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Home > Troilus and Cressida > ACT I - SCENE III. The Grecian camp. Before Agamemnon's tent.

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ACT I - SCENE III. The Grecian camp. Before Agamemnon's tent.
1    Princes,
2    What grief hath set the jaundice on your cheeks?
3    The ample proposition that hope makes
4    In all designs begun on earth below
5    Fails in the promised largeness: cheques and disasters
6    Grow in the veins of actions highest rear'd,
7    As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
8    Infect the sound pine and divert his grain
9    Tortive and errant from his course of growth.
10   Nor, princes, is it matter new to us
11   That we come short of our suppose so far
12   That after seven years' siege yet Troy walls stand;
13   Sith every action that hath gone before,
14   Whereof we have record, trial did draw
15   Bias and thwart, not answering the aim,
16   And that unbodied figure of the thought
17   That gave't surmised shape. Why then, you princes,
18   Do you with cheeks abash'd behold our works,
19   And call them shames? which are indeed nought else
20   But the protractive trials of great Jove
21   To find persistive constancy in men:
22   The fineness of which metal is not found
23   In fortune's love; for then the bold and coward,
24   The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
25   The hard and soft seem all affined and kin:
26   But, in the wind and tempest of her frown,
27   Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan,
28   Puffing at all, winnows the light away;
29   And what hath mass or matter, by itself
30   Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.
31   With due observance of thy godlike seat,
32   Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply
33   Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance
34   Lies the true proof of men: the sea being smooth,
35   How many shallow bauble boats dare sail
36   Upon her patient breast, making their way
37   With those of nobler bulk!
38   But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage
39   The gentle Thetis, and anon behold
40   The strong-ribb'd bark through liquid mountains cut,
41   Bounding between the two moist elements,
42   Like Perseus' horse: where's then the saucy boat
43   Whose weak untimber'd sides but even now
44   Co-rivall'd greatness? Either to harbour fled,
45   Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so
46   Doth valour's show and valour's worth divide
47   In storms of fortune; for in her ray and brightness
48   The herd hath more annoyance by the breeze
49   Than by the tiger; but when the splitting wind
50   Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
51   And flies fled under shade, why, then the thing of courage
52   As roused with rage with rage doth sympathize,
53   And with an accent tuned in selfsame key
54   Retorts to chiding fortune.
55   Agamemnon,
56   Thou great commander, nerve and bone of Greece,
57   Heart of our numbers, soul and only spirit.
58   In whom the tempers and the minds of all
59   Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks.
60   Besides the applause and approbation To which,
61   most mighty for thy place and sway,
62   And thou most reverend for thy stretch'd-out life
63   I give to both your speeches, which were such
64   As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece
65   Should hold up high in brass, and such again
66   As venerable Nestor, hatch'd in silver,
67   Should with a bond of air, strong as the axle-tree
68   On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears
69   To his experienced tongue, yet let it please both,
70   Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.
