Troilus and Cressida By William Shakespeare Presented by Paul W. Collins All rights reserved

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I had rather be a tick in a sheep than such a valiant ignorance!

Chapter Six

Rivals Meet
Beneath the stars early this morning, two Trojan princes stand in the road just east of the city. By the light of flickering torches held by servants, they have met with a Greek emissary, Diomedes. He has brought a prisoner: Antenor, the Trojans’ chief military counselor.

Paris spots someone else coming from the town gates. “See, ho!—who is that there?”

His brother Deiphobus peers through the darkness. “It is the Lord Aeneas.”

When he and a servant near the others, Aeneas asks, “Is the prince there in person?” He grins. “Had I so good occasion to lie for long as you have, Prince Paris, nothing but heavenly business”—death—“should rob my bed-mate of my company!”

Diomedes laughs, recognizing the newcomer. “That’s my mind too! Good morrow, Lord Aeneas!”

Says Paris, “A valiant Greek, Aeneas!—take his hand! Witness the subject of your speech wherein you told how Diomedes for a whole week did haunt you by day in the field!”

As they clasp hands warmly, Aeneas smiles at his opponent. “Health to you, valiant sir, during any question of the gentle truce; but when I meet you armèd, as black defiance as courage can think, or heart execute!”

The Greek, too, smiles. “The one and other Diomedes embraces! Our bloods are now in calm, and for so long, health! But when contention and occasion meet, by Jove, I’ll play the hunter for thy life with all my policy, pursuit and force!”

“And thou shalt hunt a lion that will fly with his face backward!”—charge forward.

Says Aeneas, “In humane gentleness, welcome to Troy! Now, by Anchises’ life, welcome! Indeed, by Aphrodite’s hand I swear,”—the two are his parents, “no man alive of such sort can love more excellently the thing he means to kill!

“We are in sympathy!” says Diomedes. “Jove, let Aeneas live a thousand complete courses of the sun!—if to my sword his fate be not the glory! But, for mine emulous honour let him die with every joint a wound!—and that tomorrow!

“We know each other well,” says Aeneas.

“We do—and long to know each other worse!

Paris laughs as they release their grips. “This is the most despitefully gentle greeting, the noblest hateful love, that e’er I heard!”

“What business, lord, so early?” asks Aeneas. “I was sent by the king, but why I know not.”

Paris nods toward Diomedes and the Trojan advisor. “His purpose meets you: ’twas to bring this Greek to Calchas’ house, and there to render unto him, for the free-èd Antenor, the fair Cressida!

“Let us have your company. Or, if you please, hasten there before us; I certainly do think—or rather, call my thought a certain knowledge—that my brother Troilus lodges there this night! Rouse him, and give him note of our approach—with the whole quality whereof, I fear, we shall be much unwelcome!

“Of that I assure you!” says Aeneas, surprised by the trade. “Troilus had rather Troy were borne to Greece than Cressida borne from Troy!

Silently, Diomedes notes that intelligence well.

“There is no help,” says Paris, in resignation. “The bitter disposition of the time will have it so. On, lord; we’ll follow you….”

“Good morrow, all!” says Aeneas. He and his man turn back to town, headed for Lord Calchas’s house. Antenor goes with them.

Paris regards the Greek amiably. “Then tell me, noble Diomedes—’faith, tell me true, even in the soul of sound good fellowship: who, in your thoughts, merits fair Helen best, myself or Menelaus?”

“Both alike,” Diomedes tells the smug Trojan prince. “He merits well to have her that doth seek her, with such a hell of pain and world of cost, not making any issue of her soiling; and you merit as well, who defend her to keep her, with such a costly loss of wealth and friends, not paling at the taste of her dishonour.”

Paris flushes, but Diomedes, meeting his glare boldly, goes on. “He, like a puling cuckold, would drink up the lees and dregs of a flat, tamèd piece”—an exhausted wine cask, and, by analogy, a worn-out lay. “You, like a lecher, out of whorish loins are pleasèd to breed out your inheritors. Both merits poised, each weighs nor less nor more, but he as he: neither the heavier for the whore!

Paris contains his anger at the commander’s insults. “You are too bitter toward your countrywoman.”

“She’s bitter to her country! Hear me, Paris: for every false drop in her bawdy veins a Grecian’s life hath sunk! For every particle of her contaminated, carrion weight, a Trojan hath been slain! Since she could speak she hath not given so many good words breath as—for her!—Greeks and Trojans suffered death!

Paris affects equanimity. “Fair Diomed, you do as traders do—dispraise the thing that you desire to buy. But we in silence hold this virtue well: we’ll only commend what we intend to sell.” The Trojan prince turns and strides away toward the former home of Calchas. “Here lies our way.”

Both lords’ servants hurry ahead, their torches lighting the road through the dark to the fortified city.

Near the center of Troy, Troilus and Cressida meander, yawning, toward the front of Lord Pandarus’s home. She knows the prince now wants to leave for the palace.

“Dear, trouble not yourself,” he tells her, rubbing his arms. “The morn is cold.”

“Then, sweet my lord, I’ll call mine uncle down: he shall unbolt the gates.”

“Trouble him not; to bed.” Sated, he no longer needs the old man’s officiousness. “To bed!—sleep still those pretty eyes, and give as soft detachment to thy senses as an infant’s, empty of all thought.”

Cressida closes her eyes for a moment—then pops them open and smiles. “Good morrow, then!”

He laughs. “I prithee now, to bed.” He walks more briskly.

“Are you a-weary of me?”

“Oh, Cressid, but that the busy day, wakèd by the lark, hath roused the ribald crows,”—gossips, “and dreaming night will hide our joys no longer, I would not from thee.”

