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Antony and Cleopatra


ACT I SCENE II The same. Another room.
[Enter CHARMIAN, IRAS, ALEXAS, and a Soothsayer]
CHARMIAN Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, most any thing Alexas,
almost most absolute Alexas, where’s the soothsayer
that you praised so to the queen? O, that I knew
this husband, which, you say, must charge his horns
with garlands! 5
ALEXAS Soothsayer!
Soothsayer Your will?
CHARMIAN Is this the man? Is’t you, sir, that know things?
Soothsayer In nature’s infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read. 10
ALEXAS Show him your hand.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Bring in the banquet quickly; wine enough
Cleopatra’s health to drink.
CHARMIAN Good sir, give me good fortune.
Soothsayer I make not, but foresee. 15
CHARMIAN Pray, then, foresee me one.
Soothsayer You shall be yet far fairer than you are.
CHARMIAN He means in flesh.
IRAS No, you shall paint when you are old.
CHARMIAN Wrinkles forbid! 20
ALEXAS Vex not his prescience; be attentive.
Soothsayer You shall be more beloving than beloved.
CHARMIAN I had rather heat my liver with drinking.
ALEXAS Nay, hear him. 25
CHARMIAN Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married
to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all:
let me have a child at fifty, to whom Herod of Jewry
may do homage: find me to marry me with Octavius
Caesar, and companion me with my mistress. 30
Soothsayer You shall outlive the lady whom you serve.
CHARMIAN O excellent! I love long life better than figs.
Soothsayer You have seen and proved a fairer former fortune
Than that which is to approach.
CHARMIAN Then belike my children shall have no names: 35
prithee, how many boys and wenches must I have?
Soothsayer If every of your wishes had a womb.
And fertile every wish, a million.
CHARMIAN Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch.
ALEXAS You think none but your sheets are privy to your wishes. 40
CHARMIAN Nay, come, tell Iras hers.
ALEXAS We’ll know all our fortunes.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Mine, and most of our fortunes, to-night, shall
be–drunk to bed.
IRAS There’s a palm presages chastity, if nothing else. 45
CHARMIAN E’en as the o’erflowing Nilus presageth famine.
IRAS Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.
CHARMIAN Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful
prognostication, I cannot scratch mine ear. Prithee,
tell her but a worky-day fortune. 50
Soothsayer Your fortunes are alike.
IRAS But how, but how? give me particulars.
Soothsayer I have said.
IRAS Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?
CHARMIAN Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than 55
I, where would you choose it?
IRAS Not in my husband’s nose.
CHARMIAN Our worser thoughts heavens mend! Alexas,–come,
his fortune, his fortune! O, let him marry a woman
that cannot go, sweet Isis, I beseech thee! and let 60
her die too, and give him a worse! and let worst
follow worse, till the worst of all follow him
laughing to his grave, fifty-fold a cuckold! Good
Isis, hear me this prayer, though thou deny me a
matter of more weight; good Isis, I beseech thee! 65
IRAS Amen. Dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people!
for, as it is a heartbreaking to see a handsome man
loose-wived, so it is a deadly sorrow to behold a
foul knave uncuckolded: therefore, dear Isis, keep
decorum, and fortune him accordingly! 70
ALEXAS Lo, now, if it lay in their hands to make me a
cuckold, they would make themselves whores, but
they’ld do’t!
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Hush! here comes Antony. 75
CHARMIAN Not he; the queen.
CLEOPATRA Saw you my lord?
CLEOPATRA Was he not here?
CHARMIAN No, madam. 80
CLEOPATRA He was disposed to mirth; but on the sudden
A Roman thought hath struck him. Enobarbus!
CLEOPATRA Seek him, and bring him hither.
Where’s Alexas? 85
ALEXAS Here, at your service. My lord approaches.
CLEOPATRA We will not look upon him: go with us.
[Enter MARK ANTONY with a Messenger and Attendants]
Messenger Fulvia thy wife first came into the field.
MARK ANTONY Against my brother Lucius?
Messenger Ay: 90
But soon that war had end, and the time’s state
Made friends of them, joining their force ‘gainst Caesar;
Whose better issue in the war, from Italy,
Upon the first encounter, drave them.
MARK ANTONY Well, what worst? 95
Messenger The nature of bad news infects the teller.
MARK ANTONY When it concerns the fool or coward. On:
Things that are past are done with me. ‘Tis thus:
Who tells me true, though in his tale lie death,
I hear him as he flatter’d. 100
Messenger Labienus–
This is stiff news–hath, with his Parthian force,
Extended Asia from Euphrates;
