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Act II. Scene I

Enter CLEOPATRA, IRAS, and ALEXAS

CLEOPATRA
What shall I do, or whither shall I turn?
Ventidius has o'ercome, and he will go.

ALEXAS
He goes to fight for you.

CLEOPATRA
Then he would see me, ere he went to fight:
Flatter me not: If once he goes, he's lost,
And all my hopes destroyed.

ALEXAS
Does this weak passion
Become a mighty queen?

CLEOPATRA
I am no queen:
Is this to be a queen, to be besieged
By yon insulting Roman, and to wait
Each hour the victor's chain? These ills are small:
For Antony is lost, and I can mourn
For nothing else but him. Now come, Octavius,
I have no more to lose! prepare thy bands;
I'm fit to be a captive: Antony
Has taught my mind the fortune of a slave.

IRAS
Call reason to assist you.

CLEOPATRA
I have none,
And none would have: My love's a noble madness,
Which shows the cause deserved it. Moderate sorrow
Fits vulgar love, and for a vulgar man:
But I have loved with such transcendent passion,
I soared, at first, quite out of reason's view,
And now am lost above it. No, I'm proud
'Tis thus: Would Antony could see me now
Think you he would not sigh, though he must leave me?
Sure he would sigh; for he is noble-natured,
And bears a tender heart: I know him well.
Ah, no, I know him not; I knew him once,
But now 'tis past.

IRAS
Let it be past with you:
Forget him, madam.

CLEOPATRA
Never, never, Iras.
He once was mine; and once, though now 'tis gone,
Leaves a faint image of possession still.

ALEXAS
Think him inconstant, cruel, and ungrateful.

CLEOPATRA
I cannot: If I could, those thoughts were vain.
Faithless, ungrateful, cruel, though he be,
I still must love him.

Enter CHARMION

Now, what news, my Charmion?
Will he be kind? and will he not forsake me?
Am I to live, or die?--nay, do I live?
Or am I dead? for when he gave his answer,
Fate took the word, and then I lived or died.

CHARMION
I found him, madam--

CLEOPATRA
A long speech preparing?
If thou bring'st comfort, haste, and give it me,
For never was more need.

IRAS
I know he loves you.

CLEOPATRA
Had he been kind, her eyes had told me so,
Before her tongue could speak it: Now she studies,
To soften what he said; but give me death,
Just as he sent it, Charmion, undisguised,
And in the words he spoke.

CHARMION
I found him, then,
Encompassed round, I think, with iron statues;
So mute, so motionless his soldiers stood,
While awfully he cast his eyes about,
And every leader's hopes or fears surveyed:
Methought he looked resolved, and yet not pleased.
When he beheld me struggling in the crowd,
He blushed, and bade make way.

ALEXAS
There's comfort yet.

CHARMION
Ventidius fixed his eyes upon my passage
Severely, as he meant to frown me back,
And sullenly gave place: I told my message,
Just as you gave it, broken and disordered;
I numbered in it all your sighs and tears,
And while I moved your pitiful request,
That you but only begged a last farewell,
He fetched an inward groan; and every time
I named you, sighed, as if his heart were breaking,
But, shunned my eyes, and guiltily looked down:
He seemed not now that awful Antony,
Who shook and armed assembly with his nod;
But, making show as he would rub his eyes,
Disguised and blotted out a falling tear.

CLEOPATRA
Did he then weep? And was I worth a tear?
If what thou hast to say be not as pleasing,
Tell me no more, but let me die contented.

CHARMION
He bid me say,--He knew himself so well,
He could deny you nothing, if he saw you;
And therefore--

CLEOPATRA
Thou wouldst say, he would not see me?

CHARMION
And therefore begged you not to use a power,
Which he could ill resist; yet he should ever
Respect you, as he ought.

CLEOPATRA
Is that a word
For Antony to use to Cleopatra?
O that faint word, RESPECT! how I disdain it!
Disdain myself, for loving after it!
He should have kept that word for cold Octavia.
Respect is for a wife: Am I that thing,
That dull, insipid lump, without desires,
And without power to give them?

ALEXAS
You misjudge;
You see through love, and that deludes your sight;
As, what is straight, seems crooked through the water:
But I, who bear my reason undisturbed,
Can see this Antony, this dreaded man,
A fearful slave, who fain would run away,
And shuns his master's eyes: If you pursue him,
My life on't, he still drags a chain along.
That needs must clog his flight.

