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Act V, Scene 1 Summary
Enter Achilles and Patroclus. Achilles tells Patroclus that he will get Hector drunk that night which will probably make it easier for him to kill him on the following day. ‘Let us feast him to the height’ he says. Thersites enters. With something that amounts to affection, Achilles calls Thersites a ‘core of envy’ and a scabby boil, and asks him ‘what’s the news?’
Thersites returns the insult in his own inimitable way, calling Achilles ‘an idol of idiot-worshippers’ before he hands him a letter. Again attempting to insult him Achilles asks him ‘From whence, fragment?’ Thersites calls Achilles a ‘full dish of fool’ in return and tells him the letter is from Troy. Patroclus asks him who keeps the roll of gauze or medicated material that is used for cleaning a wound. Thersites asks him if he wants the surgeon’s box or the patient’s wound. Patroclus asks him why he is being perverse. Thersites insultingly calls Patroclus a ‘boy’ and asks him to be silent as he did not profit by his talk. He adds that Patroclus is said to be ‘Achilles’ male varlet.’
Patroclus asks him what a male varlet is. He then launches into a catalogue of diseases that he hopes will plague the manifestations of such perversions as homosexuality. An indignant Patroclus asks him ‘what means thou to curse thus?’ Thersites asks if he curses him. Equally ironically Patroclus replies ‘Why, no, you ruinous butt, you whoreson indistinguishable cur, no.’
‘No?’ mocks Thersites, and asks Patroclus why then is he so exasperated. He then continues the litany of ingenious abuse calling Patroclus ‘thou idle immaterial skein of sleave silk, thou green sarse-net flap for a sore eye, thou tassel of a prodigal’s purse: ah, how the poor world is pestered with such water-flies, diminutives of nature!’ Patroclus calls him a bitter railer and asks him to get out.