William Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene II

Scene II

Alexandria. A room in the monument

Enter Cleopatra, Charmian, and Iras

Cleopatra

My desolation does begin to make A better life. 'Tis paltry to be Caesar; Not being Fortune, he's but Fortune's knave, A minister of her will: and it is great To do that thing that ends all other deeds; Which shackles accidents and bolts up change; Which sleeps, and never palates more the dug, The beggar's nurse and Caesar's.

Enter, to the gates of the monument, Proculeius, Gallus and Soldiers

Proculeius

Caesar sends greeting to the Queen of Egypt; And bids thee study on what fair demands Thou mean'st to have him grant thee.

Cleopatra

What's thy name?

Proculeius

My name is Proculeius.

Cleopatra

Antony Did tell me of you, bade me trust you; but I do not greatly care to be deceived, That have no use for trusting. If your master Would have a queen his beggar, you must tell him, That majesty, to keep decorum, must No less beg than a kingdom: if he please To give me conquer'd Egypt for my son, He gives me so much of mine own, as I Will kneel to him with thanks.

Proculeius

Be of good cheer; You're fall'n into a princely hand, fear nothing: Make your full reference freely to my lord, Who is so full of grace, that it flows over On all that need: let me report to him Your sweet dependency; and you shall find A conqueror that will pray in aid for kindness, Where he for grace is kneel'd to.

Cleopatra

Pray you, tell him I am his fortune's vassal, and I send him The greatness he has got. I hourly learn A doctrine of obedience; and would gladly Look him i' the face.

Proculeius

This I'll report, dear lady. Have comfort, for I know your plight is pitied Of him that caused it.

Gallus

You see how easily she may be surprised:

Here Proculeius and two of the Guard ascend the monument by a ladder placed against a window, and, having descended, come behind Cleopatra. Some of the Guard unbar and open the gates

To Proculeius and the Guard

Guard her till Caesar come.

Exit

Iras

Royal queen!

Charmian

O Cleopatra! thou art taken, queen:

Cleopatra

Quick, quick, good hands.

Drawing a dagger

Proculeius

Hold, worthy lady, hold:

Seizes and disarms her

Do not yourself such wrong, who are in this Relieved, but not betray'd.

Cleopatra

What, of death too, That rids our dogs of languish?

Proculeius

Cleopatra, Do not abuse my master's bounty by The undoing of yourself: let the world see His nobleness well acted, which your death Will never let come forth.

Cleopatra

Where art thou, death? Come hither, come! come, come, and take a queen Worthy many babes and beggars!

Proculeius

O, temperance, lady!

Cleopatra

Sir, I will eat no meat, I'll not drink, sir; If idle talk will once be necessary, I'll not sleep neither: this mortal house I'll ruin, Do Caesar what he can. Know, sir, that I Will not wait pinion'd at your master's court; Nor once be chastised with the sober eye Of dull Octavia. Shall they hoist me up And show me to the shouting varletry Of censuring Rome? Rather a ditch in Egypt Be gentle grave unto me! rather on Nilus' mud Lay me stark naked, and let the water-flies Blow me into abhorring! rather make My country's high pyramides my gibbet, And hang me up in chains!

Proculeius

You do extend These thoughts of horror further than you shall Find cause in Caesar.

Enter Dolabella

Dolabella

Proculeius, What thou hast done thy master Caesar knows, And he hath sent for thee: for the queen, I'll take her to my guard.

Proculeius

So, Dolabella, It shall content me best: be gentle to her.

To Cleopatra

To Caesar I will speak what you shall please, If you'll employ me to him.

Cleopatra

Say, I would die.

Exeunt Proculeius and Soldiers

Dolabella

Most noble empress, you have heard of me?

Cleopatra

I cannot tell.

Dolabella

Assuredly you know me.

Cleopatra

No matter, sir, what I have heard or known. You laugh when boys or women tell their dreams; Is't not your trick?

Dolabella

I understand not, madam.

Cleopatra

I dream'd there was an Emperor Antony: O, such another sleep, that I might see But such another man!

Dolabella

If it might please ye,—

Cleopatra

His face was as the heavens; and therein stuck A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted The little o' the earth.

