In this refashioned version of Homer’s Iliad, the mystical hero Achilles’ clashes with the doubting King Agamemnon over a woman, throwing the fate of the Trojan War, and more, into jeopardy. [Featured image of Sabin Howard’s sculpture “Apollo”.] Click here for the Act I.

By Evan Mantyk

ACT II SCENE I

Achilles and Patroclus sit together in silence. Achilles plucks a string on his lyre, Patroclus looks annoyed. Achilles strums a chord, Patroclus looks even more annoyed. Achilles begins singing, Patroclus covers his ears.

ACHILLES
In the silence of virtue
Walk the great heroes of old,
As for a day that is new
And the stories yet untold,
In their silence is our clue
That shall crown us the most bold.
In the—

PATROCLUS
Enough! How can you sing at a moment like this? Any time now, the Trojans are going to breach the wall, our last defense. Then what Great Achilles!?

ACHILLES
You know, I haven’t quite got the rest of the song figured out yet.

PATROCLUS
Ah, it’s useless. You know your men look at you like you’re mad.

ACHILLES
Shall it be a song about Hercules or perhaps Perseus, who slew the hideous Medusa?

PATROCLUS
What am I saying, you are mad.

Achilles starts to play again only to be interrupted

PATROCLUS
—Tell me this then. What exactly do you wait for? Will a god come and tell you when it is finally time to pick your spear back up and fight?

ACHILLES
No, it doesn’t quite work like that.

PATROCLUS
Oh, it doesn’t.

ACHILLES
I’ll know the time.

PATROCLUS
How will you know?

ACHILLES
In my heart, I will know.

PATROCLUS
In your heart you will know? Look around. What about your men, what about me? If we feel in our hearts that now is the time for battle and that we must fight now, then what? Shall we ignore our hearts?

[Off stage, someone yells: “They have breached the wall! Every man, fight to the death!”]

ACHILLES
No. No, I think not.

They must fight, you are right, it is fated as well. Patroclus, old friend, I am sorry we haven’t agreed on this.

PATROCLUS
No need to apologize, you have returned to your senses. I shall fetch your armor and spear at once.

ACHILLES
No need to fetch my armor.

PATROCLUS
What?

ACHILLES
Just put it on. You shall lead my men. You are a better warrior than you think, Patroclus. That’s why Agamemnon selected you as his aide. In combat, I would say your skills equal mine.

PATROCLUS
This is not quite what I expected.

ACHILLES
One thing though, before you go: Just push them back, don’t try to take on Hector.

PATROCLUS
I suppose the Gods that swim about in your head favor him.

ACHILLES
They do.

PATROCLUS
Very well.

Every man who is numbered among the troops of Achilles prepare yourself for battle! Tonight the Trojans sleep in blood or frightened behind their shaking walls!

Patroclus exits

ACHILLES
Mother Thetis, hear me now. This is very important.

Thetis enters

I must ask you to implore the King of the Gods, Zeus, to look over Patroclus and protect him while I wait for the perfect moment for my return. There is true greatness within him equal to my own I feel.

THETIS
As you wish my son,
Your will shall be completed.

ACHILLES
Thank you.

 

ACT II SCENE II

Patroclus looks at the troops in battle in the distance. Agamemnon and Nestor enter.

AGAMEMNON
Brave Patroclus, you and Achilles’ troops have done it!

PATROCLUS
My Lord.

AGAMEMNON
You have brought us back from the brink of disaster. I am curious, what Trojan warrior’s blood stains your sword now?

PATROCLUS
Sarpedon.

NESTOR
The greatest of the Lycian spearmen! Well done! They say he was a child of Zeus himself.

PATROCLUS
Whoever he was, he was nothing before the Achaeans.

AGAMEMNON
Well said.

PATROCLUS
Are you better, my Lord?

AGAMEMNON
Mostly.

PATROCLUS

I hope you know, my Lord, it sickened me to sit out of battle for so long.

AGAMEMNON
Don’t be silly, you had the cursed plague.

PATROCLUS
Even when I could hold a sword, I had to sit back, indebted to that madman.

NESTOR
Well, he is mad and he is a man but I’m not sure he is a madman, Patroclus.

AGAMEMNON
Yes, Achilles, the Half-Odd indeed. At least he had the presence of mind to let you lead his mighty troops.

NESTOR
Not a moment too soon.

