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Act V, Scene 6 Summary
Enter Ajax. Ajax is baying for Troilus. Diomedes enters. He is also looking for Troilus. Ajax asks him why he wants him. Diomedes says that he wishes to chastise him. Ajax says that if he were the general he would give away his office before he let Diomedes do the correction. He then bays for Troilus again. Troilus enters and calls Diomedes a traitor and asks him to pay him the life he owes him for his horse. Ajax tells Diomedes to stand by as he alone will fight with Troilus.
Diomedes argues that Troilus is his prize and that he will not be a mere spectator
Troilus calls them both cheating, deceitful Greeks, and says that he will fight them both. Troilus exits fighting with Ajax and Diomedes. Hector enters and comments that his youngest brother has fought well. Achilles enters and fights with Hector. After a while Hector with his usual courtesy says that Achilles can ‘Pause, if thou wilt,’ and lets him go.
‘I do disdain thy courtesy, proud Trojan /Be happy that my arms are out of use:/My rest and negligence befriends thee now/But thou anon shalt hear of me again; Till when, go seek thy fortune’ he says and exits.Hector bids him farewell and says that he would have been a much fresher man if he had expected him.
Troilus enters. He asks Hector if it is true that Ajax has taken Aeneas. Then he says that by ‘the flame of yonder glorious heaven’ he would not vanquish Aeneas. He says he’d be vanquished too or will rescue Aeneas. Before he exits, he addresses fate and says that he doesn’t care if it ends his life on that day. A warrior in sumptuous armor enters. Hector is impressed with his armor and says that he will beat it violently and unlock all its rivets and finally own it. ‘Wilt thou not, beast, abide?’ he asks as the Greek exits. ‘I’ll hunt thee for thy hide’ or armor he says and exits in pursuit.
This is the scene where Hector commits his tragic folly, his fatal error. He chivalrously spares Achilles’ life, actually letting him off with a ‘Pause, if thou wilt’ when he should have killed him. It is here that Hector’s breathtaking naiveté becomes especially obvious and the audience can only gasp. This scene also marks his ultimate failure: in being so naive he is not only selling himself short, ‘this pillar of Troy’ is also betraying his people through his tragic thoughtlessness.
Hector’s problem is that he is excessively naive and lives in a never-never land where chivalric rules are never broken, and knights are honest and upright. It does not ever occur to him that others and Achilles in particular might not subscribe to his code. But for all his magnanimity, Hector is not above hunting a man for his armor and it is this finely armored soldier who eventually becomes emblematic of the rot at the heart of the Trojan conflict.