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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra Translation Act 2, Scene 2

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Enter ENOBARBUS and LEPIDUS

LEPIDUS

Good Enobarbus, ’tis a worthy deed,And shall become you well, to entreat your captainTo soft and gentle speech.

LEPIDUS

Good Enobarbus, it's worth your while to urge your captain to use polite and gentle words, and it will do you credit.

ENOBARBUS

I shall entreat him To answer like himself. If Caesar move him, Let Antony look over Caesar’s head And speak as loud as Mars. By Jupiter, Were I the wearer of Antonio’s beard, I would not shave ’t today.

ENOBARBUS

I will urge him to speak like himself. If Caesar provokes him, let Antony ignore Caesar and answer as fiercely as Mars. By Jupiter, if I were able to look as heroic as Antony, I would try to do so today. 

LEPIDUS

’Tis not a time for private stomaching.

LEPIDUS

This isn't the time to deal with private arguments. 

ENOBARBUS

Every time serves for the matter that is then born in ’t.

ENOBARBUS

Every time is a good time to deal with the matters that arise in that moment. 

LEPIDUS

But small to greater matters must give way.

LEPIDUS

But small matters should be put aside so we can deal with more important ones.

ENOBARBUS

Not if the small come first.

ENOBARBUS

Not if the small matters occur first. 

LEPIDUS

Your speech is passion. But pray you stirNo embers up. Here comes the noble Antony.

LEPIDUS

You're letting your emotions run away with you. But please, don't provoke any fights. Here comes the noble Antony. 

Enter ANTONY and VENTIDIUS

ENOBARBUS

And yonder, Caesar.

ENOBARBUS

And over there is Caesar.

Enter OCTAVIUS CAESAR, MECAENAS, and AGRIPPA

ANTONY

[To VENTIDIUS] If we compose well here, to Parthia.Hark, Ventidius.

ANTONY

[So only VENTIDIUS can hear] If we come to an agreement here, the next stop is Parthia. Come over here, Ventidius.

They talk aside

CAESAR

[To MECAENAS] I do not know, Maecenas. Ask Agrippa.

CAESAR

[To MECAENAS] I don't know, Maecenas. Ask Agrippa.

LEPIDUS

[To CAESAR and ANTONY]

Noble friends,
That which combined us was most great, and let not
A leaner action rend us. What’s amiss,
May it be gently heard. When we debate
Our trivial difference loud, we do commit
Murder in healing wounds. Then, noble partners,
The rather for I earnestly beseech,
Touch you the sourest points with sweetest terms,
Nor curstness grow to th’ matter.

LEPIDUS

[To CAESAR and ANTONY] Noble friends, the cause that brought us together was a great one, and we shouldn't let less important matters tear us apart. We can have a civilized discussion about the things that have gone wrong. When we make a big deal over trivial matters, we cause great harm in trying to fix a small problem. So, noble partners, I urge you instead to use the kindest words to talk about the most troubling issues, and don't make matters worse by losing your tempers.

ANTONY

’Tis spoken well.Were we before our armies, and to fight,I should do thus.

ANTONY

Well said. Even if we were in front of our armies and we were about to fight, I would do this.

Flourish

CAESAR

Welcome to Rome.

CAESAR

Welcome to Rome.

ANTONY

Thank you.

ANTONY

Thank you.

CAESAR

Sit.

CAESAR

Sit.

ANTONY

Sit, sir.

ANTONY

Sit, sir.

CAESAR

Nay, then.

CAESAR

Well then.

They sit

ANTONY

I learn, you take things ill which are not so,Or being, concern you not.

ANTONY

I hear that you take things as offensive that aren't intended to be—or if they are offensive, they have nothing to do with you.

CAESAR

I must be laughed at If or for nothing or a little, I Should say myself offended, and with you Chiefly i’ th’ world; more laughed at, that I should Once name you derogately, when to sound your name It not concerned me.

CAESAR

I would make myself a laughingstock if I got offended over nothing or over a small matter, and most of all in dealings with you. I would deserve even greater mockery if I spoke badly of you once, when it is no business of mine to speak about you at all. 

ANTONY

My being in Egypt, Caesar, what was ’t to you?

ANTONY

What concern is it of yours if I'm in Egypt? 

CAESAR

No more than my residing here at Rome Might be to you in Egypt. Yet if you there Did practice on my state, your being in Egypt Might be my question.

CAESAR

No more than my living here in Rome might concern you in Egypt. But if you plotted against me while you were there, your being in Egypt might be a concern of mine.

ANTONY

How intend you, “practiced”?

