Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: W. L. Godshalk
Peer Reviewed

Troilus and Cressida (Modern)


453.1
[1.3]
Sennet. Enter Agamemnon, Nestor, Ulysses, 455Diomed, Menelaus, with others.
Agamemnon Princes,
What grief hath set the jaundice on your cheeks?
The ample proposition that hope makes
In all designs begun on earth below
460Fails in the promised largeness; checks and disasters
Grow in the veins of actions highest reared,
As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infect the sound pine, and diverts his grain,
Tortive and errant, from his course of growth.
465Nor, 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
470Bias 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 think them shame, which are indeed naught else
475But the protractive trials of great Jove
To find persistive constancy in men?
The fineness of which mettle is not found
In fortune's love, for, then, the bold and coward,
The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
480The hard and soft, seem all affined and kin.
But in the wind and tempest of her frown,
Distinction, with a loud and powerful fan,
Puffing at all, winnows the light away;
And what hath mass or matter by itself
485Lies rich in virtue and unminglèd.
Nestor With due observance of thy godly seat,
Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply
Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance
490Lies the true proof of men. The sea being smooth,
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
495The gentle Thetis, and anon behold
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
500Corrivalled greatness? Either to harbor fled,
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,
505The herd hath more annoyance by the breeze
Than by the tiger. But, when the splitting wind
Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
And flies fled under shade, why then the thing of courage,
510As roused with rage, with rage doth sympathize,
And with an accent tuned in selfsame key,
Retires to chiding fortune.
Ulysses
Agamemnon,
Thou great commander, nerve and bone of Greece,
515Heart of our numbers, soul, and only spirit,
In whom the tempers and the minds of all
Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks.
Besides th'applause and approbation
The which,[To Agamemnon] most mighty for thy place and sway,
520[To Nestor] And thou most reverend for thy 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)
525Should with a bond of air, strong as the axletree
In which the heavens ride, knit all Greeks' ears
To his experienced tongue; yet let it please both --
[To Agamemnon] Thou great -- [To Nestor] and wise -- to hear Ulysses speak.
Agamemnon Speak, prince of Ithaca, and be't of less expect
530That 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.
Ulysses Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
535And 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.
540When 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
545Observe 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
550Amidst the other, whose med'cinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts like the commandment of a king,
Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
555What 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
560Quite from their fixure? Oh, when degree is shaked,
(Which is the ladder to all high designs)
The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
565The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, scepters, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows: each thing meets
570In 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;
575Force should be right, or rather, right and wrong
(Between whose endless jar, justice resides)
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite,
580And appetite, an universal wolf,
(So doubly seconded with will and power),
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last, eat up himself.
Great Agamemnon,
585This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
Follows the choking,
And this neglection of degree is it
That by a pace goes backward, in a purpose
It hath to climb. The general's disdained
590By him one step below; he, by the next;
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.
595And 'tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness lives, not in her strength.
Nestor Most wisely hath Ulysses here discovered
The fever whereof all our power is sick.
600Agamemnon The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
What is the remedy?
Ulysses The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns
The sinew and the forehand of our host,
Having his ear full of his airy fame
605Grows dainty of his worth, and in his tent
Lies mocking our designs. With him Patroclus
Upon a lazy bed the livelong day
Breaks scurril jests,
And with ridiculous and awkward action
610(Which, slanderer, he imitation calls),
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
615To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
'Twixt his stretched footing and the scaffoldage,
Such to-be-pitied and o'er-wrested seeming,
He acts thy greatness in; and when he speaks,
'Tis like a chime a-mending, with terms unsquared,
620Which from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropped
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 just.
625Now play me Nestor; hum and stroke thy beard
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.
630'Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus,
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,
635Shake in and out the rivet. And at this sport
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,
640Severals and generals of grace exact,
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.
645Nestor And in the imitation of these twain --
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
650As broad Achilles, and keeps his tent like him,
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,
655To weaken and discredit our exposure,
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
660But that of hand. The still and mental parts
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 finger's dignity.
665They call this bed-work, mapp'ry, closet-war.
So that the ram that batters down the wall,
For the great swing and rudeness of his poise,
They place before his hand that made the engine,
Or those that with the fineness of their souls
670By reason guide his execution.
Nestor Let this be granted, and Achilles' horse
Makes many Thetis' sons.
Tucket
Agamemnon What trumpet? Look, Menelaus.
Menelaus From Troy.
Enter Aeneas [and trumpeter].
675Agamemnon What would you 'fore our tent?
Aeneas 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 ears?
680Agamemnon With surety stronger than Achilles' arm,
'Fore all the Greekish heads, which with one voice
Call Agamemnon head and general.
