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Scene III

The Grecian camp. Before Achilles' tent

Enter Thersites, solus

Thersites

How now, Thersites! what lost in the labyrinth of thy fury! Shall the elephant Ajax carry it thus? He beats me, and I rail at him: O, worthy satisfaction! would it were otherwise; that I could beat him, whilst he railed at me. 'Sfoot, I'll learn to conjure and raise devils, but I'll see some issue of my spiteful execrations. Then there's Achilles, a rare enginer! If Troy be not taken till these two undermine it, the walls will stand till they fall of themselves. O thou great thunder-darter of Olympus, forget that thou art Jove, the king of gods and, Mercury, lose all the serpentine craft of thy caduceus, if ye take not that little, little less than little wit from them that they have! which short-armed ignorance itself knows is so abundant scarce, it will not in circumvention deliver a fly from a spider, without drawing their massy irons and cutting the web. After this, the vengeance on the whole camp! or rather, the bone-ache! for that, methinks, is the curse dependent on those that war for a placket. I have said my prayers and devil Envy say Amen. What ho! my Lord Achilles!

Enter Patroclus

Patroclus

Who's there? Thersites! Good Thersites, come in and rail.

Thersites

If I could have remembered a gilt counterfeit, thou wouldst not have slipped out of my contemplation: but it is no matter; thyself upon thyself! The common curse of mankind, folly and ignorance, be thine in great revenue! heaven bless thee from a tutor, and discipline come not near thee! Let thy blood be thy direction till thy death! then if she that lays thee out says thou art a fair corse, I'll be sworn and sworn upon't she never shrouded any but lazars. Amen. Where's Achilles?

Patroclus

What, art thou devout? wast thou in prayer?

Thersites

Ay: the heavens hear me!

Enter Achilles

Achilles

Who's there?

Patroclus

Thersites, my lord.

Achilles

Where, where? Art thou come? why, my cheese, my digestion, why hast thou not served thyself in to my table so many meals? Come, what's Agamemnon?

Thersites

Thy commander, Achilles. Then tell me, Patroclus, what's Achilles?

Patroclus

Thy lord, Thersites: then tell me, I pray thee, what's thyself?

Thersites

Thy knower, Patroclus: then tell me, Patroclus, what art thou?

Patroclus

Thou mayst tell that knowest.

Achilles

O, tell, tell.

Thersites

I'll decline the whole question. Agamemnon commands Achilles; Achilles is my lord; I am Patroclus' knower, and Patroclus is a fool.

Patroclus

You rascal!

Thersites

Peace, fool! I have not done.

Achilles

He is a privileged man. Proceed, Thersites.

Thersites

Agamemnon is a fool; Achilles is a fool; Thersites is a fool, and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a fool.

Achilles

Derive this; come.

Thersites

Agamemnon is a fool to offer to command Achilles;
Achilles is a fool to be commanded of Agamemnon;
Thersites is a fool to serve such a fool, and
Patroclus is a fool positive.

Patroclus

Why am I a fool?

Thersites

Make that demand of the prover. It suffices me thou art. Look you, who comes here?

Achilles

Patroclus, I'll speak with nobody.
Come in with me, Thersites.

Exit

Thersites

Here is such patchery, such juggling and such knavery! all the argument is a cuckold and a whore; a good quarrel to draw emulous factions and bleed to death upon. Now, the dry serpigo on the subject! and war and lechery confound all! [Exit]

Enter Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes, and Ajax

Agamemnon

Where is Achilles?

Patroclus

Within his tent; but ill disposed, my lord.

Agamemnon

Let it be known to him that we are here.
He shent our messengers; and we lay by
Our appertainments, visiting of him:
Let him be told so; lest perchance he think
We dare not move the question of our place,
Or know not what we are.

Patroclus

I shall say so to him.

Exit

Ulysses

We saw him at the opening of his tent:
He is not sick.