ANTONY

What do you mean, "plotted?"

CAESAR

You may be pleased to catch at mine intent By what did here befall me. Your wife and brother Made wars upon me, and their contestation Was theme for you. You were the word of war.

CAESAR

You might guess what I mean from what happened to me here. Your wife and brother waged war against me, and they intended for you to join them. They fought in your name. 

ANTONY

You do mistake your business. My brother never Did urge me in his act. I did inquire it, And have my learning from some true reports That drew their swords with you. Did he not rather Discredit my authority with yours, And make the wars alike against my stomach, Having alike your cause? Of this my letters Before did satisfy you. If you’ll patch a quarrel, As matter whole you have to make it with, It must not be with this.

ANTONY

You're mistaken about what happened. My brother never urged me to join him. I asked him about it, and I learned the truth from reliable sources that were on your side. Isn't it the case, rather, that he undermined my authority as well as yours, and that his fight was against me, too, since I was on your side? I told you all this in my letters earlier. If you want to pick a fight, you have enough other reasons to fight with me. It can't be about this. 

CAESAR

You praise yourselfBy laying defects of judgment to me, butYou patched up your excuses.

CAESAR

You try to make yourself look better by attributing bad judgment to me, but you're coming up with poor excuses for yourself. 

ANTONY

Not so, not so. I know you could not lack, I am certain on ’t, Very necessity of this thought, that I, Your partner in the cause ’gainst which he fought, Could not with graceful eyes attend those wars Which fronted mine own peace. As for my wife, I would you had her spirit in such another. The third o’ th’ world is yours, which with a snaffle You may pace easy, but not such a wife.

ANTONY

Not true, not true. I am certain that you can understand this important truth—since I was your partner in the very cause my brother fought against, I couldn't possibly approve of the wars that undermined my own peace. As for my wife, I wish you could find a spirit like hers in another woman. A third of the world belongs to you, and you can subdue it easily, but you could not so easily subdue a woman like that.

ENOBARBUS

Would we had all such wives, that the men might go to wars with the women!

ENOBARBUS

I wish we all had such wives, so that men could go to battle accompanied by women!

ANTONY

So much uncurbable, her garboils, Caesar, Made out of her impatience—which not wanted Shrewdness of policy too— I grieving grant Did you too much disquiet. For that you must But say I could not help it.

ANTONY

She was difficult to restrain, Caesar. She waged battles out of boredom—and not entirely without good strategy—and I do apologetically admit that they caused you too much disturbance. In return, you must admit that I couldn't prevent it. 

CAESAR

I wrote to you When rioting in Alexandria. You Did pocket up my letters and with taunts Did gibe my missive out of audience.

CAESAR

I wrote to you while you were entertaining yourself in Alexandria. You ignored my letters and taunted my messenger until he left your sight. 

ANTONY

Sir, He fell upon me ere admitted, then. Three kings I had newly feasted, and did want Of what I was i’ th’ morning. But next day I told him of myself, which was as much As to have asked him pardon. Let this fellow Be nothing of our strife. If we contend, Out of our question wipe him.

ANTONY

Sir, in that instance, your messenger arrived before I had given him permission to come in. I had just been at dinner with three kings and I wasn't feeling quite myself in the morning. But the next day I explained my situation to him, which was as good as asking him to pardon me. Don't let this person add to our quarrels. If we are going to fight, keep him out of it. 

CAESAR

You have brokenThe article of your oath, which you shall neverHave tongue to charge me with.

CAESAR

You have broken the terms of your promise, and that's something you will never be able to accuse me of. 

LEPIDUS

Soft, Caesar.

LEPIDUS

Hold on, Caesar.

ANTONY

No, Lepidus, let him speak. The honor is sacred which he talks on now, Supposing that I lacked it. —But, on, Caesar. The article of my oath?

ANTONY

No, Lepidus, let him speak. Caesar is speaking about my honor now, and my honor is sacred, even if he thinks that I lack it. 

[To CAESAR] But keep going, Caesar. The terms of my promise? 

CAESAR

To lend me arms and aid when I required them,The which you both denied.

CAESAR

To lend me weapons and help when I needed them, both of which you denied to me.

ANTONY

Neglected, rather, And then when poisoned hours had bound me up From mine own knowledge. As nearly as I may I’ll play the penitent to you, but mine honesty Shall not make poor my greatness nor my power Work without it. Truth is that Fulvia, To have me out of Egypt, made wars here, For which myself, the ignorant motive, do So far ask pardon as befits mine honor To stoop in such a case.