71   Speak, prince of Ithaca; and be't of less expect
72   That matter needless, of importless burden,
73   Divide thy lips, than we are confident,
74   When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws,
75   We shall hear music, wit and oracle.
76   Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
77   And the great Hector's sword had lack'd a master,
78   But for these instances.
79   The specialty of rule hath been neglected:
80   And, look, how many Grecian tents do stand
81   Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
82   When that the general is not like the hive
83   To whom the foragers shall all repair,
84   What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
85   The unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
86   The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre
87   Observe degree, priority and place,
88   Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
89   Office and custom, in all line of order;
90   And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
91   In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
92   Amidst the other; whose medicinable eye
93   Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
94   And posts, like the commandment of a king,
95   Sans cheque to good and bad: but when the planets
96   In evil mixture to disorder wander,
97   What plagues and what portents! what mutiny!
98   What raging of the sea! shaking of earth!
99   Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors,
100  Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
101  The unity and married calm of states
102  Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shaked,
103  Which is the ladder to all high designs,
104  Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,
105  Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
106  Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
107  The primogenitive and due of birth,
108  Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
109  But by degree, stand in authentic place?
110  Take but degree away, untune that string,
111  And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
112  In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
113  Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
114  And make a sop of all this solid globe:
115  Strength should be lord of imbecility,
116  And the rude son should strike his father dead:
117  Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
118  Between whose endless jar justice resides,
119  Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
120  Then every thing includes itself in power,
121  Power into will, will into appetite;
122  And appetite, an universal wolf,
123  So doubly seconded with will and power,
124  Must make perforce an universal prey,
125  And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
126  This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
127  Follows the choking.
128  And this neglection of degree it is
129  That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
130  It hath to climb. The general's disdain'd
131  By him one step below, he by the next,
132  That next by him beneath; so every step,
133  Exampled by the first pace that is sick
134  Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
135  Of pale and bloodless emulation:
136  And 'tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
137  Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
138  Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.
