On his way to speak with Paris, Pandarus engages a servant of Paris who, inclined to clownish puns, continuously diverts the meaning of Pandarus’ words so that if Pandarus was to let the servant have his way their dialogue would theoretically go on forever along absurd lines. It isn’t long, therefore, when Pandarus makes his point and is admitted to see Paris who is with Helen. Pandarus has come to ask Paris to make an excuse on behalf of his brother, Troilus, who will not be present at supper. When Paris surmises that Troilus will be absent on account of Cressida, Pandarus obliges Helen’s request to sing them a song which he had been reluctant to do just earlier. The song done, Pandarus receives Paris’ avowal that he will vouch for Troilus’ absence and leaves, all the while denying the insinuation that Troilus will be absent on account of Cressida. Presently, Paris and Helen repair to supper where they will join Priam and all the nobles of Troy.
Pandarus meets with Troilus who has been waiting to be taken to Cressida rather than go to her directly himself. Presently, Troilus waits in a state of near nervous breakdown while Pandarus goes to fetch Cressida. When they are brought together, both are speechless, prompting Pandarus to do most of the talking until Troilus musters the courage to address Cressida. Advising Troilus to show his love by that deeds rather than words, Pandarus leaves the couple to themselves for awhile. By and by, Cressida expresses her doubts about love, about how love proclaimed seldom, if ever, lives up to its proclamation. Troilus argues that his love for Cressida is true. When Pandarus reappears and tells Troilus that his kindred are wooed with difficulty but once wooed are impossible to be gotten rid of, Cressida declares her love for Troilus, stops herself, and then tells Troilus to stop her from talking so rashly, prompting Troilus to kiss her. Ashamed of having inspired the kiss, Cressida tries to leave. She argues that she had only said what she said to see how Troilus will react. Troilus convinces her, however, that his love for Cressida is true to the extent that his name will one day be the literary exemplar of love and faith. This inspires Cressida to proclaim that if she prove false, then let her name be forever associated with that which is wicked and traitorous. And this inspires Pandarus to proclaim to let the powers that be forever associate his name with liaisons who bring lovers together. Presently, Pandarus escorts the lovers to a place of privacy.
Calchas, a Trojan Priest who has defected to the Greeks, request that the Greeks try again to exchange Antenor, a renowned Trojan who is in Greek captivity, for Calchas’ daughter Cressida. Though the Trojans have previously balked at the deal, Calchas assures Agamemnon that Antenor’s worth is such that the Trojans would willingly exchange a Trojan prince for Antenor. Considering that he has become a traitor to his own country so that the Greeks might benefit from his intelligence, Calchas argues that the Greeks owe him at least that much. Agamemnon agrees to have this done and sends Diomedes to bargain with the Trojans.
Presently, under Ulysses advisement, Agamemnon, Nestor, Ajax and, Ulysses make a show of ignoring Achilles as they walk in plain sight before the great warrior. Achilles addresses Ulysses who is reading a book. When asked about the book, Ulysses replies that according to the book reputation can only be had by the current and living acclaim of others. When Achilles agrees to tenor of the assertion and presses Ulysses to elaborate, Ulysses argues that Time has such an effect on peoples’ perceptions that a mediocre deed performed in the present will outshine even a great deed performed in the past. He argues that Ajax, who will confront Hector and most likely suffer defeat, will, nonetheless, hold a greater a place in the minds of the people, as an example of heroism, than Achilles ever will if Achilles fails to answer Hector’s challenge himself. To this Achilles replies that he has his reasons for doing as he is doing. Countering that he and the rest of the Greek nobles know why Achilles is refusing to fight the Trojans as well (Achilles has accepted a Trojan princess in exchange for not fighting), Ulysses takes his leave of Achilles--Achilles who now entertains doubts as to his reputation.
To address his doubts, Achilles has Thersites deliver a message to Ajax who is to invite Hector to come unarmed to Achilles. Thersites doubts, however, that Ajax would even acknowledge Achilles’s message as he so absorbed in his own dreams of glory.