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Nest. What says Ulysses?

Ulyss. I have a young conception in my brain; Be you my time to bring it to some shape.

Nest. What is 't?

Ulyss. This 't is.

Blunt wedges rive hard knots: the seeded pride,
That hath to this maturity grown up

In rank Achilles, must or now be cropp'd,
Or, shedding, breed a nursery of like evil,
To overbulk us all.


Well, and how?

Ulyss. This challenge that the gallant Hector sends, However it is spread in general name,

Relates in purpose only to Achilles.

Nest. The purpose is perspicuous even as substance,
Whose grossness little characters sum up:
And in the publication make no strain,

But that Achilles, were his brain as barren
As banks of Libya, (though, Apollo knows,

'T is dry enough) will, with great speed of judgment, Ay, with celerity, find Hector's purpose

Pointing on him.

Uyss. And wake him to the answer, think you? Nest. Why', 't is most meet: whom may you else


That can from Hector bring his honour off.

If not Achilles? Though 't be a sportful combat,
Yet in the trial much opinion dwells;

For here the Trojans taste our dear'st repute
With their fin'st palate and trust to me, Ulysses,
Our reputation shall be oddly pois'd

In this wild action; for the success,
Although particular, shall give a scantling
Of good or bad unto the general;

And in such indexes (although small pricks
To their subsequent volumes) there is seen
The baby figure of the giant mass

Of things to come at large. It is suppos'd,
He that meets Hector issues from our choice:
And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
Makes merit her election, and doth boil,
As 't were from forth us all, a man distill'd
Out of our virtues; who miscarrying,

1 Yes in folio.

What heart receives from hence the conquering part,
To steel a strong opinion to themselves?
Which entertain'd, limbs are his instruments,
In no less working, than are swords and bows
Directive by the limbs.

Ulyss. Give pardon to my speech:

Therefore 't is meet Achilles meet not Hector.
Let us,
like merchants, show our foulest wares,
And think, perchance, they'll sell; if not,
The lustre of the better shall exceed,1

By showing the worst first. Do not consent,
That ever Hector and Achilles meet;

For both our honour and our shame, in this,
Are dogg'd with two strange followers.

Nest. I see them not with my old eyes: what are

Ulyss. What glory our Achilles shares from Hector, Were he not proud, we all should share3 with him : But he already is too insolent;

And we were better parch in Afric sun,

Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes,
Should he 'scape Hector fair. If he were foil'd,
Why, then we did our main opinion crush
In taint of our best man. No; make a lottery,
And by device let blockish Ajax draw

The sort to fight with Hector: among ourselves
Give him allowance for the better man,⭑
For that will physic the great Myrmidon,

Who broils in loud applause; and make him fall
His crest, that prouder than blue Iris bends.
If the dull, brainless Ajax come safe off,
We'll dress him up in voices: if he fail,
Yet go we under our opinion still,
That we have better men. But, hit or miss,
Our project's life this shape of sense assumes,—
Ajax employ'd plucks down Achilles' plumes.
Nest. Now I begin to relish thy advice;
And I will give a taste of it forthwith
To Agamemnon: go we to him straight.
Two curs shall tame each other: pride alone
Must tarre the mastiffs on, as 't were their bone.


1 yet to show in folio. 2 Shall show the better: in folio. 3 wear: in folio.

As the worthier. 5 Set on.


SCENE I.-Another Part of the Grecian Camp. Enter AJAX and THERSITES.

Ajax. Thersites !

Ther. Agamemnon-how if he had boils? full, all over, generally?

Ajax. Thersites !

Ther. And those boils did run ?-Say so,-did not the general run then? were not that a botchy sore? Ajax. Dog!

Ther. Then would come some matter from him: I

see none now.

Ajax. Thou bitch-wolf's son, canst thou not hear? Feel then. [Strikes him. Ther. The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted lord!

Ajax. Speak then, thou vinewd'st' leaven, speak: I will beat thee into handsomeness.

Ther. I shall sooner rail thee into wit and holiness: but, I think, thy horse will sooner con an oration, than thou learn a prayer without book. Thou canst strike, canst thou? a red murrain o' thy jade's tricks!

Ajax. Toads-stool, learn me the proclamation. Ther. Dost thou think I have no sense, thou strik'st me thus ?

Ajax. The proclamation,

Ther. Thou art proclaimed a fool, I think.

