Shakespeare For White Trash: Troilus and Cressida

December 21, 2012

(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 —  )

Main Characters

    The Trojans

Priam — King of Troy

Hector, Troilus, Paris, Deiphobus, and Helenus — sons of Priam

Margarelon — bastard son of Priam

Cassandra — daughter of Priam; a prophetess

Aeneas and Antenor — commanders

Calchas — priest; defector to the Greeks

Cressida — Calchas’s daughter

Pandarus — Cressida’s uncle

Alexander — Cressida’s servant

Andromache — Hector’s wife

    The Greeks

Agamemnon — supreme commander

Menelaus — his brother; Helen’s husband

Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses, Nestor, and Diomedes — commanders

Patroclus — Achilles’ companion

Helen — formerly Menelaus’ wife, now living as Paris’ wife

Thersites — a nasty servant and critic of the war


Prologue Speaker

Gist of the story: The story takes place during the Trojan War, around 1200 BC.  Previously, Paris, a prince of Troy, stole Helen away from a Greek king, Menelaus.  Now the Greeks are besieging the city to get her back.  Troilus, another prince of Troy, is in love with Cressida.  Her father, Calchas, defected to the Greeks, and now her uncle, Pandarus, is trying to hook her up with Troilus.  But shortly after they become lovers, word comes that Cressida is to be exchanged for Antenor, a Trojan commander held prisoner by the Greeks.  She pledges her loyalty to Troilus, but once she is in the Greek camp, she takes up with Diomedes, a Greek commander.  Meanwhile, the Greeks’ best fighter, Achilles, is sulking in his tent, unwilling to go out and fight.  He spends his time with his buddy, Patroclus.  The other Greek commanders try to manipulate him back into the war by presenting Ajax as the most worthy fighter to answer a challenge by Hector to one-on-one combat.  The match ends in a draw.  Achilles doesn’t get back into the war until Patroclus is killed.  Troilus learns that Cressida has been unfaithful, and he wants to take it out on Diomedes.  Achilles meets Hector on the battlefield but breaks off the fight.  Later, he and his followers catch Hector unarmed and kill him.  Troilus is disillusioned about everything and sees no hope for Troy.  Pandarus leaves us with a bitterly ironic closing speech.

(Troy and the Trojan War, described in Homer’s Iliad, were long assumed to be pure legend until archaeologists discovered the ancient city in the late 1800’s in what is now Turkey.  The war probably took place around 1200 BC and may have lasted ten years.  The popular version of  the story of Helen of Troy is that she was abducted by Paris.  However, it is almost certain that she went willingly.  The main knock against Troilus and Cressida is that it is anticlimactic — that is, just when you think Shakespeare is building up to something, the action fizzles out.  But we must understand what Shakespeare is up to.  He has turned Homer’s Iliad on its head.  The glorious war of Homer’s epic, with brave, noble heroes on both sides, is presented as a stupid exercise in stubbornness and false honour.  Imagine!  A ten-year war fought over a woman!  But if you have read The Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides (check out The Landmark Thucydides, edited by Robert B. Strassler!), you are not at all surprised to see Greeks behaving so badly.  Shakespeare takes a dim view of both sides.  There is plenty of courage, yes — but stupid courage.  We like Hector the most, but he ends up dead, slaughtered like a defenseless animal.  Achilles, the Greek hero of The Iliad, is petulant, disloyal, and treacherous.  Troilus and Cressida are poor protagonists.  He’s naive, and she’s loose.  It was an ugly war that never should have happened.  Thersites is Shakespeare’s commentator, spewing contempt in all directions, although he himself is a chronic malcontent with no sense of personal honour.  Troilus and Cressida has not been a particularly popular play, perhaps because it doesn’t fit neatly into either category of tragedy or comedy.  But you will find it to be a very interesting play.  Shakespeare intended it to be a dark satire, and we have whipped it into shape with that view in mind.  So dig it!)

Prologue.  A white trash character wearing ill-fitting armour walks onstage noisily.

Prologue Speaker: Oy!  Welcome to the Trojan War — between the Greeks and the Trojans.  It went on for ten years, but we’re skipping the first seven just for convenience.  A thousand ships loaded with blood-thirsty Greeks set out to lay siege to the city of Troy.  And for what?  Because a Trojan prince named Paris abducted a Greek woman named Helen, the wife of a Greek king named Menelaus.  Truth is, she went voluntarily.  But that don’t matter to the Greeks.  They never pass up an opportunity to fight a war.  Homer thought it was glorious.  He wrote a book about it called The Iliad. — Yes, what could be more inspiring than two nations slaughtering each other for ten years because somebody stole somebody else’s wife?  And these were all white people! — Anyway, I’m dressed for the occasion, although I have no intention of being a hero.  I just want to be ready in case you turn on me because you hate this play — ha! — Now, the war is on, and we’re in Troy with the Trojans, or nearby with the Greeks.  You’re going to meet Troilus, one of the princes of Troy, and Cressida, the woman he’s in love with.  And you’ll meet brave fighters on both sides.  So it’s a love story and a war story combined, okay?  Tragedy or comedy — sometimes it’s hard to tell.  If at times you think we’re joking, remember that the people you see are taking it all very seriously.  If you’re still here after the first scene, it’s too late to ask for a refund.  So just enjoy it.

    (He walks out noisily.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  The scene is introduced by heroic “sandal epic” music, which then breaks down as if the sound system is faulty.  Pandarus and Troilus come in.  Troilus is wearing armour.

Troilus: Where’s my servant?  I want to take this damned armour off.  What’s the point of fighting a battle outside when there’s already a battle going on in my heart?

Pandarus: Oh–pfoof!–There you go again.  Do I have to keep hearing this?

Troilus: Pandarus, the Greeks are as strong as they are skillful, and they are as skillful as they are fierce, and they are as fierce as they are brave.  But I’m weaker than a woman’s tear and more foolish than ignorance itself.  I’m less brave than a virgin and as unskillful as a child.

Pandarus: That’s not exactly a great endorsement for a prince of Troy–especially one who expects to get fixed up with my niece.

Troilus: I’m suffering because you haven’t done it yet.

Pandarus: Just be patient, okay?  I mean, scoring with a virgin is sort of like baking a cake.

Troilus: Baking a cake?

Pandarus: Of course.  First you have to–grind (He makes suggestive gestures during this speech, although they may look stupid)–the wheat.  Then you have to sift it.  Then it needs leavening.  Then you have to let it rise so you can knead the dough.  Then you have to bake it.  Then you have to let it cool down.  Then you can slather on your favourite icing and dig into it.–Mm–mm!  It’s worth the wait. 

Troilus: Wait, wait, wait–all I do is wait.  And all I think about–is Cressida.

Pandarus: I can understand that.  Personally, I think she’s hotter than Helen.  You should have seen what she was wearing yesterday.  Man, that was some hot outfit!

Troilus: Stop it!  You’re making it worse for me!

Pandarus: Oh–pardon me!  Maybe I should stay out of it altogether.

Troilus: No.

Pandarus: You know, I’m trying to make a match for both of your sakes, and all I get is grief from both sides.  She’s always contrary, and you’re always complaining.

Troilus: I’m sorry.  It’s just–my feelings.  It’s like I’m in constant pain, and I have to hide it from other people. 

Pandarus: She should have gone over to the Greeks with her father.  Then I wouldn’t have to deal with either of you.

Troilus: Aw, Pandarus–

Pandarus: Yeah, yeah.  You know what?  I’m just going to mind my own business from now on.

    (Pandarus leaves.)

Troilus: Oh, hell.  What am I going to do now?  I can’t get to Cressida without him.–Cressida–the eternal virgin.  She won’t give me a chance.

    (Distant sounds of battle are heard.  He looks out a window.)

Troilus (Loudly): What are you idiots fighting for?  Is Helen that beautiful?  Do you expect me to fight for her?–(Normal voice) Oh, Cressida!–Her bed is half a world away, and I’m like a sailor trying to cross the ocean to get to her–and Pandarus is the boat.

    (More sounds of battle.  Aeneas comes in.)

Aeneas: Troilus!  What are you doing hanging around here?  Why aren’t you out there fighting?  You’re a prince of Troy, for God’s sake!

Troilus: I’m just not there, Aeneas.

Aeneas: Just not there?  What the hell does that mean?

Troilus: I just don’t feel up to it.–What’s happening out there today?

Aeneas: Paris got hurt.  Not seriously though.  But he had to withdraw from the battle.

Troilus: Who did it to him?

Aeneas: Menelaus, wouldn’t you know.

Troilus: Well, that’s fitting, isn’t it?  Paris stole Helen from him.

    (More sounds of battle.  Aeneas goes to the window.)

Aeneas (Enthusiastically): Go get ’em, men!  Give it to them!  (To Troilus) Hey, where’s your spirit?  Don’t you want a piece of this action?

Troilus: I’d rather get some action here at home.

Aeneas: Eh?

Troilus: Never mind.–Okay, maybe a bit of fighting will do me some good–get my mind off other things.  Are you going back?

Aeneas: Of course.  I’m a commander, ain’t I?  Come on, let’s go.

Troilus: Okay.  Let’s go fight the Greeks.

    (They go out.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Before Cressida’s house.  Cressida comes in with her servant, Alexander.

Cressida: Was that Queen Hecuba and Helen who went by?

Alexander: Yes, madam.  They went up to the eastern tower.  You can see the whole battlefield from there.

Cressida: Did anything interesting happen today?

Alexander: Hector was in a very bad mood.  He was up early, and he just wanted to go out and kill Greeks.

Cressida: That’s not like him.  He’s usually very even-tempered, isn’t he?

Alexander: Yes.

Cressida: What was he angry about?

Alexander: It was because of Ajax.  Ever hear of him?

Cressida: No.  He must be one of the Greeks.

Alexander: Yes.  Actually, he’s half-Trojan.  He’s Hector’s first cousin.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare refers to him erroneously as Hector’s nephew.  In fact, Ajax was the son of King Priam’s sister, Hesione, who was forced into marriage with a Greek king, Telamon.]

Cressida: Oh.

Alexander: Ajax is a wacko.  Nobody knows what to make of him.  He’s a hell of a fighter, but he’s not too smart.  And he has these weird mood swings.  Actually, they say he’s got a little bit of every vice and every virtue you can think of.

Cressida: So why is Hector angry with him?

Alexander: They met up with each other on the field yesterday, and they fought, and Ajax knocked him down.  He wasn’t actually hurt, but just getting knocked down was such a shock to him.  I don’t think anybody ever knocked down Hector before.  He was just so ticked off about it.

Cressida: Maybe this proves that Greek blood and Trojan blood are a bad combination.

Alexander: Ha, ha!

Cressida: Somebody should warn Helen before she and Paris have children, otherwise we’ll have more Ajaxes here in Troy.

Alexander: God save us from that!

    (Pandarus comes in.)

Pandarus: Hello, Cressida.–Hello, Alexander.

Cressida: Hello, uncle.

Alexander: Hello, sir.

Pandarus: Hector was up early today, wasn’t he?

Cressida: We were just talking about him.

Alexander: It was because of Ajax.

Pandarus: I heard about that.  He’s going to take it out on all the Greeks today.  You can be sure of that.  And Troilus, too.  He’ll be fighting like a monster.

Cressida: Oh?  Was he angry about something, too?

Pandarus: Well–sort of.–Not exactly.  He’s just not himself lately.  Neither of them is.

Cressida: Then who is he?

Pandarus: Who?

Cressida: Troilus.

Pandarus: Troilus is Troilus–and Hector is Hector.

Cressida: Ah, good.  Then all’s well in Troy.

Pandarus: Too bad Hector isn’t more like Troilus.

