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  • Title: Troilus and Cressida (Modern)
  • Editor: William Godshalk
  • ISBN: 1-55058-301-8

    Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: William Godshalk
    Peer Reviewed

    Troilus and Cressida (Modern)

    Sennet. Enter Agamemnon, Nestor, Ulysses, 455Diomed, Menelaus, with others.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    Most wisely hath Ulysses here discovered
    The fever whereof all our power is sick.
    The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
    What is the remedy?
    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.
    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.
    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.
    Let this be granted, and Achilles' horse
    Makes many Thetis' sons.
    What trumpet? Look, Menelaus.
    From Troy.
    Enter Aeneas [and trumpeter].
    What would you 'fore our tent?
    Is this great Agamemnon's tent, I pray you?
    Even this.
    May one that is a herald and a prince
    Do a fair message to his kingly ears?
    With surety stronger than Achilles' arm,
    'Fore all the Greekish heads, which with one voice
    Call Agamemnon head and general.
    Fair leave and large security. How may
    A stranger to those most imperial looks
    685Know them from eyes of other mortals?
    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?
    This Trojan scorns us, or the men of Troy
    Are ceremonious courtiers.
    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.
    Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself Aeneas?
    Ay, Greek, that is my name.
    What's your affair, I pray you?
    Sir, pardon; 'tis for Agamemnon's ears.
    He hears nought privately 710that comes from Troy.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    [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.
    Now heavens forbid such scarcity of youth.
    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.
    775Exeunt [all but] Ulysses and Nestor.
    What says Ulysses?
    I have a young conception in my brain;
    Be you my time to bring it to some shape.
    What is't?
    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.
    Well, and how?
    This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
    However it is spread in general name,
    790Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
    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.
    And wake him to the answer, think you?
    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.
    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.
    I see them not with my old eyes. What are they?
    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.
    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.