Anthony and Cleopatra | Act 1.2

The same. Another room.

ALEXAS, and a Soothsayer]

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!

ALEXAS    Soothsayer!

Soothsayer    Your will?

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

Soothsayer    In nature’s infinite book of secrecy
   A little I can read.

ALEXAS    Show him your hand.


Bring in the banquet quickly; wine enough
Cleopatra’s health to drink.

CHARMIAN    Good sir, give me good fortune.

Soothsayer    I make not, but foresee.

CHARMIAN    Pray, then, foresee me one.

Soothsayer    You shall be yet far fairer than you are.

CHARMIAN    He means in flesh.

IRAS    No, you shall paint when you are old.

CHARMIAN    Wrinkles forbid!

ALEXAS    Vex not his prescience; be attentive.


Soothsayer     You shall be more beloving than beloved.

   I had rather heat my liver with drinking.

ALEXAS    Nay, hear him.

   Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married
   to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all:
et me have a child at fifty, to whom Herod of Jewry
   may do homage: find me to marry me with Octavius
    Caesar, and companion me with my mistress.

   You shall outlive the lady whom you serve.

   O excellent! I love long life better than figs.

   You have seen and proved a fairer former fortune
   Than that which is to approach.

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

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

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

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

CHARMIAN    Nay, come, tell Iras hers.

ALEXAS    We’ll know all our fortunes.

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

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

   E’en as the o’erflowing Nilus presageth famine.

IRAS     Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.

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

Soothsayer    Your fortunes are alike.

IRAS    But how, but how? give me particulars.

Soothsayer    I have said.

IRAS    Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?

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

IRAS    Not in my husband’s nose.

   Our worser thoughts heavens 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 worst
   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!

   Amen. Dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people!
   for, as it is a heartbreaking 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!


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

DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS    Hush! here comes Antony.

CHARMIAN    Not he; the queen.


CLEOPATRA    Saw you my lord?


CLEOPATRA    Was he not here?

CHARMIAN    No, madam.

   He was disposed to mirth; but on the sudden
   A Roman thought hath struck him. Enobarbus!


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

ALEXAS    Here, at your service. My lord approaches.

CLEOPATRA    We will not look upon him: go with us.


[Enter MARK ANTONY with
a Messenger and Attendants]

Messenger    Fulvia thy wife first came into the field.

MARK ANTONY    Against my brother Lucius?

Messenger    Ay:
   But soon that war had end, and the time’s state
   Made friends of them, joining their force ‘gainst Caesar;
   Whose better issue in the war, from Italy,
   Upon the first encounter, drave them.

MARK ANTONY    Well, what worst?

Messenger    The nature of bad news infects the teller.

   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 lie death,
   I hear him as he flatter’d.

Messenger    Labienus–
   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–

MARK ANTONY    Antony, thou wouldst say,–

Messenger    O, my lord!

   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 minds lie still; and our ills told us
    Is as our earing. Fare thee well awhile.

Messenger     At your noble pleasure.


From Sicyon, ho, the news! Speak there!

First Attendant
   The man from Sicyon,–is there such an one?

Second Attendant    He stays upon your will.

MARK ANTONY    Let him appear.
   These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,
   Or lose myself in dotage.


[Enter another Messenger]

   What are you?

Second Messenger    Fulvia thy wife is dead.

MARK ANTONY     Where died she?

Second Messenger    In Sicyon:
   Her length of sickness, with what else more serious
   Importeth thee to know, this bears.

[Gives a letter]

MARK ANTONY    Forbear me.

[Exit Second Messenger]

   There’s a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it:
What our contempt doth 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 shoved 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!


DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS     What’s your pleasure, sir?

MARK ANTONY    I must with haste from hence.

   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.

MARK ANTONY    I must be gone.

   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.

MARK ANTONY    She is cunning past man’s thought.


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.

MARK ANTONY    Would I had never seen her.

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

MARK ANTONY    Fulvia is dead.


MARK ANTONY    Fulvia is dead.



   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.

   The business she hath broached in the state
   Cannot endure my absence.

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

    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 Caesar, 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.



[Exeunt] Act 1.1 | Act 1.3

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Updated: February 18, 2024 — 9:12 pm