Cressida: In what way?

Pandarus: In every way.  Troilus is the better man.

Cressida: Uncle, don’t make me laugh.

Pandarus: Oh, what do you know about men?

Cressida: Only as much as a virgin should know.

Pandarus: Which is not very much.  I tell you, Helen herself praised Troilus for his dark complexion–even more than Paris.

Cressida: Why?  Isn’t Paris dark enough for her?

Pandarus: Yes, I think so. 

Cressida: Then if Troilus is darker, he’s too dark.

Pandarus: Well, anyway, I think Helen secretly loves Troilus more than she loves Paris.

Cressida: She’s a Greek.  They’re all a bit nuts, aren’t they?

Pandarus: Just the other day, in fact, she put her hand on his chin–

Cressida: Whose chin?

Pandarus: Troilus’s–and I don’t think he’s even got a beard worth shaving.  And she saw a white hair on his chin–

Cressida: Poor chin!  No beard.  Just a white hair.

Pandarus: And it was so funny the way she touched that white hair and what she said, and even Queen Hecuba was laughing so hard she was crying.

Cressida: Crying, indeed–over a white hair.

Pandarus: And even Cassandra was laughing, too.

Cressida: Cassandra, the mad prophetess.

Pandarus: And Hector was laughing–ha, ha!

Cressida: And if the hair had been green, I would’ve laughed, too.

Pandarus: Wait.  Let me get to the good part.–And Helen says, “Oh, you have fifty-two hairs, and one of them is white.”  And Troilus says, “The white one is my father, and all the rest are his sons.”  And Helen says, “Which one is Paris?”  And Troilus says–wait for it–“The forked one.  Pluck it out and give it to him!”–Ha, ha!–Get it?

Alexander: No.

Pandarus: Paris cuckolded Menelaus when he stole Helen.  (He makes a gesture of horns on his head.)  Forked?  Get it?  Like horns?

Alexander: Ah.–But then Menelaus would have the horns, not Paris.

Pandarus: Well, yes, but, you know, it’s just the joke.  It doesn’t matter.  But it was so hilarious.  Of course, Helen blushed, and Paris just stood there and looked the other way.  You could tell he was annoyed.  But everyone else thought it was funny.

Cressida: Good for them.

    (Pause.  Pandarus takes a deep breath.)

Pandarus: I hope you’ve been thinking about what I spoke to you about the other day.

Cressida: Yes, yes.

Pandarus: He cries for you.  I swear he does.

Cressida: Fine.  If he cries in my garden, I can grow vegetables.

    (A distant trumpet is heard.)

Pandarus: Ah–that’s the retreat.  They’re through for the day.  Let’s stand up here and watch them coming back from the battlefield.

Cressida: Yes.  Let’s.

    (The three of them move to rear stage, where they can stand higher up.  [Distance and height are suggested.]  Various Trojans will pass across the stage.  [They each may have a different peculiar mannerism for comic effect while looking serious.]  Aeneas is the first to pass across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Aeneas.  He’s a great commander.  Look at him.  Isn’t he swell?–There he goes.

    (Antenor passes across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Antenor.  He’s a smart guy.  He cleaned me out at poker once.–There he goes.–Troilus should be coming soon.

    (Hector passes across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Hector.  What a brave guy!  Look at the way he walks.  Look at that face.  Did you ever see such a face?

Cressida: Not that particular face, no.

Pandarus: That’s for sure.  And look at all those hack marks on his helmet.  That’s no joke.  He’s been in some fighting, I’ll tell you.

Cressida: Are those hack marks from swords?

Pandarus: Hell, yes.  Swords, pikes, daggers, scrap metal, chair legs–he doesn’t care.  He’ll take whatever they throw at him.  By God, it’s good to have such a man in Troy.–Bye-bye, Hector.

    (Paris crosses the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Paris–the lover–ha, ha!–Good lad.  Put him on a battlefield and he’s happy, by God!  Who said he was wounded?  Look at him.  He’s a hundred percent.  On his way home to Helen.–There he goes.–I’m still waiting for Troilus.

    (Helenus passes across the stage.)

Cressida: Who’s that?  He’s not wearing armour.

Pandarus: That’s Helenus.  I don’t think he was in the battle.  He’s a priest.

Cressida: Can he fight?

Pandarus: Fight?  No, he doesn’t fight.–Well, yes, in a way.  He’s the fighting priest who isn’t afraid to talk to the young people.  He could put up a fight if he had to, I’m sure.–There he goes.

Cressida: Who’s that wimpy guy coming?

    (Troilus passes across the stage.)

Pandarus: There he is!  Troilus!  Look at him!  Isn’t he something!  Brave Troilus!  The prince of chivalry!–Yoo-hoo!  Troilus!  [The suggestion in the staging is that Troilus is too far away to notice Pandarus.]

Cressida: Not so loud.  You’re embarrassing me.

Pandarus: Look at that guy.  Look at that sword–all the blood dripping off it.  By God, that’s a sight!  And look at that helmet.  He’s got more hack marks than Hector.  What a guy!  Not even twenty-three yet.–There he goes.–I tell you, if I had a daughter or a sister, he could take his pick.  Helen would swap Paris for him in an instant if she could, believe me.

    (Some common Soldiers pass across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s the rabble.  Food for the Greeks.  Bunch of bums.  Every city’s got ’em.  Don’t even look at ’em.–Get lost, you dogs!  Go home and eat bones!–I tell you, I’d stack Troilus up against any of the Greeks–even Agamemnon.

Cressida: What about Achilles?  He’s supposed to be the best man the Greeks have.

Pandarus: Achilles?–Bah!–He’s nothing.  He’s bisexual, and he’s a dullard.  They should put him in the mess tent washing dishes.

Cressida: Oh, really!

Pandarus: You don’t know what makes a real man.  Now, you take these ingredients–nobility, beauty, a physique, intelligence, youth, and charm–and add some spice–and blend them all together.  What do you get?

Cressida: Meat loaf.

Pandarus: You’re such a hard nut to crack, you know that?  A man doesn’t know how to get at you.

Cressida: That’s because I’m on my guard at all times.  You’re the only one I have to worry about.

Pandarus: What!

Cressida: You’re always gaming me.  And don’t think I don’t know it.

Pandarus: Who, me?–Nah!

Cressida: Oh, yes.  You won’t be happy until you fix me up and see me pregnant.

Pandarus: Oh!–Pfoof!–You should’ve been born a turtle.  You already have the shell.

    (Troilus’s Servant comes in.)

Servant: Sir, my lord Troilus wishes to speak to you.

Pandarus: Where?

Servant: At your house, sir–right now.

Pandarus: All right.  Tell him I’ll be right there.  (The Servant leaves.)  I hope he wasn’t wounded.–I’ll see you later, niece.

    (Pandarus leaves.)

Cressida: I’d never tell him this–but I really do love Troilus.

Alexander: Then why keep it a secret?

Cressida: Because he values me more this way.  A man yearns for what he doesn’t have–but once he has it, he’s satisfied.  I’d rather keep him yearning–at least for a while.  Understand?

Alexander: Yes, madam.

Cressida: Let’s go.

    (They leave.)     

Act 1, Scene 3.  In the Greek camp, before Agamemnon’s tent.  Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes, and Menelaus come in.

Agamemnon: I don’t think I’ve ever seen you guys looking so discouraged.  Okay, I know we’ve been fighting for seven years and we still haven’t beaten Troy, but we will eventually.  You’re all experienced commanders.  You know a war has its ups and downs.  It’s just the gods’ way of testing us.  We’re supposed to rise to the occasion.

Nestor: You’re absolutely right, Agamemnon.  Adversity brings out the best in superior soldiers.

Ulysses: With utmost respect to you, Agamemnon–and you, Nestor–there’s a reason why we’re not winning.

Agamemnon: Tell me the reason, Ulysses.  I always value your opinion.

Ulysses: There’s no discipline among the troops.  Nobody respects authority any more.  There’s no unity.  When one rank is disrespected by the next rank below it, it sends the wrong message.–Everybody do whatever you want.–It’s total chaos.  You can’t fight a war like that.

Nestor: He’s right.  The morale around here has been terrible.

Ulysses: And I’ll tell you who is particularly to blame, General.  It’s Achilles.  He’s supposed to be our best soldier, but he spends all day in his tent with his–friend–Patroclus.  And Patroclus mocks us and makes jokes about us, and Achilles eggs him on.  And everybody looks up to Achilles.  He’s like their idol.  So what kind of effect does this have on the spirit of the troops when they see him acting like that?  They lose their respect for us.  And they lose their motivation.

Nestor: And Ajax is another one.  He won’t take orders from anyone.  He’s full of himself.  He criticizes the war.  And his servant Thersites is ten times worse.  He heaps scorn on us.  He says we’re all stupid and the whole war is stupid.

Ulysses: They don’t understand that commanding an army is very complex.  They don’t give us credit when things go right, but when things go wrong, they blame us.

    (A trumpet is heard.)

Agamemnon: I think we have a visitor.

Menelaus: From Troy.

    (Aeneas comes in, escorted by two Greek Soldiers.)

Aeneas: I bring a message from Troy to King Agamemnon, supreme commander of the Greek army.

Agamemnon: I’m Agamemnon.  Who are you?

Aeneas: I am Aeneas, a commander of Troy.

Agamemnon: What’s the message?

Aeneas: There is a prince of Troy named Hector–

Agamemnon: We know who Hector is.

Aeneas: Hector issues this challenge to the Greeks–to choose the worthiest one among you to meet him in one-on-one combat.  Let us say that the combat is to defend the name and honour of each man’s wife.  The combat shall be in full view of all Trojans and Greeks, on a day and at a time to be agreed on.  [Author’s note: In the original, the combat is to take place tomorrow.  However, too many events would have to be compressed into one day, as the combat does not take place until Act 4, Scene 5.  Shakespeare is notoriously loose in the management of time.  His fans already know this and take it in stride, but our white trash audience would be left confused.]  If any Greek is brave enough to accept the challenge, Hector shall honour him.  If not, he will tell all of Troy that Greek wives are ugly hags not worth fighting for.

Menelaus (Offended): Oh!–(Agamemnon puts his hand on Menelaus’ shoulder to calm him.)

Agamemnon (To Aeneas): That’s certainly not true.  And I’ll meet Hector myself to prove it, if I have to.

Nestor: So will I!

Aeneas: I think you’re a bit old for this challenge, sir–although I commend your enthusiasm.

Ulysses: Nestor, let a younger man do this.

Agamemnon: Aeneas, since you’re a commander, come and join us for dinner in my tent.  You’re under safe conduct here.  We’ll show you some Greek hospitality.

Aeneas: You are gracious, sir.  I accept.

    (All leave except Ulysses and Nestor.)

Ulysses: Nestor.  (He beckons to Nestor, and the two speak in a confidential way.)

Nestor: What?

Ulysses: This challenge from Hector–it’s obviously intended for one specific person–Achilles.

Nestor: Yes.  He’ll certainly think so.

Ulysses: Do you think he’d accept?

Nestor: Yes.  He’s still the best fighter we’ve got.–Of course, there’s a risk.  Both sides will take the outcome as a sign of who’s going to win the war.  If we choose Achilles, he’ll be representing all of us–the commanders and the whole army.  What if he loses?

Ulysses: We don’t want him to win or to lose.

Nestor: Why not?

Ulysses: This is the way I see it.  Achilles is so egotistical that if he beats Hector, he’ll hog all the glory, he won’t love us any better, he’ll just go back to his tent like before, and he’ll be more difficult to deal with than ever.  And if he loses, our soldiers will take it as a bad omen, and there’ll be no way we can restore morale.

