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

Act II. Scene II.

Antony and Cleopatra

Rome.A Room in LEPIDUS’ House.


Lep.Good Enobarbus, ’tis a worthy deed,

And shall become you well, to entreat your captain

To soft and gentle speech.

Eno.I shall entreat him

To answer like himself: if Cæsar move him,

Let Antony look over Cæsar’s head,

And speak as loud as Mars. By Jupiter,

Were I the wearer of Antonius’ beard,

I would not shave ’t to-day.

Lep.’Tis not a time

For private stomaching.

Eno.Every time

Serves for the matter that is then born in ’t.

Lep.But small to greater matters must give way.

Eno.Not if the small come first.

Lep.Your speech is passion;

But, pray you, stir no embers up. Here comes

The noble Antony.


Eno.And yonder, Cæsar.


Ant.If we compose well here, to Parthia:

Hark ye, Ventidius.

Cæs.I do not know,

Mecænas; ask Agrippa.

Lep.Noble friends,

That which combin’d us was most great, and let not

A leaner action rend us. What’s amiss,

May it be gently heard; when we debate

Our trivial difference loud, we do commit

Murder in healing wounds; then, noble partners,—

The rather for I earnestly beseech,—

Touch you the sourest points with sweetest terms,

Nor curstness grow to the matter.

Ant.’Tis spoken well.

Were we before our armies, and to fight,

I should do thus.

Cæs.Welcome to Rome.

Ant.Thank you.


AntSit, sir.

Cæs.Nay, then.

Ant.I learn, you take things ill which are not so,

Or being, concern you not.

Cæs.I must be laugh’d at

If, or for nothing or a little, I

Should say myself offended, and with you

Chiefly i’ the world; more laugh’d at that I should

Once name you derogately, when to sound your name

It not concern’d me.

Ant.My being in Egypt, Cæsar,

What was ’t to you?

Cæs.No more than my residing here at Rome

Might be to you in Egypt; yet, if you there

Did practise on my state, your being in Egypt

Might be my question.

Ant.How intend you, practis’d?

Cæs.You may be pleas’d to catch at mine intent

By what did here befall me. Your wife and brother

Made wars upon me, and their contestation

Was theme for you, you were the word of war.

Ant.You do mistake your business; my brother never

Did urge me in his act: I did inquire it;

And have my learning from some true reports,

That drew their swords with you. Did he not rather

Discredit my authority with yours,

And make the wars alike against my stomach,

Having alike your cause? Of this my letters

Before did satisfy you. If you’ll patch a quarrel,

As matter whole you n’ have to make it with,

It must not be with this.

Cæs.You praise yourself

By laying defects of judgment to me, but

You patch’d up your excuses.

Ant.Not so, not so;

I know you could not lack, I am certain on ’t,

Very necessity of this thought, that I,

Your partner in the cause ’gainst which he fought,

Could not with graceful eyes attend those wars

Which fronted mine own peace. As for my wife,

I would you had her spirit in such another:

The third o’ the world is yours, which with a snaffle

You may pace easy, but not such a wife.

Eno.Would we had all such wives, that the men might go to wars with the women!

Ant.So much uncurbable, her garboils, Cæsar,

Made out of her impatience,—which not wanted

Shrewdness of policy too,—I grieving grant

Did you too much disquiet; for that you must

But say I could not help it.

Cæs.I wrote to you

When rioting in Alexandria; you

Did pocket up my letters, and with taunts

Did gibe my missive out of audience.


He fell upon me, ere admitted: then

Three kings I had newly feasted, and did want

Of what I was i’ the morning; but next day

I told him of myself, which was as much

As to have ask’d him pardon. Let this fellow

Be nothing of our strife; if we contend,

Out of our question wipe him.

Cæs.You have broken

The article of your oath, which you shall never

Have tongue to charge me with.

Lep.Soft, Cæsar!


Lepidus, let him speak:

The honour’s sacred which he talks on now,

Supposing that I lack’d it. But on, Cæsar;

The article of my oath.

Cæs.To lend me arms and aid when I requir’d them,

The which you both denied.

Ant.Neglected, rather;

And then, when poison’d hours had bound me up

From mine own knowledge. As nearly as I may,

I’ll play the penitent to you; but mine honesty

Shall not make poor my greatness, nor my power

Work without it. Truth is, that Fulvia,

To have me out of Egypt, made wars here;

For which myself, the ignorant motive, do

So far ask pardon as befits mine honour

To stoop in such a case.

Lep.’Tis noble spoken.

Mec.If it might please you, to enforce no further

The griefs between ye: to forget them quite

Were to remember that the present need

Speaks to atone you.

Lep.Worthily spoken, Mecænas.

Eno.Or, if you borrow one another’s love for the instant, you may, when you hear no more words of Pompey, return it again: you shall have time to wrangle in when you have nothing else to do.

Ant.Thou art a soldier only; speak no more.

Eno.That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.

Ant.You wrong this presence; therefore speak no more.

Eno.Go to, then; your considerate stone.

Cæs.I do not much dislike the matter, but

The manner of his speech; for it cannot be

We shall remain in friendship, our conditions

So differing in their acts. Yet, if I knew

What hoop should hold us stanch, from edge to edge

O’ the world I would pursue it.

