And his brother, there, a goodly transformation of Jupiter—a bull, the primitive statue and oblique memorial for cuckolds!—a thrifty showing of horn on a chain, hanging at his brother’s leg!
He wonders how to mock one who is intrinsically ridiculous. To what form but that in which he is should wit larded with malice, and malice forcèd with wit, turn him into?
To an ass were nothing: he is both ass and ox! —a castrated bull. To an ox were nothing: he hath both horn and ass!
I would not mind being a dog, a mule, a cat, a fitchew, a toad, a lizard, an owl, a puttock, or a herring without a hope. But to be Menelaus!—I would conspire against Destiny! Ask me not what I would be if I were not Thersites, for I’d care not were I a louse on a leper, so long as I were not Mene-louse!
He moves back into the shadows, watching the procession of unsteady lords—most are already drunk—approaching by torchlight. Hey-day! Spirits and fires!
Agamemnon and his brother are accompanied by Nestor, Ulysses, Diomedes and Ajax. Earlier, the noblemen dined with Trojan Princes Hector and Troilus; now, following an afternoon of drinking, they are bringing the visitors to sup with Achilles.
Agamemnon peers at the long rows of tents, many scarcely visible beyond the flickering flames. “We go wrong, we go wrong,” he mumbles.
“No, yonder ’tis,” says Ajax, pointing. “There, where we see the lights.”
Says Hector, “I trouble you….”
“No, not a whit!” says Ajax genially.
Ulysses spots their next host at the tent entrance. “Here comes himself to guide you!”
Achilles greets the regal party: “Welcome, brave Hector!—welcome, princes all!” He motions them toward his tent.
“So now, fair prince of Troy,” says Agamemnon to Hector, “I bid you good night! Ajax commands the guard to attend on you.”
“Thanks, and good night to the Greeks’ general!”
“Good night, my lord,” says the Spartan king.
“Good night, sweet lord Menelaus!”
The nobles’ courtesies, slurred by their wine, disgust Thersites. Sweet drink! ‘Sweet’ quoth he! Sweet sink—sweet sewer!
“Good night, and welcome,” cries jovial Achilles, “both at once, to those that go or tarry!”
Agamemnon bows. “Good night!” He and Menelaus depart.
“Old Nestor, tarry,” says Achilles, “and you, too, Diomedes! Keep Hector company an hour or two!”
Says Diomedes, grinning, “I cannot, lord; I have important business, the tide whereof is now! Good night, great Hector!”
“Give me your hand!” laughs the Trojan, in masculine congratulation.
- As the men shake hands, Ulysses whispers to Troilus: “Follow his torch,” he says, nodding toward Diomedes. “He goes to Calchas’ tent! I’ll keep you company.” The trap is being set.
- Troilus replies, gratefully, “Sweet sir, you honour me.”
“And so, good night,” says Hector to Diomedes, who starts away.
“Come, come, enter my tent!” Achilles tells his guests; Hector and the other visitors go inside with him—except for Troilus and Ulysses, who slip away to follow Diomedes.
Thersites moves from the shadows, curious. That same Diomed’s a false-hearted rogue, a most unjust knave! I will no more trust him when he leers than I will a serpent when it hisses!He will open his mouth and promise like Brabbler the hound; but when he performs, astrologers foretell it!—it is portentous! There will come some change!—the sun borrows from the moon when Diomed keeps his word!
I will rather leave off seeing Hector so as to dog him! They say he keeps a Trojan drab, —whore— and uses the traitor Calchas’ tent! I’ll after.
He shakes his head. Nothing but lechery! All incontinent varlets!
In the sultry summer darkness he skulks behind the three men already making their way to Calchas’s small canvas abode in a large Greek pavilion.
Diomedes has reached the quarters of the exile. “What?—are you up here?” he asks, at the closed flaps fronting the tent. “Speak.”
It is late, but from within, a man demands, “Who calls?”