Nestor: Then what should we do?

Ulysses: Somebody else has to fight Hector.  We’ll say we’re holding a lottery to pick someone, but it’ll be rigged, of course.

Nestor: And who’s going to win?

Ulysses: Ajax.

Nestor: Ajax!  That blockhead?

Ulysses: Right.  When Achilles hears everyone talking about Ajax, that’ll knock him off his perch.  It’ll be a burr up his ass and hopefully it’ll get him back in the war.  Now, let’s say Ajax wins the fight.  He’ll be the new hero in the camp, and that’ll drive Achilles crazy, which is what we want.  And if Ajax loses, we’ll just say to the Trojans that he wasn’t the best man we had–he was picked by chance!  Get it?

Nestor: Ah!

Ulysses: So they won’t get the satisfaction they were hoping for, and our morale won’t be busted.

Nestor: It’s a brilliant plan, I’ve got to admit.

Ulysses: You’ll see.  I’m going to get Achilles back into the war.  I know how  to push his buttons.

Nestor: I like your style.  You’ve got this thing all worked out.

Ulysses: I think I do.

Nestor: Let’s have a confidential talk with Agamemnon.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  In the Greek camp.  Ajax comes in with Thersites.  An argument is in progress.

Ajax: Shut up, Thersites!

Thersites: And Agamemnon is like a leper with oozing sores–and those sores are his army.

Ajax: Shut up, Thersites!

    (Ajax slaps him.)

Thersites: A plague on you, Ajax!

Ajax: I gave you an order!  Find out what that proclamation is about!

Thersites: You’ve been proclaimed a fool.  I’m sure that’s it.

Ajax: Don’t push your luck.  I’ll strangle you right now.

Thersites: Go strangle a chicken for dinner.

    (Ajax shakes him.)

Ajax: Will you obey me?  I want to know about that proclamation!

Thersites: I know what’s eating you.  You’re jealous of Achilles.  That’s what it is.  You live in his shadow.

    (Ajax shakes him again.)

Ajax: In a minute you won’t even have any shadow!

Thersites: You brute!  Go put your hands on Achilles like that and see what happens!

    (Ajax slaps him and shakes him.)

Ajax: You dung beetle! 

Thersites: Achilles could whip your ass, and you know it!

Ajax: You no-good slave!

    (Ajax smacks him.)

Thersites: Oh, sure, go on!  Beat a poor commoner!

Ajax: You’re a whore’s privy!

Thersites: You half-breed!  And your Greek half is the stupid one!

    (Ajax smacks him again.)

Ajax: You dog!

    (Achilles and Patroclus come in.)

Achilles: Whoa!–What’s going on here?

Thersites: You see this guy?  Take a good look at him.

Achilles: I can see him well enough.

Thersites: No, you don’t see him well at all.  This is Ajax.

Achilles: I know that, you fool.

Thersites: Yes, I’m a fool, but I know it.  He’s a fool, but he doesn’t know it.

Ajax: Keep it up, Thersites, and I’ll keep beating the crap out of you.

Thersites (To Achilles): You see how bad he is to me?  His brain is where his belly is, and vice-versa.

    (Ajax threatens to hit him again, but Achilles restrains him politely.)

Achilles: Now, now.  Just cool it.

Thersites: His brain wouldn’t fill the eye of Helen’s needle–the woman he’s here to fight for.

Achilles: As we all are, theoretically.  Now shut up.

Ajax: I’ll shut him up!

Achilles (To Ajax): Why do you argue with a fool?

Thersites: Yes, why?  This fool is smarter.

Patroclus: Ha, ha!  You’re funny, Thersites.

Achilles: Okay, how about everyone calms down for a minute so I can find out what this argument is about?

Ajax: I’ll tell you what it’s about.  I told this slave to find out what the proclamation was about, and right away he starts back-talking to me.

Thersites: I’m not a slave.  I’m a free man, and I’m here voluntarily.

Achilles: No.  You were a servant before the war, and you got drafted.  But you were no good as a soldier, so you’re serving again.

Thersites: You’re another one with more muscles than brains.  Either one of you would be food for Hector’s sword.

Achilles: Oh–now you’re starting with me?

Thersites: You’re both tools of Ulysses and Nestor.  They make you fight this war like a farmer makes his ox plow his field.

Achilles: Is that so?

Thersites: Yes. 

Patroclus: Hey, Thersites, you should just shut up.

Thersites: Oh!  I’m being told to shut up by Achilles’ bitch.

Patroclus (Angrily): Bitch?

Achilles: Calm down.  His opinions don’t mean anything.

Thersites: Well, you’re all a bunch of fools, and I want nothing to do with you!

    (Thersites leaves.)

Patroclus: What an asshole.

Achilles: Ajax, I can tell you about the proclamation.  Hector is challenging any one of us to meet him in man-to-man combat–whoever is the bravest.–Something about defending the honour of our wives, or some bullshit like that.  It’s just Trojan propaganda.  I don’t take it seriously.

Ajax: You don’t?  Then who’s going to fight him?

Achilles: I don’t know.  The General’s going to pick somebody’s name out of a hat, or something.–Although it should be obvious who Hector wants to fight.

Ajax (Annoyed): Oh.  Meaning you, naturally.

Achilles: Who else?

Ajax: Well, I intend to find out about this.

    (Ajax walks out quickly, and the others follow, more leisurely.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In Priam’s palace.  Priam comes in with his sons Hector, Troilus, Paris, and Helenus.  Priam is holding a paper.

Priam: I have yet another diplomatic message from the Greeks.  This one’s from Nestor.  (Reads) “Return Helen to us and we will consider the war over and permanently settled as regards to any claims for damages.”–What do you think of this, Hector?

Hector: You know I’m not afraid of the Greeks.  However–if we insist on fighting indefinitely, can we be certain of winning?  Do you want to risk it?  And consider all the lives we’ve lost so far.  I’ve stopped counting.  Is Helen worth it?  Common sense says we should just give her back.

Troilus: Now wait, brother.  The honour of the King, our father, is at stake.  You can’t measure that in terms of lives lost.

Helenus: Troilus, you’re not being rational.  This matter calls for rational thinking.

Troilus: Well, we know where you’re coming from.  You’re practically a pacifist.  You’d never fight for anything.  It’s always unreasonable.

Hector: Helen’s not worth keeping.

Troilus: Worth depends on who’s doing the valuing.

Hector: But there has to be worth in a thing itself regardless.  It’s crazy to go on pretending that she’s worth year after year of warfare when she isn’t.

Troilus: But you were totally in favour of bringing her here.

Hector: Yeah, I know.

Troilus: And why did we bring her here–or rather, Paris?  Because our aunt was stolen away from us by the Greeks and forced to marry Telamon.  [See Author’s note in Act 1, Scene 2.]

Hector: Before you were born, Troilus.

Troilus: So what?

Priam: It’s too late to get her back now, I’m afraid.

Troilus: Exactly.  Who’s their son?  Ajax.  He’s our cousin and our enemy.

Paris: I was totally justified in stealing Helen.  And it wasn’t even stealing.  She came willingly.

Troilus: Right.  And if we give her back now, what does that say–that we were wrong in the first place, or that we’re afraid to keep her any longer?

Cassandra (Within): Troy is doomed!

Priam: What the hell?

Troilus: Our sister the prophetess.

    (Cassandra comes in, looking wild and disheveled.)

Cassandra: Weep for your children, mothers of Troy!  The streets will be wet with tears–and blood!

Hector: Not now, Cassandra!

Cassandra: Paris burns us to the ground–and Helen is the torch!  Send her back or Troy is doomed!

    (Cassandra leaves.)

Hector: Well, Troilus?  Do you still think we should keep Helen?

Troilus: Are you going to listen to Cassandra?  She’s out of her mind.

Paris: We’re not sending Helen back.  Even if everyone else wants to send her back, I’m not giving her up.

Priam: Well, you’ve got a sexual bias, obviously.

Paris: Sex has nothing to do with it.  The Greeks took our aunt, and we took Helen.  She’s worth fighting for because if we didn’t, it would be a disgrace to our aunt.

Hector: Okay, you and Troilus make a strong argument.  Not a reasonable one, but a strong one.  But what are the Greeks fighting for?  Helen was the wife of Menelaus.  What husband wouldn’t fight for his wife?  To dispute this would be like going against nature.

Paris: But now she’s my wife and I intend to fight for her.

Troilus: There you go.


Hector: Well–I think I’m inclined to agree.

Troilus: Finally he gets it.  Helen’s not just a person.  She represents an issue of honour.

Paris: Which touches us all.

Troilus: Exactly.

Paris (To Hector): And you challenged any Greek to fight you.  What’s that all about?  Reason?  Did it come from your head or from your heart?

Hector: Brothers, I’m on your side.

Troilus: I’ll bet you’ve shaken them up over there.

Hector: Probably.  They’re going to argue over who’s going to fight me.

Troilus: That’s good for us.  When Greeks argue, they’re their own worst enemies.

Hector: And Agamemnon has to deal with it–poor guy!

Priam: Boys, this has been a useful discussion.  Now let’s have something to eat.

    (He leads them all out.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  Before the tent of Achilles.  Thersites comes in alone.

Thersites: That fucking Ajax beats me, and all I can do is yell at him.  It should be the other way around.  But I’m not through with him.  And then there’s Achilles–the fighter who won’t fight.  If we have to depend on those two to beat Troy, we’ll all die of old age first.  May the gods curse ’em both.  And that goes for the whole camp.  Fighting over a woman!  They should all get syphilis and rot.  (Louder) I have said my prayers!  Amen!–Hey, my lord Achilles!

Patroclus (Within the tent): Who’s that–Thersites?

Thersites (Softly): That fucking pansy.–Folly and ignorance are your middle names.  You should be buried among lepers.  (Louder) Where’s my lord Achilles?

    (Patroclus emerges from the tent.)

Patroclus: Were you praying?

Thersites: Hell, yes.

Patroclus: Well, amen to that.

    (Achilles emerges from the tent.)

Achilles: Well, it’s about time.  You’re supposed to be serving me, and you’re not here when I want to eat.

Patroclus: That’s right, Thersites.  You’re our servant now, and Achilles commands you.

Thersites: And Agamemnon commands Achilles.  And you, Patroclus, are a fool.

Achilles: And what are you?

Thersites: Me?  A fool, of course.  We’re all fools here.

Achilles: Why?

Thersites: Because we allow ourselves to be commanded by the fools above us.–Ah, look who’s coming.  The whole general staff.

Achilles (To Patroclus): Tell them I’m not available.–Thersites, you come inside.

    (Achilles and Thersites go inside the tent.  Then Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes, and Ajax come in.  [Calchas is deleted from this scene as he has no lines to speak.])

Agamemnon: Where’s Achilles?

Patroclus: He’s inside, my lord–but he’s, uh, sick.

Agamemnon: Tell him we’re here.  He won’t receive our messengers, so we’ve come in person.

Patroclus: I’ll tell him, my lord.

    (Patroclus goes into the tent, and Ulysses peeks in when the flap of the tent is briefly parted.)

Ulysses: He’s not sick.  He’s faking.

Ajax (Angrily): If he’s sick from anything, it’s pride.  What’s he got to be proud about?  He hasn’t done anything so far.  (To Agamemnon) May I have a word, my lord.

    (Ajax takes Agamemnon aside.)

Nestor: What’s Ajax sore about?

Ulysses: Achilles stole his servant away.

Nestor: Who?  Thersites?  That bum?

Ulysses: Yes.

Nestor: Well, that’s all right.  If Ajax is sore at Achilles, that works out for us.

    (Patroclus returns.)

Nestor: Well?

