Preparing to deliver a lecture on Homer's Iliad for HUM 1A, I thought it'd be fun to bust out another pseudo-script. This draft covers some of the highlights but leaves much room for future development. Most definitely I hope to tease out some dialogue for Book 24 one day. In the meantime, here's what I've got so far. Warning: This is a high-typo (and an even higher snark) zone!
THE ILIAD – BOOK 1
Chryses: Hiya Greeks! So it looks like you’re about the wipe Troy off the map. Good for you!
Agamemnon: What the hell is a Greek? We’re Achaeans.
Chryses: Yeah, well, folks in the future will call you “Greeks.” It’s a long story – epic, actually.
All: [Blank stare]
Chryses: Anyway, before you sack my city, could you do me a solid and return my daughter Chryseis? I hate to pull rank on you, but I’m a priest of Apollo. And I know he’d really appreciate you showing me some respect.
Agamemnon: Sorry, old man, but I’m rather fond of the wench. She’s simply a whiz around the house, chores and all. And don’t get me started on her skills in the bedroom! I’m sure you understand.
Chryses: [Awkward silence]
Agamemnon: Well maybe you don’t. But trust me: You raised a mighty fine daughter. I think I’ll keep her.
Chryses: Apollo, do you hear that? Those Greeks aren’t satisfied with my ransom, and they’re clearly not afraid of you. What do you think of that?
Apollo: [Humming to self] Let’s see how they like these plague arrows!
Anonymous Greek soldier: [just before death] What the hell?
Achilles: Say, what’s with all the death? We’ve gotten to the gates of Troy, and now Apollo’s turned on us? Hey, Calchas, you’re a seer. What do you see?
Calchas: I’ll tell you. But do me a favor: Don’t let Agamemnon kill the messenger.
Achilles: Agamemnon? Don’t worry about him. He’s a swell fellow. So, anyway, who brought down this plague upon us?
Calchas: Um, Agamemnon.
Agamemnon: I heard that.
Calchas: Well, sire –
Agamemnon: OK, OK, I get it. Maybe I got a little testy, and maybe I shouldn’t have pissed off the old man. But there’s no way I’m gonna give back his daughter, at least not until I get something in return. All you guys have won lots of booty on this mission. And y’all know what kind of booty I mean. But all the sudden, Apollo blows his stack and now I’m the one who has to give something back?
Random Greek 1: Dude, that rhymes!
Agamemnon: Yeah, just wait ‘til I start busting out some similes.
Achilles: Um, I hate to interrupt, but here’s the problem: We’ve all divided up our treasure. And we’re not the ones who sent Chryses packing. So, yeah, you’re gonna have to suck it up this time. But, look: Give up the girl now and we’ll, like, totally make it up to you later, after we’re done sacking Troy. Cool?
Agamemnon: No. Not cool. But we’ll deal with that later. For now, fine, we’ll give up the girl. And we’ll send over a sacrifice to appease Apollo. Nothing calms down an angry god like the gift of dead goats. Later we’ll figure out a way to appease me.
Achilles: Appease you? May I remind you that all of us are just following orders? You think any of us want to be on this gods’ forsaken beach? Look, unless you’ve forgotten, we’re all here because your brother Menelaus just can’t stand how Helen ran out with that Trojan hunk Paris. So here I am, fighting your battles, settling for whatever scraps you see fit to dish out. And now I’m supposed to feel bad because you’re gonna lose some piece of Trojan furniture?
Agamemnon: Yeah, and you’ve developed such a close and caring relationship with your own Trojan prize? What’s her name – Briseis?
Agamemnon: Let’s test that theory, shall we? ‘Cos I’ll be dropping by your tent later on. And Briseis? She’s coming with me! Oh, by the way, I was just wondering: Do you like apples?
Agamemnon: Well, I’m gonna steal your girlfriend. How do you like them apples?
Achilles: Oh, you are so gonna die.
[Suddenly, Athena appears, but is only visible to Achilles.]
Athena: Achilles, dude. Chill!
Achilles: Of course! I mean, you are a god and all.
Athena: Well all right then! [Flies off]
Agamemnon: What are you muttering about?
