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

partly, sir.”—a play on a term; the music is in

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partly, sir.”—a play on a term; the music is in parts, each written differently for each player.

“Know you the musicians?

Wholly, sir.” He thinks their occupation frivolous.

Pandarus nods. “Who play they to?”

“To the hearers, sir.”

“At whose pleasure, friend?”

“At mine, sir,” says the man who issues their orders. “And theirs who love music.”

Command, I mean, friend.”

“Whom shall I command, sir?”

“Friend, we understand not one another! I am too courtly, and thou art too clever. At whose request do these men play?

“That’s to’t indeed, sir,” mutters the steward; he suspects several sins. But he sees a frown beginning. “Marry, sir, at the request of Paris, my lord—who’s there in person,” he says, pointing toward a door. “With him is the mortal Venus!—the heart-blood of Beauty, Love’s invincible soul!—”

“Who, my cousin Cressida?”

No, sir!—Helen! Could you not figure-out that by her attributes?

“It should seem, fellow, that thou hast not seen the Lady Cressida!

“I come from the Prince Troilus to speak with Paris! I will make a complimental assault upon him, for my business seethes!

The supercilious servant considers seethe a cooking term: Sodden business! There’s a stewed phrase indeed!

As the two watch, Lord Paris and Lady Helen stroll about the yard, followed by their attendants, listening to the music and enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

Pandarus goes to the royals and bows deeply. “Fair be to you, my lord, and to all this fair company! Fair desires, in all fair measure, fairly guide them! Especially to you, fair queen! Fair thoughts be your fair pillow!”

Helen is amused. “Dear lord, you are full of fair words!

“You speak your fair pleasure, sweet queen!” Pandarus tells Paris, “Fair prince, here is good ‘broken music’!”—melodies played in parts.

You have broken it, cousin!” laughs Paris, “and, by my life, you shall make it whole again: you shall piece it out with a piece of your performance!” He tells Helen, “Nell, he is full of harmony!”

Pandarus is known for singing at court occasions; he affects modesty. “Truly, lady, no!”

She smiles. “Oh, sir—”

Rude, in sooth,” says Pandarus glibly, “in good sooth, very rude!” He means unpolished.

“Well said, my lord!” says Paris, having noted the discourteous interruption. “Well you say so; it fits!”

“I have business to my lord, dear queen,” says Pandarus. “My lord, will you vouchsafe me a word?”

Protests Helen, “Nay, this shall certainly not hedge us out! We’d hear you sing!

“Well, sweet queen, you are pleasant with me,” says Pandarus, still facing Paris. “But, marry, it is thus, my lord: my dear lord and most esteemèd friend, your brother Troilus—”

“My Lord Pandarus,” says Helen, “honey-sweet lord—”

“Go to, sweet queen, to go,” says the old man with curt politeness. He continues: “—commends himself most affectionately to you—”

Helen is not accustomed to rebuff. “You shall not bob us out of our melody! If you do, our melancholy upon your head!”

Pandarus patronizes: “Sweet queen, sweet queen, there’s a sweet queen, i’ faith—”

She appears to pout. “And to make a sweet lady sad is a sour offence!

“Nay, that shall not serve your turn, that shall not, in truth, la!” murmurs Pandarus. “Nay, I care not for such words—no, no, no.” He would brush her off with a condescending politeness. “And, my lord, he desires you that, if the king call for him at supper, you will make his excuse.”

Helen persists: “My Lord Pandarus—”

“What says my sweet queen, my very, very sweet queen?” he asks, still not looking at her.

But now Paris is curious about Troilus’s odd request. “What exploit’s in hand? Where sups he tonight?”

“Nay, but, my lord!—” says Helen.

Pandarus tries to stifle her speech. “What says my sweet queen? My cousin will fall out with you….”

Helen warns Paris petulantly, “You must not learn where he sups!”

The prince grins. “I’ll lay my life that my deposer”—the one to take his place at Troilus’s meal, “is Cressida!

Pandarus prevaricates: “No, no, no such matter!—you are wide! Come now, your ‘deposer’”—Troilus—“is sick!

Paris agrees to his brother’s request. “Well, I’ll make excuse.”