Patroclus: Achilles says he’s sorry but he’s indisposed.  He hopes your visit is nothing more than a social call.

    (Agamemnon overhears this and rejoins the others with Ajax.)

Agamemnon: No, this isn’t a social call.  There’s a war going on, in case your, uh–roommate–has forgotten.  Now, we respect him, of course, but we’re getting fed up with his insubordination.  He’s gotten a little too full of himself.  I’d rather have a wide-awake dwarf than a sleeping giant.  You tell him that.

Patroclus: I shall, my lord.

    (Patroclus goes into the tent.)

Agamemnon: Ulysses, you go in there and speak to him yourself.

Ulysses: Right.

    (Ulysses goes into the tent.)

Ajax: He’s got a nerve.  He thinks he’s better than me, doesn’t he?

Agamemnon: He certainly gives that impression.

Ajax: And do you think he is?

Agamemnon: Not at all, Ajax.  You’re every bit as good as he is–and a much nicer guy.

    (Nestor and Diomedes exchange a wink.  The suggestion is that Ajax is being “worked.”)

Ajax: Why should he be so proud?  Why should any man be proud?  Look at me.  I don’t know what pride is.

    (Nestor makes a face for Diomedes’ amusement.  Ulysses returns.)

Ulysses: He says he’s not fighting tomorrow.

Agamemnon: Why not?

Ulysses: He says he just doesn’t feel like it.

Agamemnon: Why won’t he at least come out and talk to us?

Ulysses: That guy is shut up in his own little kingdom.  He’s like in a bubble.  The outside world doesn’t exist.

Agamemnon: Let Ajax go in and talk to him.–How about it, Ajax?  Maybe you can bend him.

Ajax: I’ll do more than bend him, General.  I’ll break his neck.

Ulysses (To Agamemnon): No, no!  Bad idea.  If Ajax goes in, it’ll only feed Achilles’ ego.  Better to have Achilles seek out Ajax than the other way around.

    (Nestor makes a sly sign to Diomedes by stroking one hand with the other — i.e., Ulysses is stroking Ajax.  Diomedes winks or smiles because he understands.)

Ajax: I don’t mind going inside.  Let him try and be proud with me!

Agamemnon: No, no.  Ulysses is right.

Ajax: I think Achilles is an ignorant piece of snot!

Nestor (Aside): Look who’s talking.

Ajax: Can’t he get along with other people?

Ulysses (Aside): Not any more than you.

Diomedes: I think we’ll just have to fight this war without Achilles.

    (Ulysses claps his hand on Ajax’s shoulder.)

Ulysses: Good, old Ajax!

Ajax: Not so old.

Nestor: Not like me–ha, ha!

Ulysses: When you were his age, were you as tough?

Nestor: Not by half.

Ulysses (Loudly): We can thank the gods we’ve got Ajax!

Diomedes: You said it!

Ulysses: We’ll hold a council with the general staff–including Ajax, of course.

Agamemnon: Yes.  Let’s go.  We’ll leave Achilles alone–to sleep.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  In Priam’s palace.  Pandarus  comes in with a Servant of Paris.  There is music playing in the background.

Pandarus: Is your lord Paris in?  Sounds like it.

Servant: Yes, sir.  He’s enjoying some music with Lady Helen.

Pandarus: How nice.  Please tell him Pandarus wishes to speak to him. 

Servant: At once, sir.

    (The Servant goes out.  After a moment, the music stops, and Paris comes in with Helen, who is in a cheerful mood.)

Pandarus: Fair greetings to you, Paris, and to you, fair queen.–And may fair thoughts fill your pillow.

Helen: You’re full of fair words today, Pandarus.

Pandarus: For you always, madam.–Enjoying some music, were you?  I didn’t mean to interrupt.

Paris: Not at all, Pandarus.–Helen, you should hear this man sing.  He sings wonderfully.

Pandarus: Oh, no, no, no–ha, ha!

Helen: Oh, but you must sing for me!

Pandarus: I can hardly carry a tune, believe me.

Paris: Don’t believe him.

Pandarus: Anyway, I must have a word with you, Paris.

Paris: Of course.

Helen: You’re not leaving until I hear you sing–ha, ha!

Pandarus: Ha, ha–My lord, a word.

    (Pandarus takes Paris aside, but not too far.  The suggestion is that Helen does not hear their conversation.)

Pandarus: It’s about your brother Troilus.

Helen: You must sing for me, Pandarus.  I shall be very sad if you don’t.

Pandarus: Yes, madam–ha, ha.–Now, then, Paris, your brother wants you to make an excuse for him if he doesn’t show up for supper.  Just say he’s sick–or something.

Paris: What’s he up to?  Who’s he having dinner with?

Pandarus: I can’t say.

Paris: I’ll bet it’s Cressida.

Pandarus: No, no.

Paris: You’re sworn to secrecy, is that it?

Pandarus: Ha, ha–it’s not important.

Paris: All right.  Whatever.  I’ll say he’s sick. 

Helen: Now you must sing for me, Pandarus.

Paris: She’s not letting you off the hook.

Pandarus: I guess not.–All right, if you’re so eager to hear my bad singing.

Helen: The musicians will play whatever you like–from the other room.  You see, they’re, em, naked.

Paris: Don’t ask why–ha, ha!

Pandarus: Okay, I won’t.  Can they play “It’s a Long Way to Epidaurus”?

    (Helen looks offstage and exchanges nods with the unseen musicians.)

Helen: Yes, they can play it.

    (The music of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” is heard.)

Pandarus (Sings):

    It’s a long way to Epidaurus,
    It’s a long way to go,
    It’s a long way to Epidaurus,
    To the sweetest girl I know,
    Goodbye, Mount Olympus,
    Farewell, Attic Square,
    It’s a long, long way to Epidaurus,
    But my heart’s right there!

    (Paris and Helen clap.)

Paris: Bravo!  Bravo!–I told you.

Helen: That was wonderful!  Thank you, Pandarus!

Pandarus (To Paris): So, who’s fighting today?

Paris: Hector, Deiphobus, Helenus–well, he’s just there to watch–and Antenor–and all the hot-blooded Trojans–ha, ha!  I would’ve gone out myself, but Helen insisted I take the day off.–Troilus didn’t go out, though.  Any idea why?

Helen: I know he’s pouting about something.  You must know what it is, Pandarus.

Pandarus: No, I don’t know.  Honest.–Anyway, Paris, remember to, uh,–you know.

Paris: Yes, yes.  Don’t worry.

Pandarus: Thank you.–Goodbye, sweet queen.

Helen: Give my regards to Cressida.

Pandarus: I will.

    (He leaves.  Then the retreat trumpet is heard from the field.)

Paris: There’s the retreat.  They’re finished for the day.  I can’t wait to hear how many Greeks Hector killed.

Helen: I’ll help him take his armour off.  Then I can brag that I did something no Greek ever did.–I disarmed Hector!

Paris: Ha, ha!–You’re wonderful.  I love you.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  In Pandarus’s house.  Troilus is pacing back and forth nervously.  Pandarus comes in.

Troilus: Pandarus!  I can’t take it any more!

Pandarus: Settle down.  It’s okay.  I just saw her go in her house.

Troilus: Oh!–Oh!–What should I do?

Pandarus: Just wait here.  I’ll go get her.

Troilus: What if she won’t come?

Pandarus: I think she’ll come.  Just wait.

    (Pandarus leaves.  Troilus paces back and forth like a horny virgin.  After an interval, Pandarus returns with Cressida, who is dressed in a sexy outfit.  Troilus is momentarily speechless.)

Cressida: Hello, Troilus.  (He is unable to speak.)  Well, say something.

Troilus: Cressida–

Pandarus: She’s all yours.  I’ll go get a fire going–(Winks at the audience) so to speak.  (To Troilus)  Well, don’t just stand there, man.  You wanted her.  Now do something.–You know.

    (Pandarus goes out.)

Troilus: Cressida!

Cressida: Troilus!    

    (They kiss.)

Troilus: I’ve waited so long for this moment.  I can’t believe you’re really here with me.

Cressida: Oh, Troilus!

Troilus: Why did you make it so hard for me to get to you?

Cressida: Don’t ask me to explain.  I can’t.  Part of me worried that I might be making a mistake.  (She breaks away from him.)  Perhaps it’s a mistake.  Perhaps I can’t be trusted, really.  If I’m being a fool with you now, perhaps I could be a fool with another man later.

Troilus: Oh, Cressida.  That’s silly.

Cressida: I’m sorry.  I don’t know what I’m saying sometimes.

    (She returns to his embrace.)

Troilus: I love you.  And I believe in you.  Really, I’m a simple man that way.

Cressida: And I’m simple, too.

Troilus: Someday when people want to name an example of the truest love a man can have for a woman, they’ll say “as true as Troilus.”

Cressida: And if I should ever prove false, may they say “as false as Cressida.”

    (Pandarus returns, having overheard them.)

Pandarus: And if this match doesn’t work out, may people call every bad matchmaker Pandarus–or just Pandar, for short.

Troilus and Cressida: Yes!–Agreed!

Pandarus: Have you seen the bedroom yet?  It’s very cozy.  The bed is nice and soft.  You should try it out.

    (He leads them out and then returns alone.  He claps his hands in satisfaction.)

Pandarus: Okay!  This deal is sealed!

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  The Greek camp.  Achilles’ tent is at one side of the stage, and the opening action takes place at the other side.  Coming in are Agamemnon, Ulysses, Diomedes, Nestor, Ajax, Menelaus, and Calchas.

Calchas: My lords, when I abandoned Troy to come over to your side, you promised me I’d be rewarded.

Agamemnon: And we keep our promises, Calchas.  What would you like from us?

Calchas: I’d like to have my daughter, Cressida, here with me.  You captured a Trojan commander–Antenor.  He’s very valuable to them.  They would definitely do a deal to get him back.  If you exchange Antenor for Cressida, I’ll consider myself totally rewarded for all the help I’ve given you.

    (Agamemnon looks to the others, and they nod.)

Agamemnon: Yes.  All right.  We can do that.–Diomedes, I’ll put you in charge of making the exchange.  You’ll deliver Antenor and bring back Cressida.  And also find out when Hector wants to carry out that challenge he made–assuming he still wants to do it.  And you can tell the Trojans that Ajax will be representing us.

Diomedes: It’ll be my pleasure, General.–Come on, Calchas.

    (Diomedes and Calchas leave.  Then Achilles and Patroclus come out and stand by their tent.  Ulysses turns his back to them and signals a discreet huddle to the others.)

Ulysses (Softly to Agamemnon): Achilles is wondering what’s going on.  We’ll walk by him and pretend to ignore him, but I’ll stay behind long enough to work on him.  Just trust me.

Agamemnon (Softly): Okay, got it.  Do your best.

    (The others nod their approval.  Then the party begins walking slowly past Achilles.)

Achilles: Did you want to talk to me, General?

Agamemnon: Eh?

Achilles: I already said I wasn’t going to fight.

Nestor (To Agamemnon): Never mind.–(To Achilles) Forget it.

    (Agamemnon and Nestor go out.)

Achilles: Good morning, Menelaus.

Menelaus: Eh?–Oh, uh, good morning.

    (Menelaus goes out.)        

Ajax:  Hello, Patroclus.

Patroclus: Hello.

Achilles: Hi, Ajax.

Ajax: What?

Achilles: I said hi.

Ajax: Oh–okay.

    (Ajax goes out.)

Achilles (To Patroclus): What the hell?  Am I getting the silent treatment or something?

Patroclus: Sort of looks that way.

Achilles: When did I become a piece of dirt?  What is this bullshit?–Hey, Ulysses.

    (Ulysses is pretending to read a letter.)