Aeneas Fair leave and large security. How may
A stranger to those most imperial looks
685Know them from eyes of other mortals?
Agamemnon
How?
Aeneas Ay, I ask that I might waken reverence
And, on the cheek, be ready with a blush
Modest as morning when she coldly eyes
690The youthful Phoebus.
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.
695Aeneas Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarmed,
As bending angels; that's their fame in peace;
But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
Good arms, strong joints, true swords, and (Jove's accord)
Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Aeneas;
700Peace, Trojan; lay thy finger on thy lips.
The worthiness of praise distains his worth
If that he, praised, himself bring the praise forth.
But what the repining enemy commends,
That breath fame blows, that praise -- sole pure -- transcends.
`
705Agamemnon 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 He hears nought privately 710that comes from Troy.
Aeneas Nor I from Troy come not to whisper him;
I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
To set his sense on the attentive bent,
And then to speak.
715Agamemnon
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.
720Send 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,
725A prince called Hector (Priam is his father)
Who in this dull and long-continued truce
Is rusty grown. He bade me take a trumpet
And to this purpose speak: Kings, princes, lords,
If there be one amongst the fair'st of Greece
730That holds his honor higher than his ease,
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,
735And dare avow her beauty and her worth
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,
740Than ever Greek did compass in his arms,
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;
745If none, he'll say in Troy when he retires,
The Grecian dames are sun-burnt 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,
750We left them all at home. But we are soldiers,
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'll be he.
755Nestor [To Aeneas]Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man
When Hector's grandsire sucked. He is old now,
But, if there be not in our Grecian mold
One noble man that hath one spark of fire
To answer for his love, tell him from me,
760I'll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver,
And in my vantbrace put this withered brawn,
And, meeting him, will tell him that my lady
Was fairer than his grandam, and as chaste
As may be in the world. His youth in flood,
765I'll pawn this truth with my three drops of blood.
Aeneas Now heavens forbid such scarcity of youth.
Ulysses Amen.
Agamemnon Fair lord Aeneas, let me touch your hand.
770To our pavilion shall I lead you first.
Achilles shall have word of this intent;
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.
775
Exeunt [all but] Ulysses and Nestor.
Ulysses Nestor.
Nestor What says Ulysses?
Ulysses I have a young conception in my brain;
Be you my time to bring it to some shape.
780Nestor What is't?
Ulysses. This 'tis:
Blunt wedges rive hard knots; the seeded pride
That hath to this maturity blown up
In rank Achilles must or now be cropped,
785Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil
To overbulk us all.
Nestor Well, and how?
Ulysses This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
However it is spread in general name,
790Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
Nestor The purpose is perspicuous, even as substance
Whose grossness little characters sum up,
And, in the publication, make no strain,
But that Achilles, were his brain as barren
795As banks of Libya (though, Apollo knows,
'Tis dry enough) will with great speed of judgment,
Ay, with celerity, find Hector's purpose
Pointing on him.
Ulysses And wake him to the answer, think you?
800Nestor Yes, '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,
Yet in this trial much opinion dwells,
For here the Trojans taste our dear'st repute
805With their fin'st palate, and, trust to me, Ulysses,
Our imputation shall be oddly poised
In this wild action; for the success,
Although particular, shall give a scantling
Of good or bad unto the general,
810And, in such indexes, although small pricks
To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
The baby figure of the giant mass
Of things to come at large. It is supposed
He that meets Hector issues from our choice;
815And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
Makes merit her election, and doth boil,
As 'twere, from forth us all a man distilled
Out of our virtues, who miscarrying,
What heart from hence receives the conqu'ring part
820To steel a strong opinion to themselves?
Which entertained, limbs are, in his instruments,
In no less working than are swords and bows
Directive by the limbs.
Ulysses
Give pardon to my speech:
825Therefore 'tis meet Achilles meet not Hector.
Let us (like merchants) show our foulest wares,
And think perchance they'll sell; if not,
The luster of the better yet to show
Shall show the better. Do not consent
830That 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 What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
835Were he not proud, we all should wear with him.
But he already is too insolent,
And we were better parch in Afric sun
Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes
Should he scape Hector fair. If he were foiled,
840Why then we did 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
Give him allowance as the worthier man,
845For 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,
We'll dress him up in voices; if he fail,
850Yet 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 Now, Ulysses, I begin to relish thy advice,
855And I will give a taste of it forthwith
To Agamemnon. Go we to him straight.
Two curs shall tame each other; pride alone
Must tarre the mastiffs on, as 'twere their bone.
Exeunt.