Ajax

Yes, lion-sick, sick of proud heart: you may call it melancholy, if you will favour the man; but, by my head, 'tis pride: but why, why? let him show us the cause. A word, my lord.

Takes Agamemnon aside

Nestor

What moves Ajax thus to bay at him?

Ulysses

Achilles hath inveigled his fool from him.

Nestor

Who, Thersites?

Ulysses

He.

Nestor

Then will Ajax lack matter, if he have lost his argument.

Ulysses

No, you see, he is his argument that has his argument, Achilles.

Nestor

All the better; their fraction is more our wish than their faction: but it was a strong composure a fool could disunite.

Ulysses

The amity that wisdom knits not, folly may easily untie. Here comes Patroclus.

Re-enter Patroclus

Nestor

No Achilles with him.

Ulysses

The elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy: his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure.

Patroclus

Achilles bids me say, he is much sorry,
If any thing more than your sport and pleasure
Did move your greatness and this noble state
To call upon him; he hopes it is no other
But for your health and your digestion sake,
And after-dinner's breath.

Agamemnon

Hear you, Patroclus:
We are too well acquainted with these answers:
But his evasion, wing'd thus swift with scorn,
Cannot outfly our apprehensions.
Much attribute he hath, and much the reason
Why we ascribe it to him; yet all his virtues,
Not virtuously on his own part beheld,
Do in our eyes begin to lose their gloss,
Yea, like fair fruit in an unwholesome dish,
Are like to rot untasted. Go and tell him,
We come to speak with him; and you shall not sin,
If you do say we think him over-proud
And under-honest, in self-assumption greater
Than in the note of judgment; and worthier than himself
Here tend the savage strangeness he puts on,
Disguise the holy strength of their command,
And underwrite in an observing kind
His humorous predominance; yea, watch
His pettish lunes, his ebbs, his flows, as if
The passage and whole carriage of this action
Rode on his tide. Go tell him this, and add,
That if he overhold his price so much,
We'll none of him; but let him, like an engine
Not portable, lie under this report:
“Bring action hither, this cannot go to war:
A stirring dwarf we do allowance give
Before a sleeping giant.” Tell him so.

Patroclus

I shall; and bring his answer presently.

Exit

Agamemnon

In second voice we'll not be satisfied;
We come to speak with him. Ulysses, enter you.

Exit Ulysses

Ajax

What is he more than another?

Agamemnon

No more than what he thinks he is.

Ajax

Is he so much? Do you not think he thinks himself a better man than I am?

Agamemnon

No question.

Ajax

Will you subscribe his thought, and say he is?

Agamemnon

No, noble Ajax; you are as strong, as valiant, as wise, no less noble, much more gentle, and altogether more tractable.

Ajax

Why should a man be proud? How doth pride grow? I know not what pride is.

Agamemnon

Your mind is the clearer, Ajax, and your virtues the fairer. He that is proud eats up himself: pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle; and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise.

Ajax

I do hate a proud man, as I hate the engendering of toads.

Nestor

Aside

Yet he loves himself: is't not strange?

Re-enter Ulysses

Ulysses

Achilles will not to the field to-morrow.

Agamemnon

What's his excuse?

Ulysses

He doth rely on none,
But carries on the stream of his dispose
Without observance or respect of any,
In will peculiar and in self-admission.

Agamemnon

Why will he not upon our fair request
Untent his person and share the air with us?

Ulysses

Things small as nothing, for request's sake only,
He makes important: possess'd he is with greatness,
And speaks not to himself but with a pride
That quarrels at self-breath: imagined worth
Holds in his blood such swoln and hot discourse
That 'twixt his mental and his active parts
Kingdom'd Achilles in commotion rages
And batters down himself: what should I say?
He is so plaguy proud that the death-tokens of it
Cry 'No recovery.'

Agamemnon

Let Ajax go to him.
Dear lord, go you and greet him in his tent:
'Tis said he holds you well, and will be led
At your request a little from himself.

