Alexandria. Another room in a monument in Cleopatra’s palace.
(Cleopatra; Charmian; Iras; Mardian; Proculeius; Dolabella; Caesar; Gallus; Maecenas; Seleucus; First Roman Guard; Second Roman Guard; Clown; First Roman Soldier; Second Roman Soldier)
Cleopatra is traitorously seized by Proculeius, who has orders to keep her from killing herself. Caesar arrives to talk with Cleopatra, untruthfully telling her that he means her no harm, and she just as deceitfully convinces him that she wants to live. Dolabella confirms that Caesar’s actual intent is to show Cleopatra off as a prize of war in a triumph in Rome. Refusing to allow this to happen, Cleopatra makes the final decision to die, using some asps she has snuck in by a countryman. She dresses in her royal robes and lets the snakes bite her. Caesar’s guards come in too late to stop her. Caesar arrives to view the scene. (410 lines)
Enter Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras, and Mardian.
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 dung,
The beggar’s nurse and Caesar’s.
Caesar sends greeting to the Queen of Egypt,
And bids thee study on what fair demands
Thou mean’st to have him grant thee.
What’s thy name?
My name is Proculeius.
Did tell me of you, bade me trust you, but
I do not greatly care to be deceiv’d,
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.
Be of good cheer;
Y’ are 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.
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’ th’ face.
This I’ll report, dear lady.
Have comfort, for I know your plight is pitied
Of him that caus’d it.
Enter Roman Soldiers behind Cleopatra.
You see how easily she may be surpris’d.
Guard her till Caesar come.
O Cleopatra! Thou art taken, Queen.
Quick, quick, good hands.
Drawing a dagger.
Hold, worthy lady, hold!
Seizes and disarms her.
Do not yourself such wrong, who are in this
Reliev’d, but not betray’d.
What, of death too,
That rids our dogs of languish?
Do not abuse my master’s bounty by
Th’ undoing of yourself. Let the world see
His nobleness well acted, which your death
Will never let come forth.
Where art thou, death?
Come hither, come! Come, come, and take a queen
Worth many babes and beggars!
O, temperance, lady!
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 chastis’d with the sober eye
Of dull Octavia. Shall they hoist me up,
And show me to the shouting varlotry
Of censuring Rome? Rather a ditch in Egypt
Be gentle grave unto me! Rather on Nilus’ mud
Lay me stark-nak’d, and let the water-flies
Blow me into abhorring! Rather make
My country’s high pyramides my gibbet,
And hang me up in chains!
You do extend
These thoughts of horror further than you shall
Find cause in Caesar.
What thou hast done thy master Caesar knows,
And he hath sent for thee. For the Queen,
I’ll take her to my guard.
It shall content me best. Be gentle to her.
To Caesar I will speak what you shall please,
If you’ll employ me to him.
Say, I would die.
Exit Proculeius with Roman Soldiers.
Most noble Empress, you have heard of me?
I cannot tell.
Assuredly you know me.
No matter, sir, what I have heard or known.
You laugh when boys or women tell their dreams;
Is’t not your trick?
I understand not, madam.
I dreamt there was an Emperor Antony.
O, such another sleep, that I might see
But such another man!
If it might please ye—
His face was as the heav’ns, and therein stuck
A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted
The little O, th’ earth.
Most sovereign creature—
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 it was
That grew the more by reaping. His delights
Were dolphin-like, they show’d his back above
The element they liv’d in. In his livery
Walk’d crowns and crownets; realms and islands were
As plates dropp’d from his pocket.
Think you there was or might be such a man
As this I dreamt of?
Gentle madam, no.
You lie up to the hearing of the gods!
But if there be, nor ever were one such,
It’s past the size of dreaming. Nature wants stuff
To vie strange forms with fancy; yet t’ imagine
An Antony were nature’s piece ’gainst fancy,
Condemning shadows quite.
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 pursu’d success, but I do feel,
By the rebound of yours, a grief that smites
My very heart at root.
I thank you, sir.
Know you what Caesar means to do with me?
I am loath to tell you what I would you knew.
Nay, pray you, sir.
Though he be honorable—
He’ll lead me then in triumph?
Madam, he will, I know’t.
Enter Proculeius, Caesar, Gallus, Maecenas, and others of his Train, Seleucus following.
Make way there! Caesar!
Which is the Queen of Egypt?
It is the Emperor, madam.
Arise, you shall not kneel.
I pray you rise, rise, Egypt.
Sir, the gods
Will have it thus, my master and my lord
I must obey.
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.
Sole sir o’ th’ 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 sham’d our sex.
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.
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.
You shall advise me in all for Cleopatra.
Giving a scroll.
