William Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene IV

Scene IV

Rome. Octavius Caesar's house

Enter Octavius Caesar, reading a letter, Lepidus, and their Train

Octavius Caesar

You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know, It is not Caesar'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 man-like Than Cleopatra; nor the queen of Ptolemy More womanly than he; hardly gave audience, or Vouchsafed to think he had partners: you shall find there A man who is the abstract of all faults That all men follow.

Lepidus

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 purchased; what he cannot change, Than what he chooses.

Octavius Caesar

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

Lepidus

Here's more news.

Messenger

Thy biddings have been done; and every hour, Most noble Caesar, shalt thou have report How 'tis abroad. Pompey is strong at sea; And it appears he is beloved of those That only have fear'd Caesar: to the ports The discontents repair, and men's reports Give him much wrong'd.

Octavius Caesar

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 loved 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.

Messenger

Caesar, 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.

Octavius Caesar

Antony, 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 thine honour that I speak it now— Was borne so like a soldier, that thy cheek So much as lank'd not.

Lepidus

'Tis pity of him.

Octavius Caesar

Let his shames quickly Drive him to Rome: 'tis time we twain Did show ourselves i' the field; and to that end Assemble we immediate council: Pompey Thrives in our idleness.

Lepidus

To-morrow, Caesar, I shall be furnish'd to inform you rightly Both what by sea and land I can be able To front this present time.

Octavius Caesar

Till which encounter, It is my business too. Farewell.

Lepidus

Farewell, my lord: what you shall know meantime Of stirs abroad, I shall beseech you, sir, To let me be partaker.

Octavius Caesar

Doubt not, sir; I knew it for my bond.

Exeunt