CLEOPATRA
Could I believe thee!--

ALEXAS
By every circumstance I know he loves.
True, he's hard prest, by interest and by honour;
Yet he but doubts, and parleys, and casts out
Many a long look for succour.

CLEOPATRA
He sends word,
He fears to see my face.

ALEXAS
And would you more?
He shows his weakness who declines the combat,
And you must urge your fortune. Could he speak
More plainly? To my ears, the message sounds--
Come to my rescue, Cleopatra, come;
Come, free me from Ventidius; from my tyrant:
See me, and give me a pretence to leave him!--
I hear his trumpets. This way he must pass.
Please you, retire a while; I'll work him first,
That he may bend more easy.

CLEOPATRA
You shall rule me;
But all, I fear, in vain.

[Exit with CHARMION and IRAS.]

ALEXAS
I fear so too;
Though I concealed my thoughts, to make her bold;
But 'tis our utmost means, and fate befriend it!

[Withdraws.]

Enter Lictors with Fasces; one bearing the Eagle; then enter
ANTONY with VENTIDIUS, followed by other Commanders

ANTONY
Octavius is the minion of blind chance,
But holds from virtue nothing.

VENTIDIUS
Has he courage?

ANTONY
But just enough to season him from coward.
Oh, 'tis the coldest youth upon a charge,
The most deliberate fighter! if he ventures
(As in Illyria once, they say, he did,
To storm a town), 'tis when he cannot choose;
When all the world have fixt their eyes upon him;
And then he lives on that for seven years after;
But, at a close revenge he never fails.

VENTIDIUS
I heard you challenged him.

ANTONY
I did, Ventidius.
What think'st thou was his answer? 'Twas so tame!--
He said, he had more ways than one to die;
I had not.

VENTIDIUS
Poor!

ANTONY
He has more ways than one;
But he would choose them all before that one.

VENTIDIUS
He first would choose an ague, or a fever.

ANTONY
No; it must be an ague, not a fever;
He Has not warmth enough to die by that.

VENTIDIUS
Or old age and a bed.

ANTONY
Ay, there's his choice,
He would live, like a lamp, to the last wink,
And crawl the utmost verge of life.
O Hercules! Why should a man like this,
Who dares not trust his fate for one great action,
Be all the care of Heaven? Why should he lord it
O'er fourscore thousand men, of whom each one
Is braver than himself?

VENTIDIUS
You conquered for him:
Philippi knows it; there you shared with him
That empire, which your sword made all your own.

ANTONY
Fool that I was, upon my eagle's wings
I bore this wren, till I was tired with soaring,
And now he mounts above me.
Good heavens, is this,--is this the man who braves me?
Who bids my age make way? Drives me before him,
To the world's ridge, and sweeps me off like rubbish?

VENTIDIUS
Sir, we lose time; the troops are mounted all.

ANTONY
Then give the word to march:
I long to leave this prison of a town,
To join thy legions; and, in open field,
Once more to show my face. Lead, my deliverer.

Enter ALEXAS

ALEXAS
Great emperor,
In mighty arms renowned above mankind,
But, in soft pity to the opprest, a god;
This message sends the mournful Cleopatra
To her departing lord.

VENTIDIUS
Smooth sycophant!

ALEXAS
A thousand wishes, and ten thousand prayers,
Millions of blessings wait you to the wars;
Millions of sighs and tears she sends you too,
And would have sent
As many dear embraces to your arms,
As many parting kisses to your lips;
But those, she fears, have wearied you already.

VENTIDIUS
[aside.] False crocodile!

ALEXAS
And yet she begs not now, you would not leave her;
That were a wish too mighty for her hopes,
Too presuming
For her low fortune, and your ebbing love;
That were a wish for her more prosperous days,
Her blooming beauty, and your growing kindness.

ANTONY
[aside.] Well, I must man it out:--What would the queen?

ALEXAS
First, to these noble warriors, who attend
Your daring courage in the chase of fame,--
Too daring, and too dangerous for her quiet,--
She humbly recommends all she holds dear,
All her own cares and fears,--the care of you.

VENTIDIUS
Yes, witness Actium.

ANTONY
Let him speak, Ventidius.

ALEXAS
You, when his matchless valour bears him forward,
With ardour too heroic, on his foes,
Fall down, as she would do, before his feet;
Lie in his way, and stop the paths of death:
Tell him, this god is not invulnerable;
That absent Cleopatra bleeds in him;
And, that you may remember her petition,
She begs you wear these trifles, as a pawn,
Which, at your wished return, she will redeem

[Gives jewels to the Commanders.]

