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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act II. Scene V.

Antony and Cleopatra

Alexandria.A Room in the Palace.


Cleo.Give me some music; music, moody food

Of us that trade in love.

Attend.The music, ho!


Cleo.Let it alone; let’s to billiards: come, Charmian.

Char.My arm is sore; best play with Mardian.

Cleo.As well a woman with a eunuch play’d

As with a woman. Come, you’ll play with me, sir?

Mar.As well as I can, madam.

Cleo.And when good will is show’d, though ’t come too short,

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,

I’ll think them every one an Antony,

And say, ‘Ah, ha!’ you’re caught.

Char.’Twas merry when

You wager’d on your angling; when your diver

Did hang a salt-fish on his hook, which he

With fervency drew up.

Cleo.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;

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.

Mess.Madam, madam,—

Cleo.Antony ’s 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

Have lipp’d, and trembled kissing.

Mess.First, madam, he is well.

Cleo.Why, there’s more gold.

But, sirrah, mark, we use

To say the dead are well: bring it to that,

The gold I give thee will I melt, and pour

Down thy ill-uttering throat.

Mess.Good madam, hear me.

Cleo.Well, go to, I will;

But there’s no goodness in thy face; if Antony

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.

Mess.Will ’t please you hear me?

Cleo.I have a mind to strike thee ere thou speak’st:

Yet, if thou say Antony lives, is well,

Or friends with Cæsar, or not captive to him,

I’ll set thee in a shower of gold, and hail

Rich pearls upon thee.

Mess.Madam, he’s well.

Cleo.Well said.

Mess.And friends with Cæsar.

Cleo.Thou’rt an honest man.

Mess.Cæsar and he are greater friends than ever.

Cleo.Make thee a fortune from me.

Mess.But yet, madam,—

Cleo.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

Some monstrous malefactor. Prithee, friend,

Pour out the pack of matter to mine ear,

The good and bad together. He’s friends with Cæsar;

In state of health, thou sayst; and thou sayst, free.

Mess.Free, madam! no; I made no such report:

He’s bound unto Octavia.

Cleo.For what good turn?

Mess.For the best turn i’ the bed.

Cleo.I am pale, Charmian!

Mess.Madam, he’s married to Octavia.

Cleo.The most infectious pestilence upon thee![Strikes him down.

Mess.Good madam, patience.

Cleo.What say you? Hence,[Strikes him again.

Horrible villain! or I’ll spurn thine eyes

Like balls before me; I’ll unhair thy head:[She hales him up and down.

Thou shalt be whipp’d with wire, and stew’d in brine,

Smarting in lingering pickle.

Mess.Gracious madam,

I, that do bring the news made not the match.

Cleo.Say ’tis not so, a province I will give thee,

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.

Mess.He’s married, madam.

Cleo.Rogue! thou hast liv’d too long.[Draws a knife.

Mess.Nay, then I’ll run.

What mean you, madam? I have made no fault.[Exit.

Char.Good madam, keep yourself within yourself;

The man is innocent.

Cleo.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.

Char.He is afeard to come.

Cleo.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.

Though it be honest, it is never good

To bring bad news; give to a gracious message

A host of tongues, but let ill tidings tell

Themselves when they be felt.

Mess.I have done my duty.

Cleo.Is he married?

I cannot hate thee worser than I do

If thou again say ‘Yes.’

Mess.He’s married, madam.

Cleo.The gods confound thee! dost thou hold there still?

Mess.Should I lie, madam?

Cleo.O! I would thou didst,

So half my Egypt were submerg’d and made

A cistern for scal’d snakes. Go, get thee hence;

Hadst thou Narcissus in thy face, to me

Thou wouldst appear most ugly. He is married?

Mess.I crave your highness’ pardon.

Cleo.He is married?

Mess.Take no offence that I would not offend you;

To punish me for what you make me do

Seems much unequal; he’s married to Octavia.

Cleo.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

And be undone by ’em![Exit Messenger.

Char.Good your highness, patience.

Cleo.In praising Antony I have disprais’d Cæsar.

Char.Many times, madam.

Cleo.I am paid for ’t now.

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

The colour of her hair: bring me word quickly.[Exit ALEXAS.

Let him forever go:—let him not—Charmian!—

Though he be painted one way like a Gorgon,

The other way’s a Mars.[To MARDIAN.]Bid you Alexas

Bring me word how tall she is. Pity me, Charmian,

But do not speak to me. Lead me to my chamber.[Exeunt.