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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra Translation Act 1, Scene 2

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Enter ENOBARBUS, LAMPRIUS, a SOOTHSAYER, Rannius, LUCILLIUS, CHARMIAN, IRAS, MARDIAN the eunuch, and ALEXAS

CHARMIAN

Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, most anything Alexas, almostmost absolute Alexas, where’s the soothsayer that you praised so to th’ Queen? Oh that I knew this husband, which, you say, must charge his horns with garlands!

CHARMIAN

Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, Alexas whom I could give almost any compliment, almost perfect Alexas, where's that soothsayer that you praised so much when you were talking to the Queen? Oh, I wish I knew who you were referring to when you talked about a husband who had been cuckolded!

ALEXAS

Soothsayer!

ALEXAS

Soothsayer!

SOOTHSAYER

Your will?

SOOTHSAYER

What do you want?

CHARMIAN

[To ALEXAS] Is this the man? [To SOOTHSAYER] Is ’t you,sir, that know things?

CHAIRMAN

[To ALEXAS] Is this the person you were talking about?

[To the SOOTHSAYER] Are you the one, sir, who has supernatural knowledge?

SOOTHSAYER

In nature’s infinite book of secrecyA little I can read.

SOOTHSAYER

I know a little about the world's many secrets.

ALEXAS

[To CHARMIAN] Show him your hand.

ALEXAS

[To CHARMIAN] Show him your hand.

ENOBARBUS

[To servants within] Bring in the banquet quickly. WineenoughCleopatra’s health to drink.

ENOBARBUS

[To servants inside] Bring in the banquet quickly. Bring in enough wine to toast to Cleopatra's health.

CHARMIAN

[giving hand to SOOTHSAYER] Good sir, give me good fortune.

CHARMIAN

[Giving her hand to the SOOTHSAYER] Good sir, give me a good fortune.

SOOTHSAYER

I make not, but foresee.

SOOTHSAYER

I don't give fortunes, I just tell people what they are going to be. 

CHARMIAN

Pray, then, foresee me one.

CHARMIAN

Then please tell me what mine is going to be. 

SOOTHSAYER

You shall be yet far fairer than you are.

SOOTHSAYER

You'll be more beautiful in the future than you are right now. 

CHARMIAN

[To the others] He means in flesh.

CHARMIAN

[To the others] He means that I'll get fatter. 

IRAS

No, you shall paint when you are old.

IRAS

No, he means that you'll use makeup when you get old. 

CHARMIAN

Wrinkles forbid!

CHARMIAN

God forbid I get wrinkles!

ALEXAS

Vex not his prescience. Be attentive.

ALEXAS

Don't annoy this wise man. Pay attention to him. 

CHARMIAN

Hush!

CHARMIAN

Hush!

SOOTHSAYER

You shall be more beloving than beloved.

SOOTHSAYER

You'll love other people more than they love you. 

CHARMIAN

I had rather heat my liver with drinking.

CHARMIAN

I would rather drink than love.

ALEXAS

Nay, hear him.

ALEXAS

No, listen to him. 

CHARMIAN

Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon and widow them all. Let 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.

CHARMIAN

Come on, tell me some good news now! Let me marry three kings in a single day and let all of them die and leave me a rich widow. When I'm fifty years old, let me give birth to a child so great that even King Herod would honor him. Look at my palm and tell me that I'm destined to marry Octavius Caesar and become as great as my mistress Cleopatra. 

SOOTHSAYER

You shall outlive the lady whom you serve.

SOOTHSAYER

You will live longer than your mistress. 

CHARMIAN

Oh, excellent! I love long life better than figs.

CHARMIAN

Oh, excellent! I love long life even better than figs

SOOTHSAYER

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

SOOTHSAYER

Your life up until now has been happier than it will be in the future. 

CHARMIAN

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

CHARMIAN

Then maybe all my children will be illegitimate. Tell me, how many little boys and girls will I have? 

SOOTHSAYER

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

SOOTHSAYER

If every one of your wishes were a child, you would have a million children. 

CHARMIAN

Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch.

CHARMIAN

Get out of here, fool! Because you're a fortune teller, I won't bring charges of witchcraft against you. 

ALEXAS

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

ALEXAS

You think no one knows your wishes but your bed.

