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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra Translation Act 1, Scene 4

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Enter OCTAVIUSCAESAR, reading a letter, LEPIDUS, and their train

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 manlike 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 th’ abstract of all faults That all men follow.

CAESAR

You will see Lepidus, and know for the future, that I am not naturally inclined to hate this great competitor of mine. Here's the news from Alexandria. He fishes, drinks, and stays up all night wasting his time with fun and games. He is no more masculine than Cleopatra is, and she, the Egyptian queen, is no more feminine than him. He hardly listened to my messenger or admitted that he had political partners back here at home. In this letter, you'll read about a man who exemplifies the faults of all men.

LEPIDUS

I must not think there are Evils enough 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.

LEPIDUS

I cannot believe there are enough faults in the world to negate all his good qualities. In him, faults just serve to set off his good qualities more strongly. It seems that he inherited his vices rather than acquiring them. His faults are something he cannot change, not something that he chooses to have.

CAESAR

You are too indulgent. Let’s 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 foils when we do bear So great weight in his lightness. If he filled 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.

CAESAR

You're too lenient. Let's say, for argument's sake, that it's okay to have a sexual affair with Cleopatra, to give up his kingdom for the sake of entertainment, to sit and take turns drinking with a slave, to stagger drunkenly around the streets at noon, and wind up in fights with lowborn scoundrels who smell of sweat. Let's say that this behavior is appropriate for him—a man would have to have perfect character for all this not to count against him. Still, Antony can't excuse faults when we have to deal with such serious problems ourselves as a result of his irresponsibility. If he has filled his leisure time with sexual affairs, then he'll be punished with sickness from overeating and from venereal disease, and that's his problem. But he's wasting vital time and resources and putting all our positions in danger. He needs to be scolded, like any boy who knows what's right but chooses to do the wrong thing regardless. 

Enter FIRST MESSENGER

LEPIDUS

Here’s more news.

LEPIDUS

Here's more news. 

FIRST 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 feared Caesar. To the ports The discontents repair, and men’s reports Give him much wronged.

FIRST MESSENGER

Your orders have been carried out, and every hour, most noble Caesar, you'll have news about how things are going abroad. Pompey has strong military power at sea, and it seems that he's supported by people who only obeyed Caesar because they were afraid of him. These discontented people go to the ports, and they say Pompey has been badly mistreated. 

CAESAR

I should have known no less. It hath been taught us from the primal state That he which is was wished until he were, And the ebbed man, ne’er loved till ne’er worth love, Comes deared by being lacked. This common body, Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream, Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide To rot itself with motion.

CAESAR

I should have guessed this would happen. It's been like this since the first government, people always wish for their leaders to gain power until they have actually done so. Fallen leaders, who are never loved until they are no longer worth loving, become dear to the people because they are gone. The common people are like a loose piece of cloth on a stream, going back and forth, following the changing tides, and ruining itself by constantly moving and changing.

Enter SECOND MESSENGER

SECOND 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.

SECOND MESSENGER

Caesar, I've come to tell you that Menecrates and Menas, those famous pirates, have taken over the sea, which they cross in vessels of every kind. They're coming into Italy by many roads—the territories on the coast aren't brave enough to stop them—and spirited young men revolt and join them. No ship can set sail without being captured as soon as it is seen, because Pompey's name alone is even more terrifying than his armies would be if they were met in battle.

Exit

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 browsèd. On the Alps It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh, Which some did die to look on. And all this— It wounds thine honor that I speak it now— Was borne so like a soldier, that thy cheek So much as lanked not.

CAESAR

Antony, come away from your self-indulgent celebrations. Once, when you were defeated at Modena, where you slew the consuls Hirtius and Pansa, you were beset by famine, and you fought against it with more endurance than someone used to living in the wild, even though you had been brought up in luxury. You drank horses' urine and drank from slime-covered puddles that even the animals wouldn't touch. You were willing to eat the toughest berries from the wildest bushes. In fact, when snow covered the pastures, you even ate the bark off of trees like a stag. Going over the Alps, they say that you ate strange foods that some people would rather die than eat. And you bore all this—it is a blow to your honor for me to say this now—you bore it so much like a soldier that your cheek didn't even grow hollow from hunger or exhaustion.

LEPIDUS

’Tis pity of him.

LEPIDUS

His current state is a great pity.

CAESAR

Let his shames quickly Drive him to Rome. ’Tis time we twain Did show ourselves i’ th’ field, and to that end Assemble we immediate council. Pompey Thrives in our idleness.

CAESAR

I hope he will be so ashamed of himself that he will quickly return to Rome. It's time that the two of us appeared on the battlefield, and for that purpose, I am calling a council immediately. Pompey thrives while we continue to do nothing.

LEPIDUS

Tomorrow, Caesar, I shall be furnished to inform you rightly Both what by sea and land I can be able To front this present time.

LEPIDUS

Tomorrow, Caesar, I'll be able to tell you accurately what troops I will be able to assemble, both on sea and land, to face the enemy now.

CAESAR

Till which encounterIt is my business too. Farewell.

CAESAR

And until we do face him, assembling troops is my business too. Farewell.

LEPIDUS

Farewell, my lord. What you shall know meantimeOf stirs abroad, I shall beseech you, sir,To let me be partaker.

LEPIDUS

Farewell, my lord. In the meantime, when you know what's going on abroad, I ask you to let me know as well, sir. 

CAESAR

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

CAESAR

Don't doubt that I will. I know that's my responsibility. 

Exeunt

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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.