139  Most wisely hath Ulysses here discover'd
140  The fever whereof all our power is sick.
141  The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
142  What is the remedy?
143  The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns
144  The sinew and the forehand of our host,
145  Having his ear full of his airy fame,
146  Grows dainty of his worth, and in his tent
147  Lies mocking our designs: with him Patroclus
148  Upon a lazy bed the livelong day
149  Breaks scurril jests;
150  And with ridiculous and awkward action,
151  Which, slanderer, he imitation calls,
152  He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon,
153  Thy topless deputation he puts on,
154  And, like a strutting player, whose conceit
155  Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich
156  To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
157  'Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage,--
158  Such to-be-pitied and o'er-wrested seeming
159  He acts thy greatness in: and when he speaks,
160  'Tis like a chime a-mending; with terms unsquared,
161  Which, from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropp'd
162  Would seem hyperboles. At this fusty stuff
163  The large Achilles, on his press'd bed lolling,
164  From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause;
165  Cries 'Excellent! 'tis Agamemnon just.
166  Now play me Nestor; hem, and stroke thy beard,
167  As he being drest to some oration.'
168  That's done, as near as the extremest ends
169  Of parallels, as like as Vulcan and his wife:
170  Yet god Achilles still cries 'Excellent!
171  'Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus,
172  Arming to answer in a night alarm.'
173  And then, forsooth, the faint defects of age
174  Must be the scene of mirth; to cough and spit,
175  And, with a palsy-fumbling on his gorget,
176  Shake in and out the rivet: and at this sport
177  Sir Valour dies; cries 'O, enough, Patroclus;
178  Or give me ribs of steel! I shall split all
179  In pleasure of my spleen.' And in this fashion,
180  All our abilities, gifts, natures, shapes,
181  Severals and generals of grace exact,
182  Achievements, plots, orders, preventions,
183  Excitements to the field, or speech for truce,
184  Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
185  As stuff for these two to make paradoxes.
186  And in the imitation of these twain--
187  Who, as Ulysses says, opinion crowns
188  With an imperial voice--many are infect.
189  Ajax is grown self-will'd, and bears his head
190  In such a rein, in full as proud a place
191  As broad Achilles; keeps his tent like him;
192  Makes factious feasts; rails on our state of war,
193  Bold as an oracle, and sets Thersites,
194  A slave whose gall coins slanders like a mint,
195  To match us in comparisons with dirt,
196  To weaken and discredit our exposure,
197  How rank soever rounded in with danger.
198  They tax our policy, and call it cowardice,
199  Count wisdom as no member of the war,
200  Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
201  But that of hand: the still and mental parts,
202  That do contrive how many hands shall strike,
203  When fitness calls them on, and know by measure
204  Of their observant toil the enemies' weight,--
205  Why, this hath not a finger's dignity:
206  They call this bed-work, mappery, closet-war;
207  So that the ram that batters down the wall,
208  For the great swing and rudeness of his poise,
209  They place before his hand that made the engine,
210  Or those that with the fineness of their souls
211  By reason guide his execution.
212  Let this be granted, and Achilles' horse
213  Makes many Thetis' sons.
A tucket

214  What trumpet? look, Menelaus.
215  From Troy.

216  What would you 'fore our tent?
217  Is this great Agamemnon's tent, I pray you?
218  Even this.
219  May one, that is a herald and a prince,
220  Do a fair message to his kingly ears?
221  With surety stronger than Achilles' arm
222  'Fore all the Greekish heads, which with one voice
223  Call Agamemnon head and general.
224  Fair leave and large security. How may
225  A stranger to those most imperial looks
226  Know them from eyes of other mortals?
227  How!
228  Ay;
229  I ask, that I might waken reverence,
230  And bid the cheek be ready with a blush
231  Modest as morning when she coldly eyes
232  The youthful Phoebus:
233  Which is that god in office, guiding men?
234  Which is the high and mighty Agamemnon?
235  This Trojan scorns us; or the men of Troy
236  Are ceremonious courtiers.
237  Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarm'd,
238  As bending angels; that's their fame in peace:
239  But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
240  Good arms, strong joints, true swords; and,
241  Jove's accord,
242  Nothing so full of heart. But peace, AEneas,
243  Peace, Trojan; lay thy finger on thy lips!
244  The worthiness of praise distains his worth,
245  If that the praised himself bring the praise forth:
246  But what the repining enemy commends,
247  That breath fame blows; that praise, sole sure,
248  transcends.
249  Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself AEneas?
