David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s TROILUS AND CRESSIDA: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

On a street in Troy, Aeneas and a servant with a torch met Paris, Deiphobus, Antenor, the Greek Diomedes, and some other people who were carrying torches.

Paris said, “I see someone. Ho! Who is that there?”

“It is the Lord Aeneas,” Deiphobus said.

Aeneas asked, “Is Prince Paris there in person? Had I as good a reason as Helen to lie long in bed as you, Prince Paris, have, nothing but Heavenly business would rob my bedmate of my company.”

“That’s what I think, too,” Diomedes said. “Good morning, Lord Aeneas.”

“This is a valiant Greek, Aeneas,” Paris said. “Shake his hand. Witness the theme of your speech, wherein you told how Diomedes, for a whole week of days, haunted you on the battlefield.”

“I wish you good health, valiant sir, while talks continue during all this gentle truce,” Aeneas said to Diomedes, “but when I meet you armed on the battlefield after the truce, then I will greet you with as black defiance as heart can think or courage can execute.”

“I welcome both the good health and the black defiance,” Diomedes replied. “Our emotions are now calm because of the truce, and for as long as the truce lasts, I wish you good health! But when we meet on the battlefield later, by Jove, I’ll hunt for your life with all my strength, speed, and cunning.”

“And you shall hunt a lion that will flee with his face backward, facing you,” Aeneas said. “In humane gentleness, welcome to Troy! Now, by my mortal father Anchises’ life, welcome, indeed! By my immortal mother Venus’ hand, I swear that no man alive can respect more excellently than I the thing he means to kill.”

As recounted in Homer’s Iliad, Diomedes had once fought Venus, who was on the side of the Trojans, and wounded her wrist.

“We feel the same way,” Diomedes said. “Jove, let Aeneas live, if he is not fated to bring me glory by dying on my sword, a thousand complete courses of the Sun! Let him live a thousand years if I do not kill him on the battlefield! But, to increase my honor, which I am greedy for, let me kill him, with each of his joints wounded, and let that happen tomorrow!”

“We know each other well,” Aeneas said.

“We do, and we long to know each other worse,” Diomedes replied.

Rather than know each other to be well and healthy, they each hoped to know that the other was wounded or dead.

“This is the most despiteful gentle greeting, the noblest hateful love, that ever I heard of,” Paris said.

He then asked Aeneas, “What business, lord, do you have so early?”

“King Priam sent for me,” Aeneas said, “but why, I don’t know.”

“The reason meets you here and now,” Paris said. “It was to bring this Greek, Diomedes, to Calchas’ house, where Cressida, his daughter, is living, and there to render him, in exchange for the freed Antenor, the fair Cressida.”

Paris then walked to the side with Aeneas, and they held a private, quiet conversation.

Paris said, “Let’s have your company, or if you please, you can hasten to Calchas’ house before us. I firmly think — or rather, call my thought a certain knowledge — that my brother Troilus lodges there tonight. Rouse him and give him notice of our approach. Because of the reason we are coming there, I fear we shall be much unwelcome.”

“I assure you that we will be much unwelcome,” Aeneas replied. “Troilus had rather Troy were carried to Greece than Cressida carried away from Troy.”

“There is no help for it,” Paris said. “The bitter disposition of the time will have it so. It is necessary.”

Paris then said loudly, “Go on ahead of us, Aeneas; we’ll follow you.”

“Good morning, everyone,” Aeneas said.

Aeneas and the servant carrying the torch exited.

Paris then asked, “Tell me, noble Diomedes, indeed, tell me truly, even in the soul of sound and good friendship, who, in your thoughts, deserves fair Helen best, myself or Menelaus?”

“Both of you deserve her equally,” Diomedes said. “Menelaus well deserves to have her because he seeks her without being bothered by her dirty lack of chastity, which has caused such a Hell of pain and world of expense as we fight this war to get her back for him. And you deserve as well to keep her because you defend her without noticing the taste of her dishonor, her lack of faithfulness, her adultery, which has led to such a costly loss of wealth and friends.

“Menelaus, like a whining cuckold, would drink up the lees and dregs of a flat tamed piece — a wine that has been exposed to the air and gone flat, or a piece of female flesh that has been in bed with men so much that she has become stale.

“You, like a lecher, are happy to breed your inheritors — your children — out of Helen’s whorish genitals.

“Weighing both merits with a set of scales, each weighs neither less nor more than the other, but both are heavier — sadder — because of a whore named Helen.”