Night hath been too brief!

“Beshrew the witch! With venomous wights she stays, as tediously as hell, but flies the grasps of lovers with wings more momentary—swifter than thought!” He sees her shiver. “You will catch cold, and curse me!”

“Prithee, tarry—you men will never tarry! O foolish Cressida!—I might still have held off—and then you would have tarried!” She kisses him anyway. They hear sounds in the house. “Hark! There’s one up,” she says dryly.

A voice calls, “What, are all the doors open here?”

“It is your uncle,” says tired Troilus.

“A pestilence on him!” She groans. “Now will he be mocking! I shall have such a life!

Pandarus comes into the corridor, pretending to be worried. “How now, how now?—how go maidenheads?”—virgins. “Here—you, where’s my maiden niece Cressid?” he asks the blushing lady.

She laughs. “Go hang yourself, you naughty, mocking uncle! You bring me to do, and then you flout me too!

Pandarus pretends to be puzzled. “To do what? To do what?—let her say what! What have I brought you to do?”

She chides, “Come, come”—only to blush again when he laughs. “Beshrew your heart!—you’ll ne’er be good—nor suffer others to!”

Pandarus laughs. “Alas, poor wretch!” he teases. “Ah, poor capocchia!”—little monkey. “Hast not slept tonight? Would he not, the naughty man, let it sleep? A bugbear take him!”

Cressida shakes her head. “Did not I tell you?” she asks Troilus. “Would he were knocked i’ the head!”

They hear rapping. “Who’s that at door?” she wonders. “Good uncle, go and see.

“My lord, come you again into my chamber,” she tells Troilus; then, seeing his face: “You smile and mock me—as if I meant naughtily!

Troilus chuckles.

“Come, you are deceived! I think of no such thing,” she claims, tugging him to her. They hear more noise from the front. “How earnestly they knock!” She hurries toward the back. “Pray you, come in! I would not for half of Troy have you seen here!

As they return to a bed chamber, the bachelor wonders if she is mocking his own wish for secrecy.

“Who’s there?” grumbles Pandarus, going to the front. “What’s the matter?

“Will you beat down the door? How now! What’s the matter?he demands, unbarring and opening the oaken door.

“Good morrow, lord, good morrow!” says the visitor in the dark.

“Who’s there? My Lord Aeneas! By my troth, I knew you not!” He motions for the nobleman to come in. “What news with you so early?”

“Is not Prince Troilus here?” He was not at Lord Calchas’s house.

Here? What should he do here?”

“Come, he is here, my lord; do not deny him; it doth import him much to speak with me!”

“Is he here, say you? ’Tis more than I know, I’ll be sworn! For my own part, I came in late. What should he do here?”

Aeneas grins. “Whom.” He sees the old man starting to protest. “Nay, then! Come, come, you’ll do him wrong ere you’re aware!—you’ll be so true to him as to be false to him!

“Do not know of him, then,” he says agreeably, to avoid further talk, “but yet go fetch him hither. Go!

Just then, though, Troilus comes into the corridor. “How now! What’s the matter?”

“My lord, I scarce have leisure to salute you, my matter is so rash!” says Aeneas. “There are at hand Paris and your brother Deiphobus, the Grecian Diomed—and our Antenor, deliverèd to us!

“And for him, forthwith—ere the first sacrifice—within this hour!—we must give up to Diomedes’ hand the Lady Cressida!

Troilus is stunned. “Is it so concluded?

“By Priam and the general state of Troy,” says Aeneas nodding. “They are at hand, and ready to effect it.”

“How my achievements mock me!” moans Troilus. “I will go meet them,” he sighs—surprised to find that he is somewhat relieved. “And, my Lord Aeneas,” he adds, “we met by chance; you did not find me here.”

Aeneas agrees. “Good, good, my lord; the secrets of Nature have not more gift in taciturnity.”

Together they go to meet the parties still coming here through the city.

Pandarus stands by the door. Is’t possible? he wonders. No sooner got but lost? The devil take Antenor! The young prince will go mad! A plague upon Antenor! I would they had broken ’s neck!

Cressida, returning, can see that her uncle is very upset. “How now! What’s the matter? Who was here?”

Pandarus groans.

“Why sigh you so profoundly? Where’s my lord?—gone? Tell me, sweet uncle, what’s the matter?”

“Would I were as deep under the earth as I am above!”

“Oh, the gods! What’s the matter?”

“Prithee, get thee in!” he says angrily. “Would thou hadst ne’er been born!” He waves her away. “I knew thou wouldst be his death!” cries Pandarus. “Oh, poor gentleman! A plague upon Antenor!”

“Good uncle, I beseech you, on my knees!” she cries. “Beseech you, what’s the matter?

“Thou must be gone, wench, thou must be gone; thou art exchangèd for Antenor. Thou must to thy father—and be gone from Troilus!

“’Twill be his death! ’Twill be his bane!—he cannot bear it!”

“O you immortal gods!” She rises and stares, pale. “I will not go!

“Thou must.”

“I will not, Uncle! I have forgot my father!—I know no touch of consanguinity!—no kin, no blood, no love, no soul so near me as the sweet Troilus!

“O you gods divine, make Cressida’s name the very crown of falsehood, if ever she leave Troilus!

Time, Force, and Death, do to this body what extremes you can, but the strong base and building of my love is as the very centre of the earth, drawing all things to it!”

She moans, “I’ll go in and weep,—

“Do, do,” mumbles Pandarus, going to watch from the door.

“—tear my bright hair and scratch my praisèd cheeks; crack my clear voice with sobs, and break my heart with sounding ‘Troilus!’”

She moves slowly back down the passage, dazed and completely wretched.

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