Act II, Scene 3
Thersites is pretty worked up about the whole getting beaten up by Ajax thing. He’s not too fond of Achilles either. He’s positive that the Greeks will never win with those two up to their shenanigans.
Thersites is there to see Achilles. Patroclus welcomes him to come and vent about whatever is bothering him. He does just that by insulting Patroclus’ intelligence and general personality. Then, he asks to see Achilles.
Once Achilles comes out of his tent, Thersites launches into one of his classic exchanges of tricky word play. First, he asks Achilles who Agamemnon is to him. Achilles answers that Agamemnon is his commander. Then, Thersites asks Patroclus who Achilles is, to which Patroclus answers his lord. Patroclus asks Thersites what he is. Thersites answers that he is Patroclus’ knower and then declares Patroclus to be a fool. Patroclus is peeved and the two men press Thersites to elaborate. Thersites declares them all fools because: Agamemnon is a fool to try and command Achilles, Achilles is a fool to be commanded by Agamemnon, Thersites is a fool for serving any of them, and Patroclus is just a fool.
Other Greeks start approaching and Achilles retreats into his tent. Thersites expresses his annoyance with the whole situation before following Achilles into his tent.
Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes, and Ajax approach Achilles’ tent. Patroclus explains that Achilles is sick and won’t see anybody. Agamemnon insists that Patroclus tell Achilles they are there. They saw Achilles standing outside his tent, so no one is falling for the sick line. Ajax thinks Achilles is just being a mopey butthead. He pulls Agamemnon aside.
Nestor wonders why Ajax suddenly stopped liking Achilles. Ulysses explains that Achilles poached Thersites away from Ajax. Nestor figures it’s better that Achilles and Ajax are at odds anyway.
Patroclus returns and says that Achilles sends his apologies and hopes that there trip to his tent was just for the sake of a pleasant walk. Agamemnon is sick of Achilles excuses. He’s great and all, his praise is well deserved, but his attitude lately won’t be tolerated. He needs to rejoin the fight. Agamemnon is not optimistic about Patroclus getting a good response from Achilles, so he sends in Ulysses.
Ajax doesn’t see why everyone thinks Achilles is so great. Agamemnon doesn’t think Achilles is any great than Achilles thinks he is. Ajax takes some offense to that because Achilles definitely thinks he is better than Ajax, and Agamemnon appeared to just agree with Achilles opinion of himself. Agamemnon assures Ajax that Achilles is no better than him and, in fact, Ajax has many finer qualities. Ajax can’t comprehend how Achilles has become so proud. Agamemnon stipulates it is because Ajax has a clearer mind.
Ulysses returns to explain that Achilles refuses to come to battle tomorrow or provide any real answer for why he won’t. He won’t come outside to speak to them and seems to be in conflict with his own pride.
Agamemnon sends in Ajax to speak with Achilles. Ulysses stops him though because he doesn’t see why the great Ajax should debase himself to boost Achilles pride. They should be putting all their weight behind Ajax, not trying to coax Achilles out. Ajax wants to go in and punch Achilles in the face. Agamemnon stops that from happening and agrees with Ulysses. All of the men keep building up Ajax into a blustering, prideful speech, while commenting amongst themselves on the hypocrisy of each statement Ajax makes.
With Ajax sufficiently pumped up for battle, they put him under the guidance of Nestor and all the men leave to talk battle plans.
Act 3, Scene 1
Pandarus approaches a servant to see if he is in service of Paris. He is. Pandarus then tries to figure out if Paris is in the next room listening to music because he has an important message for him. (This is all conveyed through a classic Shakespearean exchange of misunderstood meanings).
Finally, Paris and Helen come out and Pandarus is able to speak with them. Helen wants him to sing a song, but he is hesitant to do so. Pandarus tries to dissuade Helen, while asking Paris to make excuses for Troilus at dinner. Paris immediately assumes that Troilus is dining with Cressida, but Pandarus won’t confirm. Paris agrees and Pandarus sings a love song. Everyone is pleased.
Pandarus asks who went in to battle today. Apparently it was everyone but Paris because Helen didn’t want him to. They ask how Troilus faired, but Pandarus doesn’t know. Pandarus departs after making sure that Paris will cover for Troilus.
Paris asks Helen to go and help Hector take off his armor. She is happy to do so.
Act 3, Scene 2
Troilus hasn’t seen Cressida yet. He’s too afraid to approach her without Pandarus. Pandarus agrees to go and get her. Troilus can hardly contain himself with all these strong feelings of love. Pandarus brings in Cressida once she’s ready.
