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

Act V. Scene II.

Antony and Cleopatra

The Same.The Monument.


Cleo.My desolation does begin to make

A better life. ’Tis paltry to be Cæsar;

Not being Fortune, he’s but Fortune’s knave,

A minister of her will; and it is great

To do that thing that ends all other deeds,

Which shackles accidents, and bolts up change,

Which sleeps, and never palates more the dug,

The beggar’s nurse and Cæsar’s.

Enter, below, PROCULEIUS, GALLUS, and Soldiers.

Pro.Cæsar sends greeting to the Queen of Egypt;

And bids thee study on what fair demands

Thou mean’st to have him grant thee.

Cleo.What’s thy name?

Pro.My name is Proculeius.


Did tell me of you, bade me trust you; but

I do not greatly care to be deceiv’d,

That have no use for trusting. If your master

Would have a queen his beggar, you must tell him,

That majesty, to keep decorum, must

No less beg than a kingdom: if he please

To give me conquer’d Egypt for my son,

He gives me so much of mine own as I

Will kneel to him with thanks.

Pro.Be of good cheer;

You’re fall’n into a princely hand, fear nothing.

Make your full reference freely to my lord,

Who is so full of grace, that it flows over

On all that need; let me report to him

Your sweet dependancy, and you shall find

A conqueror that will pray in aid for kindness

Where he for grace is kneel’d to.

Cleo.Pray you, tell him

I am his fortune’s vassal, and I send him

The greatness he has got. I hourly learn

A doctrine of obedience, and would gladly

Look him i’ the face.

Pro.This I’ll report, dear lady:

Have comfort, for I know your plight is pitied

Of him that caus’d it.

Gal.You see how easily she may be surpris’d.[PROCULEIUS and two of the Guard ascend the monument by a ladder, and come behind CLEOPATRA.Some of the Guard unbar and open the gates, discovering the lower room of the monument.

[To PROCULEIUS and the Guard.]Guard her till Cæsar come.[Exit.

Iras.Royal queen!

Char.O Cleopatra! thou art taken, queen.

Cleo.Quick, quick, good hands.[Drawing a dagger.

Pro.Hold, worthy lady, hold![Seizes and disarms her.

Do not yourself such wrong, who are in this

Reliev’d, but not betray’d.

Cleo.What, of death too,

That rids our dogs of languish?


Do not abuse my master’s bounty by

The undoing of yourself; let the world see

His nobleness well acted, which your death

Will never let come forth.

Cleo.Where art thou, death?

Come hither, come! come, come, and take a queen

Worth many babes and beggars!

Pro.O! temperance, lady.

Cleo.Sir, I will eat no meat, I’ll not drink, sir;

If idle talk will once be necessary,

I’ll not sleep neither. This mortal house I’ll ruin,

Do Cæsar what he can. Know, sir, that I

Will not wait pinion’d at your master’s court,

Nor once be chastis’d with the sober eye

Of dull Octavia. Shall they hoist me up

And show me to the shouting varletry

Of censuring Rome? Rather a ditch in Egypt

Be gentle grave unto me! rather on Nilus’ mud

Lay me stark nak’d, and let the water-flies

Blow me into abhorring! rather make

My country’s high pyramides my gibbet,

And hang me up in chains!

Pro.You do extend

These thoughts of horror further than you shall

Find cause in Cæsar.



What thou hast done thy master Cæsar knows,

And he hath sent for thee; as for the queen,

I’ll take her to my guard.

Pro.So, Dolabella,

It shall content me best; be gentle to her.

[To CLEOPATRA.]To Cæsar I will speak what you shall please,

If you’ll employ me to him.

Cleo.Say, I would die.[Exeunt PROCULEIUS and Soldiers.

Dol.Most noble empress, you have heard of me?

Cleo.I cannot tell.

Dol.Assuredly you know me.

Cleo.No matter, sir, what I have heard or known.

You laugh when boys or women tell their dreams;

Is ’t not your trick?

Dol.I understand not, madam.

Cleo.I dream’d there was an Emperor Antony:

O! such another sleep, that I might see

But such another man.

Dol.If it might please ye,—

Cleo.His face was as the heavens, and therein stuck

A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted

The little O, the earth.

Dol.Most sovereign creature,—

Cleo.His legs bestrid the ocean; his rear’d arm

Crested the world; his voice was propertied

As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;

But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,

He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty,

There was no winter in ’t, an autumn ’twas

That grew the more by reaping; his delights

Were dolphin-like, they show’d his back above

The element they liv’d in; in his livery

Walk’d crowns and crownets, realms and islands were

As plates dropp’d from his pocket.


Cleo.Think you there was, or might be, such a man

As this I dream’d of?

Dol.Gentle madam, no.

Cleo.You lie, up to the hearing of the gods.

But, if there be, or ever were, one such,

It’s past the size of dreaming; nature wants stuff

To vie strange forms with fancy; yet to imagine

An Antony were nature’s piece ’gainst fancy,

Condemning shadows quite.

