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Troilus and Cressida

Troilus and Cressida Translation Act 2, Scene 2

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Enter PRIAM, HECTOR, TROILUS, PARIS, and HELENUS

PRIAM

After so many hours, lives, speeches spent, Thus once again says Nestor from the Greeks: 'Deliver Helen, and all damage else— As honour, loss of time, travail, expense, Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed In hot digestion of this cormorant war— Shall be struck off.' Hector, what say you to't?

PRIAM

Even after all the time, lives, and messages that have gone by Nestor still sends the message from the Greeks: "Deliver Helen, and all other damage, all honor, wasted time, effort, money, wounds, friends, and whatever else that is wasted in this war, shall be forgotten." Hector, what do you think of this?

HECTOR

Though no man lesser fears the Greeks than I As far as toucheth my particular, Yet, dread Priam, There is no lady of more softer bowels, More spongy to suck in the sense of fear, More ready to cry out 'Who knows what follows?' Than Hector is: the wound of peace is surety, Surety secure; but modest doubt is call'd The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches To the bottom of the worst. Let Helen go: Since the first sword was drawn about this question, Every tithe soul, 'mongst many thousand dismes, Hath been as dear as Helen; I mean, of ours: If we have lost so many tenths of ours, To guard a thing not ours nor worth to us, Had it our name, the value of one ten, What merit's in that reason which denies The yielding of her up?

HECTOR

Although no one is less afraid of the Greeks than I am regarding the chance of being killed, yet, powerful Priam, there is no compassionate or concerned woman more eager to cry out "How will this end?" than I am. Peace is dangerous because it makes us complacent in our security. A little doubt is known as the beacon of the wise, it is like a surgical probe that searches a wound. Let Helen leave, since we first begun this battle, every sacrificed soul, each of the many thousands, has been as important as Helen's. I mean the souls of our soldiers, not the Greeks. If we have lost so many men guarding something that is not Trojan nor worth as much to us a Trojan life, why shouldn't we just hand her over?

TROILUS

Fie, fie, my brother! Weigh you the worth and honour of a king So great as our dread father in a scale Of common ounces? will you with counters sum The past proportion of his infinite? And buckle in a waist most fathomless With spans and inches so diminutive As fears and reasons? fie, for godly shame!

TROILUS

Away, away, brother! Do you value the king's honor as lowly as common soldier's lives? Are you going to try to count out his infinite worth with the worthless lives of soldiers? Are you going to let down the infinite respect he is due for petty concerns and fears? Away, this shame is unbearable!

HELENUS

No marvel, though you bite so sharp at reasons, You are so empty of them. Should not our father Bear the great sway of his affairs with reasons, Because your speech hath none that tells him so?

HELENUS

It is no wonder you are so dismissive of concern and reason, you are empty of such things. Shouldn't our father rely on reasons to make his judgments, seeing as you have nothing reasonable to say?

TROILUS

You are for dreams and slumbers, brother priest; You fur your gloves with reason. Here are your reasons: You know an enemy intends you harm; You know a sword employ'd is perilous, And reason flies the object of all harm: Who marvels then, when Helenus beholds A Grecian and his sword, if he do set The very wings of reason to his heels And fly like chidden Mercury from Jove, Or like a star disorb'd? Nay, if we talk of reason, Let's shut our gates and sleep: manhood and honour Should have hare-hearts, would they but fat their thoughts With this cramm'd reason: reason and respect Make livers pale and lustihood deject.

TROILUS

You only care about dreaming and sleeping, priest and brother of mine. You invent reasons for living comfortably. Here are those reasons: You know an enemy wants to hurt you, you know fighting them is risky, and that logically you should avoid being hurt. Who is surprised then that when Helenus sees a Greek with a sword, he uses reason as an excuse to run away like a shooting star or Mercury the messenger god away from Jupiter? No, if we only care about logic let's close the gates and go to sleep. Brave and honorable people would live in fear if they allowed reason to govern them. Reason and logic make men into impotent cowards.

HECTOR

Brother, she is not worth what she doth costThe holding.

