A part of the Grecian camp.
(Ajax; Thersites; Achilles; Patroclus)
The slow-witted Ajax and the bitter Thersites abuse one another till Ajax, outclassed, resorts to physical violence to shut Thersites up. It doesn’t work: Thersites merely starts commenting on Ajax’s envy of Achilles. Achilles and Patroclus arrive and ask what’s going on, giving Thersites the excuse for yet more railing at everybody in his sight.. Ajax wishes to know what the proclamation is, and finally learns that it’s about Hector’s challenge. Achilles comments that had the choice of Greek champion not been put to a lottery, he would have been chosen. (81 lines)
Enter Ajax and Thersites.
Agamemnon, how if he had biles—full, all over, generally?
And those biles did run—say so—did not the general run then? Were not that a botchy core?
Then would come some matter from him; I see none now.
Thou bitch-wolf’s son, canst thou not hear? Feel then.
The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted lord!
Speak then, thou whinid’st leaven, speak; I will beat thee into handsomeness.
I shall sooner rail thee into wit and holiness, but I think thy horse will sooner con an oration without book than thou learn a prayer without book. Thou canst strike, canst thou? A red murrain a’ thy jade’s tricks!
Toadstool! Learn me the proclamation.
Dost thou think I have no sense, thou strikest me thus?
Thou art proclaim’d fool, I think.
Do not, porpentine, do not, my fingers itch.
I would thou didst itch from head to foot; and I had the scratching of thee, I would make thee the loathsomest scab in Greece. When thou art forth in the incursions, thou strikest as slow as another.
I say, the proclamation!
Thou grumblest and railest every hour on Achilles, and thou art as full of envy at his greatness as Cerberus is at Proserpina’s beauty, ay, that thou bark’st at him.
Thou shouldst strike him.
He would pun thee into shivers with his fist, as a sailor breaks a biscuit.
You whoreson cur!
Do! Do! Thou stool for a witch! Ay, do! Do! Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows, an asinico may tutor thee. You scurvy valiant ass! Thou art here but to thrash Troyans, and thou art bought and sold among those of any wit, like a barbarian slave. If thou use to beat me, I will begin at thy heel, and tell what thou art by inches, thou thing of no bowels, thou!
You scurvy lord!
Mars his idiot! Do, rudeness, do, camel, do, do.
Enter Achilles and Patroclus.
Why, how now, Ajax, wherefore do ye thus?
How now, Thersites, what’s the matter, man?
You see him there? Do you?
Ay, what’s the matter?
Nay, look upon him.
So I do. What’s the matter?
Nay, but regard him well.
Well? Why, so I do.
But yet you look not well upon him, for whosomever you take him to be, he is Ajax.
I know that, fool.
Ay, but that fool knows not himself.
Therefore I beat thee.
Lo, lo, lo, lo, what modicums of wit he utters! His evasions have ears thus long. I have bobb’d his brain more than he has beat my bones. I will buy nine sparrows for a penny, and his pia mater is not worth the ninth part of a sparrow. This lord, Achilles, Ajax, who wears his wit in his belly and his guts in his head, I’ll tell you what I say of him.
I say, this Ajax—
Ajax offers to strike him.
Nay, good Ajax.
Has not so much wit—
Nay, I must hold you.
As will stop the eye of Helen’s needle, for whom he comes to fight.
I would have peace and quietness, but the fool will not—he there, that he! Look you there.
O thou damn’d cur! I shall—
Will you set your wit to a fool’s?
No, I warrant you, the fool’s will shame it.
Good words, Thersites.
What’s the quarrel?
I bade the vile owl go learn me the tenor of the proclamation, and he rails upon me.
I serve thee not.
Well, go to, go to.
I serve here voluntary.
Your last service was suff’rance, ’twas not voluntary; no man is beaten voluntary. Ajax was here the voluntary, and you as under an impress.
E’en so; a great deal of your wit, too, lies in your sinews, or else there be liars. Hector shall have a great catch, and ’a knock out either of your brains; ’a were as good crack a fusty nut with no kernel.
What, with me too, Thersites?
There’s Ulysses and old Nestor, whose wit was moldy ere your grandsires had nails on their toes, yoke you like draught-oxen, and make you plough up the wars.
Yes, good sooth. To, Achilles! To, Ajax! To—
I shall cut out your tongue.
’Tis no matter, I shall speak as much as thou afterwards.
No more words, Thersites, peace!
I will hold my peace when Achilles’ brach bids me, shall I?
There’s for you, Patroclus.
I will see you hang’d like clatpoles ere I come any more to your tents. I will keep where there is wit stirring, and leave the faction of fools.
A good riddance.
Marry, this, sir, is proclaim’d through all our host:
That Hector, by the fifth hour of the sun,
Will with a trumpet ’twixt our tents and Troy
Tomorrow morning call some knight to arms
That hath a stomach, and such a one that dare
Maintain—I know not what, ’tis trash. Farewell.
Farewell. Who shall answer him?
I know not, ’tis put to lott’ry. Otherwise,
He knew his man.
O, meaning you? I will go learn more of it.