Achilles: Forget it. Oh, and just wait until you need my sword again. “Oh, Achilles,” you’ll say, “I’m so sorry that I stole Brittney – Bridget…” Well, whatever her name was. Anyway, you’ll be all, “But I need you now. Can you help me out?” And you know what I’ll say? “Get bent.” That’s what I’ll say.
Nestor: Excuse me folks. Now, look, I’m just an old man. Nobody listens to me.
All: [Talking amongst themselves]
Nestor: Quiet! Like I was saying. I’m just an old fool. But I was a great man once. Fought Centaurs back in the day, and those guys were fierce! Back then I could have wiped the beach with both of you. So listen up and knock it off.
Agamemnon: No way! He started it! And there’s no way I’m gonna let this guy make a punk out of me!
Achilles: Oh, I’m sorry. Is that mountain of corpses I built too big for you to handle? Sorry, “king,” if my extra-large sized Trojan victory makes you feel inadequate. So here’s the plan: I’m heading back to my ship. You can take this city without me.
Agamemnon: Take off, you hoser! [Speaking to his remaining armies] Come on, you guys, we got some goats to kill.
[Later, at Achilles’ quarters, two random Greeks arrive to retrieve Briseis]
Random Greek 1 [in Cockney accent]: Um, hi Achilles. Um, me and Random Greek Number 2 couldn’t help but notice the prominence of the word “kill” in your name. And, um –
Achilles: Fear not, friend! I’m pissed, but not so crazed that I’ll spray my anger over you poor saps. [Turning to the back room] Hey Patroclus, bring that pretty young thing in here. Uh, Brandy… Becky… You know, whichever one Agamemnon wants.
Random Greek 2 [in Cockney accent]: Say, that Achilles guy isn’t so enraged after all. Gonna be short, this dust-up is.
[Later, Achilles stands on the beach, shaking his fist against the clouds.]
Achilles: Mom! Mom! What’s the deal? I’ve got a god for a dad and whatever the hell you are for a mother. Like, seriously, are you a demi-god, a semi-god, or what? Anyway, for all the glory I should get being as a son of Zeus, you let that loser Agamemnon steal my girl? What gives? So, look, you need to talk to dad. He owes you a favor, right? So get him to back me up. Get him to help the Trojans kick a little Greek butt. Not a lot, you understand, just enough to remind Agamemnon how much he needs me!
Thetis: Yeah, that sounds reasonable enough. Zeus is on a road-trip, but I’ll be sure to chat with him when he’s back on Olympus.
Apollo: What does my godly sniffer detect? Why those crazy mortals are throwing a barbeque!
Chryses: Yeah, and in your honor! The Greeks backed down. Your plague did the trick! So naturally they’re now slaughtering boatloads of livestock and eating their guts on the beach. No health risks there!
[Twelve days later…]
Thetis: Hey Zeus, welcome back! So, about my son Achilles: I know he’s Greek and all, but he wants us to swing the war over to Troy. Just for a while. Can you do that for me?
Zeus: Wow, you don’t know what you’re stirring up. For you see, my wife, she has been most vocal on the subject of the Greeks: “Are you helping the Greeks? When are you going to help the Greeks? Why aren’t you helping the Greeks now?” And so on. So by helping the Trojans, I’m just asking for trouble at home. Man, I could use some Ambrosia right now.
Thetis: You owe me, old man. Let me remind you of the time when –
Zeus: Forget it! This poem is long enough. Achilles gets his wish. And, who knows, maybe Hera won’t find out.
Hera: I heard that!
Zeus: Hera, my sweet! We were just talking about you! About how we never keep secrets – [dramatic pause] and how you should mind your own business!
Hephaestus: Mom. Seriously. You don’t want to tangle with Zeus. You know what he’s like without his nectar.
Hera: Good point, kiddo. You may not be as handsome as Thetis’ bratty kid, but you make much more sense. Now go serve your father some ambrosia. Fill everyone’s goblets, actually. But leave plenty for me. I need a drink.
THE ILIAD – BOOKS 2 THROUGH 5
The Greeks and Trojans gird for war. Seeking glory (and no doubt trying to impress his brother Hector), Paris offers to represent the Trojan side in single combat with Menelaus; to the victor goes Helen. Menelaus agrees and quickly overwhelms his hapless foe. At the last minute, though, Aphrodite whisks Paris to safety. Shocked at the display, soldiers on both sides plunge into battle. At first the Trojans seize the advantage, but the Greeks soon regroup. The gods, being gods, meddle and fight among themselves, but it appears that Troy is about to fall.
