ACT II SCENE V

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Antony and Cleopatra

 

ACT II SCENE V Alexandria. Cleopatra’s palace.
[Enter CLEOPATRA, CHARMIAN, IRAS, and ALEXAS]
CLEOPATRA Give me some music; music, moody food
Of us that trade in love.
Attendants The music, ho!
[Enter MARDIAN]
CLEOPATRA Let it alone; let’s to billiards: come, Charmian.
CHARMIAN My arm is sore; best play with Mardian. 5
CLEOPATRA As well a woman with an eunuch play’d
As with a woman. Come, you’ll play with me, sir?
MARDIAN As well as I can, madam.
CLEOPATRA And when good will is show’d, though’t come
too short, 10
The actor may plead pardon. I’ll none now:
Give me mine angle; we’ll to the river: there,
My music playing far off, I will betray
Tawny-finn’d fishes; my bended hook shall pierce
Their slimy jaws; and, as I draw them up, 15
I’ll think them every one an Antony,
And say ‘Ah, ha! you’re caught.’
CHARMIAN ‘Twas merry when
You wager’d on your angling; when your diver
Did hang a salt-fish on his hook, which he 20
With fervency drew up.
CLEOPATRA That time,–O times!–
I laugh’d him out of patience; and that night
I laugh’d him into patience; and next morn,
Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed; 25
Then put my tires and mantles on him, whilst
I wore his sword Philippan.
[Enter a Messenger]
O, from Italy
Ram thou thy fruitful tidings in mine ears,
That long time have been barren. 30
Messenger Madam, madam,–
CLEOPATRA Antonius dead!–If thou say so, villain,
Thou kill’st thy mistress: but well and free,
If thou so yield him, there is gold, and here
My bluest veins to kiss; a hand that kings 35
Have lipp’d, and trembled kissing.
Messenger First, madam, he is well.
CLEOPATRA Why, there’s more gold.
But, sirrah, mark, we use
To say the dead are well: bring it to that, 40
The gold I give thee will I melt and pour
Down thy ill-uttering throat.
Messenger Good madam, hear me.
CLEOPATRA Well, go to, I will;
But there’s no goodness in thy face: if Antony 45
Be free and healthful,–so tart a favour
To trumpet such good tidings! If not well,
Thou shouldst come like a Fury crown’d with snakes,
Not like a formal man.
Messenger Will’t please you hear me? 50
CLEOPATRA I have a mind to strike thee ere thou speak’st:
Yet if thou say Antony lives, is well,
Or friends with Caesar, or not captive to him,
I’ll set thee in a shower of gold, and hail
Rich pearls upon thee. 55
Messenger Madam, he’s well.
CLEOPATRA Well said.
Messenger And friends with Caesar.
CLEOPATRA Thou’rt an honest man.
Messenger Caesar and he are greater friends than ever. 60
CLEOPATRA Make thee a fortune from me.
Messenger But yet, madam,–
CLEOPATRA I do not like ‘But yet,’ it does allay
The good precedence; fie upon ‘But yet’!
‘But yet’ is as a gaoler to bring forth 65
Some monstrous malefactor. Prithee, friend,
Pour out the pack of matter to mine ear,
The good and bad together: he’s friends with Caesar:
In state of health thou say’st; and thou say’st free.
Messenger Free, madam! no; I made no such report: 70
He’s bound unto Octavia.
CLEOPATRA For what good turn?
Messenger For the best turn i’ the bed.
CLEOPATRA I am pale, Charmian.
Messenger Madam, he’s married to Octavia. 75
CLEOPATRA The most infectious pestilence upon thee!
[Strikes him down]
Messenger Good madam, patience.
CLEOPATRA What say you? Hence,
[Strikes him again]
Horrible villain! or I’ll spurn thine eyes
Like balls before me; I’ll unhair thy head: 80
[She hales him up and down]
Thou shalt be whipp’d with wire, and stew’d in brine,
Smarting in lingering pickle.
Messenger Gracious madam,
I that do bring the news made not the match.
CLEOPATRA Say ’tis not so, a province I will give thee, 85
And make thy fortunes proud: the blow thou hadst
Shall make thy peace for moving me to rage;
And I will boot thee with what gift beside
Thy modesty can beg.
Messenger He’s married, madam. 90
CLEOPATRA Rogue, thou hast lived too long.
[Draws a knife]
Messenger Nay, then I’ll run.
What mean you, madam? I have made no fault.
[Exit]
CHARMIAN Good madam, keep yourself within yourself:
The man is innocent. 95
CLEOPATRA Some innocents ‘scape not the thunderbolt.
Melt Egypt into Nile! and kindly creatures
Turn all to serpents! Call the slave again:
Though I am mad, I will not bite him: call.
CHARMIAN He is afeard to come. 100
CLEOPATRA I will not hurt him.
[Exit CHARMIAN]
These hands do lack nobility, that they strike
A meaner than myself; since I myself
Have given myself the cause.
[Re-enter CHARMIAN and Messenger]
Come hither, sir. 105
Though it be honest, it is never good
To bring bad news: give to a gracious message.
An host of tongues; but let ill tidings tell
Themselves when they be felt.
Messenger I have done my duty. 110
CLEOPATRA Is he married?
I cannot hate thee worser than I do,
If thou again say ‘Yes.’
Messenger He’s married, madam.
CLEOPATRA The gods confound thee! dost thou hold there still? 115
Messenger Should I lie, madam?
CLEOPATRA O, I would thou didst,
So half my Egypt were submerged and made
A cistern for scaled snakes! Go, get thee hence:
Hadst thou Narcissus in thy face, to me 120
Thou wouldst appear most ugly. He is married?
Messenger I crave your highness’ pardon.
CLEOPATRA He is married?
Messenger Take no offence that I would not offend you:
To punish me for what you make me do. 125
Seems much unequal: he’s married to Octavia.
CLEOPATRA O, that his fault should make a knave of thee,
That art not what thou’rt sure of! Get thee hence:
The merchandise which thou hast brought from Rome
Are all too dear for me: lie they upon thy hand, 130
And be undone by ’em!
[Exit Messenger]
CHARMIAN Good your highness, patience.
CLEOPATRA In praising Antony, I have dispraised Caesar.
CHARMIAN Many times, madam.
CLEOPATRA I am paid for’t now. 135
Lead me from hence:
I faint: O Iras, Charmian! ’tis no matter.
Go to the fellow, good Alexas; bid him
Report the feature of Octavia, her years,
Her inclination, let him not leave out 140
The colour of her hair: bring me word quickly.
[Exit ALEXAS]
Let him for ever go:–let him not–Charmian,
Though he be painted one way like a Gorgon,
The other way’s a Mars. Bid you Alexas
[To MARDIAN]
Bring me word how tall she is. Pity me, Charmian, 145
But do not speak to me. Lead me to my chamber.
[Exeunt]