Dolabella

Most sovereign creature,—

Cleopatra

His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear'd arm Crested the world: his voice was propertied As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends; But when he meant to quail and shake the orb, He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty, There was no winter in't; an autumn 'twas That grew the more by reaping: his delights Were dolphin-like; they show'd his back above The element they lived in: in his livery Walk'd crowns and crownets; realms and islands were As plates dropp'd from his pocket.

Dolabella

Cleopatra!

Cleopatra

Think you there was, or might be, such a man As this I dream'd of?

Dolabella

Gentle madam, no.

Cleopatra

You lie, up to the hearing of the gods. But, if there be, or ever were, one such, It's past the size of dreaming: nature wants stuff To vie strange forms with fancy; yet, to imagine And Antony, were nature's piece 'gainst fancy, Condemning shadows quite.

Dolabella

Hear me, good madam. Your loss is as yourself, great; and you bear it As answering to the weight: would I might never O'ertake pursued success, but I do feel, By the rebound of yours, a grief that smites My very heart at root.

Cleopatra

I thank you, sir, Know you what Caesar means to do with me?

Dolabella

I am loath to tell you what I would you knew.

Cleopatra

Nay, pray you, sir,—

Dolabella

Though he be honourable,—

Cleopatra

He'll lead me, then, in triumph?

Dolabella

Madam, he will; I know't.

Flourish, and shout within, “Make way there: Octavius Caesar!

Enter Octavius Caesar, Gallus, Proculeius, Mecaenas, Seleucus, and others of his Train

Octavius Caesar

Which is the Queen of Egypt?

Dolabella

It is the emperor, madam.

Cleopatra kneels

Octavius Caesar

Arise, you shall not kneel: I pray you, rise; rise, Egypt.

Cleopatra

Sir, the gods Will have it thus; my master and my lord I must obey.

Octavius Caesar

Take to you no hard thoughts: The record of what injuries you did us, Though written in our flesh, we shall remember As things but done by chance.

Cleopatra

Sole sir o' the world, I cannot project mine own cause so well To make it clear; but do confess I have Been laden with like frailties which before Have often shamed our sex.

Octavius Caesar

Cleopatra, know, We will extenuate rather than enforce: If you apply yourself to our intents, Which towards you are most gentle, you shall find A benefit in this change; but if you seek To lay on me a cruelty, by taking Antony's course, you shall bereave yourself Of my good purposes, and put your children To that destruction which I'll guard them from, If thereon you rely. I'll take my leave.

Cleopatra

And may, through all the world: 'tis yours; and we, Your scutcheons and your signs of conquest, shall Hang in what place you please. Here, my good lord.

Octavius Caesar

You shall advise me in all for Cleopatra.

Cleopatra

This is the brief of money, plate, and jewels, I am possess'd of: 'tis exactly valued; Not petty things admitted. Where's Seleucus?

Seleucus

Here, madam.

Cleopatra

This is my treasurer: let him speak, my lord, Upon his peril, that I have reserved To myself nothing. Speak the truth, Seleucus.

Seleucus

Madam, I had rather seal my lips, than, to my peril, Speak that which is not.

Cleopatra

What have I kept back?

Seleucus

Enough to purchase what you have made known.

Octavius Caesar

Nay, blush not, Cleopatra; I approve Your wisdom in the deed.

Cleopatra

See, Caesar! O, behold, How pomp is follow'd! mine will now be yours; And, should we shift estates, yours would be mine. The ingratitude of this Seleucus does Even make me wild: O slave, of no more trust Than love that's hired! What, goest thou back? thou shalt Go back, I warrant thee; but I'll catch thine eyes, Though they had wings: slave, soulless villain, dog! O rarely base!

Octavius Caesar

Good queen, let us entreat you.

Cleopatra

O Caesar, what a wounding shame is this, That thou, vouchsafing here to visit me, Doing the honour of thy lordliness To one so meek, that mine own servant should Parcel the sum of my disgraces by Addition of his envy! Say, good Caesar, That I some lady trifles have reserved, Immoment toys, things of such dignity As we greet modern friends withal; and say, Some nobler token I have kept apart For Livia and Octavia, to induce Their mediation; must I be unfolded With one that I have bred? The gods! it smites me Beneath the fall I have.

To Seleucus

Prithee, go hence; Or I shall show the cinders of my spirits Through the ashes of my chance: wert thou a man, Thou wouldst have mercy on me.

Octavius Caesar

Forbear, Seleucus.

Exit Seleucus

Cleopatra

Be it known, that we, the greatest, are misthought For things that others do; and, when we fall, We answer others' merits in our name, Are therefore to be pitied.