THE ILIAD – BOOK 6
Menelaus: Come on, boys! Let’s mop the beach with these Trojans.
Agamemnon: And take no prisoners!
Nestor: Or weapons from the ground. We’re here to kill, not to collect baubles. Just like the old days! In fact, did I ever tell y’all about that time I killed a Centaur?
Menelaus [Rolls eyes]
Diomedes: Say, who’s that dude charging across the no man’s land? Must be some sort of god.
Glaucus: Nope, just a man. Just like you. But if you’re curious, I’ll tell you my story.
Diomedes: Sure, I’ve got a few minutes – to kill.
Glaucus: Uh huh. So anyway my story begins many years ago in Argos, when a wicked king decided to kill my grandfather. He didn’t want to murder him outright, so he sent him off to Lycia, along with a secret message that would instruct the king there to do the deed.
Glaucus: No, “deed.” Oh, I get it. Anyway, the king of Lycia gets the message and decides to kill his guest by subjecting him to a series of impossible tests: slaying monsters, battling amazons, stuff like that. But my grandfather overcomes every challenge. He’s so brave, the king of Lysia asks him to marry his daughter. So they hook up and start popping out kids. One of ‘em turns out to be my father. So you see, I’m royalty!
Diomedes: You know what else that means? That means we’re battle buddies! See, my grandfather once hosted your grandfather during his travels. And they exchanged presents. Heck, my dad passed some of your grandfather’s trinkets down to me. So there’s no way I’m gonna kill you. Oh sure, I’ll continue to spear every Trojan I see. And you can slaughter any Greek you find. But you and I are brothers under the skin. In fact, to celebrate our newfound friendship, I say we switch armor.
Glaucus: Right here, in the middle of the battle?
Diomedes: Sure, why not? Here’s my gorgeous set of bronze.
Glaucus: And here’s my lovely set of gold, and – hey!
Diomedes: Thanks buddy!
[Meanwhile, Hector has departed the battle to see his mother Hecuba…]
Hecuba: Back from the battle so soon? Well, drink some wine and refresh yourself.
Hector: Can’t. I’m only here long enough to warn you: We’re pretty much beaten. You’d better start praying to Athena to save our city. Me, I’m gonna have a word with Paris.
Paris: Oh, hi Hector! Back from the battle so soon?
Hector: Not that you’d know.
Paris: You’re right, and I feel really guilty about that.
Hector: What’s worse, this entire thing is your fault. You just had to steal that harlot Helen away from Sparta, because her face is so beautiful. Well, that face has launched a thousand ships, bucko, and those ships are filled with men beating down our doors!
Paris: I know. I’m such a jerk. That’s why I’ve been waiting here, wallowing in my shame and having sex with Helen. I figured, the longer I stay, the more embarrassed I’d get. That way I’d be even better in battle later on. Right?
Hector [Stunned silence]
Paris: So you run off now, back to the war. I’ll just get this armor on and come after you!
Helen: [Whispered to Achilles] I know. What a butthead.
[Hector departs in search of his wife and son, finding them atop the city gates.]
Andromache: Oh, lucky us. The valiant warrior returns to see his family.
Hector: Well, just for a minute.
Andromache: Oh, we’re so honored: Your wife and son, whom you’ve abandoned to die here in Troy. Do you think Achilles will spare women and children after he’s butchered every soldier he sees? It’s time you admit the battle is lost. Gather some forces and defend our walls!
Hector: While other Trojans die on the battlefield in glory? No way. Fact is, we’re gonna lose. And that means that some Greek’s gonna drag you off, a slave, to some foreign land. Not much we can do about that. Better that I die in honor than watch you suffer. A better example for our son too. By the way, how is the little nipper anyway? How ya doing Astyanax?
Astyanax [Wails in terror]
Hector: [Removes his helmet] Oh, sorry about that. See? It’s me! Don’t be scared, son. We’re all pretty much gonna die, but maybe Zeus will save you. In the meantime, Andromache, let’s get back to business. You and the other women tend to your looms, or whatever you do to pass the time, and we men will get back to hacking our enemies into tiny bits. It’s fate, wife, that we do what we can and die how we must. No point in running away.
