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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Act II, Scene 3 Summary

Thersites enters on his own. He is still railing about the beating he got from Ajax. He wishes he could be the one to beat Ajax while the latter railed. He says that he’ll learn to raise devils unless he becomes capable of seeing some issue of his spiteful execrations. Then he dwells on Achilles whom he calls a maker of rare military machines and a plotter. If Troy is not taken till these two undermine it, the walls will stand till they fall of themselves, he says. He prays that Jove forgets he is king of the gods, and that Mercury lose all the magical powers that bestow prosperity and settle quarrels. If they don’t take away the little intelligence that the Greeks have - which ignorance itself knows is so scarce that they (the Greeks) will not deliver a fly from a spider without drawing their swords to cut the web. He curses the whole camp with venereal disease. He thinks that it the most appropriate curse for those who war over a skirt or a woman. He concludes his prayer by saying that ‘Envy’ - one of the seven deadly sins, says ‘Amen.’ He then hails ‘my Lord Achilles!’ Patroclus calls Thersites from inside and asks him to come into Achilles’ tent and rail.

Continuing in the vein of a prayer, Thersites mutters that if he could have remembered a false coin, Patroclus himself could not possibly have slipped out of his thoughts. But that was no problem, as for Patroclus to remain himself was his own worst punishment! He prays that folly and ignorance, the common curse of mankind would be Patroclus’ in great measure. ‘Heaven bless thee from a tutor, and discipline come not near thee!’ He continues with his mock prayer for Patroclus and hopes that he continues to be fleshly and passionate until his death so that if the woman who lays him out says his corpse is beautiful, Thersites himself will know that she has shrouded anyone but lepers. Like a real prayer, he ends this with an ‘Amen.’

Patroclus enters. Thersites asks him the whereabouts of Achilles. Patroclus asks him if he was praying. Thersites says he was praying and adds that he hopes the heavens would hear him. The unsuspecting Patroclus says ‘Amen.’ Achilles is heard looking for Thersites and when he happens on the two of them he greets him with much eagerness and asks him why he hadn’t presented himself at his (Achilles’) table. Right off he asks him ‘What’s Agamemnon’ - a cue to begin the usual games of imitation and ridicule.


Thersites engages in attempting to irritate Achilles and Patroclus. He tells Achilles that Agamemnon is a fool, Achilles is a fool, he himself is a fool and Patroclus is also a fool. He explains that Agamemnon is a fool to command Achilles, Achilles is a fool to be commanded by him, Thersites a fool to serves such a fool and Patroclus is an absolute fool, ‘a fool positive.’ Patroclus asks Thersites why he is being labeled a fool. Thersites asks him to make ‘that demand of the Creator’, and then turns to the entry of Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes and Ajax.

Achilles tells Patroclus that he will speak with nobody and retreats into his tent. He invites Thersites in with him. Before he leaves, Thersites comments that the whole war is fool’s play, clownage and cheating. Referring to the Helen-Menelaus-Paris triangle that has caused the conflict, he defines the entire War as ‘All the argument is a whore and a cuckold: a good quarrel to draw emulous factions, and bleed to death upon.’ He then exits railing as usual and calling creeping skin diseases down upon the subject of War and exclaiming that ‘lechery confound all!’

Agamemnon asks for Achilles. Patroclus tells him he is unwell and is in his tent.

Agamemnon tells Patroclus to announce his presence. He remarks that Achilles had ignored his messengers and so he had eventually laid aside the apparent signs of authority and visited him. He tells Patroclus to especially tell Achilles this lest the latter think that he, Agamemnon dares not assert his position as his commander.

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