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Act III, Scene 3 Summary
Enter Agamemnon, Ulysses, Diomedes, Nestor, Menelaus, Ajax and Calchas. Calchas says that he wants compensation for the service that he has rendered. He says has abandoned Troy, left his possessions, incurred the name of a traitor, and exposed himself to an uncertain future. He continues that he has left all familiar things behind to serve the Greeks, and has in their service become ‘As new into the world, strange, unacquainted.’ He asks for a little benefit for all that he has done.
Agamemnon asks him what he wants: ‘What would’st thou of us, Trojan?’ Calchas replies that the Greeks had the day before, taken a prisoner called Antenor who was so dear to the Trojans that they would give his daughter Cressid in exchange for him - something they have refused to do so far. Calchas says that Antenor is so precious to the Trojans that they will almost give a prince, a son of Priam in exchange for him. ‘Let him be sent, great princes, /And he shall buy my daughter; and her presence/Shall quite strike off all service I have done/In most accepted pain.’ says Calchas. So Agamemnon dispatches Diomedes to bring Cressida. He also asks him to find out if Hector would fight the following day. Before Diomedes and Calchas exit, he adds that Ajax who will meet Hector in the duel, is ready.
Then, Ulysses says, the derision would be available for him to use. The derision would really exist when Achilles puts it into words and would become medicinal in the mouth of Ulysses. Ulysses says that only pride can show pride an image of what pride is like. Ulysses is arguing that a proud man expects his pride to be thought of as a normal state: he sees nothing odd in it, and indeed does not recognize it as pride at all. Hence, the proud Achilles can only be shown that pride is indeed his vice if other men seem proud to him and behave abnormally according to his expectation. Their actions will uncover their opinion of him and he may then inquire into the grounds of his opinion of himself.
So Agamemnon leads the way and the others follow. All of them are terse with Achilles who at first thinks that Agamemnon is making another trip to convince him to fight Troy. So when Nestor asks him if he will go along with them, he refuses. To his surprise, they don’t press him and exit. He has similar experiences with Menelaus. Ajax addresses only Patroclus and doesn’t pay Achilles himself much attention. Achilles is perplexed and Patroclus notes that the men who were used to flattering Achilles and being humble with him were now passing by ‘strangely.’
Suddenly Achilles is unsure of his status. His self esteem is propped up only as long as it finds a reflection in others eyes. Once that seems to have disappeared, he is unsure of his status and says so. ‘What the declin’d is, / He shall as soon read in the eyes of others/As feel in his own fall,’ he is so puzzled and mortified that he decides to ask Ulysses why the reason for this unaccustomed behavior.
He asks Ulysses who is sauntering by pretending to read something, what he is reading. Ulysses replies, ‘A strange fellow here /Writes me, that man, how dearly ever parted, /How much in having, or without or in, /Cannot make boast to have that which he hath, /Nor feels not what he owes, but by reflection, /As, when his virtues shining upon others /heat them, and they retort that heat again /To the first giver. He means that a man however excellently endowed, cannot boast about what he has or feel he owns something, but by the reflection, as when his virtues shining upon others, heats them and throw back or reflects on him again.