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After Patroclus exits to deliver the message to Achilles, Ulysses announces that he had seen Achilles at the opening of his tent and that he was not sick. Ajax says Achilles suffers from a heart as proud as a lion. Rejecting the argument that Achilles is melancholic, he insists that he is proud. He wonders why the other warrior is so proud and saying that he wants a word with Agamemnon, he takes him aside. Nestor wonders why Ajax is baying at Achilles. Ulysses reveals that Ajax’s attitude has come about because Achilles had stolen his fool, Thersites from him. Achilles having stolen Thersites, is now Ajax’s theme, and Ajax has acquired matter for everlasting, and Achillean (endless) argument concerning Achilles. Ulysses and Nestor agree that it was better for Ajax and Achilles to be quarreling than for them to be forming an alliance against them, the Greek leadership. Patroclus enters and Nestor comments that there is no Achilles with him.
Ulysses compares Achilles to an elephant - an animal that thought to be unable to bend because it lacked knee joints. He means that Ulysses is discourteous. Patroclus tells them that Achilles had bade him say he was if they were visiting him for anything more than sport and leisure, and that he hoped the visit was carried out only for their health and digestion, as an after-dinner’s breath.
Agamemnon tells Patroclus that he was well aware of the meaning of these answers that he understands Achilles is being scornfully evasive. He says that though Achilles has many virtues, they were all beginning to lose their gloss in his eyes, and were bound to rot untasted, just like good fruit in an unwholesome dish. He tells Patroclus to go once again and tell Achilles that he has come to speak to him. He adds that Patroclus would not be sinning or lying if he told Achilles that Agamemnon thought him over proud, and dishonest, and lacking in good judgment. He wants him to tell him that the barbarous reserve that he affects, disguises the strength of Agamemnon’s own command and makes him submit to his impulses.
Patroclus exits saying he would soon bring Achilles’ reply. Agamemnon says he will not accept an answer in a second person’s voice, and sends Ulysses to talk to Achilles. Ajax and Agamemnon discuss Achilles. Ajax asks Agamemnon if he thinks Achilles considers himself a better man than Ajax. ‘No question,’ says Agamemnon.
Ajax asks Agamemnon if he agreed with Achilles’s viewpoint. Agamemnon replies that Ajax is as strong, brave and wise, noble and much more gentle and less stubborn than Achilles. Ajax wonders why a man should be proud and how pride grow, and since he has a high opinion of himself, comments that he himself is not proud at all.
Agamemnon says Ajax’s mind is clearer and his virtues fairer. He says that the proud man eats himself up: ‘pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle.’ He says that whoever praises himself, actually reduces his worth, that the good deeds devour the praise.
Ulysses Enters. Ajax says he hates proud men as much as he hates the multiplication of toads. In an aside Nestor comments that it is strange that Ajax should then love himself - the implication is that Ajax is proud. Ulysses conveys the message that Achilles will not go to the field the following day. He tells Agamemnon that Achilles relies on no one but maintains his disposition without respecting anybody, and that he continues to be self willed and trusts only his own judgment.
Agamemnon asks why Achilles was not coming out of his tent despite his ‘fair request.’