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

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O, all you gods! She moans, looking at the flat, empty token. O pretty, pretty pledge! Thy master now lies in his bed, thinking of thee and me, and sighs; and takes my glove, and gives dainty remembering kisses to it, as I kiss thee! She touches the cloth to her lips, holds it against her cheek.

He reaches for the sleeve.

Cressida backs away. “Nay, do not snatch it from me!” she cries. “He that takes that doth take my heart withal!”

“I had your heart before; this follows it,” he claims.

- Troilus strains forward, but assures the Greek beside him, “I did swear patience….”

“You shall not have it, Diomed!—’faith, you shall not; I’ll give you something else!”

“I will have this,” he says, grabbing the sleeve. “Whose was it?”

“It is no matter.”

“Come, tell me whose it was!” He wants the witness’s humiliation to be thorough—as Ulysses will later confirm it to have been.

“’Twas one’s that loved me better than you will,” says the forsaken lady. “But now that you have it, take it.”

“Whose was it?”

She is angry despite the tears. “By all Diana’s waiting-women yond, and by herself, I will not tell you whose!”

Diomedes holds it in his fist before her face. “Tomorrow will I wear it on my helm—and grieve his spirit who dares not challenge it!”

- “Wert thou the Devil and worest it on thy horn it would be challengèd!” vows Troilus.

Cressida is pale. “Well, well; ’tis past; ’tis done.” She looks up as him. “And yet it is not. I will not keep my word.”

“Why, then, farewell; thou never shalt mock Diomedes again!”

She pleads. “You shall not go! One cannot speak a word but straight it starts you!”

“I do not like this fooling!” growls Diomedes.

- Nor I, by the Devil, thinks Thersites, but what pleases not you pleases me best!

“What?—shall I come?” demands Diomedes. “The hour?”

She wipes her eyes. “Aye, come.” O Jove! “Do come,” she says quietly. She thinks, in despair, I shall be plaguèd!

“Farewell till then!” says Diomedes loudly, as if a time had been set. He strides away among the tents.

“Good night! I prithee, come,” Cressida calls after him—for her father to hear. She stands in the darkness for a moment, dejected and alone. Troilus, farewell! One eye yet looks on thee; but, with my heart, the other eye doth see.

She knows he will never return to her.

Ah, poor our sex! This fault in us I find: the error of our eye directs our mind. What error leads must err! Oh, then conclude—minds swayed by eyes are full of turpitude!

She goes into her father’s tent; he will want assurance of their continued good standing with Lord Diomedes.

Thersites is happy; his assessment seems confirmed. A stronger proof she could not publish more, unless she said, ‘My mind is now turnèd whore!’

Ulysses turns to go. “All’s done, my lord.”

Troilus does not move. “It is.”

“Why stay we, then?”

The young man looks at the tent. “To make a recordation to my soul of every syllable that here was spoken.

“But if I tell it how these two did co-act, shall I not lie in publishing a truth?—sith yet there is a credence in my heart—an esperance so obstinately strong that it doth invert the attest of eyes and ears, as if those organs had deceptious functions, created only to calumniate!” He frowns, still amazed. “Was Cressida here?”

“I cannot conjure, Trojan,” says Ulysses, hoping to allay doubt.

“She was not, surely….”

“Most surely she was.”

Troilus shakes his head. “Why, my negation hath no taste of madness….”

“Nor mine, my lord; Cressida was here but now.”

“Let it not be believed!—for the sake of womanhood!” cries Troilus. “Think!—we had mothers! Do not give advantage to stubborn critics who hope to measure the general sex by Cressida’s rule with a theme of degradation! Rather think this not Cressida!

“What hath she done, prince, that can soil our mothers?

“Unless this were she, nothing at all!

Thersites, still hidden, is annoyed: Will he swagger himself out of’s own eyes?

The prince paces, distraught. “This, she? No!—this is Diomed’s Cressid!

“If Beauty have a soul, this is not she! If souls guide vows—if vows be sanctimonies, if sanctimony be the gods’ delight—if there be rule in unity itself,”—as opposed to duplicity—“this is not she!

“Oh, madness of discourse that sets up an argument both with and against itself! Bi-fold authority!—where reason can revolt without perdition, and loss consume all reason without revolt! This is, and is not, Cressida!

“Within my soul there doth conduce a fight of this strange nature: that a thing inseparable divides more wider than the sky and earth!—and yet the breadth of this spacious division admits no orifice for a point as subtle as Ariachne’s broken warp”—a spider’s thread—“to enter!

Instance: oh, this instance, strong as Hell’s gates!—Cressida is mine, tied with the bonds of heaven!

Instance: oh, instance strong as heaven itself: the bonds of heaven are slipped, dissolvèd and loosed!—and with another knot, by fingers tied, the fractions of her faith—scraps of her love, the pieces, fragments, bits and greasy relics of her o’er-eaten ‘faith’—are bound to Diomed!

Ulysses asks, dryly, “Can worthy Troilus be half aggrievèd, by that which here his passion doth express?”

Aye, Greek!—and that shall be divulgèd well!—in characters red as Mars, his heart inflamed with Venus! Never did young man fancy with so eternal and so fixèd a soul!

Hark, Greek!—as much as I do Cressida love, by so much weight I hate her Diomed!

“That sleeve is mine that he’ll bear on his helm! Were it a casque”—helmet—“composèd by Vulcan’s skill, my sword should bite into it!

“Not the dreadful spout which shipmen do the hurricano call, constringèd into mass by the almighty sun, shall dizzy with more clamour in descent on Neptune’s ear than shall my prompted sword falling on Diomed!

Thersites almost laughs. He’ll be tickled by it—for his concupiscence!

Troilus looks toward the tent. “O Cressida! O false Cressida! False, false, false! Let all untruths stand by thy stainèd name, and they’ll seem glorious!

Ulysses looks around as if uneasy. “Contain yourself!—your passion draws ears hither!” He leads the youth away.

They have just started back toward the general’s pavilion when Aeneas, with a Greek escort, hurries to them. “I have been seeking you this hour, my lord!” he tells the prince. “Hector by now is arming him in Troy! Ajax, your guard, is waiting to conduct you home!

Troilus is ready to return to the palace—and eager to join Hector for this day’s combat. “Have with you, prince!” Aeneas is of royal descent, as are several others among Troy’s Dardanian allies.

“My courteous lord, adieu,” says Troilus to Ulysses. He looks back, as dawn approaches, toward Calchas’s tent. “Farewell, revolted fair!

“And Diomed, stand fast—and wear a castle on thy head!”

Having successfully provoked Achilles and Ajax, Ulysses now wants Hector and Troilus to face them on the field. “I’ll bring you to the gates.”

Troilus nods. “Accept distracted thanks.”

The four nobles hurry away.

Thersites rises, sore and stiff from crouching in shadow.

Would that I could meet that rogue Diomed! I would croak like a raven!—I would bode, I would bode!

He rubs his hands together happily. Patroclus will give me anything for the intelligence of this whore! A parrot will not do more for an almond than he for a commodious drab! Thersites knows; he has provided him with a few.

Lechery, lechery!—ever wars and lechery; nothing else holds fashion!

The parasitic procurer scowls as he returns to Achilles’ tent. A burning devil take them!

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