The Grecian camp. Before Agamemnon’s tent.
(Agamemnon; Nestor; Ulysses; Diomedes; Menelaus; Aeneas; Trojan Trumpeter)
The Greek leaders discuss the situation. Ulysses argues that the only reason Troy hasn’t fallen yet is that the Greeks are divided amongst themselves. He points especially to how Achilles is beginning to stay back from the fight for the sake of lying in his tent with Patroclus and mocking the other leaders. Aeneas arrives as an emissary from Troy, offering a direct challenge from Hector to any Greek who will take it up. Agamemnon agrees, promising that a Greek champion will be found. Ulysses suspects that the challenge is directed at Achilles. Nestor agrees and thinks Achilles is clearly the best choice, as he has the best chance at actually winning against Hector, but Ulysses disagrees. He suggests that they must avoid having Achilles named, to avoid either losing him or swelling his pride even more. He suggests a lottery, rigged to choose Ajax as the Greek champion, and that they praise Ajax to the skies to bring Achilles back down to earth a little. (397 lines)
Sennet. Enter Agamemnon, Nestor, Ulysses, Diomedes, Menelaus, with others.
What grief hath set these jaundies o’er your cheeks?
The ample proposition that hope makes
In all designs begun on earth below
Fails in the promis’d largeness. Checks and disasters
Grow in the veins of actions highest rear’d,
As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infects the sound pine, and diverts his grain
Tortive and errant from his course of growth.
Nor, princes, is it matter new to us
That we come short of our suppose so far
That after seven years’ siege yet Troy walls stand,
Sith every action that hath gone before,
Whereof we have record, trial did draw
Bias and thwart, not answering the aim
And that unbodied figure of the thought
That gave’t surmised shape. Why then, you princes,
Do you with cheeks abash’d behold our works,
And call them shames which are indeed nought else
But the protractive trials of great Jove
To find persistive constancy in men?
The fineness of which metal is not found
In fortune’s love; for then the bold and coward,
The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
The hard and soft, seem all affin’d and kin;
But in the wind and tempest of her frown,
Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan,
Puffing at all, winnows the light away,
And what hath mass or matter, by itself
Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.
With due observance of thy godlike seat,
Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply
Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance
Lies the true proof of men: the sea being smooth,
How many shallow bauble boats dare sail
Upon her patient breast, making their way
With those of nobler bulk!
But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage
The gentle Thetis, and anon behold
The strong-ribb’d bark through liquid mountains cut,
Bounding between the two moist elements,
Like Perseus’ horse. Where’s then the saucy boat
Whose weak untimber’d sides but even now
Corrivall’d greatness? Either to harbor fled,
Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so
Doth valor’s show and valor’s worth divide
In storms of fortune; for in her ray and brightness
The herd hath more annoyance by the breeze
Than by the tiger; but when the splitting wind
Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
And flies fled under shade, why then the thing of courage,
As rous’d with rage, with rage doth sympathize,
And with an accent tun’d in self-same key
Retires to chiding fortune.
Thou great commander, nerves and bone of Greece,
Heart of our numbers, soul and only sprite
In whom the tempers and the minds of all
Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks.
Besides th’ applause and approbation
most mighty for thy place and sway,
And thou most reverend for thy stretch’d-out life,
I give to both your speeches, which were such
As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece
Should hold up high in brass, and such again
As venerable Nestor, hatch’d in silver,
Should with a bond of air strong as the axle-tree
On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears
To his experienc’d tongue, yet let it please both,
Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.
Speak, prince of Ithaca, and be’t of less expect
That matter needless, of importless burden,
Divide thy lips, than we are confident,
When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws,
We shall hear music, wit, and oracle.
Troy, yet upon his bases, had been down,
And the great Hector’s sword had lack’d a master,
But for these instances:
The specialty of rule hath been neglected,
And look how many Grecian tents do stand
Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
Th’ unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order;
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthron’d and spher’d
Amidst the other; whose med’cinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts like the commandment of a king,
Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents, what mutiny!
What raging of the sea, shaking of earth!
Commotion in the winds!, frights, changes, horrors
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shak’d,
Which is the ladder of all high designs,
The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenity and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows. Each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores,
And make a sop of all this solid globe;
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead;
Force should be right, or rather, right and wrong
(Between whose endless jar justice resides)
Should lose their names, and so should justice too!
Then every thing include itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite,
And appetite, an universal wolf
(So doubly seconded with will and power),
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
Follows the choking,
And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward with a purpose
It hath to climb. The general’s disdain’d
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation,
And ’tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.
Most wisely hath Ulysses here discover’d
The fever whereof all our power is sick.
The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses,
What is the remedy?
