Internet Shakespeare Editions

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

Troilus and Cressida (Modern)

Enter Priam, Hector, Troilus, Paris, and Helenus.
985Priam 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, travail, expense,
Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed
990In hot digestion of this cormorant war)
Shall be struck off." Hector, what say you to't?
Hector Though no man lesser fears the Greeks than I
As far as touches my particular, yet, dread Priam,
There is no lady of more softer bowels,
995More 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,
Surety secure; but modest doubt is called
The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches
1000To th'bottom of the worst. Let Helen go.
Since the first sword was drawn about this question,
Every tithe soul, 'mongst many thousand dimes,
Hath been as dear as Helen -- I mean, of ours.
If we have lost so many tenths of ours
1005To guard a thing not ours, nor worth to us
(Had it our name) the value of one ten,
What merit's in that reason which denies
The yielding of her up?
Fie, fie, my brother,
1010Weigh you the worth and honor of a king
So great as our dread father in a scale
Of common ounces? Will you with counters sum
The past proportion of his infinite,
And buckle in a waist most fathomless
1015With spans and inches so diminutive
As fears and reasons? Fie, for godly shame.
Helenus No marvel though you bite so sharp at reasons;
You are so empty of them. Should not our father
Bear the great sway of his affairs with reasons
1020Because your speech hath none that tells him so?
Troilus You are for dreams and slumbers, brother priest;
You fur your gloves with reason. Here are your reasons:
You know an enemy intends you harm;
You know a sword employed is perilous,
1025And reason flies the object of all harm.
Who marvels, then, when Helenus beholds
A Grecian and his sword, if he do set
The very wings of reason to his heels
1030And 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
Should have hare hearts, would they but fat their thoughts
With this crammed reason; reason and respect
Make livers pale, and lustihood deject.
1035Hector Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost
The holding.
What's aught, but as 'tis valued?
Hector But value dwells not in particular will;
It holds his estimate and dignity
1040As well wherein 'tis precious of itself
As in the prizer. 'Tis mad idolatry
To make the service greater than the god;
And the will dotes that is inclinable
To what infectiously itself affects,
1045Without some image of th'affected merit.
Troilus 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
1050Of will and judgment. How may I avoid
(Although my will distaste what it elected)
The wife I chose? There can be no evasion
To blench from this and to stand firm by honor.
We turn not back the silks upon the merchant
1055When we have spoiled them, nor the remainder viands
We do not throw in unrespective same
Because we now are full. It was thought meet
Paris should do some vengeance on the Greeks;
Your breath of full consent bellied his sails;
1060The 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 freshness
Wrinkles Apollo's, and makes stale the morning.
1065Why 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.
If you'll avouch 'twas wisdom Paris went
1070(As you must needs, for you all cried, "Go, go."),
If you'll confess, he brought home noble prize
(As you must needs, for you all clapped your hands
And cried, "Inestimable"), why do you now
The issue of your proper wisdoms rate,
1075And do a deed that fortune never 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.
But thieves unworthy of a thing so stol'n,
1080That in their country did them that disgrace,
We fear to warrant in our native place.
Enter Cassandra, with her hair about her ears.
Cry, Trojans, cry.
What noise? What shriek is this?
Troilus 'Tis our mad sister; I do know her voice.
Cassandra Cry, Trojans.
Hector It is Cassandra.
Cassandra Cry, Trojans, cry. Lend me ten thousand eyes
1090And I will fill them with prophetic tears.
Hector Peace, sister, peace.
Cassandra Virgins and boys, mid-age, and wrinkled old,
Soft infancy, that nothing can but cry,
Add to my clamor. Let us pay betimes
1095A moiety of that mass of moan to come.
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.
1100Cry, cry. Troy burns, or else let Helen go.
Exit [Cassandra].
Hector 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,
1105Nor fear of bad success in a bad cause,
Can qualify the same?
Why, brother Hector,
We may not think the justness of each act
Such and no other than event doth form it,
1110Nor once deject the courage of our minds
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,
1115I am no more touched than all Priam's sons,
And Jove forbid there should be done amongst us
Such things as might offend the weakest spleen
To fight for and maintain.
Paris Else might the world convince of levity
1120As well my undertakings as your counsels.
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?
1125What propugnation is in one man's valor
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,
1130Paris should ne'er retract what he hath done,
Nor faint in the pursuit.
Paris, you speak
Like one besotted on your sweet delights;
You have the honey still, but these the gall,
1135So to be valiant is no praise at all.
Paris 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.
1140What treason were it to the ransacked queen,
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
1145Should once set footing in your generous bosoms?
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,
1150Where Helen is the subject. Then, I say,
Well may we fight for her, whom we know well
The world's large spaces cannot parallel.
Hector Paris and Troilus, you have both said well,
And, on the cause and question now in hand
1155Have glossed but superficially, not much
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
1160Than to make up a free determination
'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,
1165What nearer debt in all humanity
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,
1170There is a law in each well-ordered nation
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
1175Of nature and of nation speak aloud
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,
1180My sprightly brethren, I propend to you
In resolution to keep Helen still,
For 'tis a cause that hath no mean dependence
Upon our joint and several dignities.
Troilus Why, there you touched the life of our design.
1185Were it not glory that we more affected
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,
1190A spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds
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
1195As smiles upon the forehead of this action,
For the wide world's revenue.
I am yours,
You valiant offspring of great Priamus.
I have a roisting challenge sent amongst
1200The dull and factious nobles of the Greeks
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.