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

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From out of the lingering mists of three millennia gone by, a sturdy soldier emerges, his helmet and oaken shield bearing proud emblems of gallantry and glory. But the graybeard, his face leathered by the sun, walks with a limp, and scars bespeak the experience of warfare as men feel it, fighting one against another.

He has memories to relate—small, overheard stories underlying an epic tale bequeathed by conquerors to their nation’s poets. Their songs, with honor ever the theme, proclaim—laud in terms growing stronger with each iteration—as valiant the deeds of noblemen said to be devoted to great causes—and as inviolable the pledges exchanged by high-born lovers to be faithful and true.

However halting his gait, the soldier can well recall what he saw and heard long ago. The man’s gray eyes gaze out, as inwardly he still struggles to accept what time can teach one about life, about war, and about love.

“In Troy,” he begins, as if he can see it yet, “there lies the scene.

“From isles of Greece the proud princes, chafèd in high blood, to the port have sent their ships, fraught with the ministers and instruments of cruel war!

“Sixty and nine who wear their crownets regal, from the Athenians’ bay put forth toward Phrygia—and their vow is made to ransack Troy, within whose strong immures the ravishèd Helen, Menelaus’ queen, with wanton Paris sleeps.” The Trojan prince abducted the lovely lady who is now his lover.

“And that’s the quarrel,” the soldier adds—dryly; ransack is what most stirs sixty and eight of the sovereigns.

“To Tenedos they come, and the deep-drawing barks do there disgorge their warlike fraughtage.

“Now on Dardan plains, the fresh and yet unbruisèd Greeks do pitch their brave pavilions before Priam’s six-gated city. Dardan and Tymbria, Helias, Chetas, Troien and Antenorides, with massive staples, and corresponding bolts fulfilling, secure the sons of Troy.

“Now, expectation spurring skittish spirits on, one and other side, Trojan and Greek, set all at hazard!

“And hither am I come, a Prologue armèd—not as confirmation of poet’s pen or actor’s voice, but suited in like conditions as our argument—to tell you, fair beholder, that our story leaps o’er the vaunt and firstlings of those broils to begin in the middle, starting thence away to what may be condensèd in a tale.

“Like, or find fault—do as your pleasure is.” His smile is cynical. “Now, good or bad, ’tis but ‘the chance of war!’”

Sad eyes belie the disclaimer.

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