Dol.Hear me, good madam.

Your loss is as yourself, great; and you bear it

As answering to the weight: would I might never

O’ertake pursu’d success, but I do feel,

By the rebound of yours, a grief that smites

My very heart at root.

Cleo.I thank you, sir.

Know you what Cæsar means to do with me?

Dol.I am loath to tell you what I would you knew.

Cleo.Nay, pray you, sir,—

Dol.Though he be honourable,—

Cleo.He’ll lead me then in triumph?

Dol.Madam, he will; I know ’t.[Within, ‘Make way there!—Cæsar!’


Cæs.Which is the Queen of Egypt?

Dol.It is the emperor, madam.[CLEOPATRA kneels.

Cœs. Arise, you shall not kneel.

I pray you, rise; rise, Egypt.

Cleo.Sir, the gods

Will have it thus; my master and my lord

I must obey.

Cœs.Take to you no hard thoughts;

The record of what injuries you did us,

Though written in our flesh, we shall remember

As things but done by chance.

Cleo.Sole sir o’ the world,

I cannot project mine own cause so well

To make it clear; but do confess I have

Been laden with like frailties which before

Have often sham’d our sex.

Cœs.Cleopatra, know,

We will extenuate rather than enforce:

If you apply yourself to our intents,—

Which towards you are most gentle,—you shall find

A benefit in this change; but if you seek

To lay on me a cruelty, by taking

Antony’s course, you shall bereave yourself

Of my good purposes, and put your children

To that destruction which I’ll guard them from,

If thereon you rely. I’ll take my leave.

Cleo.And may through all the world: ’tis yours; and we,

Your scutcheons, and your signs of conquest, shall

Hang in what place you please. Here, my good lord.

Cœs. You shall advise me in all for Cleopatra.

Cleo.[Giving a Scroll.]This is the brief of money, plate, and jewels,

I am possess’d of: ’tis exactly valued;

Not petty things admitted. Where’s Seleucus?

Sel.Here, madam.

Cleo.This is my treasurer; let him speak, my lord,

Upon his peril, that I have reserv’d

To myself nothing. Speak the truth, Seleucus.


I had rather seal my lips, than, to my peril,

Speak that which is not.

Cleo.What have I kept back?

Sel.Enough to purchase what you have made known.

Cœs. Nay, blush not, Cleopatra; I approve

Your wisdom in the deed.

Cleo.See! Cæsar! O, behold,

How pomp is follow’d; mine will now be yours;

And, should we shift estates, yours would be mine.

The ingratitude of this Seleucus does

Even make me wild. O slave! of no more trust

Than love that’s hir’d. What! goest thou back? thou shalt

Go back, I warrant thee; but I’ll catch thine eyes,

Though they had wings: slave, soulless villain, dog!

O rarely base!

Cœs.Good queen, let us entreat you.

Cleo.O Cæsar! what a wounding shame is this,

That thou, vouchsafing here to visit me,

Doing the honour of thy lordliness

To one so meek, that mine own servant should

Parcel the sum of my disgraces by

Addition of his envy. Say, good Cæsar,

That I some lady trifles have reserv’d,

Immoment toys, things of such dignity

As we greet modern friends withal; and say,

Some nobler token I have kept apart

For Livia and Octavia, to induce

Their mediation; must I be unfolded

With one that I have bred? The gods! it smites me

Beneath the fall I have.[To SELEUCUS.]Prithee, go hence;

Or I shall show the cinders of my spirits

Through the ashes of my chance. Wert thou a man,

Thou wouldst have mercy on me.

Cœs.Forbear, Seleucus.[Exit SELEUCUS.

Cleo.Be it known that we, the greatest, are misthought

For things that others do; and, when we fall,

We answer others’ merits in our name,

Are therefore to be pitied.


Not what you have reserv’d, nor what acknowledg’d,

Put we i’ the roll of conquest: still be ’t yours,

Bestow it at your pleasure; and believe,

Cæsar’s no merchant, to make prize with you

Of things that merchants sold. Therefore be cheer’d;

Make not your thoughts your prisons: no, dear queen;

For we intend so to dispose you as

Yourself shall give us counsel. Feed, and sleep:

Our care and pity is so much upon you,

That we remain your friend; and so, adieu.

Cleo.My master, and my lord!

Cœs.Not so. Adieu.[Flourish.Exeunt CÆSAR and his Train.

Cleo.He words me, girls, he words me, that I should not

Be noble to myself: but, hark thee, Charmian.[Whispers CHARMIAN.

Iras.Finish, good lady; the bright day is done,

And we are for the dark.

Cleo.Hie thee again:

I have spoke already, and it is provided;

Go, put it to the haste.

Char.Madam, I will.


Dol.Where is the queen?

Char.Behold, sir.[Exit.


Dol.Madam, as thereto sworn by your command,

Which my love makes religion to obey,

I tell you this: Cæsar through Syria

Intends his journey; and within three days

You with your children will he send before.

