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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Act V, Scene 7 Summary

Enter Achilles with Myrmidons. Achilles tells his Myrmidons to listen to what he has to say. He tells them to follow him when he moved in an arc, not to strike at all but preserve their breath, and when he had found Hector, to surround and close him in with their weapons, and quickly carry out the operation. He tells them to follow him and watch his actions: ‘It is decreed Hector the great must die’ he says and exits.

Menelaus and Paris enter fighting. Then Thersites enters. ‘The cuckold and the cuckold-maker are at it’ says Thersites, as crude as ever. He sees the combat as a bull baiting and shouts encouragement. Paris and Menelaus exit Margarelon enters and commands Thersites to fight. Thersites asks him who he is and Margarelon introduces himself as ‘A bastard son of Priam’s.’ With a stroke of comic genius, Thersites manages to connect their status as bastards to forge a kinship bond between them, and so escapes eminent death. The non-plused Margarelon can only say, ‘The devil take thee, coward.’


Notes

Achilles meticulously plans out the murder of Hector - the latter has no chance. The picture of Achilles surrounded by the hacked and cut up Myrmidons is a foreboding one. The next ‘action’ has Thersites commenting on the Menelaus-Paris duel. ‘The cuckold and the cuckold-maker are at it. Now, bull! Now dog! ’Loo, Paris, ’loo - Now, my double-horned Spartan.’

We are treated to Thersites’ intense voyeuristic energies and his irrepressible wordplay - Menelaus becomes ‘my double-horned Spartan’ as he has horns twice over - as a bull and a cuckold. But that’s not all. Margarelon the bastard son of Priam, who is a formidable warrior, enters and prepares to fight Thersites whereupon he forges a kind of kinship bond that prevents them from fighting each other. Kinship is an important factor throughout the play and many of the characters are related - Hector and Ajax; Hector, Troilus, Paris; Pandarus and Cressida; Calchas and Cressida. Ajax’ status as Hector’s cousin makes the latter hesitate to kill him in battle.

Thersites who is related to no one manages to create a bond to save him. His cunning and his comic genius is manifest in the speech in which he reveals himself as a bastard just like Margarelon and hence somehow related to him:

‘I love bastards, I am bastard begot, bastard instructed, bastard in mind, bastard in valour, in everything illegitimate. One bear will not bite another and wherefore should one bastard? Take heed: the quarrel’s most ominous to us - if the son of a whore fight for a whore, he tempts judgment. Farewell bastard,’ he says and exits, saving his skin.

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