Play: An Iliad for Our Generation (Act II) The Society September 7, 2012 Poetry 1 Comment 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 Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) One Response BenGrinberg November 21, 2012 …the literary traditions are being reborn in modern times, becoming reality Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.