Octavius Caesar

Cleopatra, Not what you have reserved, nor what acknowledged, Put we i' the roll of conquest: still be't yours, Bestow it at your pleasure; and believe, Caesar's no merchant, to make prize with you Of things that merchants sold. Therefore be cheer'd; Make not your thoughts your prisons: no, dear queen; For we intend so to dispose you as Yourself shall give us counsel. Feed, and sleep: Our care and pity is so much upon you, That we remain your friend; and so, adieu.

Cleopatra

My master, and my lord!

Octavius Caesar

Not so. Adieu.

Flourish. Exeunt Octavius Caesar and his train

Cleopatra

He words me, girls, he words me, that I should not Be noble to myself: but, hark thee, Charmian.

Whispers Charmian

Iras

Finish, good lady; the bright day is done, And we are for the dark.

Cleopatra

Hie thee again: I have spoke already, and it is provided; Go put it to the haste.

Charmian

Madam, I will.

Re-enter Dolabella

Dolabella

Where is the queen?

Charmian

Behold, sir.

Exit

Cleopatra

Dolabella!

Dolabella

Madam, as thereto sworn by your command, Which my love makes religion to obey, I tell you this: Caesar through Syria Intends his journey; and within three days You with your children will he send before: Make your best use of this: I have perform'd Your pleasure and my promise.

Cleopatra

Dolabella, I shall remain your debtor.

Dolabella

I your servant, Adieu, good queen; I must attend on Caesar.

Cleopatra

Farewell, and thanks.

Exit Dolabella

Now, Iras, what think'st thou? Thou, an Egyptian puppet, shalt be shown In Rome, as well as I mechanic slaves With greasy aprons, rules, and hammers, shall Uplift us to the view; in their thick breaths, Rank of gross diet, shall be enclouded, And forced to drink their vapour.

Iras

The gods forbid!

Cleopatra

Nay, 'tis most certain, Iras: saucy lictors Will catch at us, like strumpets; and scald rhymers Ballad us out o' tune: the quick comedians Extemporally will stage us, and present Our Alexandrian revels; Antony Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness I' the posture of a whore.

Iras

O the good gods!

Cleopatra

Nay, that's certain.

Iras

I'll never see 't; for, I am sure, my nails Are stronger than mine eyes.

Cleopatra

Why, that's the way To fool their preparation, and to conquer Their most absurd intents.

Re-enter Charmian

Now, Charmian! Show me, my women, like a queen: go fetch My best attires: I am again for Cydnus, To meet Mark Antony: sirrah Iras, go. Now, noble Charmian, we'll dispatch indeed; And, when thou hast done this chare, I'll give thee leave To play till doomsday. Bring our crown and all. Wherefore's this noise?

Exit Iras. A noise within

Enter a Guardsman

Guard

Here is a rural fellow That will not be denied your highness presence: He brings you figs.

Cleopatra

Let him come in.

Exit Guardsman

What poor an instrument May do a noble deed! he brings me liberty. My resolution's placed, and I have nothing Of woman in me: now from head to foot I am marble-constant; now the fleeting moon No planet is of mine.

Re-enter Guardsman, with Clown bringing in a basket

Guard

This is the man.

Cleopatra

Avoid, and leave him.

Exit Guardsman

Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there, That kills and pains not?

Clown

Truly, I have him: but I would not be the party that should desire you to touch him, for his biting is immortal; those that do die of it do seldom or never recover.

Cleopatra

Rememberest thou any that have died on't?

Clown

Very many, men and women too. I heard of one of them no longer than yesterday: a very honest woman, but something given to lie; as a woman should not do, but in the way of honesty: how she died of the biting of it, what pain she felt: truly, she makes a very good report o' the worm; but he that will believe all that they say, shall never be saved by half that they do: but this is most fallible, the worm's an odd worm.

Cleopatra

Get thee hence; farewell.

Clown

I wish you all joy of the worm.

Setting down his basket

Cleopatra

Farewell.

Clown

You must think this, look you, that the worm will do his kind.

Cleopatra

Ay, ay; farewell.

Clown

Look you, the worm is not to be trusted but in the keeping of wise people; for, indeed, there is no goodness in worm.

Cleopatra

Take thou no care; it shall be heeded.

Clown

Very good. Give it nothing, I pray you, for it is not worth the feeding.