With all the wealth of Egypt:
This to the great Ventidius she presents,
Whom she can never count her enemy,
Because he loves her lord.

VENTIDIUS
Tell her, I'll none on't;
I'm not ashamed of honest poverty;
Not all the diamonds of the east can bribe
Ventidius from his faith. I hope to see
These and the rest of all her sparkling store,
Where they shall more deservingly be placed.

ANTONY
And who must wear them then?

VENTIDIUS
The wronged Octavia.

ANTONY
You might have spared that word.

VENTIDIUS
And he that bribe.

ANTONY
But have I no remembrance?

ALEXAS
Yes, a dear one;
Your slave the queen--

ANTONY
My mistress.

ALEXAS
Then your mistress;
Your mistress would, she says, have sent her soul,
But that you had long since; she humbly begs
This ruby bracelet, set with bleeding hearts,
The emblems of her own, may bind your arm.

[Presenting a bracelet.]

VENTIDIUS
Now, my best lord,--in honour's name, I ask you,
For manhood's sake, and for your own dear safety,--
Touch not these poisoned gifts,
Infected by the sender; touch them not;
Myriads of bluest plagues lie underneath them,
And more than aconite has dipt the silk.

ANTONY
Nay, now you grow too cynical, Ventidius:
A lady's favours may be worn with honour.
What, to refuse her bracelet! On my soul,
When I lie pensive in my tent alone,
'Twill pass the wakeful hours of winter nights,
To tell these pretty beads upon my arm,
To count for every one a soft embrace,
A melting kiss at such and such a time:
And now and then the fury of her love,
When----And what harm's in this?

ALEXAS
None, none, my lord,
But what's to her, that now 'tis past for ever.

ANTONY
[going to tie it.]
We soldiers are so awkward--help me tie it.

ALEXAS
In faith, my lord, we courtiers too are awkward
In these affairs: so are all men indeed:
Even I, who am not one. But shall I speak?

ANTONY
Yes, freely.

ALEXAS
Then, my lord, fair hands alone
Are fit to tie it; she, who sent it can.

VENTIDIUS
Hell, death! this eunuch pander ruins you.
You will not see her?

[ALEXAS whispers an ATTENDANT, who goes out.]

ANTONY
But to take my leave.

VENTIDIUS
Then I have washed an Aethiop. You're undone;
Y' are in the toils; y' are taken; y' are destroyed:
Her eyes do Caesar's work.

ANTONY
You fear too soon.
I'm constant to myself: I know my strength;
And yet she shall not think me barbarous neither,
Born in the depths of Afric: I am a Roman,
Bred in the rules of soft humanity.
A guest, and kindly used, should bid farewell.

VENTIDIUS
You do not know
How weak you are to her, how much an infant:
You are not proof against a smile, or glance:
A sigh will quite disarm you.

ANTONY
See, she comes!
Now you shall find your error.--Gods, I thank you:
I formed the danger greater than it was,
And now 'tis near, 'tis lessened.

VENTIDIUS
Mark the end yet.

Enter CLEOPATRA, CHARMION, and IRAS

ANTONY
Well, madam, we are met.

CLEOPATRA
Is this a meeting?
Then, we must part?

ANTONY
We must.

CLEOPATRA
Who says we must?

ANTONY
Our own hard fates.

CLEOPATRA
We make those fates ourselves.

ANTONY
Yes, we have made them; we have loved each other,
Into our mutual ruin.

CLEOPATRA
The gods have seen my joys with envious eyes;
I have no friends in heaven; and all the world,
As 'twere the business of mankind to part us,
Is armed against my love: even you yourself
Join with the rest; you, you are armed against me.

ANTONY
I will be justified in all I do
To late posterity, and therefore hear me.
If I mix a lie
With any truth, reproach me freely with it;
Else, favour me with silence.

CLEOPATRA
You command me,
And I am dumb.

VENTIDIUS
I like this well; he shows authority.

ANTONY
That I derive my ruin
From you alone----

CLEOPATRA
O heavens! I ruin you!

ANTONY
You promised me your silence, and you break it
Ere I have scarce begun.

CLEOPATRA
Well, I obey you.

ANTONY
When I beheld you first, it was in Egypt.
Ere Caesar saw your eyes, you gave me love,
And were too young to know it; that I settled
Your father in his throne, was for your sake;
I left the acknowledgment for time to ripen.
Caesar stept in, and, with a greedy hand,
Plucked the green fruit, ere the first blush of red,
Yet cleaving to the bough. He was my lord,
And was, beside, too great for me to rival;
But, I deserved you first, though he enjoyed you.
When, after, I beheld you in Cilicia,
An enemy to Rome, I pardoned you.

