Troilus and Cressida (excerpts): The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre

Troilus and Cressida (excerpts): The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre

Original Text

Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (London: Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623), sig. ¶v (p. 592) / STC (2nd ed.) 22273

4Office, and custom, in all line of order.
6In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
7Amidst the other, whose medicinable eye
8Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
9And posts like the commandment of a king,
10Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets
11In evil mixture to disorder wander,
13What raging of the sea, shaking of the earth,
14Commotion in the winds, frights, changes, horrors
16The unity and married calm of states
18Which is the ladder to all high designs,
19The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
21Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
23Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
24But by degree stand in authentic place?
25Take but degree away, untune that string,
26And hark what discord follows: each thing meets
28Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
29And make a sop of all this solid globe.
31And the rude son should strike the father dead.
32Force should be right, or rather, right and wrong,
34Should lose their names, and so should justice, too.
35Then everything includes itself in power,
36Power into will, will into appetite,
37And appetite, an universal wolf,
38So doubly seconded with will and power,
40And, last, eat up himself.


1] Ulysses cannily delivers this address on the breakdown of hierarchy before a council of Greeks in the first act of the play. Back to Line
2] degree: “a stage or position in the scale of dignity or rank” (OED n. 4a) Back to Line
3] insisture: regularity Back to Line
5] Sol: the sun, which in ancient astronomy revolved around the earth like a planet Back to Line
12] portents: signs foreshadowing disaster Back to Line
15] deracinate: tear out by the root Back to Line
17] fixture: condition of stability Back to Line
20] brotherhoods: professional guilds Back to Line
22] primogenitive: referring to the feudal right of a first born child to inherit property or titles Back to Line
27] oppugnancy: antagonism Back to Line
30] imbecility: weakness, debility Back to Line
33] recides: from the Latin “recidere," to fall back, sink, lapse, revert (OED v. 1) Back to Line
39] perforce: by violence Back to Line
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

The play was first published in a quarto of 1609 and revised for the 1623 Folio.

RPO poem Editors
Christopher Matusiak
RPO Edition