“You are too bitter to your countrywoman,” Paris replied.

“Helen is bitter to her country,” Diomedes said. “Listen to me, Paris. For every false drop in her bawdy veins a Greek’s life has sunk and been lost; for every tiny bit of her contaminated carrion weight, a Trojan has been slain. Since Helen has been able to speak, the number of words she has spoken does not equal the number of Greeks and Trojans who have died in this war over her.”

“Fair Diomedes, you are doing what merchants do,” Paris said. “You dispraise the thing that you desire to buy. But we in silence hold this virtue well, we’ll commend only what we intend to sell.”

Paris did not commend — praise — Helen because he had no desire to sell her.

Paris said, “Here lies our way.”

They then walked to Calchas’ house.

— 4.2 —

Troilus and Cressida stood and talked in the courtyard of Calchas’ house.

Troilus said, “Dear, do not trouble yourself. The morning is cold.”

Now that it was morning, it was time for Troilus to leave. Cressida wanted to protect her reputation; she did not want other people to know that Troilus had spent the night with her.

“Then, my sweet lord, I’ll call my uncle down,” Cressida said. “He shall unbolt the gates to let you out.”

Pandarus lived next to Cressida. The houses shared the same court and were adjoined.

“Don’t trouble him,” Troilus said. “Go to bed, to bed. Let sleep kill — overcome — those pretty eyes, and give as soft arrest to your senses as infants’ senses that are empty of all thought!”

“Good morning, then,” Cressida said.

“Please, go to bed now.”

“Are you weary of me?”

“Oh, Cressida! Except that the busy day, awakened by the morning lark, has aroused the ribald crows, and dreaming night will hide our joys no longer, I would not go away from you.”

“Night has been too brief,” Cressida said.

“Damn the witch called night! With malignant people thinking evil thoughts at night, she stays as tediously as Hell and allows time to pass only slowly, but she flies past the grasps of love with wings more momentary-swift than thought. You will catch cold, and curse me.”

“Please, tarry. Stay a while longer,” Cressida said. “You men will never tarry. Oh, foolish Cressida! I might have still held off and not slept with you, and then you would have tarried. Listen! There’s someone up.”

Pandarus said from inside, “Why are all the doors open here?”

“It is your uncle,” Troilus said.

“A pestilence on him!” Cressida said. “Now he will be mocking me. What a life I shall have!”

Pandarus entered the courtyard and said, “How are you now! How are you now! How go maidenheads? What is the price of virginity?”

Pretending not to recognize Cressida, who was no longer a virgin, he said to her, “Hey, you maiden! Where’s Cressida, my niece?”

“Go hang yourself, you naughty mocking uncle!” Cressida said. “You bring me to do, and then you flout me, too.”

One meaning of “to do” is “to have sex.”

“To do what?” Pandarus said. “To do what? Let her say what! What have I brought you to do?”

“Come, come, curse your heart!” Cressida said. “You’ll never be good, nor will you allow others to be good.”

“Ha! Ha!” Pandarus laughed. “Alas, poor wretch! Ah, poor chipochia! Haven’t you slept tonight?”

Chipochiawas poorly pronounced Italian for “pussy.”

Using baby talk, he said to her, “Would he, a naughty man, not let it sleep? May a bugbear take him!”

Cressida said to Troilus, “Didn’t I tell you that he would tease me! I wish that he were knocked in the head!”

Knocking sounded on the door of the courtyard.

She said to Pandarus, “Who’s that at the door? Good uncle, go and see.”

She then said to Troilus, “My lord, come again into my bedchamber.”

Cressida wanted him to go back to her bedchamber because she did not want him to be found with her. She wanted to keep their sexual relationship secret.

He smiled, and she said, “You smile and mock me, as if I meant naughtily, as if I wanted to have sex again with you.”

Troilus laughed.

“Come, you are deceived. I am thinking of no such thing.”

Knocking sounded again at the door.

“How earnestly they knock!” Cressida said. “Please, come inside. I would not for half of Troy have you seen here.”

Troilus and Cressida exited.

“Who’s there?” Pandarus said. “What’s the matter? Will you beat down the door? What is it now! What’s the matter?”

He opened the door, and Aeneas entered the courtyard.

“Good morning, my lord, good morning,” Aeneas said.

“Who’s there?” Pandarus asked. “My Lord Aeneas! I swear that I didn’t know who you are. What news gets you up so early?”