PATROCLUS
He speaks a kind of nonsense that sounds believable, but is utterly self-serving and deluded.

AGAMEMNON
When this war is over, you shall get his share of the riches, no doubt. I think that only fitting. Don’t you agree Wise Nestor?

NESTOR
Yes, I suppose that is fair. But, Patroclus, tell us first, does Hector still stand?

PATROCLUS
He does.

NESTOR
Then I think any talk of celebration and victory is premature.

AGAMEMNON
The mightiest son of King Priam still terrorizes our ranks does he?

PATROCLUS
Most vigorously. We beat them back, but as we get closer and closer to Troy it becomes more and more impossible to budge them while he moves about like a wild horse, encouraging his men and slaughtering ours.

AGAMEMNON
I was afraid of this. I had hoped he would have been picked off by a stray arrow or spear by now. But the odds would not have it.

NESTOR
Neither would the Gods.

PATROCLUS
What?

AGAMEMNON
Never mind. Listen, Brave Patroclus, all we can do now is press on with all our strength. I shall ride to the front with you to encourage the troops. If the Trojans really do return on the offensive, we shall not let them get as close as they did last time and when night falls, we will slip away on my boat and return home from this damned war. Let that be a secret between the three of us.

NESTOR
My Lord, do not let Odysseus here talk of return without victory.

PATROCLUS
I don’t think it shall come to that, Nestor. I’ll kill Hector myself.

AGAMEMNON
Will you?

[from off stage comes a voice: “Hector comes, everyone run!”]

PATROCLUS
I will, my Lord.

 

ACT II SCENE III

Patroclus and Hector approach each other swords drawn on the battlefield, Apollo observes them from Heaven

PATROCLUS
Hector, slayer of Achaeans!

HECTOR
Who is that? Achilles? Ah, Patroclus. You wear Great Achilles’ armor, we’ll see if you fight as well as him!

PATROCLUS
We’ll see how your mangled body looks when it’s being eaten by dogs!

HECTOR
Did you say that to Sarpedon before you slaughtered him this morning? Ah, but you were foiled in your dog feeding when we safely retrieved his godlike body.

PATROCLUS
You read my mind, Hector.

Patroclus and Hector engage in swordplay. Patroclus beats back Hector.

APOLLO
What terrible bloody wretches are men,
Sometimes I like them, then I think again,
They beat, stab, and—worst of all—bludgeon
So you can’t see their beauty a smidgeon.
They madly desecrate that beauteous form
That to Gods’ features does finely conform.
But, it’s true, I do love that walled city Troy
Nowhere else is there such a supreme toy.
Nowhere else is there such earthly beauty
And do people grab at it with such pageantry,
With conflicts of the mind and epic wars
Great anguish and sweet triumph in scores
Refining and pushing them ever higher
Like the most majestic of all spires.

HECTOR
Aaargh! For Troy!

PATROCLUS
For what?

Hector beats back Patroclus.

HECTOR
For all the beauty that Troy holds, I will destroy you. I do not know whether the Gods have chosen me or not, but I would gladly die protecting Troy. And if I succeed, the armor of Achilles shall be mine, but your body shall go back to Achaeans’ unharmed. I swear it. I am not an animal like you, Patroclus.

Then, Patroclus beats back Hector and knocks his sword out of his hand. Patroclus prepares to finish Hector off.

PATROCLUS
Is that what you tell yourself, you miserable woman, obsessed with beauty. All of Troy’s beauty is nothing before the Achaeans’ strength. As for who the Gods favor, I don’t give a damn what a God want!

Just as Patroclus is about to finish Hector off, the two go into tableau

APOLLO
“I don’t give a damn what the Gods want…”
Great Gods in Olympus! Do you not hear this?!
At such a crucial moment, what’s gone amiss?
This mere mortal would challenge all the Gods,
Should we not intervene with a divine prod?
Anyone who objects, raise your godly voice,
Otherwise, I clearly have no other choice.

Apollo draws an arrow and cocks it.

APOLLO
Let it be done.

Apollo fires and Patroclus sinks, releasing both mortals from tableau

HECTOR
Good shot Euphorbos!

Hector picks up his sword and stabs Patroclus.

HECTOR
There. Got him.

 

ACT II SCENE IV

Troy. Hector kneels before the statue of Apollo

HECTOR
Apollo, Great Sun God and Son of Zeus, thank you for delivering victory to me against the Achaeans and Patroclus. I am forever indebted to you.

