Open Source Shakespeare

Antony and Cleopatra

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Act I, Scene 4

Rome. OCTAVIUS CAESAR’s house.


[Enter OCTAVIUS CAESAR, reading a letter, LEPIDUS,] [p]and their Train]

  • Octavius. You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
    It is not Caesar's natural vice to hate 425
    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
    Than Cleopatra; nor the queen of Ptolemy
    More womanly than he; hardly gave audience, or 430
    Vouchsafed to think he had partners: you shall find there
    A man who is the abstract of all faults
    That all men follow.
  • Lepidus. I must not think there are
    Evils enow to darken all his goodness: 435
    His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,
    More fiery by night's blackness; hereditary,
    Rather than purchased; what he cannot change,
    Than what he chooses.
  • Octavius. You are too indulgent. Let us grant, it is not 440
    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;
    To reel the streets at noon, and stand the buffet
    With knaves that smell of sweat: say this 445
    becomes him,—
    As his composure must be rare indeed
    Whom these things cannot blemish,—yet must Antony
    No way excuse his soils, when we do bear
    So great weight in his lightness. If he fill'd 450
    His vacancy with his voluptuousness,
    Full surfeits, and the dryness of his bones,
    Call on him for't: but to confound such time,
    That drums him from his sport, and speaks as loud
    As his own state and ours,—'tis to be chid 455
    As we rate boys, who, being mature in knowledge,
    Pawn their experience to their present pleasure,
    And so rebel to judgment.

[Enter a Messenger]

  • Lepidus. Here's more news. 460
  • 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
    That only have fear'd Caesar: to the ports 465
    The discontents repair, and men's reports
    Give him much wrong'd.
  • Octavius. I should have known no less.
    It hath been taught us from the primal state,
    That he which is was wish'd until he were; 470
    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,
    To rot itself with motion. 475
  • 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
    They make in Italy; the borders maritime 480
    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.
  • Octavius. Antony, 485
    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,
    Though daintily brought up, with patience more 490
    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;
    Yea, like the stag, when snow the pasture sheets, 495
    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—
    Was borne so like a soldier, that thy cheek 500
    So much as lank'd not.
  • Lepidus. 'Tis pity of him.
  • Octavius. Let his shames quickly
    Drive him to Rome: 'tis time we twain
    Did show ourselves i' the field; and to that end 505
    Assemble we immediate council: Pompey
    Thrives in our idleness.
  • Lepidus. To-morrow, Caesar,
    I shall be furnish'd to inform you rightly
    Both what by sea and land I can be able 510
    To front this present time.
  • Octavius. Till which encounter,
    It is my business too. Farewell.
  • Lepidus. Farewell, my lord: what you shall know meantime
    Of stirs abroad, I shall beseech you, sir, 515
    To let me be partaker.
  • Octavius. Doubt not, sir;
    I knew it for my bond.