Make your best use of this; I have perform’d

Your pleasure and my promise.


I shall remain your debtor.

Dol.I your servant.

Adieu, good queen; I must attend on Cæsar.

Cleo.Farewell, and thanks.[Exit DOLABELLA.

Now, Iras, what think’st thou?

Thou, an Egyptian puppet, shall be shown

In Rome, as well as I; mechanic slaves

With greasy aprons, rules and hammers, shall

Uplift us to the view; in their thick breaths,

Rank of gross diet, shall we be enclouded,

And forc’d to drink their vapour.

Iras.The gods forbid!

Cleo.Nay, ’tis most certain, Iras. Saucy lictors

Will catch at us, like strumpets, and scald rimers

Ballad us out o’ tune; the quick comedians

Extemporally will stage us, and present

Our Alexandrian revels. Antony

Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see

Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness

I’ the posture of a whore.

Iras.O, the good gods!

Cleo.Nay, that’s certain.

Iras.I’ll never see it; for, I am sure my nails

Are stronger than mine eyes.

Cleo.Why, that’s the way

To fool their preparation, and to conquer

Their most absurd intents.

Re-enter CHARMIAN.

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.[Exit IRAS.A noise heard.

Wherefore’s this noise?

Enter one of the Guard.

Guard.Here is a rural fellow

That will not be denied your highness’ presence:

He brings you figs.

Cleo.Let him come in.[Exit Guard.]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 Guard, with a Clown bringing in a basket.

Guard.This is the man.

Cleo.Avoid, and leave him.[Exit Guard.

Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there,

That kills and pains not?

Clo.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.

Cleo.Remember’st thou any that have died on ’t?

Clo.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 fallible, the worm’s an odd worm.

Cleo.Get thee hence; farewell.

Clo.I wish you all joy of the worm.[Sets down the basket.


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

Cleo.Ay, ay; farewell.

Clo.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.

Cleo.Take thou no care; it shall be heeded.

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

Cleo.Will it eat me?

Clo.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.

Cleo.Well, get thee gone; farewell.

Clo.Yes, forsooth; I wish you joy of the worm.[Exit.

Re-enter IRAS, with a robe, crown, &c.

Cleo.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.

Char.Dissolve, thick cloud, and rain; that I may say,

The gods themselves do weep.

Cleo.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 the 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


Char.O eastern star!

Cleo.Peace, peace!

Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,

That sucks the nurse asleep?

Char.O, break! O, break!

Cleo.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.

Char.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.

First Guard.Where is the queen?

Char.Speak softly, wake her not.

First Guard.Cæsar hath sent—

Char.Too slow a messenger.[Applies an asp.

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

First Guard.Approach, ho! All’s not well; Cæsar’s beguil’d.

Sec. Guard.There’s Dolabella sent from Cæsar; call him.

First Guard.What work is here! Charmian, is this well done?

Char.It is well done, and fitting for a princess

Descended of so many royal kings.

Ah! soldier.[Dies.


Dol.How goes it here?

Sec. Guard.All dead.

Dol.Cæsar, thy thoughts

Touch their effects in this; thyself art coming

To see perform’d the dreaded act which thou

So sought’st to hinder.[Within, ‘A way there!—a way for Cæsar!’


Dol.How goes it here?

Sec. Guard.All dead.

Dol.Cæsar, thy thoughts

Touch their effects in this; thyself art coming

To see perform’d the dreaded act which thou

So sought’st to hinder.[Within, ‘A way there!—a way for Cæsar!’

Re-enter CÆSAR and all his Train.

Dol.O! sir, you are too sure an augurer;

That you did fear is done.

CœsBravest at the last,

She levell’d at our purposes, and, being royal,

Took her own way. The manner of their deaths?

I do not see them bleed.

Dol.Who was last with them?

First Guard.A simple countryman that brought her figs:

This was his basket.

Cœs.Poison’d then.

First Guard.O Cæsar!

This Charmian liv’d but now; she stood, and spake:

I found her trimming up the diadem

On her dead mistress; tremblingly she stood,

And on the sudden dropp’d.

Cœs.O noble weakness!

If they had swallow’d poison ’twould appear

By external swelling; but she looks like sleep,

As she would catch another Antony

In her strong toil of grace.

Dol.Here, on her breast,

There is a vent of blood, and something blown;

The like is on her arm.

First Guard.This is an aspic’s trail; and these fig-leaves

Have slime upon them, such as the aspic leaves

Upon the caves of Nile.

CœsMost probable

That so she died; for her physician tells me

She hath pursu’d conclusions infinite

Of easy ways to die. Take up her bed;

And bear her women from the monument.

She shall be buried by her Antony:

No grave upon the earth shall clip in it

A pair so famous. High events as these

Strike those that make them; and their story is

No less in pity than his glory which

Brought them to be lamented. Our army shall,

In solemn show, attend this funeral,

And then to Rome. Come, Dolabella, see

High order in this great solemnity.[Exeunt.