APOLLO
Tell me not of all your praise,
Tell me upon what I gaze.

HECTOR
Thank you for this armor, the finest ever crafted, the armor of Achilles. I removed it from Patroclus’ dead body before I had him returned to Achaeans. I think it shall please you.

APOLLO
Achilles?
Most of the Gods favor that man,
On his behalf they make plans,
Cursed is he who from him steals
The sword’s point no doubt he’ll feel.

Hector finishes speaking to Apollo. Sits down and relaxes. Starts itching himself, takes a drink of water. Continues itching.

HECTOR
I got to get this off.

ACT II SCENE V
Achilles’ camp. In tears, Achilles kneels before the corpse of Patroclus.

ACHILLES
What terrible fate is this? And what a stupid, miserable man am I? I should have rejoined the battle when they breached our wall. I should have been there with him. I should have guided him.

Thetis enters

THETIS
Weep no more, my son.

ACHILLES
Mother, did I not ask you to have Zeus protect him. And did you not answer: “As you wish my son, your will shall be completed.”

THETIS
No. That was but your imagination,
Creating in your mind that false sensation.
To ask us to grant specific requests.
And reverse what the Fates think is the best,
Is an insult to the Gods, you know that,
We are the parents and you the spoiled brats,
If he lacks virtue, nothing can be done
And by him no war will ever be won.

ACHILLES
Then what is any of this? Am I talking to myself, have I truly gone mad as Patroclus said?

I shall block have to you out. It is too painful to believe.

Thetis exits

ACHILLES
Imagination and sensation, I need them not… All I know now is mortal blood and death.

Epeigeus and Bathycles, wake up! Prepare my chariot and my father’s enormous spear, I cannot sleep or eat until I taste unbridled war.

 

ACT II SCENE VI

Agamemnon stands looking out at the battlefield, Nestor enters.

NESTOR
My Lord, I come with urgent news.

AGAMEMNON
Do you?

NESTOR
Yes … I do.

AGAMEMNON
The most amazing thing, I just witnessed it, I was part of it.

NESTOR
What is it, my Lord?

AGAMEMNON
I led a contingent of men, maybe fifty. We discovered a long encampment of Trojans along the Xanthus River. We worked our way along the river, killing swiftly, using the higher ground to circle around and ambush them. We must have killed hundreds, maybe thousands, many more than we lost. Their bodies filled the river with dark blood.

NESTOR
A brilliant strategy, my Lord.

AGAMEMNON
Indeed. The flow of the Xanthus worked to our advantage, carrying the blood downstream, while we worked our way up stream, so they had no indication of what was about to happen. Eventually, we split the contingent. I led men up the shallow Xanthus itself, so that the Trojans had nowhere to run. But then, the most peculiar thing happened.

NESTOR
What?

AGAMEMNON
A rock slide. Terrible confusion. We were cut off in the middle of the Xanthus, as the waters began to quickly rise.

NESTOR
Disastrous!

AGAMEMNON
Indeed. We struggled not to lose our balance and keep our heads above the water. I was certain that your king had seen his last day in this war. And then something even stranger happened.

NESTOR
What could it possibly be, my Lord?

AGAMEMNON
Then a single bolt of lightning struck a tree upon the opposite bank, from where we had come, and immediately a fire seemed to spring up, spreading flames upon the dried grass and trees. Meanwhile, we somehow managed to wade through the rising river to the other bank and stared aghast at the scene. And then the strangest thing of all happened.

NESTOR
Whatever it is my Lord, the Gods must be behind this.

AGAMEMNON
Indeed. For a moment, I perceived that everything was alive: the river, the earth, the sky, and they were no more mindless than I am or you are. And the River Xanthus, that feeds and loves Troy, had grown intolerably angry at us. But another force, led by that righteous Queen of the Gods Hera, who has favored me since I was a boy, had grown enraged that the king of the Achaeans, such a noble people, might be so destroyed by Xanthus and so she engulfed the opposite bank in flames of protest.

Granted I did not see their godly faces or speak with them, but I felt their presence more fully than that of any of the men beside me or any men in my puny life.

NESTOR
Truly magnificent.

AGAMEMNON
Indeed … did you say you had some news or other?

NESTOR
Yes, that’s right. My Lord, Patroclus is slain.

AGAMAMNON
Tragedy.

