not be, nor goodly Ilium stand.
1103 Our firebrand brother Paris burns us all.
1104 Cry, Trojans, cry! A Helen and a woe!
1105 Cry, cry! Troy burns, or else let Helen go.She exits.
1106 120 Now, youthful Troilus, do not these high strains
1107 Of divination in our sister work
1108 Some touches of remorse? Or is your blood
1109 So madly hot that no discourse of reason
1110 Nor fear of bad success in a bad cause
1111 125 Can qualify the same?
TROILUS 1112 Why, brother Hector,
1113 We may not think the justness of each act
1114 Such and no other than event doth form it,
1115 Nor once deject the courage of our minds
1116 130 Because Cassandra’s mad. Her brainsick raptures
1117 Cannot distaste the goodness of a quarrel
1118 Which hath our several honors all engaged
1119 To make it gracious. For my private part,
1120 I am no more touched than all Priam’s sons;
1121 135 And Jove forbid there should be done amongst us
1122 Such things as might offend the weakest spleen
1123 To fight for and maintain!
1124 Else might the world convince of levity
1125 As well my undertakings as your counsels.
1126 140 But I attest the gods, your full consent
1127 Gave wings to my propension and cut off
1128 All fears attending on so dire a project.
1129 For what, alas, can these my single arms?
1130 What propugnation is in one man’s valor
1131 145 To stand the push and enmity of those
1132 This quarrel would excite? Yet, I protest,
1133 Were I alone to pass the difficulties
1134 And had as ample power as I have will,
1135 Paris should ne’er retract what he hath done
1136 150 Nor faint in the pursuit.
PRIAM 1137 Paris, you speak
1138 Like one besotted on your sweet delights.
1139 You have the honey still, but these the gall.
1140 So to be valiant is no praise at all.
1141 155 Sir, I propose not merely to myself
1142 The pleasures such a beauty brings with it,
1143 But I would have the soil of her fair rape
1144 Wiped off in honorable keeping her.
1145 What treason were it to the ransacked queen,
1146 160 Disgrace to your great worths, and shame to me,
1147 Now to deliver her possession up
1148 On terms of base compulsion? Can it be
1149 That so degenerate a strain as this
1150 Should once set footing in your generous bosoms?
1151 165 There’s not the meanest spirit on our party
1152 Without a heart to dare or sword to draw
1153 When Helen is defended, nor none so noble
1154 Whose life were ill bestowed or death unfamed
1155 Where Helen is the subject. Then I say,
1156 170 Well may we fight for her whom, we know well,
1157 The world’s large spaces cannot parallel.
1158 Paris and Troilus, you have both said well,
1159 And on the cause and question now in hand
1160 Have glozed—but superficially, not much
1161 175 Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought
1162 Unfit to hear moral philosophy.
1163 The reasons you allege do more conduce
1164 To the hot passion of distempered blood
1165 Than to make up a free determination
1166 180 ’Twixt right and wrong, for pleasure and revenge
1167 Have ears more deaf than adders to the voice
1168 Of any true decision. Nature craves
1169 All dues be rendered to their owners. Now,
1170 What nearer debt in all humanity
1171 185 Than wife is to the husband? If this law
1172 Of nature be corrupted through affection,
1173 And that great minds, of partial indulgence
1174 To their benumbèd wills, resist the same,
p. 891175 There is a law in each well-ordered nation
1176 190 To curb those raging appetites that are
1177 Most disobedient and refractory.
1178 If Helen, then, be wife to Sparta’s king,
1179 As it is known she is, these moral laws
1180 Of nature and of nations speak aloud
1181 195 To have her back returned. Thus to persist
1182 In doing wrong extenuates not wrong,
1183 But makes it much more heavy. Hector’s opinion
1184 Is this in way of truth; yet, ne’ertheless,
1185 My sprightly brethren, I propend to you
1186 200 In resolution to keep Helen still,
1187 For ’tis a cause that hath no mean dependence
1188 Upon our joint and several dignities.
1189 Why, there you touched the life of our design!
1190 Were it not glory that we more affected
1191 205 Than the performance of our heaving spleens,
1192 I would not wish a drop of Trojan blood
1193 Spent more in her defense. But, worthy Hector,
1194 She is a theme of honor and renown,
1195 A spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds,
1196 210 Whose present courage may beat down our foes,
1197 And fame in time to come canonize us;
1198 For I presume brave Hector would not lose
1199 So rich advantage of a promised glory
1200 As smiles upon the forehead of this action
1201 215 For the wide world’s revenue.
HECTOR 1202 I am yours,
1203 You valiant offspring of great Priamus.
1204 I have a roisting challenge sent amongst
1205 The dull and factious nobles of the Greeks
1206 220 Will ⟨strike⟩ amazement to their drowsy spirits.
1207 I was advertised their great general slept,
1208 Whilst emulation in the army crept.
1209 This, I presume, will wake him.