HECTOR

Brother, Helen is not worth the price of keeping her.

TROILUS

What is aught, but as 'tis valued?

TROILUS

What is anything worth except what we decide it is?

HECTOR

But value dwells not in particular will; It holds his estimate and dignity As well wherein 'tis precious of itself As in the prizer: 'tis mad idolatry To make the service greater than the god And the will dotes that is attributive To what infectiously itself affects, Without some image of the affected merit.

HECTOR

But value isn't decided by one man's will, value exists in the object as well as the person who desires it. It is mad idolatry to give more in sacrifice than the god is worth, and the desire that is too strong is like a sickness when it cannot see the object's true worth.

TROILUS

I take to-day a wife, and my election Is led on in the conduct of my will; My will enkindled by mine eyes and ears, Two traded pilots 'twixt the dangerous shores Of will and judgment: how may I avoid, Although my will distaste what it elected, The wife I chose? there can be no evasion To blench from this and to stand firm by honour: We turn not back the silks upon the merchant, When we have soil'd them, nor the remainder viands We do not throw in unrespective sieve, Because we now are full. It was thought meet Paris should do some vengeance on the Greeks: Your breath of full consent bellied his sails; The seas and winds, old wranglers, took a truce And did him service: he touch'd the ports desired, And for an old aunt whom the Greeks held captive, He brought a Grecian queen, whose youth and freshness Wrinkles Apollo's, and makes stale the morning. Why keep we her? the Grecians keep our aunt: Is she worth keeping? why, she is a pearl, Whose price hath launch'd above a thousand ships, And turn'd crown'd kings to merchants. If you'll avouch 'twas wisdom Paris went— As you must needs, for you all cried 'Go, go,'— If you'll confess he brought home noble prize— As you must needs, for you all clapp'd your hands And cried 'Inestimable!'—why do you now The issue of your proper wisdoms rate, And do a deed that fortune never did, Beggar the estimation which you prized Richer than sea and land? O, theft most base, That we have stol'n what we do fear to keep! But, thieves, unworthy of a thing so stol'n, That in their country did them that disgrace, We fear to warrant in our native place!

TROILUS

If I get married today, my choice was decided by my will. My will is kindled by my eyes and ears, which are like sea-captains navigating a narrow passage between the two dangerous shores of desire and good judgement. How could I choose as a wife anyone other than the person I desired? There is no honorable way to turn away from choosing the person you desire once you desire them. We don't return silks to the merchant we bought them from once we have made them dirty, nor do we throw away our food stores when we are full. We all thought it was appropriate that Paris takes revenge upon the Greeks, your voices were like a wind of consent that blew his ship to Greece, the seas and winds even helped him on his way. He got to his destination, and because the Greeks held one of his old aunts captive, he stole the Greek queen, who is more youthful than Apollo and who makes the morning seem old. Why do we keep her? Because the Greeks keep our aunt. Is Helen worth keeping? She a pearl, so valuable that the Greeks launched over a thousand ships to get her back, making settled kings into merchants who would risk everything on the water. If you admit that it was wise Paris went, which you must because you all told him to go; if you admit he brought home a prize worth having, which you must because you all clapped and called his prize unbelievable; why do you now question what you once thought was wise, and do something never before done, question the value of something that was once worth more than the world? Oh it was a stupid theft if we stole something we are too afraid to keep! Even more ridiculous, we are thieves unworthy of such a thing, that are willing to disgrace the Greeks in Greece, but are afraid of our treasure when we are back home.

CASSANDRA

[Within] Cry, Trojans, cry!

CASSANDRA

[Speaking offstage] Cry, Trojans, cry!

PRIAM

What noise? what shriek is this?

PRIAM

What is that noise? Who is screaming?

TROILUS

'Tis our mad sister, I do know her voice.

TROILUS

It is our mad sister, I recognize her voice.

CASSANDRA

[Within] Cry, Trojans!

CASSANDRA

[Speaking offstage] Cry, Trojans!

HECTOR

It is Cassandra.

HECTOR

It is Cassandra.

