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



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I will not go from Troy! she tells herself.
Paris and the others conducting the exchange of prisoners stand outside Lord Calchas’s mansion just after sunrise—on the day which boasts of Prince Hector’s chivalrous bout epitomizing Trojan gallantry.

“It is great morning, and the hour prefixèd for her delivery to this valiant Greek comes fast upon us,” says Paris. “Good my brother Troilus, tell you the lady what she is to do—and hasten her to the purpose.”

“Walk into her house; I’ll bring her to the Grecian presently,” says Troilus. “And think his hand to whom I deliver her an altar!—and thy brother Troilus a priest, there offering to it his own heart!

Says Paris, “I know what ’tis to love, and wish that I could help as I shall pity.

“Please you walk in, my lords.” They pass into the traitor’s house, as Troilus goes across the way to fetch the conflict’s newest captive.
Inside his own home, Pandarus is upset with the distraught young lady: “Be moderate, be moderate!”

“Why tell you me of moderation?” she wails. “The grief I taste is final, fully perfected!—and violent to the senses, strong as that which causeth it! How can I moderate it? If I could temporize with my affection, or brew it to a weaker and colder palate, the like allayment could I give my grief! My love admits no qualifying dross—no more than my grief, in such a precious loss!”

“Hear!” Pandarus has gone toward the entrance. “Hear! Here he comes!” he says, as Troilus arrives.

At once, Cressida clings to the prince.

Says Pandarus sadly, “Ah, sweet ducks!

Oh, Troilus! Troilus!” she sobs into his chest.

“What a pair of spectacles are here,” says Pandarus, mournfully, if ineptly. “Let me embrace too!” His arm stretches to clasp the prince’s shoulders. “‘O heart,’ as the goodly saying was, ‘O heart, heavy heart, why sigh’st thou without breaking?’—where it answers again, ‘Because thou canst not ease my smart, by friendship nor by speaking!’ There was never a truer rhyme! Let us cast away nothing, for we may live to have need of such a verse!—we see it, we see it!

“How now, lambs?”

Troilus pulls away from her. “Cressid, I love thee with so refined a purity that the blessèd gods, jealous of my fancy, more bright in zeal than the devotion which cold lips blow to their deities—take thee from me.”

She can’t help a slight frown. “Have the gods envy?

“Aye, aye, aye, aye!” cries Pandarus, “’tis all too plainly the case!”

“And is it true that I must go from Troy?

“A hateful truth,” says Troilus.

“What, and from Troilus too?

“From Troy and Troilus.”

She is taken aback by his tranquil expression: “Is it possible?

He nods. “And immediate; imperious Chance pushes back leave-taking, jostles roughly past all time of pause—rudely beguiles our lips of all rejointure, forcibly prevents our lockèd embrasures, strangles our dear vows even in the birth of our own labouring breath!

“We two, that with so many thousand sighs did buy each other, must poorly sell ourselves with the rude brevity and discharge of ‘One.’”

She starts to speak, but he continues: “Injurious Time now with a robber’s haste crams up his rich thievery, he knows not how! As many farewells with distinct breadth and consignèd kisses to them as be stars in heaven, he crushes into a lone ‘Adieu,’ and scants us with a single, famished kiss, broken, distasted with the salt of tears!”

Echoing in her mind are his calm Adieu—and buy and sell.

From the front door, Aeneas asks: “My lord, is the lady ready?”

“Hark, you are called,” says Troilus. He regards her with pity. “Some say that an extra sense thus cries ‘Come’ to him who must immediately die.” He tells Pandarus, “Bid them have patience; she shall come anon.”

Looking at the now-experienced prince, the old man’s feelings are mixed: the beautiful boy’s pain is disturbing, but his new freedom will soon enlarge. Where are my tears?—rain to allay this wind ere my heart be blown up by the root! He ambles down the corridor to the door, thinking.

She look up at Troilus. “I must then to the Grecians?

“No remedy.”

“A woeful Cressida ’mongst the merry Greeks! When shall we see again?”

“Hear me, my love. Be thou but true of heart—”

I true? How now?—what wicked theme is this?

“Nay, we must use expostulation kindly, for it is parting from us! I speak not ‘Be thou true’ as if doubting thee, for I will throw down my glove to Death himself that there’s no machination in thy heart! But ‘Be thou true’ say I in the fashion of my sequent protestation: ‘Be thou true, and I will see thee.”

“Oh, you would be exposèd, my lord, to dangers as infinite as imminent!” she cries. “But I’ll be true!”

“And I’ll grow friendly with danger!” He hastily unfastens one of the wide, embroidered cuffs that decorate his coat. “Wear this sleeve.” She tucks the memento under the cord at her waist.

“And you this glove!” she says, giving it to him. “When shall I see you?”