The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns
The sinow and the forehand of our host,
Having his ear full of his airy fame,
Grows dainty of his worth, and in his tent
Lies mocking our designs. With him Patroclus
Upon a lazy bed the livelong day
Breaks scurril jests,
And with ridiculous and awkward action,
Which, slanderer, he imitation calls,
He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon,
Thy topless deputation he puts on,
And like a strutting player, whose conceit
Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich
To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
’Twixt his stretch’d footing and the scaffoldage,
Such to-be-pitied and o’er-wrested seeming
He acts thy greatness in; and when he speaks,
’Tis like a chime a-mending, with terms unsquar’d,
Which from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropp’d
Would seem hyperboles. At this fusty stuff
The large Achilles, on his press’d bed lolling,
From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause,
Cries, “Excellent! ’Tis Agamemnon right!
Now play me Nestor, hem, and stroke thy beard,
As he being dress’d to some oration.”
That’s done, as near as the extremest ends
Of parallels, as like as Vulcan and his wife;
Yet god Achilles still cries, “Excellent!
’Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus,
Arming to answer in a night alarm.”
And then forsooth the faint defects of age
Must be the scene of mirth; to cough and spit,
And with a palsy fumbling on his gorget,
Shake in and out the rivet; and at this sport
Sir Valor dies; cries, “O, enough, Patroclus,
Or give me ribs of steel! I shall split all
In pleasure of my spleen.” And in this fashion,
All our abilities, gifts, natures, shapes,
Severals and generals of grace exact,
Achievements, plots, orders, preventions,
Excitements to the field, or speech for truce,
Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
As stuff for these two to make paradoxes.
And in the imitation of these twain—
Who, as Ulysses says, opinion crowns
With an imperial voice—many are infect.
Ajax is grown self-will’d, and bears his head
In such a rein, in full as proud a place
As broad Achilles; keeps his tent like him,
Makes factious feasts, rails on our state of war,
Bold as an oracle, and sets Thersites,
A slave whose gall coins slanders like a mint,
To match us in comparisons with dirt,
To weaken or discredit our exposure,
How rank soever rounded in with danger.
They tax our policy, and call it cowardice,
Count wisdom as no member of the war,
Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
But that of hand. The still and mental parts,
That do contrive how many hands shall strike
When fitness calls them on, and know by measure
Of their observant toil the enemies’ weight—
Why, this hath not a finger’s dignity.
They call this bed-work, mapp’ry, closet-war,
So that the ram that batters down the wall,
For the great swinge and rudeness of his poise,
They place before his hand that made the engine,
Or those that with the fineness of their souls
By reason guide his execution.
Let this be granted, and Achilles’ horse
Makes many Thetis’ sons.
What trumpet? Look, Menelaus.
Enter Aeneas and Trojan Trumpeter.
What would you ’fore our tent?
Is this great Agamemnon’s tent, I pray you?
May one that is a herald and a prince
Do a fair message to his kingly eyes?
With surety stronger than Achilles’ arm,
’Fore all the Greekish heads, which with one voice
Call Agamemnon head and general.
Fair leave and large security. How may
A stranger to those most imperial looks
Know them from eyes of other mortals?
I ask, that I might waken reverence,
And bid the cheek be ready with a blush
Modest as morning when she coldly eyes
The youthful Phoebus.
Which is that god in office, guiding men?
Which is the high and mighty Agamemnon?
This Troyan scorns us, or the men of Troy
Are ceremonious courtiers.
Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarm’d,
As bending angels; that’s their fame in peace.
But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
Good arms, strong joints, true swords, and, great Jove’s accord,
Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Aeneas,
Peace, Troyan, lay thy finger on thy lips!
The worthiness of praise distains his worth,
If that the prais’d himself bring the praise forth;
But what the repining enemy commends,
That breath fame blows, that praise, sole pure, transcends.
Sir, you of Troy, call you yourself Aeneas?
Ay, Greek, that is my name.
What’s your affairs, I pray you?
Sir, pardon, ’tis for Agamemnon’s ears.
He hears nought privately that comes from Troy.
Nor I from Troy come not to whisper with him.
I bring a trumpet to awake his ear,
To set his sense on the attentive bent,
And then to speak.
Speak frankly as the wind,
It is not Agamemnon’s sleeping hour.
That thou shalt know, Troyan, he is awake,
He tells thee so himself.
Trumpet, blow loud,
Send thy brass voice through all these lazy tents,
And every Greek of mettle, let him know,
What Troy means fairly shall be spoke aloud.
We have, great Agamemnon, here in Troy
A prince call’d Hector—Priam is his father—
Who in this dull and long-continued truce
Is resty grown. He bade me take a trumpet,
And to this purpose speak: kings, princes, lords!