NESTOR
Indeed, but now Achilles is enraged. He prepares for the battle now and needs you to re-organize the troops with him tonight in preparation for tomorrow’s offensive.

AGAMEMNON
The Gods smile upon us, do they not?

NESTOR
I suppose they do, my Lord.

 

ACT II SCENE VII

Achilles camp. Achilles looks agitated, ready for battle. Agamemnon and Nestor enter. Achilles kneels before Agamemnon and rises.

ACHILLES
My king!

AGAMEMNON
Mighty Achilles!

ACHILLES
I beg your forgiveness. Such madness all over a woman. Truly stupid. Surely, it would have been better if a stray arrow had taken her life before I ever met her.

AGAMEMNON
You are forgiven of course. You know, the story goes that Ate, the mettlesome daughter of Zeus, once tricked him into taking away the privileges he had meant for his son Hercules and giving them to Eurystheus, so that Zeus accidentally made Eurystheus king and enslaved his dear son, the Mighty Hercules, to him. Zeus took Ate by the hair in his rage and flung her down to the hard earth below.

Now, they say that that Goddess of mischief Ate walks, not upon earth but upon men’s heads, as she did to Zeus himself, blinding us in our own folly so completely that we undo what we most cherish.

ACHILLES
I have never heard you speak more truly, my Lord.

AGAMEMNON
Ha! I’ll take that as a compliment.

Now, Nestor, quickly summon the five strongest men we have to carry from my encampment all of the gifts that I had promised Achilles, including the Fair-Skinned Briseis, and bring it to his hut at once. We’ll hold a feast and then tomorrow: war!

ACHILLES
Wait, Nestor. My Lord, this is unnecessary. Forget the gifts. I beg you, we should not wait. Let us ready the troops and go to battle at once.

NESTOR
They have already been battling, Achilles. The troops will need to eat and rest.

ACHILLES
Must they?

AGAMEMNON
They must.

ACHILLES
The troops may eat but I can not, for I am deeply disturbed. Neither can I accept gifts until I’ve gone to battle.

AGAMEMNON
Oh don’t worry, there will be time for battle.

ACHILLES
My Lord, I feel that some divine arrangements that guide all the world have been disrupted by my arrogance and pride and now I must put them right before I can rest.

AGAMEMNON
You mean revenge of course.

ACHILLES
No, it is different than that.

NESTOR
–No, that would make sense, wouldn’t it?

ACHILLES
A sense of neglected responsibility more than anything else. For as sure as Patroclus lays dead in my hut, I shall be dead before this war is over. But, before that happens, my mission upon this earth must be completed.

AGAMEMNON
Very well, Achilles, whatever you like. It shall be yours, and more. Nestor, postpone the gifts until after we tear down Troy’s walls. We shall have revenge for Patroclus and Achilles shall taste war after his long fast.

Come with me Achilles, together, we’ll rouse the troops into battle. Nothing can stop us now.

ACHILLES
Yes, my Lord.

 

ACT II SCENE VIII

Hector and Achilles meet upon the battlefield. They approach each other for combat. Thetis and Apollo watch from the Heavens.

ACHILLES
Son of Priam.

HECTOR
Son of Peleus.

You know, if you lose the Achaeans are finished.

ACHILLES
And if you lose the Trojans are finished.

HECTOR
Maybe not. They’ll still have Troy’s high walls to protect them.

Their swords clash.

ACHILLES
Can you feel the Gods’ eyes peering down upon us?

HECTOR
Yes. Though, I know they favor you.

ACHILLES
Not Apollo. He likes you, just as he likes Troy. He would have shot me with an arrow by now if other Gods weren’t watching him closely.

Achilles and Hector go into Tableau and the Gods speak

APOLLO
You filth!
How can you pretend to know,
Which way my great thoughts do blow?
You know nothing of beauty
Or of that great walled city.

THETIS
What do you want Apollo, son of Zeus?
Achilles is right and you are obtuse,
Paris’s sin is fated for tragedy
And that’s the source of Trojans’ malady,
You can have all the beauty in the land
Cities and women, jewels on your hands,
But without virtue it all means nothing,
It is a gorgeous bird but has no wings.

APOLLO
Silver-Footed Nymph, you sneak up on me
Hiding in a realm that I cannot see,
You can have your own way with these affairs
For the Fates have decided it fairly
That if Achilles indeed kills Hector,
Then, I may haunt him like a bright specter,
One small piece of his body shall be mine,
Be it one ear, heel, or knob on his spine,
And if I can sink one sharp arrow there,
He shall perish and the Fates will find it fair.