This is the brief: of money, plate, and jewels
I am possess’d of; ’tis exactly valued,
Not petty things admitted. Where’s Seleucus?
This is my treasurer, let him speak, my lord,
Upon his peril, that I have reserv’d
To myself nothing. Speak the truth, Seleucus.
I had rather seel my lips than to my peril
Speak that which is not.
What have I kept back?
Enough to purchase what you have made known.
Nay, blush not, Cleopatra, I approve
Your wisdom in the deed.
See, Caesar! O, behold,
How pomp is followed! 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 hir’d! 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!
Good Queen, let us entreat you.
O Caesar, what a wounding shame is this,
That thou, vouchsafing here to visit me,
Doing the honor 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 reserv’d,
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.
Prithee go hence,
Or I shall show the cinders of my spirits
Through th’ ashes of my chance. Wert thou a man,
Thou wouldst have mercy on me.
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.
Not what you have reserv’d, nor what acknowledg’d,
Put we i’ th’ 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.
My master, and my lord!
Not so. Adieu.
Flourish. Exeunt Caesar and his Train.
He words me, girls, he words me, that I should not
Be noble to myself. But hark thee, Charmian.
Finish, good lady, the bright day is done,
And we are for the dark.
Hie thee again.
I have spoke already, and it is provided;
Go put it to the haste.
Madam, I will.
Where’s the Queen?
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.
I shall remain your debtor.
I your servant.
Adieu, good Queen, I must attend on Caesar.
Farewell, and thanks!
Now, Iras, what think’st thou?
Thou, an Egyptian puppet, shall 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 we be enclouded,
And forc’d to drink their vapor.
The gods forbid!
Nay, ’tis most certain, Iras. Saucy lictors
Will catch at us like strumpets, and scald rhymers
Ballad ’s out a’ 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’ th’ posture of a whore.
O the good gods!
Nay, that’s certain.
I’ll never see’t! For I am sure mine nails
Are stronger than mine eyes.
Why, that’s the way
To fool their preparation, and to conquer
Their most absurd intents.
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 chore, I’ll give thee leave
To play till doomsday.
Bring our crown and all.
Exit Iras. A noise within.
Wherefore’s this noise?
Enter First Roman Guard.
Here is a rural fellow
That will not be denied your Highness’ presence.
He brings you figs.
Let him come in.
Exit First Roman Guard.
What poor an instrument
May do a noble deed! He brings me liberty.
My resolution’s plac’d, 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.
Enter First Roman Guard and Clown with a basket.
This is the man.
Avoid, and leave him.
Exit First Roman Guard.
Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there,
That kills and pains not?
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.
Remember’st thou any that have died on’t?
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’ th’ worm; but he that will believe all that they say, shall never be sav’d by half that they do. But this is most falliable, the worm’s an odd worm.
Get thee hence, farewell.
I wish you all joy of the worm.
Setting down his basket.
You must think this, look you, that the worm will do his kind.
Ay, ay, farewell.
Look you, the worm is not to be trusted but in the keeping of wise people; for indeed, there is no goodness in the worm.
Take thou no care, it shall be heeded.
Very good. Give it nothing, I pray you, for it is not worth the feeding.
Will it eat me?
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.
Well, get thee gone, farewell.
Yes, forsooth; I wish you joy o’ th’ worm.
Enter Iras with a robe, crown, etc.
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.
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 desir’d. Dost thou lie still?
If thus thou vanishest, thou tell’st the world
It is not worth leave-taking.
Dissolve, thick cloud, and rain, that I may say
The gods themselves do weep!
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
O eastern star!
Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
That sucks the nurse asleep?
O, break! O, break!
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—
In this vild 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 Roman Guards rustling in.
Where’s the Queen?
Speak softly, wake her not.
Caesar hath sent—
Too slow a messenger.
Applies an asp.
O, come apace, dispatch! I partly feel thee.
Approach ho, all’s not well; Caesar’s beguil’d.
There’s Dolabella sent from Caesar; call him.
What work is here, Charmian? Is this well done?
It is well done, and fitting for a princess
Descended of so many royal kings.
How goes it here?
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.
Enter Caesar and all his Train, marching.
A way there, a way for Caesar!
O, sir, you are too sure an augurer;
That you did fear is done.
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.
Who was last with them?
A simple countryman, that brought her figs.
This was his basket.
This Charmian liv’d 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.
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.
Here, on her breast,
There is a vent of blood, and something blown;
The like is on her arm.
This is an aspic’s trail, and these fig leaves
Have slime upon them, such as th’ aspic leaves
Upon the caves of Nile.
That so she died; for her physician tells me
She hath pursu’d 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.