If there be one among the fair’st of Greece
That holds his honor higher than his ease,
And seeks his praise more than he fears his peril,
That knows his valor, and knows not his fear,
That loves his mistress more than in confession
With truant vows to her own lips he loves,
And dare avow her beauty and her worth
In other arms than hers—to him this challenge!
Hector, in view of Troyans and of Greeks,
Shall make it good, or do his best to do it:
He hath a lady, wiser, fairer, truer,
Than ever Greek did couple in his arms,
And will tomorrow with his trumpet call,
Midway between your tents and walls of Troy,
To rouse a Grecian that is true in love.
If any come, Hector shall honor him;
If none, he’ll say in Troy when he retires,
The Grecian dames are sunburnt, and not worth
The splinter of a lance. Even so much.
This shall be told our lovers, Lord Aeneas.
If none of them have soul in such a kind,
We left them all at home. But we are soldiers,
And may that soldier a mere recreant prove,
That means not, hath not, or is not in love!
If then one is, or hath, or means to be,
That one meets Hector; if none else, I am he.
Tell him of Nestor, one that was a man
When Hector’s grandsire suck’d. He is old now,
But if there be not in our Grecian mould
A noble man that hath no spark of fire
To answer for his love, tell him from me
I’ll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver,
And in my vambrace put my withered brawns,
And meeting him will tell him that my lady
Was fairer than his grandam, and as chaste
As may be in the world. His youth in flood,
I’ll prove this troth with my three drops of blood.
Now heavens forfend such scarcity of youth!
Fair Lord Aeneas, let me touch your hand;
To our pavilion shall I lead you, sir,
Achilles shall have word of this intent,
So shall each lord of Greece, from tent to tent.
Yourself shall feast with us before you go,
And find the welcome of a noble foe.
Exeunt. Manent Ulysses and Nestor.
What says Ulysses?
I have a young conception in my brain,
Be you my time to bring it to some shape.
Blunt wedges rive hard knots; the seeded pride
That hath to this maturity blown up
In rank Achilles must or now be cropp’d,
Or shedding, breed a nursery of like evil,
To overbulk us all.
Well, and how?
This challenge that the gallant Hector sends,
However it is spread in general name,
Relates in purpose only to Achilles.
True, the purpose is perspicuous as substance,
Whose grossness little characters sum up;
And in the publication make no strain
But that Achilles, were his brain as barren
As banks of Libya (though, Apollo knows,
’Tis dry enough), will with great speed of judgment,
Ay, with celerity, find Hector’s purpose
Pointing on him.
And wake him to the answer, think you?
Why, ’tis most meet; who may you else oppose
That can from Hector bring those honors off,
If not Achilles? Though’t be a sportful combat,
Yet in the trial much opinion dwells;
For here the Troyans taste our dear’st repute
With their fin’st palate; and trust to me, Ulysses,
Our imputation shall be oddly pois’d
In this vild action, for the success,
Although particular, shall give a scantling
Of good or bad unto the general,
And in such indexes (although small pricks
To their subsequent volumes) there is seen
The baby figure of the giant mass
Of things to come at large. It is suppos’d
He that meets Hector issues from our choice,
And choice (being mutual act of all our souls)
Makes merit her election, and doth boil
(As ’twere from forth us all) a man distill’d
Out of our virtues, who miscarrying,
What heart receives from hence a conquering part
To steel a strong opinion to themselves?
Which entertain’d, limbs are his instruments,
In no less working than are swords and bows
Directive by the limbs.
Give pardon to my speech:
Therefore ’tis meet Achilles meet not Hector.
Let us like merchants first show foul wares,
And think perchance they’ll sell; if not,
The lustre of the better shall exceed
By showing the worse first. Do not consent
That ever Hector and Achilles meet,
For both our honor and our shame in this
Are dogg’d with two strange followers.
I see them not with my old eyes, what are they?
What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
Were he not proud, we all should share with him.
But he already is too insolent;
And it were better parch in Afric sun
Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes,
Should he scape Hector fair. If he were foil’d,
Why then we do our main opinion crush
In taint of our best man. No, make a lott’ry,
And by device let blockish Ajax draw
The sort to fight with Hector; among ourselves
Give him allowance for the better man,
For that will physic the great Myrmidon,
Who broils in loud applause, and make him fall
His crest that prouder than blue Iris bends.
If the dull brainless Ajax come safe off,
We’ll dress him up in voices; if he fail,
Yet go we under our opinion still
That we have better men. But hit or miss,
Our project’s life this shape of sense assumes:
Ajax employ’d plucks down Achilles’ plumes.
Now, Ulysses, I begin to relish thy advice,
And I will give a taste thereof forthwith
To Agamemnon. Go we to him straight.
Two curs shall tame each other; pride alone
Must tarre the mastiffs on, as ’twere a bone.