ACT I. SCENE 3. The Grecian camp. Before AGAMEMNON'S tent



AGAMEMNON. Princes, What grief hath set these jaundies o'er your cheeks? The ample proposition that hope makes In all designs begun on earth below Fails in the promis'd largeness; checks and disasters Grow in the veins of actions highest rear'd, As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap, Infects the sound pine, and diverts his grain Tortive and errant from his course of growth. Nor, princes, is it matter new to us That we come short of our suppose so far That after seven years' siege yet Troy walls stand; Sith every action that hath gone before, Whereof we have record, trial did draw Bias and thwart, not answering the aim, And that unbodied figure of the thought That gave't surmised shape. Why then, you princes, Do you with cheeks abash'd behold our works And call them shames, which are, indeed, nought else But the protractive trials of great Jove To find persistive constancy in men; The fineness of which metal is not found In fortune's love? For then the bold and coward, The wise and fool, the artist and unread, The hard and soft, seem all affin'd and kin. But in the wind and tempest of her frown Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan, Puffing at all, winnows the light away; And what hath mass or matter by itself Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.

NESTOR. With due observance of thy godlike seat, Great Agamemnon, Nestor shall apply Thy latest words. In the reproof of chance Lies the true proof of men. The sea being smooth, How many shallow bauble boats dare sail Upon her patient breast, making their way With those of nobler bulk! But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage The gentle Thetis, and anon behold The strong-ribb'd bark through liquid mountains cut, Bounding between the two moist elements Like Perseus' horse. Where's then the saucy boat, Whose weak untimber'd sides but even now Co-rivall'd greatness? Either to harbour fled Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so Doth valour's show and valour's worth divide In storms of fortune; for in her ray and brightness The herd hath more annoyance by the breeze Than by the tiger; but when the splitting wind Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks, And flies fled under shade-why, then the thing of courage As rous'd with rage, with rage doth sympathise, And with an accent tun'd in self-same key Retorts to chiding fortune.

ULYSSES. Agamemnon, Thou great commander, nerve and bone of Greece, Heart of our numbers, soul and only spirit In whom the tempers and the minds of all Should be shut up-hear what Ulysses speaks. Besides the applause and approbation The which, [To AGAMEMNON] most mighty, for thy place and sway, [To NESTOR] And, thou most reverend, for thy stretch'd-out life, I give to both your speeches- which were such As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece Should hold up high in brass; and such again As venerable Nestor, hatch'd in silver, Should with a bond of air, strong as the axle-tree On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears To his experienc'd tongue-yet let it please both, Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.

AGAMEMNON. Speak, Prince of Ithaca; and be't of less expect That matter needless, of importless burden, Divide thy lips than we are confident, When rank Thersites opes his mastic jaws, We shall hear music, wit, and oracle.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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