THETIS
Then they’ll find it fair too when Achaeans
Cleverly devise some ingenious plan
To penetrate the high walls of Troy,
With some ploy or a convincing decoy,
Finding one small way for them to sneak in
And sack Troy before day even begins.

APOLLO
I have had enough of this bickering
Your twisted tongue is twice sickening.

Apollo exits. The mortals unfreeze from tableau. Their swords clash.

ACHILLES
Tell me, Hector, do you like how my armor fits?

You can have it if you want.

HECTOR
You are nobler and stronger than any mortal Achilles, but I think I may be quicker.

Hector takes off running. Achilles chases him all the way around Troy.

After being chased by Achilles, Hector enters, tired of running, out of breath. Achilles enters, panting from the chase.

ACHILLES
Son … of  … Priam.

HECTOR
Son  … of … … Peleus.

ACHILLES
Wait.

HECTOR
Okay.

Achilles raises his hand and lowers his sword, Hector relaxes as well and both catch their breath.

ACHILLES
Alright, are you ready?

HECTOR
As ready as I’ll ever be.

Achilles’ and Hector’s swords clash. Achilles knocks the sword from Hector and prepares to finish him off, Agamemnon and Nestor arrive.

NESTOR
Well done, Achilles.

AGAMEMNON
We are just in time, the climax of this war, how exciting. Finish him off, Achilles!

HECTOR
Son of Peleus, I beg you, spare my life. Sell me into slavery in a faraway land. My father will give you riches beyond compare in payment.

ACHILLES
Mighty Hector you are too right. Whenever I can, I have always spared the lives of you Trojans and sold them into slavery, having mercy upon you.

AGAMEMNON
Why does he hesitate?

NESTOR
I don’t know.

Mortals, except for Achilles, go into tableau.

ACHILLES
Thetis, Silver Footed Goddess, please come,
For this man humbles me and makes me dumb.
Please speak words of clearest truth to me now,
Why I should kill this prince I do not know?
Such a fine warrior, the best that there is,
To be drowned by my hands in death’s abyss?
Can I disappoint my king and people,
And somehow spare myself from this evil?
So what if I give up my future fame,
And if no one remembers my small name?

THETIS
Your mission on earth is not what you think,
For your soul down to Hades will not sink,
You’ll be reborn in your descendant’s skin,
There’ll be even greater wars you must win,
Your name shall be Alexander the Great,
Far beyond Troy lies your soul’s epic fate,
But you will need the greatest companions
To aid you as your armies’ champions.

ACHILLES
Who then?

THETIS
Hector shall be your greatest warrior
And you’ll be Agamemnon’s superior.
These men come with you into the next life
But first, you must end Achaean’s long strife.
For the Fates and Zeus carefully arranged
A long path for you that cannot be changed
You must walk that path if you’re to succeed
If any mortal does stray then, indeed,
He shall know but chaos, pain, and despair
Trapped in folly’s spacious looking lair.
For there is only forward and backward,
And the epiphany man moves toward.

Thetis exits, the mortals unfreeze from tableau.

AGAMEMNON
What is he looking at? An eagle perhaps? That would be a good omen.

NESTOR
I do not see any, my Lord.

ACHILLES
Dear Hector, you shall always be in my heart. Until we meet again.

HECTOR
Damn you.

Achilles fatally stabs Hector.

AGAMEMNON
Yes!

 

ACT II SCENE VIII
Nestor, Agamemnon, and Achilles make their way back to the Achaeans’ ships.

ACHILLES
My Lord, I request that we have great games tonight, a chariot race, a foot race, archery, wrestling, boxing, perhaps spear throwing. All of the prizes you promised me shall be divided among the winners.

AGAMEMNON
Of course, Great Achilles. They are yours to do what you want with.

ACHILLES
Except for Briseis, she shall be mine.

AGAMEMNON
Yes, you would have some catching up to do I should think.

ACHILLES
I must leave a line of descendents upon the earth.

NESTOR
That’s an interesting way of saying it.

AGAMEMNON
Indeed.

Tell me, Achilles, I have always wanted to know. Does your mother really have feet made of silver?

END OF ACT II

 

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  1. BenGrinberg

    …the literary traditions are being reborn in modern times, becoming reality

    Reply

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