Agr.Give me leave, Cæsar.

Cæs.Speak, Agrippa.

Agr.Thou hast a sister by the mother’s side,

Admir’d Octavia; great Mark Antony

Is now a widower.

Cæs.Say not so, Agrippa:

If Cleopatra heard you, your reproof

Were well deserv’d of rashness.

Ant.I am not married, Cæsar; let me hear

Agrippa further speak.

Agr.To hold you in perpetual amity,

To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts

With an unslipping knot, take Antony

Octavia to his wife; whose beauty claims

No worse a husband than the best of men,

Whose virtue and whose general graces speak

That which none else can utter. By this marriage,

All little jealousies which now seem great,

And all great fears which now import their dangers,

Would then be nothing; truths would be but tales

Where now half tales be truths; her love to both

Would each to other and all loves to both

Draw after her. Pardon what I have spoke,

For ’tis a studied, not a present thought,

By duty ruminated.

Ant.Will Cæsar speak?

Cæs.Not till he hears how Antony is touch’d

With what is spoke already.

Ant.What power is in Agrippa,

If I would say, ‘Agrippa, be it so,’

To make this good?

Cæs.The power of Cæsar, and

His power unto Octavia.

Ant.May I never

To this good purpose, that so fairly shows,

Dream of impediment! Let me have thy hand;

Further this act of grace, and from this hour

The heart of brothers govern in our loves

And sway our great designs!

Cæs.There is my hand.

A sister I bequeath you, whom no brother

Did ever love so dearly; let her live

To join our kingdoms and our hearts, and never

Fly off our loves again!

Lep.Happily, amen!

Ant.I did not think to draw my sword ’gainst Pompey,

For he hath laid strange courtesies and great

Of late upon me; I must thank him only,

Lost my remembrance suffer ill report;

At heel of that, defy him.

Lep.Time calls upon ’s:

Of us must Pompey presently be sought,

Or else he seeks out us.

Ant.Where lies he?

Cæs.About the Mount Misenum.

Ant.What’s his strength

By land?

Cæs.Great and increasing; but by sea

He is an absolute master.

Ant.So is the fame.

Would we had spoke together! Haste we for it;

Yet, ere we put ourselves in arms, dispatch we

The business we have talk’d of.

Cæs.With most gladness;

And do invite you to my sister’s view,

Whither straight I’ll lead you.

Ant.Let us, Lepidus,

Not lack your company.

Lep.Noble Antony,

Not sickness should detain me.[Flourish.Exeunt CÆSAR, ANTONY, and LEPIDUS.

Mec.Welcome from Egypt, sir.

Eno.Half the heart of Cæsar, worthy Mecænas! My honourable friend, Agrippa!

Agr.Good Enobarbus!

Mec.We have cause to be glad that matters are so well digested. You stayed well by ’t in Egypt.

Eno.Ay, sir; we did sleep day out of countenance, and made the night light with drinking.

Mec.Eight wild boars roasted whole at a breakfast, and but twelve persons there; is this true?

Eno.This was but as a fly by an eagle; we had much more monstrous matter of feast, which worthily deserved noting.

Mec.She’s a most triumphant lady, if report be square to her.

Eno.When she first met Mark Antony she pursed up his heart, upon the river of Cydnus.

Agr.There she appeared indeed, or my reporter devised well for her.

Eno.I will tell you.

The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,

Burn’d on the water; the poop was beaten gold,

Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that

The winds were love-sick with them, the oars were silver,

Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made

The water which they beat to follow faster,

As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,

It beggar’d all description; she did lie

In her pavilion,—cloth-of-gold of tissue,—

O’er-picturing that Venus where we see

The fancy outwork nature; on each side her

Stood pretty-dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,

With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem

To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,

And what they undid did.

Agr.O! rare for Antony.

Eno.Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,

So many mermaids, tended her i’ the eyes,

And made their bends adornings; at the helm

A seeming mermaid steers; the silken tackle

Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands,

That yarely frame the office. From the barge

A strange invisible perfume hits the sense

Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast

Her people out upon her, and Antony,

Enthron’d i’ the market-place, did sit alone,

Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,

Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too

And made a gap in nature.

Agr.Rare Egyptian!

Eno.Upon her landing, Antony sent to her,

Invited her to supper; she replied

It should be better he became her guest,

Which she entreated. Our courteous Antony,

Whom ne’er the word of ‘No’ woman heard speak,

Being barber’d ten times o’er, goes to the feast,

And, for his ordinary pays his heart

For what his eyes eat only.

Agr.Royal wench!

She made great Cæsar lay his sword to bed;

He plough’d her, and she cropp’d.

Eno.I saw her once

Hop forty paces through the public street;

And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted

That she did make defect perfection,

And, breathless, power breathe forth.

Mec.Now Antony must leave her utterly.

Eno.Never; he will not:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety; other women cloy

The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry

Where most she satisfies; for vilest things

Become themselves in her, that the holy priests

Bless her when she is riggish.

Mec.If beauty, wisdom, modesty, can settle

The heart of Antony, Octavia is

A blessed lottery to him.

Agr.Let us go.

Good Enobarbus, make yourself my guest

Whilst you abide here.

Eno.Humbly, sir, I thank you.[Exeunt.