Ulysses: Eh?–Oh–Achilles.

Achilles: What are you reading?

Ulysses: A letter from a neighbour back home.  He’s into philosophy.  He says that a man’s reputation is only as good as it is today, because it is those who remember him today who make his reputation afterwards.

Achilles: I think that makes sense.

Ulysses: It does, when you think about it.  A man may have a sense of his reputation in his own mind, but if others don’t share the same sense, what good is it?  That is, he could be thinking about the past, and others are thinking about the present.

Achilles: I see.  Yes, I’d say he has a point.

Ulysses: A man can go from hero to zero, or vice-versa, based on what he does today.  Now, you take Ajax, for example.  He’s always been regarded as, well, good enough but not really outstanding–and maybe a little dim-witted.  But now he has an opportunity to make a great name for himself.  He’s going to fight Hector.

Achilles: Oh.  That’s been decided, has it?

Ulysses: Yes.  And after he wins–which I believe he will–he’ll be the hero of the Greek army.  He’ll be the one everyone else looks up to.

Achilles: And what does that make me–the zero?

Ulysses: Well–we know you did great things in the past, but as the saying goes, “What have you done for me lately?”  If you insist on staying out of the war, don’t expect to be treated like a hero any more.  If you get back in, you can be a hero again.

Achilles: I have my reasons for staying out of it.

Ulysses: Which you’ve never explained to anyone’s satisfaction.  But there is a rumour about it.  Do you want to know what the rumour is?

Achilles: Yes.

Ulysses: The rumour is that you’re in love with Hector’s sister.  (Ulysses waits for a response, but Achilles is silent.)  Not Cassandra, the wacko prophetess.  The other one–Polyxena.  You want to marry her.  There’s a secret deal to keep you out of the war.

Achilles: I deny it.

Ulysses: Of course, you deny it.  But it’s the only plausible explanation I can think of.  Not only have you been keeping yourself out of the war, but now you’re against it altogether.–Okay, so let’s say you marry Polyxena.  What will everyone back home say?–and remember you have a little boy back home.–They’ll say, “Achilles won Hector’s sister, but Ajax beat Hector!”–Have a nice day.

    (Ulysses goes out.  [Author’s note: The Cambridge edition has an excellent note on this.  Shakespeare’s main source for this play was a book by Caxton, published in 1475, which he took to be a reliable historical source, although he has changed some things.  According to Caxton, Achilles did not meet Poyxena until after Hector’s death, during a truce.  He sent a message to Queen Hecuba offering to get the Greeks to end the siege if he were allowed to marry Polyxena.  The Trojans were willing, but Achilles was unable to persuade the Greeks to end the siege.  That’s why he withdrew from the fighting.  Shakespeare creates some confusion, however, in the following speech by Patroclus, which suggests another reason for Achilles’ withdrawal from the fighting.  But Patroclus knows the real reason, as we will see in Act 5, Scene 1.])

Patroclus: I told you you should get back in the fight.  But you wanted to stay with me because I didn’t want to go.  Now everyone thinks I’m just a cowardly fairy.

Achilles: Nobody has said that.

Patroclus: They don’t have to say it outright.  But it’s obvious that’s what they think.  And it rubs off on you, too.  So let’s put a stop to it.

    (Pause.  Achilles is reflecting.)

Achilles: So Ajax is fighting Hector.

Patroclus: Yes.  And if he beats him, you won’t be signing too many autographs when we get back to Greece.

Achilles: Ajax could beat him.  He’s a nut, but he could beat him.

Patroclus: On a good day he could beat anyone.

Achilles: My reputation’s at stake.  That’s for sure.

Patroclus: It’s better to do something than to do nothing.

Achilles: You know want?  I want to meet Hector–this allegedly great man that all the Trojans look up to.  I want to look him in the eye and see what he’s made of.  Listen, go get Thersites.  I want to send him to tell Ajax to invite the Trojan lords to meet me after the combat–a friendly meeting, of course.

    (Thersites comes in.)

Achilles: Never mind.  Here he is.

Thersites: It’s a wonder!

Achilles: What is?

Thersites: Ajax.  He’s stomping up and down the field like a lunatic.  He’s talking to himself.  “I’m the man!  I’m gonna kill Hector!  Ajax is Number One!  Ajax rules!”  He was always full of himself, but now he’s totally over the edge.

Achilles: I want you to give him a message for me.

Thersites: He won’t listen.  He doesn’t hear anybody but himself.  I can’t imagine what he’ll be like after Hector knocks his brains out.  He should be put in a strait jacket for his own safety.

Achilles: I’ll write him a letter, and you deliver it.

Thersites: What do you intend to write?

Achilles: I want him to bring Hector to my tent after he fights him.  It’ll be like a diplomatic visit–safe conduct, escort, and all that.  I’m going to write the letter now.

    (Achilles and Patroclus go inside the tent.)

Thersites: You’d be better off writing to his horse!

    (Thersites goes into the tent.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  A street in Troy.  Aeneas comes in from one side and meets Paris, Deiphobus, Antenor, Diomedes, and a few Greek Soldiers, as escorts, coming in from the other side.

Aeneas: Good morning, princes.–Antenor, welcome back!

Antenor: Glad to be back!

    (They shake hands.)

Aeneas: Paris, if I had as good a reason as you to sleep in, I would have.

Diomedes: Me, too.  Good morning, Aeneas.

Paris: You two know each other.  You can shake hands.  We have a short truce for our business.

    (Aeneas and Diomedes shake hands.)

Paris (To Diomedes): Aeneas told us how you were stalking him on the battlefield for a whole week.

Diomedes: It’s true.  I admit it–ha, ha!

Aeneas: Well, that’s the last handshake you get from me.  When me meet on the battlefield, you’ll get a taste of my sword.

Diomedes: I shall kiss you with my sword first.

Aeneas: Try kissing a lion instead.  It’d be safer.

Diomedes: Aeneas, if you don’t die by my sword, may you live a thousand years.

Aeneas: And I’ll tell stories every day about how I killed you.

Paris: Ahem!–Glad to see everyone’s in such a good mood.  This is a diplomatic visit.

Aeneas: The King sent me to meet you, but he didn’t say what for.

Paris: Well, as you can see, our good friend Antenor is back with us.

Aeneas: Yes.  Did we pay a ransom for him?

Paris: No.  It’s an exchange.  Cressida goes over to the Greeks to be with her father.  I want you to take Diomedes and go get her.

Aeneas: Where?  At Calchas’s house?

Paris: I would assume so.  (Aside to Aeneas) You’ll probably find Troilus with her.  You’re going to have to explain it to him the best way you can.

Aeneas (Aside to Paris): He’s gonna squawk.  He won’t want her to go.

Paris (Aside to Aeneas): It can’t be helped.  We have to do this deal.

Diomedes (To Antenor): I’ll bet you’re glad to be back.

Antenor: Sure am.

Paris: Diomedes, tell me truthfully.  Who deserves Helen more–me or Menelaus?

Diomedes: Truthfully?  You both deserve her equally.   He’s a cuckold who wants revenge, and he’s willing to put Greece through a long war at great cost to get her back.  And you just want her for sex.  Either way, she’s tainted merchandise.

Paris: That’s a rather harsh thing to say about a woman of your own country.

Diomedes: She’s bad news for us, as far as I’m concerned.  Is she worth a war?  I don’t think so.  Just because she’s pretty, that doesn’t mean she’s worth fighting a war over.

Paris: You sound like a merchant who talks down something he really wants to buy.  But we don’t have to talk her up, because we don’t intend to sell her anyway.

Diomedes: Whatever.

Paris: Let’s go.

    (They all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In Pandarus’s house.  Troilus comes in, and after a brief interval, Cressida comes in.

Cressida: Troilus, come back to bed.

Troilus: No.  I’m up.  It’s morning.

    (She hugs him from behind.)

Cressida: Are you getting tired of me?

Troilus: Don’t be silly.

Cressida: The night passes too quickly.

Troilus: Go back to bed.  It’s cold.

Pandarus (Within): Who left the window open?  It’s freezing!

Troilus: Your uncle’s up.

Cressida: He’s going to tease me now.  Watch.

    (Pandarus comes in.)

Pandarus: Well, well–the lovebirds.  How did everything go?  (Aside to Cressida, but too loudly)  Still a virgin–or not?

Cressida: Oh, stop!

Pandarus: Get any sleep, Troilus–or shouldn’t I ask–ha, ha!

    (Loud knocking is heard at the door.)

Pandarus: What the hell?–Go in the bedroom.  I’ll answer the door.

   (Troilus and Cressida go out.  Pandarus goes to the door and admits Aeneas.)

Pandarus: Aeneas!

Aeneas: Sorry to bother you, Pandarus.

Pandarus: What are you doing here so early?

Aeneas: Is Troilus here?

Pandarus: Troilus?  No.  Why would he be here?

Aeneas: I knocked at Calchas’s house to look for Cressida, but nobody was home.  So I figured the two of them must be here.

Pandarus: Em, no.  I don’t know where Troilus is.

Aeneas (Calling): Troilus!  I know you’re here!  Come on out!

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Aeneas, wassup?

Aeneas: I have some news–which concerns you.

Troilus: Oh?  What?

Aeneas: Well, to begin with, Antenor is back.  Diomedes brought him.  They’re outside with Paris and Deiphobus now.

Troilus: Oh.  That’s nice.  But you didn’t have to come here to tell me.

Aeneas: Well, there’s more to it.  You see, it’s part of an exchange.  Cressida is going back with the Greeks to be with her father.

Troilus: What!  Why does she have to go?  Who decided this?

Aeneas: Calchas asked the Greeks to have her brought over, and your father agreed because we’re getting Antenor back.

Troilus: But nobody told me about this!

Aeneas: You’re being told now.

Troilus: Oh, no, no, no, no.  Not so fast.

Aeneas: There’s no use protesting, my lord.  It’s all been agreed to.  It’s a done deal.

Troilus: Oh, goddamn and bloody hell!  Why?  Why?  Why?  Just when Cressida and I–

Aeneas: This is for Troy, sir.  Try and understand.  Troy’s needs come before your personal interests.

    (A pause.  Troilus composes himself.)

Troilus: Listen, don’t tell them you found me here.  Just say you happened to run into me.

Aeneas: That’s fine.

Troilus: I’ll go back with you.–Pandarus, I don’t want to be the one to tell her.

Aeneas: You tell her, Pandarus.  We’ll be outside.

    (Troilus and Aeneas leave.  Then Cressida comes in.)

Cressida: What was all that about?  Where’s Troilus?

Pandarus: He just stepped out.  He’s with Aeneas.

Cressida: Uncle, what’s going on?

Pandarus: I hate to tell you this.

Cressida: Tell me what?–Tell me!

Pandarus: You’re going to rejoin your father–in the Greek camp.

Cressida: Why?

Pandarus: They’ve made a deal.  Antenor is back, and in return you’re going to your father.

Cressida: But I don’t want to go!

Pandarus: I know you don’t want to go, but there’s no point arguing about it, because it’s been agreed to.

Cressida: But I don’t want to leave Troilus!

Pandarus: I’m sorry.  It can’t be helped.  Go and pack your things.

Cressida: No!  No!  No!

    (She runs out crying.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 4.  In Calchas’s house.  Curtain up finds Pandarus trying to comfort Cressida, who is crying.

Pandarus: Come, now, girl.  You must put aside your grief and compose yourself.

Cressida: I can’t put aside my grief.  I love Troilus too much.

    (Troilus comes in, and Cressida embraces him immediately.)

Cressida: I don’t want to go!

Troilus: I don’t want you to go either.

Pandarus: My poor lambs!