Enter CASSANDRA, raving

CASSANDRA

Cry, Trojans, cry! lend me ten thousand eyes,And I will fill them with prophetic tears.

CASSANDRA

Cry, Trojans, cry! Give me ten thousand eyes, and I will have them all weep for what will happen.

HECTOR

Peace, sister, peace!

HECTOR

Be quiet, sister, calm down!

CASSANDRA

Virgins and boys, mid-age and wrinkled eld, Soft infancy, that nothing canst but cry, Add to my clamours! let us pay betimes A moiety of that mass of moan to come. Cry, Trojans, cry! practise your eyes with tears! Troy must not be, nor goodly Ilion stand; Our firebrand brother, Paris, burns us all. Cry, Trojans, cry! a Helen and a woe: Cry, cry! Troy burns, or else let Helen go.

CASSANDRA

Virgins and boys, the middle-aged and the wrinkled elderly, young children that can do nothing but cry, join me in moaning! Let us begin early to pay off the debt of tears we will have. Cry, Trojans, cry! Get your eyes used to tears! Troy will be destroyed, and Ilium will fall. Our hot-headed brother Paris will be the ruin of us all. Cry Trojans, cry! Cry because of Helen and misery! Troy will burn if Helen is not let go.

Exit

HECTOR

Now, youthful Troilus, do not these high strains Of divination in our sister work Some touches of remorse? or is your blood So madly hot that no discourse of reason, Nor fear of bad success in a bad cause, Can qualify the same?

HECTOR

Now, young Troilus, do our sister's prophecies not make you doubt yourself? Or are you so madly excited that no amount of reason, nor fear of defeat or moral wrong-doing, can make you change your mind?

TROILUS

Why, brother Hector, We may not think the justness of each act Such and no other than event doth form it, Nor once deject the courage of our minds, Because Cassandra's mad: her brain-sick raptures Cannot distaste the goodness of a quarrel Which hath our several honours all engaged To make it gracious. For my private part, I am no more touch'd than all Priam's sons: And Jove forbid there should be done amongst us Such things as might offend the weakest spleen To fight for and maintain!

TROILUS

Brother Hector, we mustn't decide what is right or wrong only from the results nor stop being brave just because Cassandra is mad. Her unhinged prophecies don't change the morality of a cause that we all fighting for properly. Personally, I am no more passionate than any of Priam's sons, and God forbid we would fight for anything that any of us are too afraid to fight for and win!

PARIS

Else might the world convince of levity As well my undertakings as your counsels: But I attest the gods, your full consent Gave wings to my propension and cut off All fears attending on so dire a project. For what, alas, can these my single arms? What Propugnation is in one man's valour, To stand the push and enmity of those This quarrel would excite? Yet, I protest, Were I alone to pass the difficulties And had as ample power as I have will, Paris should ne'er retract what he hath done, Nor faint in the pursuit.

PARIS

Otherwise the world will think your wisdom and my actions were worthless, but I swear that it was your agreement that made me hurry to ignore my fears and embark on my dangerous task. I couldn't have done all this on my own. How could I have started this war on my own? Yet even without your support if I had as much strength as I have will power I wouldn't do anything differently and would continue the war.

PRIAM

Paris, you speak Like one besotted on your sweet delights: You have the honey still, but these the gall; So to be valiant is no praise at all.

PRIAM

Paris you are speaking like a man who is drunk on their delight. You have the sweetness of Helen, and these men have the bitterness of war, so it is hardly brave of you to want to continue.

PARIS

Sir, I propose not merely to myself The pleasures such a beauty brings with it; But I would have the soil of her fair rape Wiped off, in honourable keeping her. What treason were it to the ransack'd queen, Disgrace to your great worths and shame to me, Now to deliver her possession up On terms of base compulsion! Can it be That so degenerate a strain as this Should once set footing in your generous bosoms? There's not the meanest spirit on our party Without a heart to dare or sword to draw When Helen is defended, nor none so noble Whose life were ill bestow'd or death unfamed Where Helen is the subject; then, I say, Well may we fight for her whom, we know well, The world's large spaces cannot parallel.

