William Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene III
Enter Thersites, solus
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!
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?
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?
I'll decline the whole question. Agamemnon commands Achilles; Achilles is my lord; I am Patroclus' knower, and Patroclus is a fool.
Agamemnon is a fool; Achilles is a fool; Thersites is a fool, and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a fool.
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.
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
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.
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
All the better; their fraction is more our wish than their faction: but it was a strong composure a fool could disunite.
The elephant hath joints, but none for courtesy: his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure.
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.
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.
No, noble Ajax; you are as strong, as valiant, as wise, no less noble, much more gentle, and altogether more tractable.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.'
Why, 'tis this naming of him does him harm. Here is a man—but 'tis before his face; I will be silent.
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.
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.
Go we to council. Let Achilles sleep: Light boats sail swift, though greater hulks draw deep.