Troilus (To Cressida): The gods are jealous because we love each other so much.  They’re the ones who are breaking us up.

Pandarus: Yes, yes, yes.  That’s what it is.  It’s the gods.

Cressida: Must I go now–right this minute?

Troilus: There’s no time for a proper goodbye.  That’s what hurts the most.

Pandarus: I feel so bad for both of you.–I can’t even cry.  I’m beyond tears.

Aeneas (Within): Troilus!  Is she ready yet?

Troilus: Yes, yes!  Just hold on a minute!

Cressida: If I go to the Greeks, when will I see you again?

Troilus: I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter when.  Just be true to me in your heart.

    (She pulls away slightly.)

Cressida: You don’t have to tell me that.

Troilus: All I mean is, be true and the time will pass until we do see each other.–Here.  Wear this sleeve.  (He gives her a sleeve from his coat — i.e., a detachable accessory given as a token of love.)

Cressida: And you take this glove.

    (She gives him a glove.)

Troilus: Maybe I can bribe the Greek watchmen and sneak in and see you.  Just–be true.

Cressida: Why do you doubt me?

Troilus: I’m thinking of those Greeks.  There are a lot of them I probably couldn’t compete with.  They’re good at everything, and I’m not particularly good at anything.

Cressida: And you think I’ll be tempted.

Troilus: Well–who knows what can happen?

Aeneas (Within): Come on, Troilus!  We’re waiting!

    (Cressida hugs Troilus.)

Cressida: And what about you?  Will you be true to me?

Troilus: I don’t know how to be any other way.

Paris (Within): Brother!  Come on!

Troilus: Bring them in here, Paris!

    (Paris leads in Aeneas, Antenor, Deiphobus, and Diomedes.)

Aeneas (To Diomedes): This is Cressida.

Troilus (To Diomedes): You’d better take good care of her.  That’s all I’ve got to say.

Diomedes: She’s a beauty.  (To Cressida)  I can see you’re going to be very popular among the Greeks.

Troilus: She doesn’t need to be flattered.  You just make sure she gets the best treatment possible.  If I find out she’s come to any harm, I’ll hack my way through the whole Greek army to get to you.

Diomedes: Ha, ha!  (To Aeneas) Who is this clown?

Aeneas: Troilus–one of the princes.–Troilus, this is Diomedes.

Diomedes (To Troilus): Hey, I’m a commander, so don’t try to intimidate me.  And I’ll say whatever I want.  Your girlfriend will be treated the way she deserves to be treated–and not because you say so.

Troilus: You have a big mouth.

Paris: Take it easy.

Troilus: All right.  Let’s get this over with.  (He takes Cressida’s hand.)  I’ll walk with you.

    (Troilus, Cressida, and Diomedes go out.  Then a trumpet sounds.)

Paris: That’s Hector’s trumpet!

Aeneas: Today’s the big match!  I almost forgot!

Paris: Come on.  We don’t want to miss it.

Deiphobus: Hector will win, don’t worry.

Aeneas: If he does, it’ll be a sure sign that the gods are on our side and we’re going to win the war.

    (They all leave.) 

Act 4, Scene 5.  Somewhere between the Greek camp and Troy.  A field of combat has been marked off (by pennants or similar).  Ajax comes in, armed, along with Agamemnon, Achilles, Patroclus, Menelaus, Ulysses, Nestor, and a Trumpeter. 

Agamemnon: You look eager, Ajax.

Ajax: You bet, General.

Agamemnon (To the Trumpeter): Blow the trumpet for Hector.

    (The Trumpeter blows.  Then everyone waits for a response.)

Ulysses: He’s not answering.

Achilles: Give him a minute or two.  Maybe he’s taking a leak.

Agamemnon (Looking toward Troy): Oh–I see Diomedes.  He’s got Calchas’s daughter with him.

Ulysses: Looks like he’s smiling.  Maybe he’s got a new girlfriend already.

    (Diomedes, very cheerful, comes in with Cressida.)

Agamemnon: So this is Cressida?

Diomedes: This is Cressida, General.

Agamemnon: You are very welcome here, miss.

    (Agamemnon gives her a polite kiss, which surprises her.)

Nestor: The General doesn’t kiss everyone–ha, ha!

    (Cressida looks flattered.  From this point on, she is very happy to be kissed.)

Ulysses: Why don’t you all kiss her!

Nestor: Good idea!  (To Cressida) I’m Nestor.  Welcome.

    (Nestor kisses her.)

Achilles: I’m Achilles.  Welcome.

    (Achilles kisses her.)

Menelaus: I used to have a wife to kiss.

Patroclus: Used to–until Paris–

Menelaus: Don’t remind me.

Patroclus: Okay.  (To Cressida) I’m Patroclus. 

    (Patroclus kisses her.)

Ulysses (Aside to the audience, drily): Greeks Gone Wild.  Order now and get the Trojan War for free.  Seven years worth of blood and guts.

Patroclus: That kiss was from Menelaus.  This one’s from me. 

    (He kisses her again.)

Menelaus: I can do my own kissing, thank you very much.  (He kisses her.)  I’m Menelaus.  I’m sure you know my wife.

Cressida: Ah.–Yes.

Ulysses: Do I get to kiss you?

Cressida (Teasing him): Only if you beg.

Ulysses: Tell you what.  You can give me a kiss when Helen’s back with us.

Cressida: All right.  You can ask for it then.

Diomedes: I’ll take you to your father now, miss.  He’ll be glad to see you.

Cressida: All right.

    (Diomedes leaves with Cressida.)

Nestor: What a clever girl.  Isn’t she?

Ulysses: She’s cheap stuff.  You can have her.

    (A trumpet flourish is heard.  Then the Trojan party comes in — Hector, Paris, Aeneas, Helenus, and Troilus.  Troilus looks depressed.  Hector is standing the furthest away and appears aloof.  He is either not hearing or pretending not to hear the following conversation.)

Agamemnon: Hail, Trojans!

Aeneas: Hail, Greeks!–Okay, so we want to agree on the rules of the combat.

Agamemnon: What does Hector prefer?

Aeneas: He doesn’t care.

Achilles: Typical.  He’s overconfident, as always.

Aeneas: Aren’t you Achilles?

Achilles: Who else?

Aeneas: It’s just that we haven’t seen you for so long we’ve almost forgotten what you look like.  (Pause for effect)  Don’t underestimate Hector.  You don’t know him, so you don’t know what’s typical and what isn’t.  He’s the bravest soldier in Troy.

Achilles: I’m not doubting it.

Aeneas (Aside to Achilles): He and Ajax are cousins, you know.  So don’t expect him to fight to the death.

Achilles (Aside to Aeneas): I get it.

    (Diomedes returns.)

Agamemnon: Diomedes, Aeneas wants to discuss the rules, so confer with him and make sure the combatants understand.

Diomedes: Right.

    (Diomedes, Aeneas, Ajax, and Hector move apart for a private discussion.)

Agamemnon (Aside to Ulysses): Who’s that fellow over there–the one who looks so unhappy?

Ulysses (Aside to Agamemnon): That’s Troilus.  He’s Hector’s youngest brother.  He’ll be another Hector someday, believe me.  Maybe even greater.  That’s what Aeneas says.

    (Hector and Ajax take their places for combat.  A signal is given, and they begin fighting.  Everyone cheers for their favourite.  The fighting is even and continues for some time until the contestants appear to tire.  Then Diomedes intervenes.)

Diomedes: Stop!  The match is over!  (The combatants stop.)  The match is a draw.

Aeneas: Agreed.  It’s a draw.  (To the combatants) An honourable contest.  Well done.

Ajax: I’m willing to go on.

Diomedes: Hector?

Hector: No.  We’ll leave it as a draw.  Ajax has proven himself my equal.  Even if Trojans must fight Greeks, I would not like to kill my own cousin.

    (He embraces Ajax, who gives him a somewhat evil smile.)

Ajax: Thank you, Hector.  (Aside to him) Actually, I would’ve been willing to kill you.

Hector (Aside to Ajax): You couldn’t have.  Nobody here can.

    (Hector turns to leave.)

Ajax: Wait.  You’re invited to stay for a visit–you and your party.  And Achilles especially wants to talk with you.

Diomedes: Yes.  It’s a official invitation from the supreme commander himself.

Hector: All right.

    (Agamemnon steps forward.)

Hector: We haven’t met before, but I know you’re Agamemnon.  A king always stands out.  [Author’s note: Agamemnon was King of Argos.]

Agamemnon: You are worthy.  (Agamemnon embraces him.)  For this special occasion we enjoy a truce so we can entertain Troy’s greatest soldier, and all our other Trojan visitors, too.

Hector: If I were a Greek, I’d consider myself lucky to have such a noble king and general.

Agamemnon (To Troilus): And we think as much of you, Troilus, as we do of your brother.

Menelaus: Let me welcome you, too, Hector.

    (Hector hesitates because he doesn’t know Menelaus.)

Aeneas: This is Menelaus.

Hector: Menelaus!  (They shake hands.) I’m touched by your welcome, sir.  (Pause) Your former wife is well, although she asked me not to convey any greeting.

Menelaus: Don’t remind me of her.

Hector: Oh.–Sorry.

Nestor: Hector, I’ve seen you on the battlefield.  You’ve chopped your way through whole ranks of our soldiers–but you’ve never killed anyone who was wounded and helpless.  And once I saw you surrounded, and you didn’t seem at all afraid.  You are truly worthy.

    (Nestor embraces Hector.  Achilles is obviously bothered and envious.)

Aeneas: This is Nestor–the wise, old man of the Greeks.

Hector (To Nestor): Your reputation precedes you, sir.  It’s a honour to meet you.

Ulysses: Hector, I don’t know how the walls of Troy manage to stand when you’re not there to hold them up.

Hector: I remember you, Ulysses.  You and Diomedes came to give us your demands.  That was a long time ago.

Ulysses: I gave you a prophecy then.  Remember?

Hector: I remember.

Ulysses: I said if you didn’t return Helen to us, your city would be destroyed.

Hector: It’s still standing.  If anything ever destroys it, it won’t be your army.  It’ll be time and the forces of nature.

Ulysses: Then we’ll leave it to time and nature.  As for right now, you’re invited to dine in my tent.

Achilles: Later.  I want him to come to my tent first.


Hector: You’re Achilles.

Achilles: Yes.

    (The two regard each other, but Achilles’ look is impolite.)

Hector: Why do you look at me that way?

Achilles: I’m trying to decide which part of your body my sword would look best in.

Hector: You won’t find it that easy to put a sword into any part of me.   

Achilles: I’ll do it anyway.

Hector: No.  You’ll only die trying.  (To the other Greeks) Sorry.  Just a soldier talking.

Ajax: It’s all right, cousin.  (To Achilles) Don’t be trash-talking while you’re still sitting out the war.

Hector: Yes.  It’s not much of a war without the great Achilles in it.

Achilles: You want to see me on the battlefield that bad?  Look for me tomorrow.  It’ll be your last day on earth.

    (Agamemnon clears his throat loudly.)

Achilles (Smiling): But for now, we’re all friends here.

Agamemnon: You can all come back to my tent for supper.  After that, Greeks can take turns entertaining Hector and anyone else who cares to stay.

    (All leave except Troilus and Ulysses.)

Troilus: Tell me, Ulysses, where is Calchas staying?

Ulysses: He’s camped with Menelaus.  Diomedes will be there for dinner tonight.  He certainly likes Cressida.

Troilus: Would you take me there after we eat with Agamemnon?

Ulysses: Of course.  By the way, did she belong to anyone in Troy?

Troilus: She did–and she still does.–Shall we walk, my lord?