ANTONY

I didn't deny it, I just neglected to do it—and that was only when an illness kept me from thinking clearly. I'll apologize to you as much as I can, but my honesty in this matter doesn't diminish my greatness, and I will never use my power without honesty. It is true that Fulvia went to war here in order to draw me away from Egypt. For that, I—who unknowingly motivated this conflict—ask your forgiveness, just because it is fitting for my honor to humble myself in a situation like this. 

LEPIDUS

’Tis noble spoken.

LEPIDUS

That's nobly said. 

MAECENAS

If it might please you to enforce no further The griefs between ye, to forget them quite Were to remember that the present need Speaks to atone you.

MAECENAS

If you could agree to stop fighting about your past grievances, then forgetting those grievances entirely would be a good way of remembering that you ought to be friends in this current crisis. 

LEPIDUS

Worthily spoken, Maecenas.

LEPIDUS

Well said, Maecenas. 

ENOBARBUS

Or, if you borrow one another’s love for the instant, you may, when you hear no more words of Pompey, return it again. You shall have time to wrangle in when you have nothing else to do.

ENOBARBUS

Or, if you could just agree to be friends for now, you can always take it back later when Pompey is defeated. You'll have time to fight when you have nothing else to do. 

ANTONY

Thou art a soldier only. Speak no more.

ANTONY

You're just a soldier. Don't speak anymore. 

ENOBARBUS

That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.

ENOBARBUS

I'd almost forgotten that people who speak the truth should be quiet. 

ANTONY

You wrong this presence. Therefore speak no more.

ANTONY

You're behaving inappropriately in this company. So don't talk anymore. 

ENOBARBUS

Go to, then. Your considerate stone.

ENOBARBUS

Fine, then. I'll be silent and obedient as a stone. 

CAESAR

I do not much dislike the matter, but The manner of his speech, for ’t cannot be We shall remain in friendship, our conditions So diff’ring in their acts. Yet if I knew What hoop should hold us stanch, from edge to edge O’ th’ world I would pursue it.

CAESAR

I don't dislike what he says so much as how he says it. For it's impossible for us to remain friends, since our temperaments differ and affect how we act. But if I knew of something that would keep us strong allies, I would pursue it from one end of the world to other. 

AGRIPPA

Give me leave, Caesar.

AGRIPPA

Give me permission to speak, Caesar. 

CAESAR

Speak, Agrippa.

CAESAR

Speak, Agrippa.

AGRIPPA

Thou hast a sister by the mother’s side,Admired Octavia. Great Mark AntonyIs now a widower.

AGRIPPA

You have a half-sister on your mother's side, the admired Octavia. Great Mark Antony is now a widower. 

CAESAR

Say not so, Agrippa.If Cleopatra heard you, your reproofWere well deserved of rashness.

CAESAR

Don't say that, Agrippa. If Cleopatra heard you, your rash statement would deserve the rebuke she would give you.

ANTONY

I am not married, Caesar. Let me hearAgrippa further speak.

ANTONY

I am not married, Caesar. Let me hear Agrippa speak some more. 

AGRIPPA

To hold you in perpetual amity, To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts With an unslipping knot, take Antony Octavia to his wife, whose beauty claims No worse a husband than the best of men, Whose virtue and whose general graces speak That which none else can utter. By this marriage, All little jealousies, which now seem great, And all great fears, which now import their dangers, Would then be nothing. Truths would be tales, Where now half-tales be truths. Her love to both Would each to other and all loves to both Draw after her. Pardon what I have spoke, For ’tis a studied, not a present thought, By duty ruminated.

AGRIPPA

To keep you perpetual friends, to make you brothers, and to join your hearts in an unbreakable bond, let Antony take Octavia as his wife. Her beauty makes her deserve no less a husband than the best of men, and her virtue and many graces reveal her to be a woman like no other. Thanks to this marriage, all the little issues that seem so great now, and all the great fears that bring danger with them, would become nothing. True accusations would be dismissed as rumors, whereas now even unbelievable rumors are taken for truths. Her love for both of you would make each of you love the other, and she would induce everyone else to love both of you. Pardon me for saying this. It's not something that just occurred to me but something I have been thinking over carefully, moved by duty. 

ANTONY

Will Caesar speak?

ANTONY

Will you speak, Caesar?

CAESAR

Not till he hears how Antony is touchedWith what is spoke already.

CAESAR

Not until I hear your response to what has already been said. 

ANTONY

What power is in AgrippaIf I would say, “Agrippa, be it so,”To make this good?

ANTONY

If I said, "Agrippa, let this be so," what power would he have to make this happen?

