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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)

    Enter Priam, Hector, Troilus, Paris, and Helenus.
    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?
    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.
    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?
    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.
    Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost
    The holding.
    What's aught, but as 'tis valued?
    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.
    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?
    'Tis our mad sister; I do know her voice.
    Cry, Trojans.
    It is Cassandra.
    Cry, Trojans, cry. Lend me ten thousand eyes
    1090And I will fill them with prophetic tears.
    Peace, sister, peace.
    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].
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.