“I will corrupt the Grecian sentinels, to give thee nightly visitation. But yet be true!”

“O heavens!—‘be true’ again!

The prince’s intimate affair will certainly become known; her succumbing to a Greek could subject him to scorn from both sides.

“Hear why I speak it, love! The Grecian youths are full of quality: they’re loving, well composèd with gifts of Nature!—flowing and swelling o’er with arts and exercise! How novelty may beguile imparts to a person, alas, a kind of godly jealousy!—makes me afraid, which, I beseech you call a virtuous sin!”

“O heavens!” Cressida stares at him. “You love me not!”

Die I a villain, then!” he protests. “In this I do not call your faithfulness into question so mainly as my merit: I cannot sing, nor heel the high lavolt,”—do lively dances, “nor sweeten talk, nor play at subtle games!—fair virtues all, in which the Grecians are most prompt and preparèd.

“And I can tell you that in each grace of these there lurks a devil that with silent discourse tempts most cunningly! But be not tempted!

“Do you think I will?”

“No, but some things may be done that we do not will. And sometimes we are devils to ourselves, when we will tempt the frailty of our powers, presuming on their changeable potency.”

They can hear Aeneas’s insistent voice: “Nay, good my lord….”

“Come, kiss,” says Troilus, “and let us part!”

But Paris is calling from the door. “Brother Troilus!”

“Good brother, come you hither,” he replies, “and bring Aeneas and the Grecian with you!”

Cressida looks up at Troilus, tears in her eyes. “My lord, will you be true?”

“Who, I? Alas, it is my vice, my fault!” he tells her glibly. “Whiles others fish with craft for great opinion, I with great truth catch mere simplicity; whilst some with cunning gild their copper crowns, with truth and plainness I do wear mine bare. Fear not my truth: the moral of my wit is ‘plain and true’—there’s all the reach of it.”

Paris and Deiphobus come into the room, followed by the Greek emissary and his prisoner.

“Welcome, Sir Diomedes,” says Troilus. “Here is the lady which for Antenor we deliver you. At the city gate, lord, I’ll give her to thy hand, and along the way possess thee what she is.

“Treat her well—and, by my soul, fair Greek, if e’er thou stand at mercy of my sword, name Cressid, and thy life shall be as safe as Priam is in Ilion!

Irked by the youth’s arrogant presumption, Diomedes begins chafing his pride even sooner than he had intended. He bows deeply—to her. “Fair Lady Cressida, so please you, save the thanks this prince expects!

“The lustre in your eye, heaven in your cheek, plead your fair usage; and to Diomedes you shall be mistress, and command him wholly!” He kisses her hand.

As she is traded, whisked away on mere minutes’ notice, Cressida smiles weakly at the Greek lord, cheered by the unexpected courtesy, relieved at his kindliness.

Troilus’s jealousy, as it turns out, is somewhat less than godly. “Grecian, thou dost not use me courteously!” he cries angrily, “to shame the zeal of my petition to thee by praising her! I tell thee, lord of Greece, she is as far high-soaring o’er thy praises as thou art unworthy to be called her servant!

“I charge thee: use her well at my charge!—for, by the dreadful god of the dead, if thou dost not, though the great bulk Achilles be thy guard, I’ll cut thy throat!

Says Diomedes calmly, obviously undaunted by the threat, “Oh, be not angered, Prince Troilus. Let me be privileged by my place and message to be a free speaker.” But his smile is fierce. “When I am hence, I’ll answer for my lust.

“And know you, lord,” he says with an iron gaze, “I’ll nothing do on charge. To her own worth she shall be prizèd; but as to what you say ‘Be’t so,’ I’ll speak, in my spirit and honour, ‘No!’”

Troilus starts toward the door. “Come, to the gate. I tell thee, Diomedes, this affront shall oft make thee to hide thy head!

“Lady, give me your hand, and, as we walk, to our own selves will bend our needful talk.”

But as they all reach the entrance, a horn blast can be heard from the field, echoing among the city walls.

Hark,” cries Paris, alarmed. “Hector’s trumpet!

“How have we spent this morning?” says Aeneas. “The prince must think me tardy and remiss, who swore to ride before him onto the field!”

“’Tis Troilus’s fault,” says Paris, also eager to witness Hector’s performance. “Come, come!to the field with him!”

Deiphobus concurs. “Let us make ready straight!”

Aeneas tells Troilus, “Yea, with a bridegroom’s fresh alacrity, let us address attending on Hector’s heels! The glory of our Troy doth this day lie on his fair worth in single chivalry!” The two hurry after the other men.

Diomedes smiles warmly at Cressida. With a gentle, courteous motion, he invites her to proceed; his waiting attendants follow them as they go, arm in arm.





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