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

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Chapter One

Lovers’ Patience
Call my varlet,” Prince Troilus tells portly Lord Pandarus. “I’ll unarm again. Why should I war without the walls of Troy, who find such cruel battle here within? Each Trojan who is master of his heart, let him to field; Troilus, alas, hath none!”

In the city, soldiers of the many Phrygian forces, combined under the Trojans’ King Priam, head toward the barred main gate in anticipation of today’s round of combat; beyond the high walls bounding Troy, the Greek troops commanded under Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, once again leave their metropolis of tents and prepare to fight.

Among the defenders this morning is the prince, youngest son of Troy’s elderly king and queen, Priam and Hecuba. He stands just inside the gate clad in full armor and grasping bright, sharp weapons of warfare. But the handsome young man’s troubled thoughts are not on the Greek threat.

Pandarus is annoyed by the promising, lovelorn youth’s failure to proceed. “Will this gear ne’er be mended?

“The Greeks are strongskilful in their strength, fierce in their skill, and in their fierceness valiant! But I am weaker than a woman’s tear,” moans Troilus, “tamer than sleep, slower than ignorance, less valiant than the virgin in the night, and skilless as unpractised infancy!”

Pandarus has been talking—again—about his beautiful young niece. The old man smoothes his beard. “Well, I have told you enough of this. As for my part, I’ll not meddle, nor make any further. He that will have a cake out of the wheat must needs tarry the grinding.”

“Have I not tarried?”

“Aye, the grinding—but you must tarry the sifting.”

“Have I not tarried?

“Aye, the sifting—but you must tarry the leavening.”

Still have I tarried!”

“Aye, to the leavening—but there’s yet, in that word, hereafter: the kneading, the making of the cake, the heating of the oven, and the baking—nay, you must await the cooling, too, or you may chance to burn your lips!”

The yet-beardless prince’s hunger is urgent. “Whatever lesser goddess she be, Patience herself doth blench more at sufferance than I do! At Priam’s royal table do I sup; and when fair Cressid comes into my thoughts—such traitors!” he cries, chastising himself. “When she comes!—when is she thence?

“Well, yesternight she looked fairer than ever I saw her look, or any woman else!

“As I was about to tell thee: when my heart, wedgèd with a sigh, would rive in twain lest Hector”—his eldest brother—“or my father should perceive me, I have buried that sigh in the wrinkle of a smile—for when doth a son like scorn?

“But sorrow couched in seeming gladness is like mirth that Fate turns to sudden sadness!

Pandarus is musing: “If her hair were not somewhat darker than Helen’s…. well, go to, there were no greater comparison between the women.” The blonde Greek lady living with Prince Paris has long been accepted as the epitome of beauty. “For my own part, as Cressid is my kinswoman, I should not, as they term it, praise her. But I would that somebody”—he means Troilus—“had heard her talk yesterday, as I did! I will not dispraise your sister Cassandra’s wit, but—”

Oh, Pandarus!” Troilus is again stricken. “Pandarus, when I do tell thee where my hopes lie drownèd, reply not in how many fathoms deep they lie endrenched!

“I tell thee I am mad for Cressid’s love; thou answer’st ‘She is fair!’—pour’st into the open ulcer of my heart ‘her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice!’—handiest in thy discourse!” He sighs. “Oh, that, her hand!—in whose comparison all whites are ink, writing their own reproach!—in whose soft caress a cygnet’s down feels harsh!—a sensèd spirit hard as palm of ploughman!

“This thou tell’st me—and true thou tell’st me!—when I say I love her; but, saying thus, instead of oil and balm thou lay’st in every gash that love hath given me the knife that made it!

“I speak no more than truth….”

“Then do not speak so much of it!”

“’Faith, I’ll not meddle,” claims Pandarus peevishly. “Let her be as she is!—if she be fair, ’tis the better for her; an she be not, she has the mends in her own hands.” He turns to leave.

“Good Pandarus!—how now, Pandarus?”

The old lord is exasperated with the diffident prince. “I have had but my labour as reward for my travail: ill thought of by her and ill thought of by you; having gone between and between, with small thanks!

“What?—art thou angry, Pandarus? What, with me?

“Because she’s kin to me, she’s not so fair as Helen,” says Pandarus sourly; he resents the somewhat older Greek lady’s general adoration. “But if she were not kin to me, she would be as fair on Friday as Helen is on Sunday!

“But what care I? I care not if she were a scullery maid; ’tis all one to me!”

“Say I she is not fair?” demands Troilus; he never tires of the topic.

But the old man seems to resist being drawn again into fruitless discussion. “I do not care whether you do or no!

“She’s a fool to stay behind her father! Let her go to the Greeks!—and so I’ll tell her the next time I see her!” Cressida’s father, Lord Calchas, well known as a seer, has forsaken Troy, and now lives among the invaders.

The old nobleman regards the youth. “For my part, I’ll meddle nor make i’ the matter any longer!” he says gruffly.


“Not I!”

“Sweet Pandarus—”

“Pray you, speak no more to me! I will leave all as I found it, and there an end!” He stalks off, heading back toward the palace, farther within the city walls.

Trumpets blare out a warlike summons from a tower.

Peace, you ungracious clamours!” mutters Troilus. Peace, rude sounds! he thinks. Fools on both sides, Helen must needs be fair, when with your blood you daily paint her thus! I cannot fight upon this argument; it is too starvèd a subject for my sword!

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