CAESAR

The power of Caesar, andHis power unto Octavia.

CAESAR

He would have my power, and my power over Octavia.

ANTONY

May I never To this good purpose, that so fairly shows, Dream of impediment! Let me have thy hand Further this act of grace, and from this hour The heart of brothers govern in our loves And sway our great designs!

ANTONY

May I never dream of interfering with this good plan, which seems so appealing! I will let you bring about this blessed event, and from this moment on, let's let our brotherly bond govern our love for each other and the great plans we make together. 

CAESAR

There’s my hand.

CAESAR

Here's my hand.

They clasp hands

A sister I bequeath you whom no brother Did ever love so dearly. Let her live To join our kingdoms and our hearts, and never Fly off our loves again!

I give you a sister whom I love more than any brother ever loved a sister. Let her join our kingdoms and our hearts, and may our love for each other never dissolve again! 

LEPIDUS

Happily, amen!

LEPIDUS

Happily, amen!

ANTONY

I did not think to draw my sword ’gainst Pompey,For he hath laid strange courtesies and greatOf late upon me. I must thank him only,Lest my remembrance suffer ill report;At heel of that, defy him.

ANTONY

I hadn't planned to go into battle against Pompey, since he has lately done me honor of a great, uncommon kind. I must at least thank him, or risk appearing ungrateful. After that, I will oppose him. 

LEPIDUS

Time calls upon ’s.Of us must Pompey presently be sought,Or else he seeks out us.

LEPIDUS

Time is running short. We must go to Pompey immediately, or else he will come to us. 

ANTONY

Where lies he?

ANTONY

Where is he camped?

CAESAR

About the Mount Misena.

CAESAR

Near Mount Misena

ANTONY

What is his strength by land?

ANTONY

How strong are his land armies? 

CAESAR

Great and increasing.But by sea he is an absolute master.

CAESAR

Very strong and getting stronger. But he controls the sea completely. 

ANTONY

So is the fame. Would we had spoke together! Haste we for it. Yet, ere we put ourselves in arms, dispatch we The business we have talked of.

ANTONY

That's what I hear. If only we had met earlier! Let's move quickly. But, before we get ready for battle, let's carry out the plan we talked about. 

CAESAR

With most gladness,And do invite you to my sister’s view,Whither straight I’ll lead you.

CAESAR

Most gladly. I invite you to meet my sister, and I'll take you straight to her. 

ANTONY

Let us, Lepidus, not lack your company.

ANTONY

Be sure to join us, Lepidus.

LEPIDUS

Noble Antony, not sickness should detain me.

LEPIDUS

Noble Antony, not even sickness would keep me away. 

Flourish. Exeunt all but ENOBARBUS, AGRIPPA, and MAECENAS

MAECENAS

[To ENOBARBUS] Welcome from Egypt, sir.

MAECENAS

[To ENOBARBUS] Welcome from Egypt, sir. 

ENOBARBUS

Half the heart of Caesar, worthy Maecenas! My honorablefriend, Agrippa.

ENOBARBUS

Hail the most trusted counselor of Caesar, worthy Maecanus! My honorable friend, Agrippa. 

AGRIPPA

Good Enobarbus!

AGRIPPA

Good Enobarbus!

MAECENAS

We have cause to be glad that matters are so well digested.You stayed well by ’t in Egypt.

MAECENAS

We should be happy that things have worked out so well. You had a fine time in Egypt. 

ENOBARBUS

Ay, sir, we did sleep day out of countenance and made the night light with drinking.

ENOBARBUS

Yes, sir, we slept through the day and brightened the night with drinking. 

MAECENAS

Eight wild boars roasted whole at a breakfast—and but twelve persons there! Is this true?

MAECENAS

I hear there were eight wild boars roasted whole at breakfast—and for only twelve people! Is that true? 

ENOBARBUS

This was but as a fly by an eagle. We had much more monstrous matter of feast, which worthily deserved noting.

ENOBARBUS

That was nothing. We had much more extravagant feasts than that, which certainly deserve to be noted.

MAECENAS

She’s a most triumphant lady, if report be square to her.

MAECENAS

Cleopatra's a most magnificent lady, if the reports about her are true. 

ENOBARBUS

When she first met Mark Antony, she pursed up his heartupon the river of Cydnus.

ENOBARBUS

When she first met Mark Antony, she secured his heart on the river of Cydnus.

AGRIPPA

There she appeared indeed, or my reporter devised well for her.

AGRIPPA

She did appear there, or else the person who told me so made up a good story about her. 