Andromache: Thanks, husband. I feel better already.
THE ILIAD – BOOKS 7 AND 8
The war rages on, with Greeks and Trojans enjoying brief periods of advantage. Each time one side appears ready to claim victory, gods of the opposing side meddle with the outcome. The battles are bloody, with no end in sight. At last the Trojans mount a decisive attack, pushing the Greeks back to the sea. Without the hero Achilles, all may be lost.
THE ILIAD – BOOK 9
Agamemnon: Men, the official military term for our situation is “screwed.” As in, “We are really screwed.” Although “hosed” is also correct. As in, “We are royally hosed.” Might as well head home.
Diomedes: Then leave, ol King Coward! We don’t need Achilles and we don’t need you.
Nestor: Now Diomedes, Agamemnon needs wisdom, not insults. Fortunately I’m an old man. Perhaps I haven’t mentioned that before. I’m old, but I’m also wise. So here’s some wisdom for our king: Dude, we need Achilles.
Agamemnon [Stares in befuddlement]
Nestor: That’s pretty much it. You stole his prize, and now Achilles sits on the beach, biding his time we smash ourselves against the walls of Troy. And how’s that working out for you, Agamemnon? Now’s the time to show some humility: Return the girl and he’ll give in.
Agamemnon: Yeah, well, when you’re right, old man, you’re right. I’ll give in. I’ll give him a king’s ransom of horses and caldrons and gold, and girls, lots of girls. And of course I’ll give him Briseis. Then if we ever get out of this place alive, I’ll give him cities and more treasure and – what the hell – one of my daughters. His choice. And I’ll pay him to take her. Oh, and cattle. I’ll give him some cattle too. As long as he submits to my command, I will rain gold upon his head. Lots of gold. His showers will be –
Nestor: Yes, that’s the spirit! Now then, Phoenix, Ajax, and Odysseus: Bring the message and return our champion!
[Later, in his quarters, Achilles is playing the lyre.]
Patroclus: Yes, by all means, sing another song about your courage in battle.
Odysseus: Hi Achilles! We just thought we’d drop by and –
Achilles: Share a meal? Outstanding! I’ve missed you guys!
Odysseus: We’ve missed you too. In fact, we’re missing you especially now. Zeus seems determined to help the Trojans win this war. And Hector is just laying waste to our troops. And why? Because you’re too busy battling Agamemnon when you should be leading the fight against our common foe! Now the king has given in, and he promises to shower you in, well, riches. All you gotta do is lend a hand. Better yet, even if you don’t care about the king’s trinkets, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you stood with your brothers when they needed you most. Best of all, you get to fight Hector for us! So there’s glory too.
Achilles: Yeah, glory… for Agamemnon. This “king” feasts while we fight. And now that his back is against the sea, he sees fit to drop a few more crumbs from his table. Well, “no more Jello for me, ma!” I’ve got plenty of wealth and women back home. I need none of his trifles. So I’m heading home tomorrow. After all, if I choose to fight, I’ll die here. My mother told me that. I’ll die – oh, with glory, of course – but I’ll be dead all the same. If I leave, though, I’ll live a long life. Less glory, perhaps. But I’ll live long enough to get over the guilt. So I’m bugging out – and you should too.
Phoenix: That’s your plan? You’ll scuttle off, leaving us to die on this beach? Look, boy: I know a thing or two about anger. When I was a young man, I slept with my dad’s mistress. It was my mother’s idea. Anyway, I did the deed, and boy was my father pissed. So much that he called down a curse so I could never have kids of my own. I wanted to kill the old man, but instead I fled and found lodging. Oh, and do you remember who let me in his home?
Achilles: My father.
Phoenix: Your father. So what’d I do?
Achilles: You babysat me.
Phoenix: I babysat you! And I cared for you, and then I trained you, so you could be half the man my own son would have been. And this is how you repay me? You can’t be this stubborn, kid. Even the gods change their minds from time to time, like when we pray to them. They change, and so should you. And quickly too. Wait too long, and no one will forgive you, even if you win!
Achilles: Great. Odysseus tries to trick me with his wiles and now you try to melt my heart with this sob story. Give it up, old man. Stay here tonight, for old times sake. Then tomorrow you can depart with me, or stay, for all I care. But I’m outta here.
