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Antony and Cleopatra

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Act I, Scene 2

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 80
    that you praised so to the queen? O, that I knew
    this husband, which, you say, must charge his horns
    with garlands!
  • 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.


  • Domitius Enobarus. Bring in the banquet quickly; wine enough
    Cleopatra's health to drink.
  • Charmian. Good sir, give me good fortune.
  • Charmian. Pray, then, foresee me one. 95
  • Soothsayer. You shall be yet far fairer than you are.
  • Iras. No, you shall paint when you are old.
  • Alexas. Vex not his prescience; be attentive. 100
  • Soothsayer. You shall be more beloving than beloved.
  • Charmian. I had rather heat my liver with drinking.
  • Charmian. Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married 105
    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.
  • Soothsayer. You shall outlive the lady whom you serve. 110
  • 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:
    prithee, how many boys and wenches must I have? 115
  • 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.
  • Charmian. Nay, come, tell Iras hers. 120
  • Alexas. We'll know all our fortunes.
  • Domitius Enobarus. Mine, and most of our fortunes, to-night, shall
    be—drunk to bed.
  • Iras. There's a palm presages chastity, if nothing else.
  • Charmian. E'en as the o'erflowing Nilus presageth famine. 125
  • 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.
  • Iras. But how, but how? give me particulars.
  • Iras. Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?
  • Charmian. Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than
    I, where would you choose it? 135
  • 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
    her die too, and give him a worse! and let worst 140
    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!
  • Iras. Amen. Dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people! 145
    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!
  • Alexas. Lo, now, if it lay in their hands to make me a
    cuckold, they would make themselves whores, but
    they'ld do't!


  • 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? 165
  • 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. 170
  • Antony. Against my brother Lucius?
  • Messenger. Ay:
    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, 175
    Upon the first encounter, drave them.
  • Messenger. The nature of bad news infects the teller.
  • Antony. When it concerns the fool or coward. On:
    Things that are past are done with me. 'Tis thus: 180
    Who tells me true, though in his tale lie death,
    I hear him as he flatter'd.
  • Messenger. Labienus—
    This is stiff news—hath, with his Parthian force,
    Extended Asia from Euphrates; 185
    His conquering banner shook from Syria
    To Lydia and to Ionia; Whilst—
  • Antony. Antony, thou wouldst say,—
  • Antony. Speak to me home, mince not the general tongue: 190
    Name Cleopatra as she is call'd in Rome;
    Rail thou in Fulvia's phrase; and taunt my faults
    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 195
    Is as our earing. Fare thee well awhile.


  • Antony. From Sicyon, ho, the news! Speak there!
  • Antony. Let him appear.
    These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,
    Or lose myself in dotage.
    [Enter another Messenger] 205
    What are you?
  • Second Messenger. In Sicyon:
    Her length of sickness, with what else more serious 210
    Importeth thee to know, this bears.

[Gives a letter]

  • Antony. Forbear me.
    [Exit Second Messenger]
    There's a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it: 215
    What our contempt doth often hurl from us,
    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. 220
    I must from this enchanting queen break off:
    Ten thousand harms, more than the ills I know,
    My idleness doth hatch. How now! Enobarbus!


  • Antony. I must with haste from hence.
  • Domitius Enobarus. Why, then, we kill all our women:
    we see how mortal an unkindness is to them;
    if they suffer our departure, death's the word.
  • Domitius Enobarus. Under a compelling occasion, let women die; it were
    pity to cast them away for nothing; though, between
    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 235
    times upon far poorer moment: I do think there is
    mettle in death, which commits some loving act upon
    her, she hath such a celerity in dying.
  • Antony. She is cunning past man's thought.


  • Domitius Enobarus. 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
    storms and tempests than almanacs can report: this
    cannot be cunning in her; if it be, she makes a 245
    shower of rain as well as Jove.
  • Antony. Would I had never seen her.
  • Domitius Enobarus. O, sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece
    of work; which not to have been blest withal would
    have discredited your travel. 250
  • Domitius Enobarus. 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;
    comforting therein, that when old robes are worn
    out, there are members to make new. If there were 260
    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
    petticoat: and indeed the tears live in an onion
    that should water this sorrow. 265
  • Antony. The business she hath broached in the state
    Cannot endure my absence.
  • Domitius Enobarus. And the business you have broached here cannot be
    without you; especially that of Cleopatra's, which
    wholly depends on your abode. 270
  • Antony. No more light answers. Let our officers
    Have notice what we purpose. I shall break
    The cause of our expedience to the queen,
    And get her leave to part. For not alone
    The death of Fulvia, with more urgent touches, 275
    Do strongly speak to us; but the letters too
    Of many our contriving friends in Rome
    Petition us at home: Sextus Pompeius
    Hath given the dare to Caesar, and commands
    The empire of the sea: our slippery people, 280
    Whose love is never link'd to the deserver
    Till his deserts are past, begin to throw
    Pompey the Great and all his dignities
    Upon his son; who, high in name and power,
    Higher than both in blood and life, stands up 285
    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,
    And not a serpent's poison. Say, our pleasure,
    To such whose place is under us, requires 290
    Our quick remove from hence.