CHARMIAN

[To SOOTHSAYER] Nay, come, tell Iras hers.

CHARMIAN

[To the SOOTHSAYER] No, come on, tell Iras her fortune. 

ALEXAS

We’ll know all our fortunes.

ALEXAS

We'll all have our fortunes told. 

ENOBARBUS

Mine, and most of our fortunes tonight, shall be—drunk to bed.

ENOBARBUS

My fortune, and most of ours, tonight will be—that we go to bed drunk. 

IRAS

[giving her hand to the SOOTHSAYER] There’s a palm presages chastity, if nothing else.

IRAS

[Giving her hand to the SOOTHSAYER] My palm tells you that I'm chaste, if nothing else. 

CHARMIAN

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

CHARMIAN

Yes, just like the Nile tells you that there will be a famine when it overflows

IRAS

Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.

IRAS

Go away, you lusty friend, you can't tell fortunes. 

CHARMIAN

Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful prognostication,I cannot scratch mine ear.—Prithee, tell her but a workaday fortune.

CHARMIAN

No, if I don't know the meaning of a sweaty palm, I can't scratch my ear.

[To the SOOTHSAYER] Please, just tell her an ordinary, everyday kind of fortune. 

SOOTHSAYER

Your fortunes are alike.

SOOTHSAYER

You have the same fortunes.

IRAS

But how, but how? Give me particulars.

IRAS

But how, but how? Give me details. 

SOOTHSAYER

I have said.

SOOTHSAYER

I've said what I have to say.

IRAS

Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?

IRAS

Don't I have at least a slightly better fortune than she does?

CHARMIAN

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

CHARMIAN

Well, if you had just an inch more fortune than me, where would you want it? 

IRAS

Not in my husband’s nose.

IRAS

Not in my husband's nose.

CHARMIAN

Our worser thoughts heavens mend. Alexas! [To SOOTHSAYER] Come, his fortune, his fortune! Oh, let himmarry a woman that cannot go, sweet Isis, I beseech thee, and let her die too, and give him a worse, and letworse 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!

CHARMIAN

May God correct our inappropriate thoughts. Alexas!

[To the SOOTHSAYER] Come on, his fortune, tell his fortune! Oh, let him marry a woman who is infertile, sweet Isis, I pray, and let her die too, and then have him marry a worse wife, and let every wife be worse after that, until the very worst one laughs next to his grave after she has cuckolded him fifty times! Good Isis, hear this prayer of mine, even if you don't grant my prayers about more important things. Good Isis, I beg you!

IRAS

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.

IRAS

Amen, dear goddess, hear that prayer from the people! Because, just as it's a tragedy to see a handsome man with an unfaithful wife, it's also a tragedy to see an ugly scoundrel with a faithful wife. Therefore, Isis, respect what's appropriate and treat him accordingly. 

CHARMIAN

Amen.

CHARMIAN

Amen.

ALEXAS

[To himself] Lo now, if it lay in their hands to make me a cuckold, they would make themselves whores but they’d do ’t.

ALEXAS

[To himself] Honestly, if they had it in their power to make me a cuckold, they would be willing to make themselves whores to do it. 

ENOBARBUS

Hush! Here comes Antony.

ENOBARBUS

Hush! Here comes Antony.

CHARMIAN

Not he. The Queen.

CHARMIAN

It's not him, it's the Queen.

Enter CLEOPATRA

CLEOPATRA

Saw you my lord?

CLEOPATRA

Have you seen my lord?

ENOBARBUS

No, lady.

ENOBARBUS

No, lady.

CLEOPATRA

Was he not here?

CLEOPATRA

Wasn't he here?

CHARMIAN

No, madam.

CHARMIAN

No, madam.

CLEOPATRA

He was disposed to mirth, but on the suddenA Roman thought hath struck him.—Enobarbus!

CLEOPATRA

He was in the mood for fun and games, but then he suddenly started thinking about Rome. Enorbarbus! 

ENOBARBUS

Madam?

ENOBARBUS

Madam?

CLEOPATRA

Seek him and bring him hither.—Where’s Alexas?

CLEOPATRA

Find him and bring him here. Where's Alexas?

ALEXAS

Here at your service. My lord approaches.

ALEXAS

I'm at your service. My lord approaches.