Ulysses: Yes.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Evening.  Before Achilles’ tent.  Achilles and Patroclus come in.  

Achilles: When Hector comes, we’ll wine him and dine him–and then tomorrow on the battlefield–(He draws a finger across his throat.)

Patroclus: Here comes Thersites.

    (Thersites comes in.)

Achilles: There you are, you rotten apple.  What’s the news?

Thersites: Shouldn’t you be standing in a store window with the other mannequins?–Here’s a letter for you.

    (He hands Achilles a letter.)

Achilles: Where’s this from?

Thersites: From Troy.

    (Patroclus is smirking at Thersites.  Achilles is reading the letter and ignoring the following exchange.)

Thersites: What are you smirking at–boyfriend?

Patroclus: Boyfriend?  What do you mean by that?

Thersites: You know what I mean.  You serve your master–in various ways–don’t you?

Patroclus: You asshole.  I ought to punch you out.

Thersites: Oh, now–if you really thought I was an asshole, you wouldn’t threaten me.  You’d make love to me.

Patroclus: One of these days I’m gonna wring your neck.

Thersites: Have you noticed any pain in your private parts?  It’s a sure sign of a sexually transmitted disease.

Patroclus: You rat.  You’re not even human.

Thersites: You’re a garden pest.

Patroclus: Monkey!

Thersites: Germ!

Achilles: Patroclus, it appears I won’t be on the battlefield tomorrow after all.

Patroclus: You won’t?

Achilles: This letter is from Queen Hecuba.  Her daugher Polyxena insists that I not fight tomorrow.

Patroclus: Ah, I see.  So you still want to marry her.

Achilles: Yes.  I made a promise to both of them to stay out of the fighting.  I have to keep my word.–So!  We might as well stay up late eating and drinking.

    (Achilles and Patroclus go into the tent, and Thersites sticks his tongue out after them.)

Thersites: Two more witless Greeks–just like all the witless Greeks.  Agamemnon’s another one.  Nice man but really not too smart.  And as for Menelaus, he’d make a jackass look brilliant.–Ah!  Here come the walking dead.

    (Coming in are Agamemnon, followed by Hector, Troilus, Ajax, Ulysses, Nestor, Menelaus, and Diomedes, carrying torches.  Thersites moves well apart.)

Agamemnon: Ah!  I knew I’d find it.

    (Achilles comes out.)

Achilles: Heard your voice, General.–Hector, welcome.–Welcome all of you.

Agamemnon: Hello, Achilles.–Hector, I’ll leave you now.  Ajax is in charge of your security.  Good night.

Hector: Good night, General.  And thank you.

Menelaus: Good night, Hector.

Hector: Good night, Menelaus.

    (Thersites is making faces, mocking them.)

Achilles: Welcome or good night–whoever wants to stay or go.

Agamemnon: Good night, Achilles.

    (Agamemnon and Menelaus leave.)

Achilles: Nestor’s staying, right?  (Nestor nods.)  Good.–Diomedes?

Diomedes: I would, but I have some, uh, important business.  I’ll say good night to all of you.

Others: Good night.

    (Diomedes leaves.)

Ulysses (Aside to Troilus): He’s going to Calchas’s tent.  We’ll follow him.

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): Okay.

    (Achilles, Hector, Ajax, and Nestor go into the tent.  Troilus and Ulysses follow Diomedes stealthily.)

Thersites (To the audience): You watch that Diomedes.  There are no rattlesnakes in Greece–except for him.  If he ever tells the truth, it’s a rare event, like a solar eclipse.–They say–he keeps a Trojan whore–at Calchas’s tent.  I intend to do some spying.  You come along.

    (He leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  Before Calchas’s tent at night.  The tent is located at one side of the stage.  On the other side are two places of concealment, one closer than the other.  Diomedes comes in and stands outside the tent.

Diomedes (Calling softly): Cressida!

    (Calchas sticks his head out.)

Calchas: Diomedes.

Diomedes: Where’s Cressida?

Calchas: She’s here.  Hold on.

    (Calchas disappears inside.  At this point Troilus and Ulysses come in stealthily and occupy the concealment closer to the tent.  Then Cressida comes out.  Ulysses cautions Troilus to be quiet and remain concealed.)

Cressida: Hello.

Diomedes: There you are, my little birdie.

    (Cressida whispers in his ear, and he whispers back.  Thersites comes in during this whispering and occupies the other concealment, out of sight of Ulysses and Troilus as well as Diomedes and Cressida.  He gestures to the audience, pointing at Diomedes and Cressida.)

Cressida (Normal voice, flirtatiously): Mm–maybe.

Diomedes: What do you mean, maybe?  Don’t you want to?

Cressida: You shouldn’t tempt me.

Diomedes: Well, if you’re going to be like that, I’ll just leave.

    (He turns to leave, but she holds him by the sleeve.)

Cressida: No.  Don’t leave.–Listen.

    (She whispers to him again.  Troilus is visibly upset.)

Ulysses (Aside to Troilus): We ought to go.

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): No.

Ulysses (Aside to Troilus): Remember you’re in the Greek camp.  This is no place to have a blow-up.

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): I’m not leaving.

    (Once again Diomedes turns to leave, and Cressida restrains him.)

Cressida: Don’t be angry.

Diomedes: I don’t believe you.  You’re just playing with me.

Cressida: No, I’m not.

    (She touches him affectionately.  Ulysses is tugging at Troilus’s sleeve to get him to leave, but he refuses.)

Thersites (Aside to the audience): Lechery.  Pure lechery.

Diomedes: Will you or won’t you?  Yes or no?

Cressida.  Yes.  I will.

Diomedes: Give me something to show you’re sincere.

Cressida: All right.  I can give you something.  Just wait.

    (She goes into the tent.  Troilus is visibly upset, and Ulysses is trying to calm him.  Cressida returns with the sleeve given to her by Troilus.  Troilus reacts with shock.)

Cressida: Here.  Take this.  It was given to me.

    (She gives him the sleeve.)

Diomedes: By who?

Cressida: A man.

Diomedes: So you have a lover already.

    (Cressida takes the sleeve back impulsively.)

Cressida: Never mind.–I won’t meet you tomorrow night.

    (Diomedes snatches the sleeve back.)

Diomedes: I’ll keep this.  You belong to me now.

Cressida: Then keep it, if you insist.  But you’ll never love me the way he did.

Diomedes: Who’s he?

Cressida: I won’t say.

Diomedes: I’m going to wear this on my helmet tomorrow so your lover sees it–whoever he is.  Then let him challenge me for it, if he dares to.

Cressida: I still won’t meet you tomorrow night.

Diomedes: Then to hell with you.  I’m going.

    (He turns to go, and she restrains him again.)

Cressida: All right.  I’ll meet you.

Diomedes: That’s better.  I’ll see you tomorrow night.

    (Diomedes leaves.  Cressida stands there for a moment, looking conflicted.)

Cressida (Sighing): I just can’t help myself.

    (Cressida goes back into the tent.)

Ulysses: Well?  What do you think of your girlfriend now?

Troilus: I can’t believe it.

Thersites (Aside to the audience): She’s a slut, that’s all.

Troilus: Tell me this is just a bad dream.

Ulysses: No, it isn’t.

Troilus: I actually saw and heard all this.

Ulysses: Yes, and so did I.

Troilus: This isn’t the Cressida I know.

Ulysses: Then you don’t know her.  Face it, good prince.  You are a prince of Troy, aren’t you?

Troilus: Yes.

Ulysses: Then don’t live by lies.  If you survive this war, you must live in the truth.  And if you die, you mustn’t die a fool or you’ll hate yourself for all eternity.


Troilus: Why should you care?  Am I not your enemy?

Ulysses: Wars make enemies.  And folly makes wars.  But war does not live in the soul.

    (Pause for effect.)

Troilus: She’s been false.–She is false.–No truth could hurt me more.

Ulysses: Do you still love her?


Troilus: Yes.  And as much as I love her, I hate Diomedes just as much.  Tomorrow I’ll look for him on the battlefield–and kill him!

Ulysses: Shh!  Not so loud.

    (Aeneas comes in.)

Aeneas: There you are, Troilus.  I’ve been looking for you.

Troilus: Ulysses and I were just out for some fresh air.

Aeneas: Hector’s already gone back to Troy.  Ajax is waiting to escort us.

Ulysses: I’ll come along, too.  I’ll walk you back.

Troilus: Thank you.

    (Troilus, Aeneas, and Ulysses leave.)

Thersites (To the audience): Lechery and war–war and lechery.  Man at his worst.  And may the devil take them all.

    (He leaves.  [Author’s note: One problem critics have with this play is that they don’t know why Ulysses takes Troilus to spy on Cressida.  Is he being cruel or kind?  I have put my own spin on it so it makes sense.]) 

Act 5, Scene 3.  Before the palace.  Hector, armed, comes in, pursued by his wife, Andromache, who tries to stop him.

Andromache: No!  Hector, listen to me!  I don’t want you to fight today!

Hector: Don’t make me angry.  Go back inside.

Andromache: I had nightmares all night!  You mustn’t go!  I’m afraid!

Hector: I don’t want to hear about your nightmares.

    (Cassandra comes in.)

Cassandra: Hector!

Andromache: Cassandra!  Help me!  I don’t want him to go!  I had bad dreams!  It was all blood!–and slaughter!

Cassandra: So did I, Andromache.  The gods are warning us.–They’re warning you, Hector.

Hector: Nuts!–Where’s my trumpet?  Sound my trumpet!

Cassandra: No, brother!  Not today!

Hector: I have sworn to fight.  The gods have heard me swear.

Cassandra: The gods don’t care what you’ve sworn.  They’re warning you.  I know what’s going to happen if you go.  I can see it.

Hector: My honour is more important than what you think you see.

    (Troilus comes in, armed.)

Hector: Where do you think you’re going?

Andromache: Cassandra, get your father!

    (Cassandra runs out.)

Troilus: I’m going to the field to fight–the same as you.

Hector: No, you’re not.  I don’t need you.

Troilus: Yes, you do.  You’re too soft on the battlefield.

Hector: What do you mean?

Troilus: You show mercy to men you could have killed.  When they’re down, you let them get up and run away.

Hector: I don’t kill a man when he’s down and helpless.  It’s just not done.

Troilus: Not done?  This is war.  The enemy is the enemy.  You kill him.  You don’t show mercy.

Hector: Troilus, I think you’re a little too worked up today.  I think you ought to stay home.

Troilus: Who’s going to stop me?  You?  My father?  My mother?  Nobody’s going to stop me.

    (Cassandra returns with Priam.)

Cassandra: Stop him, father!  Don’t let him go!  If he dies, it’s the end for all of us!

Priam: I don’t want you to go today, Hector.  Your wife had bad dreams, and so did your mother.  And your sister doesn’t want you to go.  And I have a very bad feeling today myself.  All of this means something.  It means you shouldn’t go.

Hector: Do you know who feasted me last night?  Agamemnon.  And all the Greeks treated me with the greatest respect.  They praised me.  They hugged me.  “You are worthy!”  That’s what they said.  “You are worthy!”  Do you understand?  If I don’t face them on the battlefield today, it’ll be a disgrace to me–and an insult to them.  They’ll mock me.  They’ll heap scorn on me.  They’ll say, “Why did we feast such a coward?  Why did we honour him?  He is not worthy!”  So don’t tell me not to go.  I am a prince of Troy.  My honour is your honour, too.

    (Priam appears to be sympathizing.)

Cassandra: No, father!  Don’t let him go!

Andromache: Don’t let him!  Please don’t let him!

Hector: Andromache, you’re being a bad wife.  If you love me, go back inside right now.–I mean it.

    (Andromache leaves.)