Ajax: Well, I’ve got to admire your persistence. We offer you women and you refuse us. We beg for your help and you refuse us. Back home, even those who suffer the most grievous losses learn to forgive those who harmed them. But no, not you, Mr. I’m-too-stubborn-to-give-in. So you’ll sail and we’ll burn.
Achilles: Pretty much. If Hector charges my own ship, I’ll fight back. But otherwise, I sail with the tide.
[Later, back at Agamemnon’s camp…]
Agamemnon: So, Achilles is on his way, right? Just needs a few more minutes to sharpen his spear, right? No doubt, Patroclus can help him with that.
Odysseus: Oh yeah, he’s sharpening up spears and mixing up potions and slaughtering oxen to prepare for battle. He just can’t wait to lead the charge against Hector... Of course he said no! He’s just as enraged as ever!
Diomedes: What’d I tell you? Achilles will never relent, or he will. Who knows? Either way, we fight tomorrow. And this time, Agamemnon, you lead the charge!
THE ILIAD – BOOKS 10 THROUGH 17
The Greeks are desperate. Diomedes and Odysseus enter Troy as spies and manage to raise havoc, but they cannot stop Hector from leading a successful assault against their fortifications. Satisfied with the Trojans’ success, Zeus departs the scene, unaware that Poseidon plans to turn the tide back toward the Greeks. Seeing this, Apollo appears on the battlefield to inspire a Trojan counterattack. At this point Patroclus dons Achilles’ armor and helps push the Trojans back once more. The city is now surely doomed, if not for Apollo’s choice to injure Patroclus in the midst of battle. Buoyed by this divine assistance, Hector quickly dispatches the young man and steals the armor that once belonged to Achilles.
THE ILIAD – BOOK 18
Thetis: Achilles, my son, remember how you prayed for Zeus to help the Trojans beat the Greeks?
Achilles: Yes, mother, and I know what you’re going to say next.
Thetis: So, you’re feeling a bit miffed that the Trojans managed to kill one particular Greek, huh?
Achilles: Yes, mother.
Thetis: Not such a well thought-out plan, huh?
Achilles: No, mother.
Achilles: Well, I might as well die then. No point in me sticking around.
Thetis: Ah, yes. More of that bronze-clad logic.
Achilles: But first I’m gonna slay Hector. I may have lost a battle of wits with Agamemnon, but there’s no way I’ll lose a fight against that Trojan who killed my friend.
Thetis: Well, you’re gonna need a spare set of armor.
Achilles: Oh yeah…
Thetis: Yeah… Fortunately ol’ Hephaestus owes me a favor. I’ll fly up to Olympus and fetch you something special.
[Once Thetis departs, Iris (messenger of the gods) warns Achilles that the Trojans will defile the body of Patroclus.]
Iris: Yo, they’re gonna put his head on a stake.
Achilles: Yeah, well maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’m wearing no armor.
Iris: You don’t need armor. We’ll scare the Trojans with sound effects. Just yell really loud and I’ll pump up the volume.
Achilles: Um, OK. Uh, Arrrgh!
Random Trojan 1: What the hell?
Random Trojan 2: Dude, what’s that stuff leaking from your armor?
Random Trojan 1: Um, dinner.
Random Trojan 2: Hmm... I just had a great idea. Let’s fight Achilles from behind our gates.
Random Trojan 1: You know? That is a great idea!
Random Trojan 2: Well, you helped me think of it.
Hector: Shut up, you wimps. No one’s going behind the gates. We’re gonna fight that damned Greek, and we’re gonna win. And if we die…
[Across the battlefield, Achilles is speaking to his troops at the same time.]
Achilles: … We’ll die with honor! Every one of you sailed here to hurl your bodies against these Trojan walls. Well, so did Patroclus. He fought like a lion and croaked on this bloody beach….
[Hector and Achilles finish their orations simultaneously.]
Hector: …And you can expect no less from me.
Random Trojan 1: Well, that’s sort of a battle plan.
Random Trojan 2: Shut up and change your armor.
[Meanwhile Charis, wife of Hephaestus, greets an unexpected visitor.]
Charis: Oh, how nice. We have a guest. And, look, she’s come to ask a favor!
Thetis: Well, yes, actually. You see, my son has gone and lost his armor, and I was hoping –
Charis: So nice indeed to have another lady friend drop by. Of course, my husband has invented many lady friends here, all made of gold and built to follow his every command.
