William Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene II

Scene II

Troy. A room in Priam's palace

Enter Priam, Hector, Troilus, Paris, and Helenus

Priam

After so many hours, lives, speeches spent, Thus once again says Nestor from the Greeks: 'Deliver Helen, and all damage else— As honour, loss of time, travail, expense, Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed In 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 toucheth my particular, Yet, dread Priam, There is no lady of more softer bowels, More 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 call'd The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches To the bottom of the worst. Let Helen go: Since the first sword was drawn about this question, Every tithe soul, 'mongst many thousand dismes, Hath been as dear as Helen; I mean, of ours: If we have lost so many tenths of ours, To 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?

Troilus

Fie, fie, my brother! Weigh you the worth and honour 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 With 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, Because 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 employ'd is perilous, And 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 And fly like chidden Mercury from Jove, Or like a star disorb'd? Nay, if we talk of reason, Let's shut our gates and sleep: manhood and honour Should have hare-hearts, would they but fat their thoughts With this cramm'd reason: reason and respect Make livers pale and lustihood deject.

Hector

Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost The holding.

Troilus

What is aught, but as 'tis valued?

Hector

But value dwells not in particular will; It holds his estimate and dignity As 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 attributive To what infectiously itself affects, Without some image of the affected merit.

Troilus

I take to-day 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 Of 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 honour: We turn not back the silks upon the merchant, When we have soil'd them, nor the remainder viands We do not throw in unrespective sieve, 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; The seas and winds, old wranglers, took a truce And did him service: he touch'd 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. Why keep we her? the Grecians keep our aunt: Is she worth keeping? why, she is a pearl, Whose price hath launch'd above a thousand ships, And turn'd crown'd kings to merchants. If you'll avouch 'twas wisdom Paris went— 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 clapp'd your hands And cried 'Inestimable!'—why do you now The issue of your proper wisdoms rate, And 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, That in their country did them that disgrace, We fear to warrant in our native place!

Cassandra

Within

Cry, Trojans, cry!

Priam

What noise? what shriek is this?

Troilus

'Tis our mad sister, I do know her voice.

Cassandra

Within

Cry, Trojans!

Hector

It is Cassandra.

Enter Cassandra, raving

Cassandra

Cry, Trojans, cry! lend me ten thousand eyes, And I will fill them with prophetic tears.

Hector

Peace, sister, peace!

Cassandra

Virgins and boys, mid-age and wrinkled eld, Soft infancy, that nothing canst but cry, Add to my clamours! let us pay betimes A moiety of that mass of moan to come. Cry, Trojans, cry! practise your eyes with tears! Troy must not be, nor goodly Ilion stand; Our firebrand brother, Paris, burns us all. Cry, Trojans, cry! a Helen and a woe: Cry, cry! Troy burns, or else let Helen go.

Exit

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, Nor fear of bad success in a bad cause, Can qualify the same?

Troilus

Why, brother Hector, We may not think the justness of each act Such and no other than event doth form it, Nor once deject the courage of our minds, Because Cassandra's mad: her brain-sick raptures Cannot distaste the goodness of a quarrel Which hath our several honours all engaged To make it gracious. For my private part, I am no more touch'd 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 As 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? What Propugnation is in one man's valour, 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, Paris should ne'er retract what he hath done, Nor faint in the pursuit.

Priam

Paris, you speak Like one besotted on your sweet delights: You have the honey still, but these the gall; So 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 honourable keeping her. What treason were it to the ransack'd 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 Should 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 bestow'd or death unfamed Where 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 Have glozed, 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 distemper'd blood Than 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 render'd to their owners: now, What 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 benumbed wills, resist the same, There is a law in each well-order'd 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 Of nature and of nations speak aloud To have her back return'd: 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, My spritely brethren, I propend to you In resolution to keep Helen still, For 'tis a cause that hath no mean dependance Upon our joint and several dignities.

Troilus

Why, there you touch'd the life of our design: Were 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 defence. But, worthy Hector, She is a theme of honour and renown, A 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 As smiles upon the forehead of this action For the wide world's revenue.

Hector

I am yours, You valiant offspring of great Priamus. I have a roisting challenge sent amongst The dun 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.

Exeunt