“Isn’t Prince Troilus here?” Aeneas asked.

“Here! What should he be doing here?” Pandarus asked, pretending to be surprised by the question.

“Come, he is here, my lord,” Aeneas said. “Do not deny it. He needs to speak with me about a matter that is important to him.”

“Troilus is here, you say?” Pandarus said. “It is more than I know, I’ll be sworn. As for my own part, I came in late. What would he be doing here?”

“What? Do you mean whowould he be doing here?” Aeneas asked. “Well, then. Come, come, you’ll do him wrong without meaning to. You’ll be so true to him that you will be false to him. By trying to help him by pretending that he is not here, you will hurt him by keeping me from talking with him. Let’s agree to pretend that you do not know about him being here, but still go and fetch him here; go.”

Troilus, who had been eavesdropping, came out into the courtyard.

“How are you now?” Troilus asked Aeneas. “What’s the matter?”

“My lord, I scarcely have leisure to greet you because my business with you is so urgent. Nearby are your brother Paris, and Deiphobus, the Greek Diomedes, and our Antenor, who has been freed by the Greeks and delivered to us; and for him forthwith, before the first sacrifice, within this hour, we must hand over to Diomedes’ hand the Lady Cressida. She is being exchanged for Antenor.”

“Has this been definitely decided?” Troilus asked.

“Yes, it has been decided by Priam and the general assembly of Troy. People are at hand and ready to put the decision into effect.”

“How my achievements mock me!” Troilus said.

He had just won Cressida, and now he had to give her up.

He continued, “I will go and meet them, and, my Lord Aeneas, say that we met by chance; you did not find me here.”

“Yes, that is a good idea, my lord,” Aeneas said. “The secrets of nature are not more gifted in taciturnity than I am. Nature holds on to her secrets, and I will hold on to your secret.”

Troilus and Aeneas exited.

Pandarus said, “Is it possible? No sooner gotten but lost? May the Devil take Antenor! The young Prince Troilus will go mad: a plague upon Antenor! I wish the Greeks had broken his neck!”

Cressida came into the courtyard and asked, “What’s going on! What’s the matter? Who was here?”

Pandarus sighed.

“Why do you sigh so deeply?” Cressida asked. “Where’s my lord? Gone! Tell me, sweet uncle, what’s the matter?”

“I wish that I were as deep under the earth as I am above it!”

“Oh, the gods! What’s the matter?”

“Please, go inside,” Pandarus said. “I wish that you had never been born! I knew you would be Troilus’ death. Oh, poor gentleman! A plague upon Antenor!”

“Good uncle, I beg you, on my knees!” Cressida said. “I beg you, tell me what’s the matter.”

“You must leave Troy, girl, you must leave Troy; you have been exchanged for Antenor,” Pandarus said. “You must go to your father, and be gone from Troilus. It will be his death; it will be his bane, his poison, his ruin; he cannot bear it.”

“Oh, you immortal gods!” Cressida said. “I will not go.”

“You must.”

“I will not, uncle,” Cressida said. “I have forgotten my father; I know no feeling of blood relationship to him; I know no sense of relationship, love, blood, soul for him that comes close to what I feel for the sweet Troilus. Oh, you divine gods, make Cressida’s name the very crown of falsehood if she ever leaves Troilus! Time, force, and death, do to this body what extremes you can, but the strong base and building of my love is like the very center of the Earth, and draws all things to it. I’ll go in and weep —”

“Do, do,” Pandarus said.

Cressida continued, “— tear my bright hair and scratch my praised cheeks, crack my clear voice with sobs and break my heart with calling the name of Troilus. I will not go away from Troy.”

— 4.3 —

Paris, Troilus, Aeneas, Deiphobus, Antenor, and the Greek Diomedes walked to the street in front of Calchas’ house. Paris and Troilus stood apart from the others.

Paris said loudly, “It is full morning, and the hour fixed for Cressida’s delivery to this valiant Greek, Diomedes, is coming quickly.”

He and Troilus then talked quietly.

“My good brother Troilus, tell the lady what she is to do, and urge her to make haste.”

“Walk into her house,” Troilus said. “I’ll bring her to the Greek quickly, and when I deliver her to his hand, think that his hand is an altar and your brother Troilus is a priest there who is offering to it his own heart.”

Paris said, “I know what it is to love, and I wish that I could help as much as I shall feel pity!”

Troilus exited.

Paris said loudly, “May it please you to walk into her house, my lords.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved




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