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Act II, Scene 2 Summary
Priam, Hector, Troilus, Paris and Helenus enter. Priam reports a diplomatic exchange and says that after so many hours, lives and speeches had been spent, Nestor has reiterated that if Helen was delivered to the Greeks. All other damages - honor, loss of time, travails, expense, wounds, lost friends and whatever else that was dear and had been consumed by this ‘cormorant War,’ would be struck off and forgotten. Priam asks Hector what he has to say about this latest bit of news.
Hector says that though no man feared the Greeks less than he did, there isn’t a more merciful lady who was more ready to cry out: ‘Who knows what follows?’, than himself. He says that peace is most endangered by overconfidence, and suggests that they let Helen go. He continues that since the first sword was drawn, every soul that had been taken as a thite by the War was as dear as Helen, and of such tithes there had been many thousands of Trojan forces - War had taken one man in every ten. He says that if they had lost so many of their own to guard something which is not theirs and of no worth to them, he didn’t see any merit in not giving her up.
Troilus disagrees vehemently and asks Hector if he weighed the worth and honor of a king as great as their father Priam in a scale of common ounces. He asks him if he would count the immeasurable quantity of infinity with counters, and buckle in a fathomless waist with such small spans as fears and reasons.
Helenus says that though Troilus goes on about reasons, he is empty of them. He asks him if their father shouldn’t look after his affairs reasonably just because his speech had no resin to tell him so. Condescendingly, Troilus replies that his priest brother was for ‘dreams and slumbers’, that he furred his gloves with reason or comforted himself with arguments of prudence when his actual reasons were: you know the enemy intends you harm, you know the sword is dangerous. He says that Helenus’ reason flies at the sight of all harms.
Hector tells Troilus that Helen is not worth what she costs while they keep her. Troilus asks what the worth of something is but for the value attached to it. Hector says value does not dwell in the will of a single man and that it was mad idolatry to pay greater attention to the ritual than to the god to whom it is directed. He says the doting lover sees nothing of intrinsic value in the beloved, but merely imputes value without any evidence of its presence.
Troilus says that suppose he were to marry that day, his selection would be based on his will which in turn relied on his eyes and ears. Troilus can see clearly that in any matter involving will and judgment, those faculties are truly dangerous shores in respect of the eyes and ears, which ply between them. Once a man is committed he may, says Troilus, be obliged to stand firmly by his decision: to appeal in that condition to will or to reason alone is to risk shipwreck. He continues that even if his will later dislikes the wife that it has chosen, he could not be rid of her. He says that responsibility cannot be evaded, if they wanted to maintain a grip on honor.