ENOBARBUS

I will tell you. The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, Burned on the water. The poop was beaten gold, Purple the sails, and so perfumèd that The winds were lovesick with them. The oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made The water which they beat to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes. For her own person, It beggared all description: she did lie In her pavilion—cloth-of-gold, of tissue— O’erpicturing that Venus where we see The fancy outwork nature. On each side her Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, With divers-colored fans, whose wind did seem To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool, And what they undid did.

ENOBARBUS

I will tell you. She sat in a barge that looked like a polished throne, so bright that it was like a flame burning on the water. The rear deck was made of hammered gold, and the sails were purple and so perfumed that the scent would have made the very wind fall in love with them. The oars were made of silver, and the oar-strokes kept time with the music of flutes, and when they beat the water, they made the water flow faster, as if moved by lust. As for Cleopatra's appearance, it was impossible to describe. As she lay under a tent—whose fabric was woven with golden thread—she outdid even that picture of Venus which was already idealized. On either side of her stood handsome dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, with fans of different colors. The breeze from the fans seemed to make her delicate cheeks glow even as they cooled them, undoing the very thing they did

AGRIPPA

Oh, rare for Antony!

AGRIPPA

Oh, how nice for Antony!

ENOBARBUS

Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides, So many mermaids, tended her i’ th’ eyes, And made their bends adornings. At the helm A seeming mermaid steers. The silken tackle Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands That yarely frame the office. From the barge A strange invisible perfume hits the sense Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast Her people out upon her, and Antony, Enthroned i’ th’ marketplace, did sit alone, Whistling to th’ air, which, but for vacancy, Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too And made a gap in nature.

ENOBARBUS

Her attendants, resembling sea nymphs or mermaids, tended to her as she watched them closely, and their curtsies further decorated the boat. At the helm, a person dressed as a mermaid was steering. The silken sails and ropes swelled as they were touched by hands, soft as flowers, that skillfully carried out their tasks. A strange invisible perfume wafted from the barge and struck the noses of the people on the adjoining riverbanks. Everyone left the city in order to see her, and Antony, sitting on a throne in the marketplace, sat alone, whistling to the air—even the air itself would have gone to look at her, if that wouldn't have caused a vacuum in the atmosphere. 

AGRIPPA

Rare Egyptian!

AGRIPPA

Rare Egyptian!

ENOBARBUS

Upon her landing, Antony sent to her, Invited her to supper. She replied It should be better he became her guest, Which she entreated. Our courteous Antony, Whom ne’er the word of “No” woman heard speak, Being barbered ten times o’er, goes to the feast, And for his ordinary pays his heart For what his eyes eat only.

ENOBARBUS

When she landed, Antony sent her a message inviting her to supper. She replied that it would be better if he were her guest, and she requested that he would be. Our courteous Antony, who had never heard a woman say "no" to him, groomed himself with ten times the usual care and went to the feast. He paid for his meal by giving her his heart, looking at the food without eating it.

AGRIPPA

Royal wench!She made great Caesar lay his sword to bed.He plowed her, and she cropped.

AGRIPPA

Royal lady! She got great Caesar to put away his sword. He slept with her, and she bore a child

ENOBARBUS

I saw her once Hop forty paces through the public street, And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted, That she did make defect perfection, And, breathless, pour breathe forth.

ENOBARBUS

I saw her once hop forty steps through the public street. Having lost her breath, she panted and said that she turned even a defect into something perfect—she poured out breath even when she was breathless. 

MAECENAS

Now Antony must leave her utterly.

MAECENAS

Now Antony must abandon her completely.

ENOBARBUS

Never. He will not. Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety. Other women cloy The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry Where most she satisfies, for vilest things Become themselves in her, that the holy priests Bless her when she is riggish.

ENOBARBUS

Never. He will not. Age cannot lessen her beauty, and even once you get to know her, the endless mood swings mean that you never get tired of her. With other women, you stop desiring them after you have enjoyed them, but the more you have of Cleopatra, the more you want her. Even the grossest things become attractive in her, so that even the holy priests bless her when she has sexual urges.

MAECENAS

If beauty, wisdom, modesty, can settleThe heart of Antony, Octavia isA blessèd lottery to him.

MAECENAS

If beauty, wisdom, modesty, can secure Antony's heart, then Octavia is a valuable prize for him. 

AGRIPPA

Let us go.Good Enobarbus, make yourself my guestWhilst you abide here.

AGRIPPA

Let's go. Good Enobarbus, please be my guest while you are here. 

ENOBARBUS

Humbly, sir, I thank you.

ENOBARBUS

I humbly thank you, sir. 

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.