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Act IV, Scene 5 Summary
Enter Ajax, Agamemnon, Achilles, Patroclus, Menelaus, Ulysses, Nestor and others. Agamemnon tells Ajax to sound his trumpet so that Hector may be brought to combat. Ajax tells his trumpeter to ‘crack thy lungs, and split thy brazen pipe.’ He tells him to blow until his cheeks are rounded and outswell the North wind. The trumpet is sounded but as Ulysses comments, no trumpet answers. Achilles says that it is still early. While the Greeks are waiting for the start of the fighting, Cressida and Diomedes enter. Each of the Greeks - Agamemnon, Nestor, Achilles, kisses her in welcome. ‘I had good argument for kissing, once’ says Menelaus sadly and Patroclus says: ‘But that’so no argument for kissing now;’ and steps in between saying ‘For thus popp’d Paris in his hardiment, /And parted thus you and your argument.’ Patroclus kisses Cressida.
In an aside, Ulysses comments that ‘O deadly gall, and theme of all our/scorns!/For which we lose our heads to gild his horns.’ The theme is both Helen and her separation from Menelaus. It is a theme that the Greeks scorn as they are doing here, but they also suffer scorns in being put at mortal risk for Helen’s sake.
Patroclus kisses Cressida again saying that while the last kiss was for Menelaus this one was for him. But the ridiculous Menelaus insists on his kiss, and is refused by Cressida who first asks him: ‘In kissing, do you render or receive?’
Menelaus replies: ‘Both take and give.’ Cressida who is now getting into the swing of things says, ‘I’ll make my match to live, /The kiss you take is better than you give /Therefore, no kiss.’
Menelaus persists pathetically and there is much reference to his cuckolded state. Ulysses tells Cressida to give him a kiss and Cressida tells him to ‘beg two.’ Ulysses says, ‘Why then, for Venus’s sake, give me a kiss/When Helen is a maid again, and his’ Ulysses is the only one who is aloof. He means that she need never give him a kiss as it is impossible for Helen to be a maid again. This whole scene is precursor of things to come, of Cressida’s flippancy and her oncoming disposition. Diomedus and Cressida exit and when Nestor expresses his approval of her Ulysses expresses contempt and disgust.
Agamemnon asks how Hector would like it. Aeneas says Hector doesn’t care either way and that he will obey whatever conditions are set down. Agamemnon approvingly says that ’Tis done like Hector.’ Achilles comments that Hector’s action is overconfident and underrates his opponent. Aeneas tells Achilles about Hector.
Aeneas who is adept at polite snubs at first pretends not to recognize Achilles and then tells him that Hector’s valor is greater than that of any other man, and his pride less. He also says that Hector is almost averse to fighting Ajax who is his cousin and hence half of him. Achilles understands that this is going to be a battle without bloodshed.
Diomedes enters. Agamemnon tells Diomedes to stand by Ajax. He says that Diomedes and Aeneas can agree on the kind of fight it is going to be, either one to the edge of all extremity or just a bout for exercise. He says that the fact that the opponents are related, checks their strife even before the battle begins. Ajax and Hector enter and take their positions. Agamemnon wants to know who Troilus is. Ulysses tells him that he is the youngest son of Priam and describes him as a young man who is not yet mature but matchless. He continues that Troilus’ deeds speak for him and that he isn’t easily provoked. But once he is provoked, he isn’t easily calmed. He says that his heart and hand are both open and free, he is liberal, blameless and generous. Yet, he is no fool, and his giving is guided by his judgment - unworthy thoughts are beneath him. Ulysses even compares Troilus favorably to Hector.