Cleopatra

Will it eat me?

Clown

You must not think I am so simple but I know the devil himself will not eat a woman: I know that a woman is a dish for the gods, if the devil dress her not. But, truly, these same whoreson devils do the gods great harm in their women; for in every ten that they make, the devils mar five.

Cleopatra

Well, get thee gone; farewell.

Clown

Yes, forsooth: I wish you joy o' the worm.

Exit

Re-enter Iras with a robe, crown, &c

Cleopatra

Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me: now no more The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip: Yare, yare, good Iras; quick. Methinks I hear Antony call; I see him rouse himself To praise my noble act; I hear him mock The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men To excuse their after wrath: husband, I come: Now to that name my courage prove my title! I am fire and air; my other elements I give to baser life. So; have you done? Come then, and take the last warmth of my lips. Farewell, kind Charmian; Iras, long farewell.

Kisses them. Iras falls and dies

Have I the aspic in my lips? Dost fall? If thou and nature can so gently part, The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch, Which hurts, and is desired. Dost thou lie still? If thus thou vanishest, thou tell'st the world It is not worth leave-taking.

Charmian

Dissolve, thick cloud, and rain; that I may say, The gods themselves do weep!

Cleopatra

This proves me base: If she first meet the curled Antony, He'll make demand of her, and spend that kiss Which is my heaven to have. Come, thou mortal wretch,

To an asp, which she applies to her breast

With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate Of life at once untie: poor venomous fool Be angry, and dispatch. O, couldst thou speak, That I might hear thee call great Caesar ass unpolicied!

Charmian

O eastern star!

Cleopatra

Peace, peace! Dost thou not see my baby at my breast, That sucks the nurse asleep?

Charmian

O, break! O, break!

Cleopatra

As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle,— O Antony!—Nay, I will take thee too.

Applying another asp to her arm

What should I stay—

Dies

Charmian

In this vile world? So, fare thee well. Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies A lass unparallel'd. Downy windows, close; And golden Phoebus never be beheld Of eyes again so royal! Your crown's awry; I'll mend it, and then play.

Enter the Guard, rushing in

First Guard

Where is the queen?

Charmian

Speak softly, wake her not.

First Guard

Caesar hath sent—

Charmian

Too slow a messenger.

Applies an asp

O, come apace, dispatch! I partly feel thee.

First Guard

Approach, ho! All's not well: Caesar's beguiled.

Second Guard

There's Dolabella sent from Caesar; call him.

First Guard

What work is here! Charmian, is this well done?

Charmian

It is well done, and fitting for a princess Descended of so many royal kings. Ah, soldier! [Dies] 

Re-enter Dolabella

Dolabella

How goes it here?

Second Guard

All dead.

Dolabella

Caesar, thy thoughts Touch their effects in this: thyself art coming To see perform'd the dreaded act which thou So sought'st to hinder.

Within 'A way there, a way for Caesar!'

Re-enter Octavius Caesar and all his train marching

Dolabella

O sir, you are too sure an augurer; That you did fear is done.

Octavius Caesar

Bravest at the last, She levell'd at our purposes, and, being royal, Took her own way. The manner of their deaths? I do not see them bleed.

Dolabella

Who was last with them?

First Guard

A simple countryman, that brought her figs: This was his basket.

Octavius Caesar

Poison'd, then.

First Guard

O Caesar, This Charmian lived but now; she stood and spake: I found her trimming up the diadem On her dead mistress; tremblingly she stood And on the sudden dropp'd.

Octavius Caesar

O noble weakness! If they had swallow'd poison, 'twould appear By external swelling: but she looks like sleep, As she would catch another Antony In her strong toil of grace.

Dolabella

Here, on her breast, There is a vent of blood and something blown: The like is on her arm.

First Guard

This is an aspic's trail: and these fig-leaves Have slime upon them, such as the aspic leaves Upon the caves of Nile.

Octavius Caesar

Most probable That so she died; for her physician tells me She hath pursued conclusions infinite Of easy ways to die. Take up her bed; And bear her women from the monument: She shall be buried by her Antony: No grave upon the earth shall clip in it A pair so famous. High events as these Strike those that make them; and their story is No less in pity than his glory which Brought them to be lamented. Our army shall In solemn show attend this funeral; And then to Rome. Come, Dolabella, see High order in this great solemnity.

Exeunt