Ulysses

O Agamemnon, let it not be so!
We'll consecrate the steps that Ajax makes
When they go from Achilles: shall the proud lord
That bastes his arrogance with his own seam
And never suffers matter of the world
Enter his thoughts, save such as do revolve
And ruminate himself, shall he be worshipp'd
Of that we hold an idol more than he?
No, this thrice worthy and right valiant lord
Must not so stale his palm, nobly acquired;
Nor, by my will, assubjugate his merit,
As amply titled as Achilles is,
By going to Achilles:
That were to enlard his fat already pride
And add more coals to Cancer when he burns
With entertaining great Hyperion.
This lord go to him! Jupiter forbid,
And say in thunder 'Achilles go to him.'

Nestor

Aside to Diomedes

O, this is well; he rubs the vein of him.

Diomedes

Aside to Nestor

And how his silence drinks up this applause!

Ajax

If I go to him, with my armed fist I'll pash him o'er the face.

Agamemnon

O, no, you shall not go.

Ajax

An a' be proud with me, I'll pheeze his pride:
Let me go to him.

Ulysses

Not for the worth that hangs upon our quarrel.

Ajax

A paltry, insolent fellow!

Nestor

How he describes himself!

Ajax

Can he not be sociable?

Ulysses

The raven chides blackness.

Ajax

I'll let his humours blood.

Agamemnon

He will be the physician that should be the patient.

Ajax

An all men were o' my mind,—

Ulysses

Wit would be out of fashion.

Ajax

A' should not bear it so, a' should eat swords first: shall pride carry it?

Nestor

An 'twould, you'ld carry half.

Ulysses

A' would have ten shares.

Ajax

I will knead him; I'll make him supple.

Nestor

He's not yet through warm: force him with praises: pour in, pour in; his ambition is dry.

Ulysses

To Agamemnon

My lord, you feed too much on this dislike.

Nestor

Our noble general, do not do so.

Diomedes

You must prepare to fight without Achilles.

Ulysses

Why, 'tis this naming of him does him harm.
Here is a man—but 'tis before his face;
I will be silent.

Nestor

Wherefore should you so?
He is not emulous, as Achilles is.

Ulysses

Know the whole world, he is as valiant.

Ajax

A whoreson dog, that shall pelter thus with us!
Would he were a Trojan!

Nestor

What a vice were it in Ajax now,—

Ulysses

If he were proud,—

Diomedes

Or covetous of praise,—

Ulysses

Ay, or surly borne,—

Diomedes

Or strange, or self-affected!

Ulysses

Thank the heavens, lord, thou art of sweet composure;
Praise him that got thee, she that gave thee suck:
Famed be thy tutor, and thy parts of nature
Thrice famed, beyond all erudition:
But he that disciplined thy arms to fight,
Let Mars divide eternity in twain,
And give him half: and, for thy vigour,
Bull-bearing Milo his addition yield
To sinewy Ajax. I will not praise thy wisdom,
Which, like a bourn, a pale, a shore, confines
Thy spacious and dilated parts: here's Nestor;
Instructed by the antiquary times,
He must, he is, he cannot but be wise:
Put pardon, father Nestor, were your days
As green as Ajax' and your brain so temper'd,
You should not have the eminence of him,
But be as Ajax.

Ajax

Shall I call you father?

Nestor

Ay, my good son.

Diomedes

Be ruled by him, Lord Ajax.

Ulysses

There is no tarrying here; the hart Achilles
Keeps thicket. Please it our great general
To call together all his state of war;
Fresh kings are come to Troy: to-morrow
We must with all our main of power stand fast:
And here's a lord,—come knights from east to west,
And cull their flower, Ajax shall cope the best.

Agamemnon

Go we to council. Let Achilles sleep:
Light boats sail swift, though greater hulks draw deep.

Exeunt


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