Pandarus smiles. “Aye, good my lord! Why would you say Cressida?—no, no, your poor deposer’s sick.”

Paris is not put off by the lie. “I spy—”

“You spy! What do you spy?” asks Pandarus lightly, turning to the musicians. “Come, give me an instrument,” he tells the lutenist. “Now, sweet queen,” he says, preparing to play and sing.

Helen softens a bit. “Well, this is kindly done.”

Pandarus—tuning the lute, to the owner’s annoyance—tells her, “My niece is horribly in love with a thing you have, sweet queen….”

Thing can be a term for penis. Says Helen mischievously, “She shall have it, my lord—if it be not my lord Paris’s!”

Pandarus scoffs. “He? No, she’ll none of his; they twain are two.”

“Falling out after falling in may make them three!”—parents and infant.

Old Pandarus is discomfited. “Come, come, I’ll hear no more of this…. I’ll sing you a song now.”

“Aye, aye, prithee now,” says Helen. But she moves closer, and seems to flirt. “By my troth, sweet lord, thou hast a fine forehead!” She flatters a brow extended well into baldness.

The old man blushes, and murmurs, “Aye, you may, you may.” Still, he is pleased.

“Let thy song be of love,” says Helen, touching his cheek. As he flushes again, she thinks, Thus Love will undo us all! O Cupid, Cupid, Cupid!

“Of love? Aye, that it shall, i’ faith!” says Pandarus, eager to please.

Paris takes Helen’s hand. “Aye, good enough! Love, love, nothing but love!

“In good troth, it begins so!” says Pandarus. Plucking the strings, he sings:

“Love, love, nothing but love evermo’e!

For though Love’s bow shoots buck and doe,

The shaft confounds not what it wounds,

But tickles still the sore!”—aggravates the inflammation.

“These lovers cry,

Oh! Oh!’ then die!”—a term for ejaculation.

“‘Yet that which seems the wound to kill,

Doth turn ‘Oh! Oh!’ to ‘Ah!’ and ‘Ah!

He so dying, Love lives still!

Oh! oh! a while, but then Ah! Ah! Ah!

Oh! oh!groans out for ‘Ah! Ah! Ah!


Says Helen, “In love, i’ faith, to the very tip of the nose!

Paris laughs. “He eats nothing but doves, love!—and that breeds hot blood, and hot blood begets hot thoughts, and hot thoughts beget hot deeds—and hot deeds is love!”

Pandarus frowns. Is that the origination of love?—hot blood, hot thoughts, and hot deeds! Why, those are vipers! Is love the generating of vipers?

He returns the lute, which is immediately tuned again—but properly.

Pandarus asks Paris, “Sweet lord, who’s a-field today?”

“Hector, Deiphobus, Helenus, Antenor—and all the gallantry of Troy! I would fain have armed today, but my Nell would not have it so. How chances it my brother Troilus went not?”

Says Helen, “He hangs the lip at something. You know all, Lord Pandarus….”

“Not I, honey-sweet queen.” I long to hear how they sped today! He asks the prince, “You’ll remember to make your brother’s excuse?”

“To a hair,” says Paris dryly; he has not forgotten Troilus’s barb.

Pandarus bows. “Farewell, sweet queen.”

“Commend me to your niece,” says she.

“I will, sweet queen.” They can hear distant horns sounding a retreat. Pandarus leaves, headed to the eastern gate to watch the returning heroes.

“They’ve come from field,” says Paris. “Let us go to Priam’s hall to greet the warriors.”

But she embraces him, warmly, and they kiss.

“Sweet Helen,” he says, with a sly smile, “I must woo you to help unarm our ‘Hector!’”—and she understands which upright battler he means. “His stubborn bucklers,”—round shields, “by these your white, enchanting fingers touchèd, shall more obey than the edge of steel—or force of Greekish sinews!

You shall do more than all the island kings: bring down great ‘Hector!’”

She smiles, eyes sparkling. “’Twill make me proud to be his servant, Paris!—yea, what he shall receive of us in duty gives us more palm than we have from beauty—yea, overshines ourself!”

The image of her glistening face already has Paris short of breath. He hurries her away. “Sweet, above thought I love thee!” he pants, as they rush toward their bed chamber.

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