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Scene 6
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Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 5
From Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Ed. M. Eaton. Boston: Educational Publishing Company.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
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1. Moody. Grave, melancholy.

4. Billiards. An English, not an Egyptian, game.

10. Short. Though the result is not a success.

12. Angle. Fishing rod.

14. Tawny. Yellow.

20. Salt-fish. See previous note.

21. Fervency. Eagerness.

25. Ninth. Nine o’clock.

26. Tires. Head-dresses.

27. Philippan. The sword was so named because Antony won the battle of Philippi, his greatest victory. It was an English, not a Roman custom, to name swords for a great victory.

34. Yield. Report.

39. Use. Are accustomed to say.

36. Go to. Here in the sense of “go on.”

46. Tart a favor. So gloomy an expression.

49. Formal. Ordinary; not in the form of a man.

63. Precedence. What has gone before.

67. Pack. That is, the whole cpntents of your bundle of news.

80. Unhair. Tear out every hair.

82. Lingering. That is, you shall linger in pickle.

88. Boot. Give you to boot, give you in addition.

89. Modesty. Moderation.

93. Made. Committed.

94. Within yourself. Do you get beside yourself; control yourself.

98. All. That is, all kindly creatures.

102. Nobility. That is, it is beneath their dignity to strike a menial.

112. Worser. Shakespeare often uses this form of the comparative.

115. Hold. Stick to your word.

120. Narcissus. That is, the beauty of Narcissus, the son of Cephissus, a river god. He Was so beautiful that the nymph Echo pined away and died for love of him.

121. Ugly. On account of your news.

126. Unequal. Very unfair.

127. That art not what thou’rt sure of. This is the reading of the folios and seems to mean: You are only the messenger, not the evil message itself of which you are so sure. Some editors change the line to read thus:

“That art not; what? thou’rt sure of it?” etc.

129. Merchandise. Goods. The word is treated here as plural.

130. Hand, That is, you must be responsible for them.

139. Feature. Personal appearance.

140. Inclination. Disposition.

143. Gorgon. Medusa, a fabulous monster, who turned everyone to stone who looked upon her. The meaning is that he resembles one of the ‘double” pictures formerly in vogue, which represented one subject on the front and another on the back. On one side he is as ugly as a Gorgon, on the other as splendid as Mars.

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