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

Act I. Scene IV.

Antony and Cleopatra

Rome.A Room in CÆSAR’S House.

Enter OCTAVIUS CÆSAR, LEPIDUS, and Attendants.

Cæs.You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,

It is not Cæsar’s natural vice to hate

Our great competitor. From Alexandria

This is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes

The lamps of night in revel; is not more manlike

Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy

More womanly than he; hardly gave audience, or

Vouchsaf’d to think he had partners: you shall find there

A man who is the abstract of all faults

That all men follow.

Lep.I must not think there are

Evils enow to darken all his goodness;

His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,

More fiery by night’s blackness; hereditary

Rather than purchas’d; what he cannot change

Than what he chooses.

Cæs.You are too indulgent. Let us grant it is not

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 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

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

As we rate boys, who, being mature in knowledge,

Pawn their experience to their present pleasure,

And so rebel to judgment.

Enter a Messenger.

Lep.Here’s more news.

Mess.Thy biddings have been done, and every hour,

Most noble Cæsar, shalt thou have report

How ’tis abroad. Pompey is strong at sea,

And it appears he is belov’d of those

That only have fear’d Cæsar; to the ports

The discontents repair, and men’s reports

Give him much wrong’d.

Cæs.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;

And the ebb’d man, ne’er lov’d 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.

Mess.Cæsar, 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

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.


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

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,

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 thy honour that I speak it now—

Was borne so like a soldier, that thy cheek

So much as lank’d not.

Lep.’Tis pity of him.

Cæs.Let his shames quickly

Drive him to Rome. ’Tis time we twain

Did show ourselves i’ the field; and to that end

Assemble me immediate council; Pompey

Thrives in our idleness.

Lep.To-morrow, Cæsar,

I shall be furnish’d to inform you rightly

Both what by sea and land I can be able

To front this present time.

Cæs.Till which encounter,

It is my business too. Farewell.

Lep.Farewell, my lord. What you shall know meantime

Of stirs abroad, I shall beseech you, sir,

To let me be partaker.

Cæs.Doubt not, sir;

I knew it for my bond.[Exeunt.