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Thersites goes on about Ajax’s wit, miming and comparing his intelligence to that of an ass with long ears. I have struck his brain more than he has beaten my bones, he says and adds that Ajax’s brain is not worth the ninth part of a sparrow and he, Thersites can buy nine sparrows for a penny. He tells Achilles that Ajax wears his wits in his belly and his guts in his head. He goes on about Ajax, who gestures as if he is about to strike him. Achilles stops him and Thersites continues ranting about Ajax and his lack of intelligence. Quibbling obscenely, he says that Ajax hasn’t as much wit as will stop the ‘eye of Helen’s needle, for whom he comes to fight.’
Achilles attempts to shut Thersites up without much success. Achilles asks them what the quarrel was about. Ajax replies that he had asked Thersites to tell him about the proclamation and he began railing at him. Thersites says he did not serve Ajax.
Ajax asks him to get lost. Thersites says, he served voluntarily. Achilles says that Thersites’ last service was not voluntary, that no man is beaten voluntarily. He says that in the last service, it was Ajax who was the voluntary party while Thersites was the one who was ‘under an impress’, that is marked by a seal or thrashed. Thersites then turns on Achilles and says that his own wit lay in his sinews. He says that Hector would have a great catch and knock either of their brains. It would be as good as cracking a hollow nut.
Achilles is amazed that Thersites has turned on him. Thersites says that Ulysses, and Nestor whose wit was moldy before their grandfathers had nails on their toes, had yoked them like oxen and made them fight the wars.
Before he exits Thersites says he will see them all hanged like dunderheads before he visits their tents again and that he would in future keep to where there was intelligence, and leave the party of fools. Good riddance exclaims Patroclus. Achilles then tells Ajax about the proclamation. He tells him that one of them was to meet in duel with Hector, at five o’clock the following morning when a trumpet will be sounded between their tents and Troy.
Before Achilles leaves, Ajax asks him who will answer.
Achilles says the choice is being ascertained by lottery and adds that otherwise he would have known who would be most appropriate to take on Hector. Ajax understands that Achilles is implying that he himself would be the best match for Hector and saying that he is going to learn more about the whole issue. He exits.