250  Ay, Greek, that is my name.
251  What's your affair I pray you?
252  Sir, pardon; 'tis for Agamemnon's ears.
253  He hears naught privately that comes from Troy.
254  Nor I from Troy come not to whisper him:
255  I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
256  To set his sense on the attentive bent,
257  And then to speak.
258  Speak frankly as the wind;
259  It is not Agamemnon's sleeping hour:
260  That thou shalt know. Trojan, he is awake,
261  He tells thee so himself.
262  Trumpet, blow loud,
263  Send thy brass voice through all these lazy tents;
264  And every Greek of mettle, let him know,
265  What Troy means fairly shall be spoke aloud.
Trumpet sounds
266  We have, great Agamemnon, here in Troy
267  A prince call'd Hector,--Priam is his father,--
268  Who in this dull and long-continued truce
269  Is rusty grown: he bade me take a trumpet,
270  And to this purpose speak. Kings, princes, lords!
271  If there be one among the fair'st of Greece
272  That holds his honour higher than his ease,
273  That seeks his praise more than he fears his peril,
274  That knows his valour, and knows not his fear,
275  That loves his mistress more than in confession,
276  With truant vows to her own lips he loves,
277  And dare avow her beauty and her worth
278  In other arms than hers,--to him this challenge.
279  Hector, in view of Trojans and of Greeks,
280  Shall make it good, or do his best to do it,
281  He hath a lady, wiser, fairer, truer,
282  Than ever Greek did compass in his arms,
283  And will to-morrow with his trumpet call
284  Midway between your tents and walls of Troy,
285  To rouse a Grecian that is true in love:
286  If any come, Hector shall honour him;
287  If none, he'll say in Troy when he retires,
288  The Grecian dames are sunburnt and not worth
289  The splinter of a lance. Even so much.
290  This shall be told our lovers, Lord AEneas;
291  If none of them have soul in such a kind,
292  We left them all at home: but we are soldiers;
293  And may that soldier a mere recreant prove,
294  That means not, hath not, or is not in love!
295  If then one is, or hath, or means to be,
296  That one meets Hector; if none else, I am he.
297  Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man
298  When Hector's grandsire suck'd: he is old now;
299  But if there be not in our Grecian host
300  One noble man that hath one spark of fire,
301  To answer for his love, tell him from me
302  I'll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver
303  And in my vantbrace put this wither'd brawn,
304  And meeting him will tell him that my lady
305  Was fairer than his grandam and as chaste
306  As may be in the world: his youth in flood,
307  I'll prove this truth with my three drops of blood.
308  Now heavens forbid such scarcity of youth!
309  Amen.
310  Fair Lord AEneas, let me touch your hand;
311  To our pavilion shall I lead you, sir.
312  Achilles shall have word of this intent;
313  So shall each lord of Greece, from tent to tent:
314  Yourself shall feast with us before you go
315  And find the welcome of a noble foe.
Exeunt all but ULYSSES and NESTOR

316  Nestor!
317  What says Ulysses?
318  I have a young conception in my brain;
319  Be you my time to bring it to some shape.
320  What is't?
321  This 'tis:
322  Blunt wedges rive hard knots: the seeded pride
323  That hath to this maturity blown up
324  In rank Achilles must or now be cropp'd,
325  Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil,
326  To overbulk us all.
327  Well, and how?
328  This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
329  However it is spread in general name,
330  Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
331  The purpose is perspicuous even as substance,
332  Whose grossness little characters sum up:
333  And, in the publication, make no strain,
334  But that Achilles, were his brain as barren
335  As banks of Libya,--though, Apollo knows,
336  'Tis dry enough,--will, with great speed of judgment,
337  Ay, with celerity, find Hector's purpose
338  Pointing on him.
339  And wake him to the answer, think you?
340  Yes, 'tis most meet: whom may you else oppose,
341  That can from Hector bring his honour off,
342  If not Achilles? Though't be a sportful combat,
343  Yet in the trial much opinion dwells;
344  For here the Trojans taste our dear'st repute
345  With their finest palate: and trust to me, Ulysses,
346  Our imputation shall be oddly poised
347  In this wild action; for the success,
348  Although particular, shall give a scantling
349  Of good or bad unto the general;
350  And in such indexes, although small pricks
351  To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
352  The baby figure of the giant mass
353  Of things to come at large. It is supposed
354  He that meets Hector issues from our choice
355  And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
356  Makes merit her election, and doth boil,
357  As 'twere from us all, a man distill'd
358  Out of our virtues; who miscarrying,
359  What heart receives from hence the conquering part,
360  To steel a strong opinion to themselves?
361  Which entertain'd, limbs are his instruments,
362  In no less working than are swords and bows
363  Directive by the limbs.
364  Give pardon to my speech:
365  Therefore 'tis meet Achilles meet not Hector.
366  Let us, like merchants, show our foulest wares,
367  And think, perchance, they'll sell; if not,
368  The lustre of the better yet to show,
369  Shall show the better. Do not consent
370  That ever Hector and Achilles meet;
371  For both our honour and our shame in this
372  Are dogg'd with two strange followers.
373  I see them not with my old eyes: what are they?
374  What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
375  Were he not proud, we all should share with him:
376  But he already is too insolent;
377  And we were better parch in Afric sun
378  Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes,
379  Should he 'scape Hector fair: if he were foil'd,
380  Why then, we did our main opinion crush
381  In taint of our best man. No, make a lottery;
382  And, by device, let blockish Ajax draw
383  The sort to fight with Hector: among ourselves
384  Give him allowance for the better man;
385  For that will physic the great Myrmidon
386  Who broils in loud applause, and make him fall
387  His crest that prouder than blue Iris bends.
388  If the dull brainless Ajax come safe off,
389  We'll dress him up in voices: if he fail,
390  Yet go we under our opinion still
391  That we have better men. But, hit or miss,
392  Our project's life this shape of sense assumes:
393  Ajax employ'd plucks down Achilles' plumes.
394  Ulysses,
395  Now I begin to relish thy advice;
396  And I will give a taste of it forthwith
397  To Agamemnon: go we to him straight.
398  Two curs shall tame each other: pride alone
399  Must tarre the mastiffs on, as 'twere their bone.

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