ACT I SCENE IV

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Antony and Cleopatra

Please see the bottom of this page for explanatory notes and resources.

ACT I SCENE IV Rome. Octavius Caesar’s house.
[ Enter OCTAVIUS CAESAR, reading a letter, LEPIDUS, and their Train ]
OCTAVIUS CAESAR You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
It is not Caesar’s natural vice to hate
Our great competitor: from Alexandria
This is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes
The lamps of night in revel; is not more man-like 5
Than Cleopatra; nor the queen of Ptolemy
More womanly than he; hardly gave audience, or
Vouchsafed to think he had partners: you shall find there
A man who is the abstract of all faults
That all men follow. 10
LEPIDUS I must not think there are
Evils enow to darken all his goodness:
His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,
More fiery by night’s blackness; hereditary,
Rather than purchased; what he cannot change, 15
Than what he chooses.
OCTAVIUS CAESAR You are too indulgent. Let us grant, it is not
Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy;
To give a kingdom for a mirth; to sit
And keep the turn of tippling with a slave; 20
To reel the streets at noon, and stand the buffet
With knaves that smell of sweat: say this
becomes him,–
As his composure must be rare indeed
Whom these things cannot blemish,–yet must Antony 25
No way excuse his soils, when we do bear
So great weight in his lightness. If he fill’d
His vacancy with his voluptuousness,
Full surfeits, and the dryness of his bones,
Call on him for’t: but to confound such time, 30
That drums him from his sport, and speaks as loud
As his own state and ours,–’tis to be chid
As we rate boys, who, being mature in knowledge,
Pawn their experience to their present pleasure,
And so rebel to judgment. 35
[Enter a Messenger]
LEPIDUS Here’s more news.
Messenger Thy biddings have been done; and every hour,
Most noble Caesar, shalt thou have report
How ’tis abroad. Pompey is strong at sea;
And it appears he is beloved of those 40
That only have fear’d Caesar: to the ports
The discontents repair, and men’s reports
Give him much wrong’d.
OCTAVIUS CAESAR I should have known no less.
It hath been taught us from the primal state, 45
That he which is was wish’d until he were;
And the ebb’d man, ne’er loved till ne’er worth love,
Comes dear’d by being lack’d. This common body,
Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream,
Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide, 50
To rot itself with motion.
Messenger Caesar, I bring thee word,
Menecrates and Menas, famous pirates,
Make the sea serve them, which they ear and wound
With keels of every kind: many hot inroads 55
They make in Italy; the borders maritime
Lack blood to think on’t, and flush youth revolt:
No vessel can peep forth, but ’tis as soon
Taken as seen; for Pompey’s name strikes more
Than could his war resisted. 60
OCTAVIUS CAESAR Antony,
Leave thy lascivious wassails. When thou once
Wast beaten from Modena, where thou slew’st
Hirtius and Pansa, consuls, at thy heel
Did famine follow; whom thou fought’st against, 65
Though daintily brought up, with patience more
Than savages could suffer: thou didst drink
The stale of horses, and the gilded puddle
Which beasts would cough at: thy palate then did deign
The roughest berry on the rudest hedge; 70
Yea, like the stag, when snow the pasture sheets,
The barks of trees thou browsed’st; on the Alps
It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh,
Which some did die to look on: and all this–
It wounds thine honour that I speak it now– 75
Was borne so like a soldier, that thy cheek
So much as lank’d not.
LEPIDUS ‘Tis pity of him.
OCTAVIUS CAESAR Let his shames quickly
Drive him to Rome: ’tis time we twain 80
Did show ourselves i’ the field; and to that end
Assemble we immediate council: Pompey
Thrives in our idleness.
LEPIDUS To-morrow, Caesar,
I shall be furnish’d to inform you rightly 85
Both what by sea and land I can be able
To front this present time.
OCTAVIUS CAESAR Till which encounter,
It is my business too. Farewell.
LEPIDUS Farewell, my lord: what you shall know meantime 90
Of stirs abroad, I shall beseech you, sir,
To let me be partaker.
OCTAVIUS CAESAR Doubt not, sir;
I knew it for my bond.
[Exeunt]

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 5
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Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 4
From Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Ed. M. Eaton. Boston: Educational Publishing Company.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
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3. Competitor. Partner, associate.

3. Alexandria. The capital of Egypt.

4. Fishes. Plutarch says that Antony when fishing with Cleopatra was vexed at his want of success and, on one occasion, hired divers to fasten a live fish on his hook. Cleopatra found out the trick, and next time she ordered her own divers to be quicker than Antony’s and place a salt fish on the hook. When the latter drew it up in triumph, she and her attendants were vastly amused.

6. Ptolomy. Cleopatra belonged to the line of the Ptolomies, a famous dynasty of Egyptian rulers.

9. Abstract. The epitome, the very embodiment.

12. Enow. This is an old form of the plural of “enough.”

15. Purchased. Inherited rather than acquired by himself.

19. Mirth. A revel, a feast.

20. Turn. To sit at table and drink with a slave.

21. Reel. That is, to go reeling along.

21. Buffet. Play the part of buffet.

24. As. Although.

24. Composure. Composition, nature.

26. Soils. Faults.

27. Lightness. When our burden is so much the greater for his levity.

28. Vacancy. Times of leisure.

29. Surfeits. Satiety and physical pains would be the natural punishments.

30. Confound. But to waste a time such as this, when his own interests and ours demand his attention, is a fault that ought to be reprimanded as we chide boys.

33. Mature. Old enough to know better.

34. Pawn. Sacrifice their better judgment.

35. Rebel to. Rebel against their judgment.

36. News. Shakespeare sometimes treats this word as singular.

42. Discontents. Malcontents, the dissatisfied ones.

43. Give him. Represent, speak of him as one who has been wronged.

47. Is. The man who has power was desired by the people only until he actually acquired power.

47. Ebb’d. One whose fortunes have declined.

48. dear’d. Becomes dear.

50. Lackeying. Waiting upon, going back and forth with.

54. Ear. Plough.

57. Lack blood. Grow pale with fright.

57. Flush youth. Hot-blooded youth, or youth at its prime.

60. War. That is, his name strikes more terror than it would were his war resisted.

62. Wassails. Revels.

64. Consuls. The name of the ruling officers of Rome.

67. Suffer. With fortitude greater than that with which savages could suffer.

68. Gilded. Covered with scum.

72. Browsed’st. Fed on.

77. Lank’d. Grew thin.

78. Of. As regards.

82. Assemble. Let us assemble a council at once.

87. Front. Encounter.

89. It. That is, to take account of my resources.

91. Stirs. Outbreaks.

95. Bond. I know that I am bound to do so.

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