Cassandra (Looking off into space): I foresee–

Troilus: Stop it, Cassandra!

Cassandra, (Speaking softly, looking off into space): I see–Hector’s face–I see–blood–I hear Andromache crying–and all the people of Troy wailing in the streets–“Hector is dead!–Hector is dead!”

Troilus: That’s enough, sister!

    (Cassandra gives Hector a long, sad look.)

Cassandra (Softly): Goodbye, brother.

    (She leaves.  Priam looks frightened.)

Hector: Don’t listen to her.  She’s in another world.–Father, just go and mix with the people.  Put on a big smile and tell them everything will be all right.  I think today’s our day to whip the Greeks.


Priam (Softly): I hope you’re right.–Farewell, Hector.  May the gods protect you.

    (Hector and Priam leave separately.  Alarms of battle are heard.)

Troilus: Diomedes, I’m coming to get you, you son of a bitch.

    (Troilus starts to leave, but Pandarus rushes in with a letter.)

Pandarus (In a hoarse voice): Troilus!  Here’s a letter for you–from Cressida.

    (Troilus takes the letter and reads it silently, looking disdainful.)

Pandarus: I’m so hoarse today.  I feel so sick.–And worrying about that girl.–God, my whole body is hurting me.–What does she say?

Troilus: Just words–useless words.  (He tears up the letter.)  Lies.  She sends me her lies, but she goes to another man.

    (Troilus leaves in the direction of the battlefield.  Pandarus is walking slowly, head down, in the direction of the city as the curtain ends the scene.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  On the battlefield.  Distant sounds of battle are heard.  Thersites comes in.

Thersites (To the audience): Now they’re back to killing each other.  What a show!  And that bastard Diomedes is fighting with that sleeve on his helmet.  I hope he and Troilus bump into each other.  One of them will get killed, and it doesn’t matter to me who.  Either it’ll be one less snake or one less fool on the earth.–Oh, these Greeks think they’re so smart.  That old fart Nestor and that wise guy Ulysses.  Remember how they schemed to use Ajax to get Achilles back in the war by having Ajax fight Hector?  It didn’t work.  And what’s even worse, now Ajax is acting like a prima donna, and he doesn’t feel like fighting today either.  It’s all chaos.  And everybody tells you that the Greeks are the real thinkers of the world.–Bullshit!  (He sees something.)  Oops!  I think I’d better hide for a minute.

    (Thersites moves to a suggested place of concealment.  Then Diomedes comes in, followed quickly by Troilus.)

Troilus: Don’t run from me, you bastard!

    (Diomedes turns and confronts Troilus.)

Diomedes: I wasn’t running from you–boy!  I was just getting away from the crowd.

Troilus: You’re wearing her sleeve, and for that you’re going to die!

    (They fight.)

Thersites (Aside): That’s it!  Kill each other!  Go on!  That’s it!  Kill!

    (The fighting moves offstage, and Thersites comes out of concealment.)

Thersites (After them): That’s it!  Go on!  Whoever wins gets that whore Cressida!

    (Hector comes in, his sword out.)

Hector: Who are you, Greek?  Are you a soldier?

Thersites: Who, me?  No, no.  I’m just a dirty, no-good bum.

Hector: That’s just what you look like.–Stay out of trouble.

    (Hector goes out.)

Thersites (After him): Thank you, sir!  (Makes a vulgar gesture.)  Break a leg.–Now I want to see what’s happening with Diomedes and Troilus.

    (Thersites goes out.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  Elsewhere on the field.  Diomedes comes in with his Servant.

Diomedes: Go take Troilus’s horse to Cressida.  Tell her I beat him and she can forget about him.

Servant: Yes, my lord.

    (The Servant leaves.  Then Agamemnon comes in, looking frazzled and out of breath.)

Agamemnon: We’re getting killed out there!  Some of our best soldiers are dead or wounded.  And Patroclus is missing.  I’m afraid to think what’s happened to him.–Listen, we have to get organized.  We have to–do something.–Oh!

    (Nestor and some Soldiers come in carrying the body of Patroclus.)

Agamemnon: Patroclus!–I was afraid of this.–How did he die?

Nestor: It was Hector.  (To the Soldiers) Take him to Achilles.  And tell Ajax to get his armour on.  We need him desperately.  (To Agamemnon) Hector’s everywhere.  It’s like there’s a dozen Hectors on the battlefield.

Agamemnon: I know.

    (There is an interval where they listen to distant battle sounds, as if listening for Hector’s voice.  This interval is needed to stretch the time.  Ulysses comes in.)

Ulysses: Achilles is putting on his armour–finally.  And so is Ajax.  He lost one of his friends–to Troilus.

Agamemnon: Troilus!

Ulysses: Yes.  He’s fighting like a demon.  I’ve never seen him fight like this before.

    (Ajax comes in.)

Ajax: That goddamn Troilus!  I’ll kill him!  I’ll chop his head off!

Diomedes: Take it easy.  The most important thing right now is to reorganize.

Nestor: Yes, yes.  We have to restore some order.

    (Achilles comes in, armed.)

Achilles: Hector’s mine today.  Nobody else goes near him.

Agamemnon: You’ll get your chance, but we have to restore order first.

Achilles: I have all the order I need.  I want my revenge now.

    (Achilles goes out, and everyone else follows.)

Act 5, Scene 6.  On the battlefield.  Ajax comes in.

Ajax: Troilus!  Where are you?  Show yourself!

    (Diomedes comes in.)

Diomedes: Where’s Troilus?  I’m going to finish him off this time.

Ajax: Oh, no!  He’s all mine!

Diomedes: I want him first.

Ajax: No!

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Diomedes, you bastard!  You stole my horse!

Ajax: He’s mine!

Diomedes: No, I’ll get him!

    (Troilus fights them both, and the fighting moves offstage.  Then Hector comes in, looking around.)

Hector (Loudly): Where are you, brother?  Troilus!  Keep at ’em, boy!

    (Achilles comes in.)

Achilles: Hector!

Hector: I didn’t expect to see you.

Achilles: You killed Patroclus!

    (They fight.  After a while, both seem to tire.)

Achilles: I’m out of shape.  I have to let you go.  Consider yourself lucky.

    (Achilles runs out.)

Hector (After him): You’re the lucky one!–I should’ve saved my strength.

    (Troilus comes in.)

Hector: Troilus!

Troilus: Ajax has captured Aeneas!  We have to save him!

Hector: Which way?

Troilus: I’m not sure.  I’ll go this way.  You go that way (Indicating).

    (Troilus runs out.  Then an unnamed Greek Soldier comes in to fight Hector.  Hector fights him off and then pursues him offstage.) 

Act 5, Scene 7.  Elsewhere on the battlefield.  Achilles comes in with a group of Soldiers wearing a distinctive uniform.  (Author’s note: In the original, these were referred to as the Myrmidons.  They were a warlike people from Thessaly and were followers of Achilles.)

Achilles: All right, now listen.  You guys stick with me, and when we find Hector, I want you to surround him.  Just watch me, and when I strike, you strike, too, from all directions.  And strike hard.  I want him dead.

    (Achilles leads his party out.  Then Menelaus comes in, fighting with Paris.  As they fight, Thersites comes in, remaining apart.)

Thersites (To the Audience): Finally!  I’ve been waiting for this!  Menelaus and Paris–ha!–Watch out for his horns, Paris!–Ha, ha!–You put them there!

    (The fighting moves offstage.  Then Margarelon comes in, brandishing his sword.)

Margarelon: You–Greek!

Thersites: Who are you?

Margarelon: Margarelon–the bastard son of Priam.

Thersites: I’m a bastard, too.  You don’t want to kill me.

Margarelon: Why not?

Thersites: Why should one bastard kill another?  It isn’t right, man!

    (Thersites runs out.)

Margarelon: Hey, you!  Come back here!

    (Margarelon follows him out.)

Act 5, Scene 8.  Elsewhere on the battlefield.  Hector drags in the body of the unnamed Greek Soldier he was last seen chasing.

Hector: Another dead Greek to add to my score.  (He drops the body.)  Sucker!  (He shows fatigue.  He drops his sword and takes off his armour.  Then Achilles comes in with his party of Soldiers.)

Achilles: Take one last look at the sun, Hector.  Night falls on you now.

Hector: Hey, wait.  I’m not armed.  You can’t kill me like this.

    (The Soldiers surround Hector.)

Hector: Hey, Achilles.  This isn’t honourable.  I would never do this.  I spared many Greeks who were helpless.

Achilles: Strike!

    (Achilles and the Soldiers strike Hector from all sides.  He falls dead.)

Achilles: Death to Hector!  And death to Troy!

    (The Soldiers cheer.)  

Achilles: When you get back to camp, tell everyone that Achilles killed Hector.

    (A trumpet retreat is heard.)

Soldier: That’s their retreat.  They’re finished, too, my lord.

Achilles: This is my day’s work.  This is the one that mattered.  Tie him to my horse’s tail.  I want to drag him outside the walls of Troy so they can all get a good look.

    (They leave, with the Soldiers dragging Hector’s body.)

Act 5, Scene 9.  On the battlefield.  Agamemnon comes in with Ajax, Menelaus, Nestor, and Diomedes.  Excited shouting is heard at a distance.

Agamemnon: What’s all the commotion?

Soldiers (Within): Hector’s dead!  Achilles killed Hector!

Diomedes: What’s that?–My lord, Hector is dead!  Achilles killed him!

Ajax: If he did, he’d better not brag about it.  Hector was every bit as good as him–if not better.

Agamemnon: Let’s go to my tent.  Somebody go tell Achilles to meet us there.  If Hector really is dead, Troy is finished.  It’s just a matter of time.  They can’t win.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 10.  On the battlefield.  Aeneas, Paris, Antenor, and Deiphobus come in.

Aeneas: We can still hold the field if we camp out here all night.

Deiphobus: Without food?

Aeneas: Yes.  We can go hungry for one night.

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Hector is dead.

Others: No!–How?

Troilus: He didn’t die like a soldier.  He was murdered by Achilles when he was unarmed.  And his body was tied to Achilles’ horse and dragged across the field.  (He looks up at heaven.)  How you gods must hate Troy!–Don’t draw it out.  Get it over with.  Destroy us quickly and be done with it.

Aeneas: My lord, don’t say that.

Troilus: Oh, I’m not afraid.  Don’t get that idea.  I’ll face any dangers that the gods or the Greeks can throw at us.  I don’t care any more.  Without Hector, Troy is lost.–The people can’t go on after this.  It’s a knife in their hearts.  (He turns and faces the Greek camp, raising his sword.)  Achilles–you coward!  I will kill you, or I will haunt your dreams forever!  (To the others)  Let’s go back to Troy.  From now on we live only for revenge.  Victory is out of the question.

    (As they start to leave, Pandarus rushes in.)

Pandarus: My lord Troilus!

Troilus: Get out of my sight, you miserable pimp!

    (All leave, except Pandarus, who now stands there looking deflated and tired.  The final speech is addressed directly to the audience.  Pandarus speaks haltingly.  He rubs his hands nervously and seems uncertain and lost.)

Pandarus: Pimp.–Is that the thanks I get?–It’s the same with whores, isn’t it?–Sought after now and despised later.–I get to have the last word, it seems.–But what good is it?–There was a time when people sought me out for help and advice.–But now?–Now I’m just a sick, rejected old man on the losing side of a war.–I know I don’t have long to live.–Perhaps I’ll sell my house and go to some brothel and ask them to take me in.–I wouldn’t be a bother to them–Just give me a little room, and I’ll keep to myself.–That would be all right.–And I would feel that I was dying among friends.

    (He leaves.  Curtain.)


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail:


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