Enter ANTONY with the FIRST MESSENGER

CLEOPATRA

We will not look upon him. Go with us.

CLEOPATRA

I won't look at him. Go with us.

Exeunt all but ANTONY and the FIRST MESSENGER

FIRST MESSENGER

Fulvia thy wife first came into the field.

FIRST MESSENGER

Your wife Fulvia first entered the battlefield.

ANTONY

Against my brother Lucius?

ANTONY

She was fighting against my brother Lucius? 

FIRST 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.

FIRST MESSENGER

Yes, but that fight was soon over, and the situation forced them to make friends and combine forces to fight against Caesar. But Caesar won the very first battle and drove them out of Italy.

ANTONY

Well, what worst?

ANTONY

Well, what worse news could you have than that? 

FIRST MESSENGER

The nature of bad news infects the teller.

FIRST MESSENGER

When a messenger delivers bad news, people usually hate him for it.

ANTONY

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 flattered.

ANTONY

Only if they're fools or cowards. Continue with your news. I don't get upset about things that are already over and done with. This is how it is: if someone tells me the truth, then I appreciate what he has to say, even if he brings terrible news. 

FIRST 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—

FIRST MESSENGER

Labienus—this is terrible news—has seized Asia with his Parthian army. He has conquered all the territory from the Euphrates and Syria to Lydia and to Ionia. And he did all this while—

ANTONY

“Antony,” thou wouldst say.

ANTONY

You were about to say "While Antony."

FIRST MESSENGER

O my lord!

FIRST MESSENGER

Oh my lord!

ANTONY

Speak to me home. Mince not the general tongue. Name Cleopatra as she is called in Rome. Rail thou in Fulvia’s phrase, and taunt my faults With such full license as both truth and malice Have power to utter. Oh, then we bring forth weeds When our quick minds lie still, and our ills told us Is as our earing.

ANTONY

Tell me the truth. Don't downplay the common people's poor opinion of me. Speak about Cleopatra the way they speak about her in Rome. Scold me using the same words my wife uses, and mock my faults as fully possible, whether you want to speak the truth or want to be malicious. Oh, we create all kinds of problems when we sit back and do not use our abilities, and when other people criticize us, they help us become productive again. 

Enter SECOND MESSENGER

Fare thee well awhile.

Goodbye for now. 

FIRST MESSENGER

At your noble pleasure.

FIRST MESSENGER

I'll see you again when you please. 

Exit FIRST MESSENGER

ANTONY

From Sicyon, how, the news? Speak there.

ANTONY

What news do you have from Sicyon? You there, speak. 

SECOND MESSENGER

The man from Sicyon—

SECOND MESSENGER

The messenger from Sicyon—

ANTONY

Is there such an one?

ANTONY

Is there one?

SECOND MESSENGER

He stays upon your will.

SECOND MESSENGER

He's outside waiting for you to call him in. 

ANTONY

Let him appear.

ANTONY

Let him come in.

Exit SECONDMESSENGER

These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,Or lose myself in dotage.

I must break free from my strong attachment to Cleopatra, or I will become so slavishly devoted to her that I will cease to be myself. 

Enter THIRD MESSENGER, with a letter

What are you?

Who are you?

THIRD MESSENGER

Fulvia thy wife is dead.

THIRD MESSENGER

Your wife Fulvia is dead.

ANTONY

Where died she?

ANTONY

Where did she die?

THIRD MESSENGER

In Sicyon.Her length of sickness, with what else more seriousImporteth thee to know, this bears.

THIRD MESSENGER

In Sicyon. This letter tells you how long she was sick, along with more important matters. 

He gives ANTONY a letter

ANTONY

Forbear me.

ANTONY

Leave me.

Exit THIRD MESSENGER

[To himself] There’s a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it. What our contempts 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!

[To himself] A great person is gone! And yet that's what I wanted. When we're feeling scornful, we wish we could get rid of something, but later on we wish we could get it back. What is pleasurable in the moment becomes less pleasant as time goes on and eventually becomes downright painful. I value her now that she's gone. I could want her back, even though I was the one that wanted her gone. I must break away from this enchanting queen. My lying around lazily in Egypt will cause ten thousand problems, even more than the ones I already know about.

[To ENOBARBUS]—Hey there, Enobarbus!

