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

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Chapter Eight

Trojans in the Greek Camp
I’ll heat his blood with Greekish wine tonight—and tomorrow I’ll cool it with my sword!” mutters angry Achilles. “Patroclus, let us feast him to the height!” he urges, as the two stand outside his tent after a splendid, crimson sunset. Inside, servants busily prepare for Prince Hector’s imminent entertainment.

Patroclus sees a slender figure moving through the dark. “Here comes Thersites.”

Achilles’ contumelious clown greets the young knight: “How now, thou core of envy! Thou crusty batch of nature,”—pile of old crap, “what’s the news?”

Patroclus gives him the finger.

Thersites turns to Achilles. “Well then, picture of what thou seemest, and idol of idiot-worshippers, here’s a letter for thee.”

Achilles takes the paper. “From whence, fragment?” he asks, unsealing and unfolding it—and finding a ring.

“Why, thou full dish of fool, from Troy.”

Patroclus wonders where their royal Trojan guest may be. “Who keeps the tent now?”

Thersites replies with a jest on tent as bandage: “The surgeon’s box, or the patient’s wound.”

“Well said, adversity,” replies Patroclus, annoyed. “But who needs these tricks?

“Prithee be silent, boy; I profit not by thy talk!—thou art thought to be Achilles’ male varlet.”

Male varlet!”—a redundancy. “You rogue, what’s that?” demands Patroclus.

Thersites explains: “Why, his masculine whore! Now may the rotting diseases of the mouth—the catarrhs, gut-grippings, eruptions,”—flatulence, “loads o’ gravel i’ the back,”—constipation, “lethargies, cold palsies, raw eyes, dirt-ridden liver, wheezing lungs, bladder full of imposthume,”—pus, “sciatica, limekilns”—burning—“i’ the palms, permanent shriveling of tetter, and the incurable bone-ache,”—syphilis, “—make and make again such preposterous revelation!”—predict and confirm his fatal degeneration.

Patroclus is livid. “Why thou damnable box of envy, thou!—what meanest thou, cursing thus?”

Thersites challenges: “Do I curse thee?”—does it not apply?

“Why no, you ruinous butt!” cries Patroclus, “you whoreson, indistinguishable cur, no!

“No? Why then art thou exasperate, thou green, idle, immaterial skein of sleeve-silk,”—decoration, “thou sarcenet flap for a sore eye,”—thin slice of cucumber, “thou tassel on a prodigal’s purse, thou?

“Oh, how the poor world is pestered with such waterflies, diminutives of Nature!”

Patroclus shouts, “Out, gall!


Achilles has been reading. He looks up, alarmed. “My sweet Patroclus, I am thwarted quite from my great purpose for tomorrow’s battle!

“Here is a letter from Queen Hecuba, with a token from her daughter, my fair love!—both of them taxing me, imploring me, to keep an oath that I have sworn!”

Hector taunted him, and publicly. But he paces, rubbing his forehead in frustration; “I will not break it! Fall, Greeks!—fail, fame!—honour, either go or stay!” He fingers the ring. “My major vow lies here; this I’ll obey.” Still, he stares out into the dark, thinking; jaw muscles tighten as he ponders a scheme—one by which he can appear to keep his word.

He nods, having decided. “Come, come, Thersites, help to trim my tent! This night in banqueting must all be spent! Away, Patroclus!”

Thersites watches them go inside. With too much blood and too little brain, those two may run mad; but if too much brain and too little blood will do, I’ll be a curer of madmen!

He can see the Greeks’ leader approaching. Here’s Agamemnon. An honest enough fellow, and one that loves quails; but he has not so much brain as earwax!

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