At first, Pandarus does all the talking. Troilus and Cressida are too busy staring at each other. Pandarus tries really hard to get them to kiss, or at least say something. Troilus admits that he can’t think of anything to say. Pandarus tries to coax the two of them inside.
Cressida asks Troilus if he’ll come in. He has wished for her to ask that for so long, but now is caught off guard by her sudden change of heart. They muse over fear and love and how a lover would do anything for the one they love. Troilus swears his faithfulness to Cressida.
Pandarus comes in to see if they are still talking. Pandarus vouches for Troilus (again) and Cressida finally admits her love. Troilus asks why she played hard to get for so long. Cressida was worried that he wouldn’t love her in the same way if she gushed her feelings like she’s doing now. Troilus stops her talking with a kiss. Now she’s even more embarrassed and tries to leave. She just wants to stew in her own embarrassment.
Troilus begs her to stay and they discuss who is more true to the other. It sounds suspiciously like vows and then Pandarus seals the deal. He sends them off to consummate their marriage.
Act 3, Scene 3
Calchas, who betrayed Troy to join the Greeks, asks Agamemnon to exchange a Trojan prisoner for his daughter…Cressida (oh uh). Agamemnon agrees and sends Diomedes to arrange the prisoner exchange and make it clear that Ajax will answer Hector’s challenge.
Ulysses, seeing Achilles standing at his tent, urges Agamemnon and the other Grecian princes to ignore Achilles completely. Then, Ulysses will come by to explain to Achilles why everyone is ignoring him. Everyone listens and Achilles is caught off guard by the cold greeting.
Ulysses comes by with a book. Achilles asks what he is reading and he explains that it is a strange writing about how a man doesn’t know what he has until he sees it reflected in the eyes of others. Achilles doesn’t find this to be terribly odd, but Ulysses finds the author’s tangents to be confusing. The author asserts that no man can know what he has or even who he is, if it is not reflected in the actions of others. Ulysses prods Achilles by explaining that it made him think of Ajax.
Achilles reveals that everyone was very cold towards him just now. He wonders how his glorious deeds can be so forgotten. Ulysses explains to him that glory is only won in the present and past deeds are soon forgotten for the present glory of another. Achilles cannot expect to have his glory remembered if he hides in his tent all day.
Besides, everyone already knows he is in love with one of Priam’s daughters. It will surely be remembered that Achilles won Priam’s daughter after Ajax defeated her brother. Ulysses goes on his way.
Patroclus told Achilles this would happen and now it’s starting to reflect badly onPatroclus too. He tells Achilles to forget about love and rejoin the battle. Achilles won’t ruin Ajax’s fight with Hector, but wants Hector brought to his tent, unarmed, after the fight. He wants Ajax to bring him safely to Achilles tent.
Achilles wants Thersites to deliver the message, but he isn’t too keen on that idea. Apparently Ajax has lost all sense as he prepares to fight. Achilles departs again and Thersites laments having to take part in any of this nonsense.
Act IV, Scene 1
Diomedes approaches Paris and Aeneas. Aeneas and Diomedes have a pleasant rivalry on the battlefield. They want to kill each other, but besides that they like each other a lot.
Eventually, Diomedes reveals why he is there: to trade Antenor for Cressida. Paris realizes this is bad news bears for Troilus, so he sends Aeneas to warn them.
Paris delays Diomedes by asking who deserves Helen more, him or Menalaus? Diomedes thinks they both equally deserve her. He seems to think she’s not worth all the lives she has cost. This offends Paris and they go about there business.
Act IV, Scene 2
Troilus needs to go so they can both get some sleep, but Cressida wants him to stay with her. Troilus can’t let their secret get out yet, so he has to go. Pandarus breaks up the party by coming in to tease them about what they were up to all night. Cressida is understandably embarrassed.
There’s a knocking at the door and the two lovers retreat to the bedroom. Pandarus answers the door and it’s Aeneas. He’s looking for Troilus. Pandarus tries to cover for Troilus, but Aeneas knows he’s there and makes it clear that his message is urgent. Troilus comes out and Aeneas tells him the bad news that Cressida must be exchanged for Antenor. Troilus leaves with Aeneas to figure out what to do.
Pandarus curses Antenor and wishes he had died. He’s very worried that Troilus won’t be able to take this loss. (He appears to have no such concerns over Cressida). Cressida comes out and hears the bad news. She swears that she will not leave Troy. She will not leave Troilus.