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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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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.


Thersites returns the abuse with ‘Finch egg!’ - A finch is a small bird and ‘egg’ was a contemptuous term.. All this while Achilles has been reading the letter from Troy and at this point, he turns to Patroclus and tells him that the letter accompanied by a love token from Polyxena, is from Queen Hecuba. Both the letter and token bind him to keep a promise - he had sworn to Hecuba that if he won Polyxena, he would make the Greeks raise the siege and retire. Achilles says the Greeks might do as they please as his major vow lies with Polyxena and Hecuba and he would obey it. He then asks Thersites to help put his tent in order and says that ‘this night in banqueting must all be spent.’ before he exits with Patroclus.

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