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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Scenes from the Tragedies: The Death of Cleopatra

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

CLEOPATRA—Now, Charmian!

Show me, my women, like a queen. Go fetch

My best attires; I am again for Cydnus

To meet Mark Antony. Sirrah, Iras, go.

Now, noble Charmian, we’ll dispatch indeed;

And, when thou hast done this chare, I’ll give thee leave

To play till doomsday. Bring our crown and all.

Wherefore’s this noise?

[Exit Iras.A noise within.]
[Enter a Guardsman.]
Guardsman—Here is a rural fellow

That will not be deni’d your Highness’ presence.

He brings you figs.

Cleopatra—Let him come in.[Exit Guardsman.]What poor an instrument

May do a noble deed! He brings me liberty.

My resolution’s plac’d, and I have nothing

Of woman in me; now from head to foot

I am marble-constant; now the fleeting moon

No planet is of mine.

[Re-enter Guardsman, with Clown bringing in a basket.]
Guardsman—This is the man.

Cleopatra—Avoid, and leave him.[Exit Guardsman.]

Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there,

That kills and pains not?

Clown—Truly, I have him; but I would not be the party that should desire you to touch him, for his biting is immortal; those that do die of it do seldom or never recover.

Cleopatra—Remember’st thou any that have died on’t?

Clown—Very many, men and women too. I heard of one of them no longer than yesterday; a very honest woman, but something given to lie, as a woman should not do, but in the way of honesty; how she died of the biting of it, what pain she felt; truly, she makes a very good report o’ the worm. But he that will believe all that they say, shall never be saved by half that they do. But this is most falliable, the worm’s an odd worm.

Cleopatra—Get thee hence; farewell.

Clown—I wish you all joy of the worm.

[Setting down his basket.]


Clown—You must think this, look you, that the worm will do his kind.

Cleopatra—Ay, ay; farewell.

Clown—Look you, the worm is not to be trusted but in the keeping of wise people; for, indeed, there is no goodness in the worm.

Cleopatra—Take thou no care; it shall be heeded.

Clown—Very good. Give it nothing, I pray you, for it is not worth the feeding.

Cleopatra—Will it eat me?

Clown—You must not think I am so simple but I know the devil himself will not eat a woman. I know that a woman is a dish for the gods, if the devil dress her not. But, truly, these same whoreson devils do the gods great harm in their women; for in every ten that they make, the devils mar five.

Cleopatra—Well, get thee gone; farewell.

Clown—Yes, forsooth; I wish you joy o’ the worm.[Exit.]

[Re-enter Iras with a robe, crown, etc.]

Cleopatra—Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have

Immortal longings in me. Now no more

The juice of Egypt’s grape shall moist this lip.

Yare, yare, good Iras; quick. Methinks I hear

Antony call; I see him rouse himself

To praise my noble act; I hear him mock

The luck of Cæsar, which the gods give men

To excuse their after wrath. Husband, I come!

Now to that name my courage prove my title!

I am fire and air; my other elements

I give to baser life. So; have you done?

Come then, and take the last warmth of my lips.

Farewell, kind Charmian; Iras, long farewell.

[Kisses them.Iras falls and dies.]

Have I the aspic in my lips? Dost fall?

If thou and nature can so gently part,

The stroke of death is as a lover’s pinch,

Which hurts, and is desir’d. Dost thou lie still?

If thus thou vanishest, thou tell’st the world

It is not worth leave-taking.

Charmian—Dissolve, thick cloud, and rain; that I may say

The gods themselves do weep!
Cleopatra—This proves me base.

If she first meet the curled Antony,

He’ll make demand of her, and spend that kiss

Which is my heaven to have. Come, thou mortal wretch,

[To an asp, which she applies to her breast.]

With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate

Of life at once untie. Poor venomous fool,

Be angry, and dispatch. O, couldst thou speak,

That I might hear thee call great Cæsar ass

Charmian—O eastern star!
Cleopatra—Peace, peace!

Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,

That sucks the nurse asleep?
Charmian—O, break! O, break!

Cleopatra—As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle,—

O Antony!—Nay, I will take thee too:

[Applying another asp to her arm.]

What should I stay——[Dies.]

Charmian—In this vile world? So, fare thee well!

Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies

A lass unparallel’d. Downy windows, close;

And golden Phœbus never be beheld

Of eyes again so royal! Your crown’s awry;

I’ll mend it, and then play——

[Enter the Guard, rushing in.]

1. Guardsman—Where’s the Queen?
Charmian—Speak softly, wake her not.

1. Guardsman—Cæsar hath sent—
Charmian—Too slow a messenger.

[Applies an asp.]

O, come apace, dispatch! I partly feel thee.

1. Guardsman—Approach, ho! All’s not well; Cæsar’s beguil’d.

2. Guardsman—There’s Dolabella sent from Cæsar; call him.

1. Guardsman—What work is here! Charmian, is this well done?

Charmian—It is well done, and fitting for a princess

Descended of so many royal kings.

Ah, soldier![Dies.]