CLEOPATRA
I cleared myself----

ANTONY
Again you break your promise.
I loved you still, and took your weak excuses,
Took you into my bosom, stained by Caesar,
And not half mine: I went to Egypt with you,
And hid me from the business of the world,
Shut out inquiring nations from my sight,
To give whole years to you.

VENTIDIUS
Yes, to your shame be't spoken.

[Aside.]

ANTONY
How I loved.
Witness, ye days and nights, and all ye hours,
That danced away with down upon your feet,
As all your business were to count my passion!
One day passed by, and nothing saw but love;
Another came, and still 'twas only love:
The suns were wearied out with looking on,
And I untired with loving.
I saw you every day, and all the day;
And every day was still but as the first,
So eager was I still to see you more.

VENTIDIUS
'Tis all too true.

ANTONY
Fulvia, my wife, grew jealous,
(As she indeed had reason) raised a war
In Italy, to call me back.

VENTIDIUS
But yet
You went not.

ANTONY
While within your arms I lay,
The world fell mouldering from my hands each hour,
And left me scarce a grasp--I thank your love for't.

VENTIDIUS
Well pushed: that last was home.

CLEOPATRA
Yet may I speak?

ANTONY
If I have urged a falsehood, yes; else, not.
Your silence says, I have not. Fulvia died,
(Pardon, you gods, with my unkindness died);
To set the world at peace, I took Octavia,
This Caesar's sister; in her pride of youth,
And flower of beauty, did I wed that lady,
Whom blushing I must praise, because I left her.
You called; my love obeyed the fatal summons:
This raised the Roman arms; the cause was yours.
I would have fought by land, where I was stronger;
You hindered it: yet, when I fought at sea,
Forsook me fighting; and (O stain to honour!
O lasting shame!) I knew not that I fled;
But fled to follow you.

VENTIDIUS
What haste she made to hoist her purple sails!
And, to appear magnificent in flight,
Drew half our strength away.

ANTONY
All this you caused.
And, would you multiply more ruins on me?
This honest man, my best, my only friend,
Has gathered up the shipwreck of my fortunes;
Twelve legions I have left, my last recruits.
And you have watched the news, and bring your eyes
To seize them too. If you have aught to answer,
Now speak, you have free leave.

ALEXAS
[aside.] She stands confounded:
Despair is in her eyes.

VENTIDIUS
Now lay a sigh in the way to stop his passage:
Prepare a tear, and bid it for his legions;
'Tis like they shall be sold.

CLEOPATRA
How shall I plead my cause, when you, my judge,
Already have condemned me? Shall I bring
The love you bore me for my advocate?
That now is turned against me, that destroys me;
For love, once past, is, at the best, forgotten;
But oftener sours to hate: 'twill please my lord
To ruin me, and therefore I'll be guilty.
But, could I once have thought it would have pleased you,
That you would pry, with narrow searching eyes,
Into my faults, severe to my destruction,
And watching all advantages with care,
That serve to make me wretched? Speak, my lord,
For I end here. Though I deserved this usage,
Was it like you to give it?

ANTONY
Oh, you wrong me,
To think I sought this parting, or desired
To accuse you more than what will clear myself,
And justify this breach.

CLEOPATRA
Thus low I thank you;
And, since my innocence will not offend,
I shall not blush to own it.

VENTIDIUS
After this,
I think she'll blush at nothing.

CLEOPATRA
You seem grieved
(And therein you are kind) that Caesar first
Enjoyed my love, though you deserved it better:
I grieve for that, my lord, much more than you;
For, had I first been yours, it would have saved
My second choice: I never had been his,
And ne'er had been but yours. But Caesar first,
You say, possessed my love. Not so, my lord:
He first possessed my person; you, my love:
Caesar loved me; but I loved Antony.
If I endured him after, 'twas because
I judged it due to the first name of men;
And, half constrained, I gave, as to a tyrant,
What he would take by force.

VENTIDIUS
O Syren! Syren!
Yet grant that all the love she boasts were true,
Has she not ruined you? I still urge that,
The fatal consequence.