Ajax. Do not, porcupine, do not: my fingers itch. Ther. I would, thou didst itch from head to foot, and I had the scratching of thee; I would make thee the loathsomest scab in Greece. When thou art forth in the incursions, thou strikest as slow as another. Ajax. I say, the proclamation,

Ther. Thou grumblest and railest every hour on Achilles; and thou art as full of envy at his greatness, as Cerberus is at Proserpina's beauty, ay, that thou barkest at him.

Ajax. Mistress Thersites !

Ther. Thou shouldest strike him.

Ajax. Cobloaf!

1 Most mouldy. 2 The rest of the speech is only in the quartos.

Ther. He would pun1 thee into shivers with his fist,

as a sailor breaks a biscuit.

Ajax. You whoreson cur!
Ther. Do, do.

Ajax. Thou stool for a witch!

[Beating him.

Ther. Ay, do, do; thou sodden-witted lord! thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows; an assinego may tutor thee: thou scurvy valiant ass! thou art here but to thrash Trojans; and thou art bought and sold among those of any wit, like a Barbarian slave. If thou use to beat me, I will begin at thy heel, and tell what thou art by inches, thou thing of no bowels, thou!

Ajax. You dog!

Ther. You scurvy lord!

Ajax. You cur!

[Beating him.

Ther. Mar's idiot! do, rudeness; do, camel; do, do. Enter ACHILLES and PATROCLUS.

Achil. Why, how now, Ajax! wherefore do you this? How now, Thersites! what's the matter, man? Ther. You see him there, do you?

Achil. Ay; what's the matter?

Ther. Nay, look upon him.

Achil. So I do what's the matter?

Ther. Nay, but regard him well.

Achil. Well, why I do so.

Ther. But yet you look not well upon him; for, whosoever you take him to be, he is Ajax.

Achil. I know that, fool.

Ther. Ay, but that fool knows not himself.
Ajax. Therefore I beat thee.

Ther. Lo, lo, lo, lo, what modicums of wit he utters ! his orations have ears thus long. I have bobbed his brain, more than he has beat my bones: I will buy nine sparrows for a penny, and his pia mater is not worth the ninth part of a sparrow. This lord, Achilles, Ajax, who wears his wit in his belly, and his guts in his head, I'll tell you what I say of him.

Achil. What?

Ther. I say, this Ajax-
Achil. Nay, good Ajax.

[AJAX offers to strike him.

Ther. Has not so much wit-
Achil. Nay, I must hold you.

[blocks in formation]

Ther. As will stop the eye of Helen's needle, for whom he comes to fight.

Achil. Peace, fool!

Ther. I would have peace and quietness, but the fool will not he there; that he, look you there. Ajax. O, thou damned cur! I shall

Achil. Will you set your wit to a fool's ?

Ther. No, I warrant you; for a fool's will shame it. Patr. Good words, Thersites.

Achil. What's the quarrel?

Ajax. I bade the vile owl go learn me the tenour of the proclamation, and he rails upon me.

Ther. I serve thee not.

Ajax. Well, go to, go to.

Ther. I serve here voluntary.

Achil. Your last service was sufferance, 't was not voluntary; no man is beaten voluntary: Ajax was here the voluntary, and you as under an impress.

Ther. Even so ?-a great deal of your wit, too, lies in your sinews, or else there be liars. Hector shall have a great catch, if he knock out either of your brains: he were as good crack a fusty nut with no kernel. Achil. What, with me too, Thersites ?

Ther. There's Ulysses, and old Nestor,-whose wit was mouldy ere your grandsires had nails on their toes, -yoke you like draught oxen, and make you plough up the war.

Achil. What? what?

Ther. Yes, good sooth: to Achilles ! to Ajax! toAjax. I shall cut out your tongue.

Ther. 'T is no matter; I shall speak as much as thou, afterwards.

Patr. No more words, Thersites; peace!

Ther. I will hold my peace when Achilles' brach' bids me, shall I?

Achil. There's for you, Patroclus.

Ther. I will see you hanged, like clotpoles, ere I come any more to your tents: I will keep where there is wit stirring, and leave the faction of fools. [Exit. Patr. A good riddance.

Achil. Marry, this, sir, is proclaimed through all our


That Hector, by the fifth hour of the sun,

1 Dog.

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