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

Act I. Scene II.

Antony and Cleopatra

The Same.Another Room.

Enter CHARMIAN, IRAS, ALEXAS, and a Soothsayer.

Char.Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, most any thing Alexas, almost most absolute Alexas, where’s the soothsayer that you praised so to the queen? O! that I knew this husband, which, you say, must charge his horns with garlands.


Sooth.Your will?

Char.Is this the man? Is ’t you, sir, that know things?

Sooth.In nature’s infinite book of secrecy

A little I can read.

Alex.Show him your hand.


Eno.Bring in the banquet quickly; wine enough

Cleopatra’s health to drink.

Char.Good sir, give me good fortune

Sooth.I make not, but foresee.

Char.Pray then, foresee me one.

Sooth.You shall be yet far fairer than you are.

CharHe means in flesh.

Iras.No, you shall paint when you are old.

Char.Wrinkles forbid!

Alex.Vex not his prescience; be attentive.


Sooth.You shall be more beloving than belov’d.

Char.I had rather heat my liver with drinking.

Alex.Nay, hear him.

Char.Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married 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 Cæsar, and companion me with my mistress.

Sooth.You shall outlive the lady whom you serve.

Char.O excellent! I love long life better than figs.

Sooth.You have seen and prov’d a fairer former fortune

Than that which is to approach.

Char.Then, belike, my children shall have no names; prithee, how many boys and wenches must I have?

Sooth.If every of your wishes had a womb, And fertile every wish, a million.

Char.Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch.

Alex.You think none but your sheets are privy to your wishes.

Char.Nay, come, tell Iras hers.

Alex.We’ll know all our fortunes.

Eno.Mine, and most of our fortunes, to-night, shall be,—drunk to bed.

Iras.There’s a palm presages chastity, if nothing else.

Char.E’en as the overflowing Nilus presageth famine.

Iras.Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.

Char.Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful prognostication, I cannot scratch mine ear. Prithee, tell her but a worky-day fortune.

Sooth.Your fortunes are alike.

Iras.But how? but how? give me particulars.

Sooth.I have said.

Iras.Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?

Char.Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than I, where would you choose it?

Iras.Not in my husband’s nose.

Char.Our worser thoughts heaven 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 worse 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! for, as it is a heart-breaking 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!


Alex.Lo, now! if it lay in their hands to make me a cuckold, they would make themselves whores, but they’d do ’t!

Eno.Hush! here comes Antony.

Char.Not he; the queen.


Cleo.Saw you my lord?

Eno.No, lady.

Cleo.Was he not here?

Char.No, madam.

Cleo.He was dispos’d to mirth; but on the sudden

A Roman thought hath struck him. Enobarbus!


Cleo.Seek him, and bring him hither. Where’s Alexas?

Alex.Here, at your service. My lord approaches.

Enter ANTONY, with a Messenger and Attendants.

Cleo.We will not look upon him; go with us.[Exeunt CLEOPATRA, ENOBARBUS, ALEXAS, IRAS, CHARMIAN, Soothsayer, and Attendants.

Mess.Fulvia thy wife first came into the field.

Ant.Against my brother Lucius?


But soon that war had end, and the time’s state

Made friends of them, jointing their force ’gainst Cæsar,

Whose better issue in the war, from Italy

Upon the first encounter drave them.

Ant.Well, what worst?

Mess.The nature of bad news infects the teller.

Ant.When it concerns the fool, or coward. On;

Things that are past are done with me. ’Tis thus:

Who tells me true, though in his tale lay death,

I hear him as he flatter’d.


This is stiff news—hath, with his Parthian force

Extended Asia; from Euphrates

His conquering banner shook from Syria

To Lydia and to Ionia: whilst—

Ant.Antony, thou wouldst say,—

Mess.O! my lord.

Ant.Speak to me home, mince not the general tongue;

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 winds lie still; and our ills told us

Is as our earing. Fare thee well awhile.

Mess.At your noble pleasure.[Exit.

Ant.From Sicyon, ho, the news! Speak there!

First Att.The man from Sicyon, is there such an one?

Sec. Att.He stays upon your will.

Ant.Let him appear.

These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,

Or lose myself in dotage.

Enter another Messenger.
What are you?

Sec. Mess.Fulvia thy wife is dead.

Ant.Where died she?

Sec. Mess.In Sicyon:

Her length of sickness, with what else more serious

Importeth thee to know, this bears.[Giving a letter.

Ant.Forbear me.[Exit Second Messenger.

There’s a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it:

What our contempts do 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 shov’d her on.

I must from this enchanting queen break off;

Ten thousand harms, more than the ills I know,

My idleness doth hatch. How now! Enobarbus!


Eno.What’s your pleasure, sir?

Ant.I must with haste from hence.

Eno.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.

Ant.I must be gone.

Eno.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 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.

Ant.She is cunning past man’s thought.

Eno.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 shower of rain as well as Jove.

Ant.Would I had never seen her!

Eno.O, sir! you had then left unseen a wonderful piece of work which not to have been blessed withal would have discredited your travel.

Ant.Fulvia is dead.


Ant.Fulvia is dead.



Eno.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 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.

Ant.The business she hath broached in the state

Cannot endure my absence.

Eno.And the business you have broached here cannot be without you; especially that of Cleopatra’s, which wholly depends on your abode.

Ant.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,

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 Cæsar, and commands

The empire of the sea; our slippery people—

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

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

Our quick remove from hence.

Eno.I shall do it.[Exeunt.