CLEOPATRA
The consequence indeed--
For I dare challenge him, my greatest foe,
To say it was designed: 'tis true, I loved you,
And kept you far from an uneasy wife,--
Such Fulvia was.
Yes, but he'll say, you left Octavia for me;--
And, can you blame me to receive that love,
Which quitted such desert, for worthless me?
How often have I wished some other Caesar,
Great as the first, and as the second young,
Would court my love, to be refused for you!

VENTIDIUS
Words, words; but Actium, sir; remember Actium.

CLEOPATRA
Even there, I dare his malice. True, I counselled
To fight at sea; but I betrayed you not.
I fled, but not to the enemy. 'Twas fear;
Would I had been a man, not to have feared!
For none would then have envied me your friendship,
Who envy me your love.

ANTONY
We are both unhappy:
If nothing else, yet our ill fortune parts us.
Speak; would you have me perish by my stay?

CLEOPATRA
If, as a friend, you ask my judgment, go;
If, as a lover, stay. If you must perish--
'Tis a hard word--but stay.

VENTIDIUS
See now the effects of her so boasted love!
She strives to drag you down to ruin with her;
But, could she 'scape without you, oh, how soon
Would she let go her hold, and haste to shore,
And never look behind!

CLEOPATRA
Then judge my love by this.

[Giving ANTONY a writing.]

Could I have borne
A life or death, a happiness or woe,
From yours divided, this had given me means.

ANTONY
By Hercules, the writing of Octavius!
I know it well: 'tis that proscribing hand,
Young as it was, that led the way to mine,
And left me but the second place in murder.--
See, see, Ventidius! here he offers Egypt,
And joins all Syria to it, as a present;
So, in requital, she forsake my fortunes,
And join her arms with his.

CLEOPATRA
And yet you leave me!
You leave me, Antony; and yet I love you,
Indeed I do: I have refused a kingdom;
That is a trifle;
For I could part with life, with anything,
But only you. Oh, let me die but with you!
Is that a hard request?

ANTONY
Next living with you,
'Tis all that Heaven can give.

ALEXAS
He melts; we conquer.

[Aside.]

CLEOPATRA
No; you shall go: your interest calls you hence;
Yes; your dear interest pulls too strong, for these
Weak arms to hold you here.

[Takes his hand.]

Go; leave me, soldier
(For you're no more a lover): leave me dying:
Push me, all pale and panting, from your bosom,
And, when your march begins, let one run after,
Breathless almost for joy, and cry--She's dead.
The soldiers shout; you then, perhaps, may sigh,
And muster all your Roman gravity:
Ventidius chides; and straight your brow clears up,
As I had never been.

ANTONY
Gods, 'tis too much; too much for man to bear.

CLEOPATRA
What is't for me then,
A weak, forsaken woman, and a lover?--
Here let me breathe my last: envy me not
This minute in your arms: I'll die apace,
As fast as e'er I can, and end your trouble.

ANTONY
Die! rather let me perish; loosened nature
Leap from its hinges, sink the props of heaven,
And fall the skies, to crush the nether world!
My eyes, my soul, my all!

[Embraces her.]

VENTIDIUS
And what's this toy,
In balance with your fortune, honour, fame?

ANTONY
What is't, Ventidius?--it outweighs them all;
Why, we have more than conquered Caesar now:
My queen's not only innocent, but loves me.
This, this is she, who drags me down to ruin!
"But, could she 'scape without me, with what haste
Would she let slip her hold, and make to shore,
And never look behind!"
Down on thy knees, blasphemer as thou art,
And ask forgiveness of wronged innocence.

VENTIDIUS
I'll rather die, than take it. Will you go?

ANTONY
Go! whither? Go from all that's excellent?
Faith, honour, virtue, all good things forbid,
That I should go from her, who sets my love
Above the price of kingdoms! Give, you gods,
Give to your boy, your Caesar,
This rattle of a globe to play withal,
This gewgaw world, and put him cheaply off:
I'll not be pleased with less than Cleopatra.

CLEOPATRA
She's wholly yours. My heart's so full of joy,
That I shall do some wild extravagance
Of love, in public; and the foolish world,
Which knows not tenderness, will think me mad.

VENTIDIUS
O women! women! women! all the gods
Have not such power of doing good to man,
As you of doing harm.

[Exit.]

ANTONY
Our men are armed:--
Unbar the gate that looks to Caesar's camp:
I would revenge the treachery he meant me;
And long security makes conquest easy.
I'm eager to return before I go;
For, all the pleasures I have known beat thick
On my remembrance.--How I long for night!
That both the sweets of mutual love may try,
And triumph once o'er Caesar ere we die.

[Exeunt.]

John Dryden

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