His conquering banner shook from Syria
To Lydia and to Ionia; Whilst– 105
MARK ANTONY Antony, thou wouldst say,–
Messenger O, my lord!
MARK ANTONY Speak to me home, mince not the general tongue:
Name Cleopatra as she is call’d in Rome;
Rail thou in Fulvia’s phrase; and taunt my faults 110
With such full licence as both truth and malice
Have power to utter. O, then we bring forth weeds,
When our quick minds lie still; and our ills told us
Is as our earing. Fare thee well awhile.
Messenger At your noble pleasure. 115
MARK ANTONY From Sicyon, ho, the news! Speak there!
First Attendant The man from Sicyon,–is there such an one?
Second Attendant He stays upon your will.
MARK ANTONY Let him appear.
These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, 120
Or lose myself in dotage.
[Enter another Messenger]
What are you?
Second Messenger Fulvia thy wife is dead.
MARK ANTONY Where died she?
Second Messenger In Sicyon: 125
Her length of sickness, with what else more serious
Importeth thee to know, this bears.
[Gives a letter]
MARK ANTONY Forbear me.
[Exit Second Messenger]
There’s a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it:
What our contempt doth often hurl from us, 130
We wish it ours again; the present pleasure,
By revolution lowering, does become
The opposite of itself: she’s good, being gone;
The hand could pluck her back that shoved her on.
I must from this enchanting queen break off: 135
Ten thousand harms, more than the ills I know,
My idleness doth hatch. How now! Enobarbus!
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS What’s your pleasure, sir?
MARK ANTONY I must with haste from hence.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Why, then, we kill all our women: 140
we see how mortal an unkindness is to them;
if they suffer our departure, death’s the word.
MARK ANTONY I must be gone.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Under a compelling occasion, let women die; it were
pity to cast them away for nothing; though, between 145
them and a great cause, they should be esteemed
nothing. Cleopatra, catching but the least noise of
this, dies instantly; I have seen her die twenty
times upon far poorer moment: I do think there is
mettle in death, which commits some loving act upon 150
her, she hath such a celerity in dying.
MARK ANTONY She is cunning past man’s thought.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Alack, sir, no; her passions are made of nothing but
the finest part of pure love: we cannot call her
winds and waters sighs and tears; they are greater 155
storms and tempests than almanacs can report: this
cannot be cunning in her; if it be, she makes a
shower of rain as well as Jove.
MARK ANTONY Would I had never seen her.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS O, sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece 160
of work; which not to have been blest withal would
have discredited your travel.
MARK ANTONY Fulvia is dead.
MARK ANTONY Fulvia is dead. 165
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS Why, sir, give the gods a thankful sacrifice. When
it pleaseth their deities to take the wife of a man
from him, it shows to man the tailors of the earth; 170
comforting therein, that when old robes are worn
out, there are members to make new. If there were
no more women but Fulvia, then had you indeed a cut,
and the case to be lamented: this grief is crowned
with consolation; your old smock brings forth a new 175
petticoat: and indeed the tears live in an onion
that should water this sorrow.
MARK ANTONY The business she hath broached in the state
Cannot endure my absence.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS And the business you have broached here cannot be 180
without you; especially that of Cleopatra’s, which
wholly depends on your abode.
MARK ANTONY No more light answers. Let our officers
Have notice what we purpose. I shall break
The cause of our expedience to the queen, 185
And get her leave to part. For not alone
The death of Fulvia, with more urgent touches,
Do strongly speak to us; but the letters too
Of many our contriving friends in Rome
Petition us at home: Sextus Pompeius 190
Hath given the dare to Caesar, and commands
The empire of the sea: our slippery people,
Whose love is never link’d to the deserver
Till his deserts are past, begin to throw
Pompey the Great and all his dignities 195
Upon his son; who, high in name and power,
Higher than both in blood and life, stands up
For the main soldier: whose quality, going on,
The sides o’ the world may danger: much is breeding,
Which, like the courser’s hair, hath yet but life, 200
And not a serpent’s poison. Say, our pleasure,
To such whose place is under us, requires
Our quick remove from hence.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 3

Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Ed. M. Eaton. Boston: Educational Publishing Company.

2. Absolute. Complete, perfect.

21. Prescience. One who knows all things; used here jokingly as a title.

24. Liver. Heart. Liver was often used as the seat of love.

27. Widow. Outlive them.

28. Herod of Jewry. A reference to Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. He is represented in the old mystery plays as a fierce tyrant.

29. Find me. Find out that it may be my destiny.

30. Companion. Make me an equal with.

35. Belike. It is likely I shall have no children to name.

37. Every. Every one.

39. For a witch. If this is the best you can do you will never be burned for a witch.

46. E’en. As little as, etc.

46. Nilus. Nile.

47. Wild. Extravagant.

49. Prognostication. A sign of fruitfulness.

50. Worky-day. Common, ordinary.

58. Come. Come, tell me his fortune.

60. Isis. The Egyptian goddess of the earth and of fertility.

82. Roman. A thought about Rome.

88. Into the field. Took up arms.

92. Time’s state. The state of affairs made friendship necessary.

92. Jointing. Joining.

93. Issue. Fortune, success.

94. Drave. An old form not commonly used by Shakespeare.

100. As. As if.

102. Stiff. Hard to tell.

103. Extended. A legal term meaning to seize upon.

103. Eurphrates. Here accented on the first syllable.

104. Syria, etc. Provinces of Asia Minor.

108. Home. Frankly, without reserve.

113. Quick. Active.

114. Earing. Ploughing. That is, the knowledge of our faults is like ploughing the mind for bringing forth a new and worthy crop instead of weeds.

117. Sicyon. One of the most ancient cities in southern Greece.

118. Stays. Awaits your pleasure.

127. Importeth. It is of importance for you to know.

128. Forbear. Have patience with me.

129. Great Spirit. A noble mind.

130. Contempt. What we fling away with careless contempt.

132. Revolution. What at the moment seems pleasure to us, by the changes of time and events, often becomes pain.

133. Being gone. Though I prized her little when alive, being gone, she seems of value.

134. Could. Could willingly, would.

142. Word. Will be the result.

149. Moment. For far less reason.

150. Mettle. Spirit.

156. Almanacs. The old almanacs used to predict changes in the weather.

158. Jove. The god of thunder.

162. Discredited. That is, made you seem but a poor traveler.

168. Thankful. Sacrifice of thanksgiving.

170. Tailors. It shows the deities as tailors of the earth who, when old robes are worn out, can make him new. So the gods can supply men with a new wife.

175. Smock. Coat.

176. Onion. Mock tears are all you need.

178. Broached. The affairs she has set on foot.

182. Abode. Abiding.

185. Expedience. Expedition.

186. Part. Depart.

187. Touches. Other matters which affect us more strongly.

189. Contriving. Our many friends who are contriving or plotting in our interests.

190. Petition. Petition us to come home.

191. Dare. Declared defiance.

192. Slippery. Fickle, changeable.

194. Deserts are past. The time has gone by for giving him his deserts.

195. Pompey. Invest the son with all the dignities of the father. Pompey was a famous Roman general.

196. Blood. Courage.

198. Main. Chief soldier of the world.

198. Quality. Disposition.

199. Sides. The whole empire of Rome.

200. Coursers. A reference to the old superstition that a horse hair, when put into water, will turn into a snake.

200. But. Only.

201. Say. Give our commands to our subordinates.


How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Antony and Cleopatra. Ed. M. Eaton. Boston: Educational Publishing Company, 1908.