Enter ENOBARBUS

ENOBARBUS

What’s your pleasure, sir?

ENOBARBUS

What do you want, sir?

ANTONY

I must with haste from hence.

ANTONY

I must leave here quickly. 

ENOBARBUS

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.

ENOBARBUS

Why, that would kill all our women. We see that unkindness is fatal to them. They'll die if we leave. 

ANTONY

I must be gone.

ANTONY

I must leave.

ENOBARBUS

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.

ENOBARBUS

If it's absolutely necessary, then let women die. But it would be a shame to kill them for nothing—even if it's true that we should treat them as worthless if they get in the way of our goals. Cleopatra would die instantly if she even suspected that you would leave. I've seen her die twenty times for a much smaller reason. I think death must have some kind of sexual power that acts on her, because she's so quick to die. 

ANTONY

She is cunning past man’s thought.

ANTONY

She is too cunning for a man to outwit.

ENOBARBUS

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.

ENOBARBUS

No, sir, no, her passions aren't cunning performances, they arise from the best part of pure love. We can't refer to her storms and floods as sighs and tears. Her sighs and tears are bigger storms and tempests than any book could describe. It would be impossible for her to fake them. If they come from her scheming, then she must be able to control the rain like Jove

ANTONY

Would I had never seen her!

ANTONY

I wish I had never met her!

ENOBARBUS

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

ENOBARBUS

Oh sir, then you would have missed a wonderful sight, which would have reduced the glory of your adventures while traveling. 

ANTONY

Fulvia is dead.

ANTONY

Fulvia is dead.

ENOBARBUS

Sir?

ENOBARBUS

Excuse me?

ANTONY

Fulvia is dead.

ANTONY

Fulvia is dead.

ENOBARBUS

Fulvia?

ENOBARBUS

Fulvia?

ANTONY

Dead.

ANTONY

Dead.

ENOBARBUS

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.

ENOBARBUS

Why, sir, give a sacrifice to the gods in thanks. When the gods decide to take a man's wife from him, a man takes comfort from realizing that there are tailors on earth who can make a new robe when the old one is worn out. If there were no other women but Fulvia, then you would really have suffered a great loss, and your situation would be terrible. As it is, you have a consolation for your grief. In exchange for your old clothes, you get new ones, and so it makes as much sense to cry over losing Fulvia as to cry when you cut an onion. 

ANTONY

The business she hath broached in the stateCannot endure my absence.

ANTONY

She has started some business in Rome that makes it necessary for me to return. 

ENOBARBUS

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

ENOBARBUS

And the business you have started here makes it necessary for you to stay here, especially Cleopatra's business, which depends entirely on your presence. 

ANTONY

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 linked 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’ th’ 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.

ANTONY

No more of these jokes. Tell my officers what I intend to do. I will let the Queen know why we have to leave so quickly and get her permission to go. For Fulvia's death is not the only thing on my mind—letters from my friends back in Rome also urge me to go home. Sextus Pompeius has challenged Caesar's authority and commands the empire around the island of Sicily. Our citizens are fickle, and never acknowledge service until the service is over. And so they give the title "Pompey the Great" and all the honors associated with it to Pompey's son, who has a great name and great power, and even greater vitality and force. Now he acts like the chief soldier, and if his abilities go unchecked, he will endanger the whole arrangement of the world. Many troubles are beginning to form that, right now, only have the potential for disaster. Tell my subordinates that I wish to leave here quickly.

ENOBARBUS

I shall do ’t.

ENOBARBUS

I will do it.

Exeunt

Antony and cleopatra
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Maria devlin
About the Translator: Maria Devlin

Maria Devlin received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Harvard University, where she specialized in Renaissance drama. She has worked as a bibliographical and editorial assistant for The Norton Anthology of English Literature and for The Norton Shakespeare. She is currently working with Stephen Greenblatt to design online courses on Shakespeare, including the modules "Hamlet's Ghost" and "Shylock's Bond" offered through HarvardX. She is writing a book on Renaissance comedy.

Maria Devlin wishes to credit the following sources, which she consulted extensively in composing her translations and annotations:

William Shakespeare. The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition. Eds. Gary Taylor et al. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

William Shakespeare. The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd ed. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt et al. New York: W.W. Norton& Company, Inc., 2016.