PARIS

Sir, I'm not only concerned with the pleasures I take from her beauty, but would rather our actions be proved honorable by us keeping her. It would be a kind of treason to Helen, disgraceful for you all, and shameful for me, to give her up because of shameful obligation! Surely such cowardly thoughts would never enter your gracious minds? There is no creature so pathetic on our side that they do not have the heart or sword to defend Helen, nor is there anyone so worthy that they would be shamed by dying for Helen. I say it is a proper thing to fight for someone who is without comparison throughout the world.

HECTOR

Paris and Troilus, you have both said well, And on the cause and question now in hand Have glozed, but superficially: not much Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought Unfit to hear moral philosophy: The reasons you allege do more conduce To the hot passion of distemper'd blood Than to make up a free determination 'Twixt right and wrong, for pleasure and revenge Have ears more deaf than adders to the voice Of any true decision. Nature craves All dues be render'd to their owners: now, What nearer debt in all humanity Than wife is to the husband? If this law Of nature be corrupted through affection, And that great minds, of partial indulgence To their benumbed wills, resist the same, There is a law in each well-order'd nation To curb those raging appetites that are Most disobedient and refractory. If Helen then be wife to Sparta's king, As it is known she is, these moral laws Of nature and of nations speak aloud To have her back return'd: thus to persist In doing wrong extenuates not wrong, But makes it much more heavy. Hector's opinion Is this in way of truth; yet ne'ertheless, My spritely brethren, I propend to you In resolution to keep Helen still, For 'tis a cause that hath no mean dependance Upon our joint and several dignities.

HECTOR

Paris and Troilus you have both given good speeches even if they were superficial, like the young men who Aristotle thought were unfit to be part of moral debates. The reasons you give are full of passion rather than an unbiased decision between right and wrong, after all pleasure and revenge are deaf, like a snake is, to logic. Nature demands that all debts are settled, and what debt could be greater than a wife being kept from her husband? If natural law is upset by a man's lust, and great minds resist natural law because of their weak will, there are laws in each nation to stop those whose appetites cannot be controlled. If Helen is the wife of Menelaus, as we all know she is, the moral laws of nature and society say that she must be returned. To continue doing an immoral act does not make it better but worse. This is my honest opinion, but nonetheless, my youthful brothers, I feel like agreeing that we keep Helen, because it would reflect so badly on us if we did not.

TROILUS

Why, there you touch'd the life of our design: Were it not glory that we more affected Than the performance of our heaving spleens, I would not wish a drop of Trojan blood Spent more in her defence. But, worthy Hector, She is a theme of honour and renown, A spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds, Whose present courage may beat down our foes, And fame in time to come canonize us; For, I presume, brave Hector would not lose So rich advantage of a promised glory As smiles upon the forehead of this action For the wide world's revenue.

TROILUS

That's exactly what I was trying to say, if there was no glory in carrying on the fight I wouldn't want another drop of Trojan blood to be spilled in her defense. But, worthy Hector, she is a legendary prize, proof of our excellence and bravery, and if we are courageous enough to defeat our enemies we will become famous heroes. I presume brave Hector would not give up this promise of fame for all the wealth in the world.

HECTOR

I am yours, You valiant offspring of great Priamus. I have a roisting challenge sent amongst The dun and factious nobles of the Greeks Will strike amazement to their drowsy spirits: I was advertised their great general slept, Whilst emulation in the army crept: This, I presume, will wake him.

HECTOR

I will help you, brave son of Priam. I have sent a rousing challenge to the slow and in-fighting Greek nobility that will rouse them. I was told that their great champion, Achilles, refused to fight, whilst the others sought to imitate him. I presume that my challenge will wake him.

Exeunt

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Tom hill
About the Translator: Tom Hill

Tom Hill lives in his native London where he has just finished studying for an MA in Shakespeare Studies at King's College London and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. He has worked in education both in the UK and in Asia. His favorite Shakespeare play is The Merchant of Venice.