Thetis: And it is precisely that talent I need. You see –
Charis: It’s amazing, when you think about it, the artistry with which my husband devotes himself to building these clever fembots. So clever and so beautiful. It’s almost as if –
Hephaestus: Thetis, my friend – my platonic friend. So glad you came to visit! I understand that you need some armor for your son. And of course I’m happy to oblige.
THE ILIAD – BOOKS 19 to 21
Having received a powerful shield that depicts the pleasures and pains of mankind within a broader cosmic context, Achilles makes amends with Agamemnon. He will enter the war to avenge the death of Patroclus. The gods pledge to stay out of the conflict, but they meddle anyway. Still, protected by the shield of Hephaestus, Achilles mounts a savage assault upon the Trojans. Those few that survive cower behind the gates, leaving Hector to stand his ground on the battlefield. Achilles and Hector have accepted their fates; both expect to die. For honor and glory, they will fight one last time.
THE ILIAD – BOOK 22
Priam: Hector, son, screw this honor and glory crap. We’ve lost too many Trojans to stand on ceremony. Come in, boy. We’ll launch a hail of arrows at those Greeks from the safety of our walls. Failing that, we’ll pay ‘em off and live to fight another day. But you stand your ground and fight them outside these walls and they will take the city for sure. Then the dogs – our dogs – will feed upon my kibbles and bits. Is that what you want for your father? Or your mother?
Hector: So, great, now that all is lost – after I commanded my men to stand and fight – I should flee for the safety of these city walls? Right. Or better yet, I should strip off my armor and go up to Achilles, clad only in good intentions. “Hey Achilles,” I’d say. “We Trojans sure are sorry about stealing Helen and starting this whole war. So how about we quit this fussin’ and a-feudin’ and make peace!” Right. He’d cut me stem to stern, and he’d be right to do it.
Achilles: Sounds like a plan, dude.
[Hector, discovering a reservoir of cowardice he didn’t know he had, proceeds to run for his life. Following swiftly behind, Achilles chases Hector three times around the city. Nearby, the gods mutter to themselves.]
Zeus: This – is getting embarrassing.
Athena: As it must – Those Trojans deserve no better!
Zeus: Well, perhaps you’re right. So if you need to –
[Athena appears next to Hector, pretending to be one of his brothers.]
Athena: Hector – "brother!" – You sure can run fast for someone so determined to stand his ground!
Hector: You’re right, “brother.” You, willing to stand with me in my hour of need, you have given me strength. I will run no more. It’s time to end this once and for all.
Achilles: Oh, you’re ready to fight now?
Hector: Yes, at last. Two will fight and one will die. But before we do, let’s make a pact that the winner will pledge not to mutilate the loser’s body.
Achilles: Promise all you want. Me, I’m here for blood, not for lessons in etiquette and protocol. The dogs of war are howling for blood, and I brought just the can opener to feed ‘em right tonight! Eat spear, Trojan!
[Achilles throws and misses. Hector gains renewed confidence, unaware that Athena has beamed the wayward spear back to Achilles. Hector throws and scores a direct hit – against the shield of Hephaestus. Hector’s spear does no damage.]
Hector: Well, I’m boned. Might as well make one last good stand before I die.
Achilles: Excellent strategy, Hector, especially since you’re wearing my armor. So, did you ever have a chance to give it a proper inspection? Did you ever notice that empty space above the shoulder? No? Well I did!
[Achilles spears Hector]
Hector: OK, so I’m gonna die, which is fine. But may I offer one last request that you leave my body in peace?
Achilles: Pieces, Hector. The dogs will rip your body to pieces.
Hector: [releasing his last breath] Hard… core.
THE ILIAD – BOOKS 23 to 24
Achilles joins in games to celebrate the Greeks’ victory and fulfills his promise to desecrate Hector’s body. But each day Apollo repairs the corpse. Eventually the gods send emissaries to end this humiliation. One messenger persuades Priam that he should visit Achilles to ransom the body of his son. The two men meet in Achilles’ tent. Both, having lost loved ones, come to recognize their common humanity through shared suffering. His rage quenched at last, Achilles allows Priam to depart with Hector. Troy’s greatest hero receives an honorable burial.
More Pseudo Scripts