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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra Translation Act 3, Scene 4

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Enter ANTONY and OCTAVIA

ANTONY

Nay, nay, Octavia, not only that— That were excusable, that and thousands more Of semblable import —but he hath waged New wars ’gainst Pompey; made his will, and read it To public ear; Spoke scantly of me; when perforce he could not But pay me terms of honor, cold and sickly He vented them, most narrow measure lent me. When the best hint was given him, he not took ’t, Or did it from his teeth.

ANTONY

No, no, Octavia, it's not just that. That would be excusable, as would thousands of other crimes just like it. But he has also waged new wars against Pompey; and he has also written his will and read it aloud in public. He has spoken badly of me, and when he was forced to say things in my favor, his words were cold and unenthusiastic and he gave me very little credit. Even when he had the strongest reason to praise me, he did not do it, or he did it very unwillingly. 

OCTAVIA

O my good lord, Believe not all, or, if you must believe, Stomach not all. A more unhappy lady, If this division chance, ne’er stood between, Praying for both parts. The good gods will mock me presently, When I shall pray “O bless my lord and husband!” Undo that prayer by crying out as loud “O bless my brother!” Husband win, win brother Prays and destroys the prayer; no midway ’Twixt these extremes at all.

OCTAVIA

Oh my good lord, don't believe all the things you hear, or, if you must believe them, don't take so much offense at all of them. There will be no lady unhappier than I if you two fight. I'll be stuck in the middle, praying for you both. The gods will laugh at me when I pray for both my husband and my brother. "Oh bless my lord and husband!" when I undo that prayer by crying out just as earnestly, "Oh bless my brother!" To pray that both my brother and husband win would be to destroy the prayer. There's no way for both sides to find success. 

ANTONY

Gentle Octavia, Let your best love draw to that point which seeks Best to preserve it. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself; better I were not yours Than yours so branchless. But, as you requested, Yourself shall go between ’s. The meantime, lady, I’ll raise the preparation of a war Shall stain your brother. Make your soonest haste; So your desires are yours.

ANTONY

Gentle Octavia, give your most faithful love to the side that most worthily tries to deserve your love. If I lose my honor, I lose myself. It would be better to have no husband, than for you to have a husband who was so defeated. But, as you requested, you should negotiate between us. In the meantime, lady, I'll make such strong preparations for war that they will make your brother appear less powerful. Go as quickly as you can; then you'll get what you desire quickly.

OCTAVIA

Thanks to my lord. The Jove of power make me most weak, most weak, Your reconciler! Wars ’twixt you twain would be As if the world should cleave, and that slain men Should solder up the rift.

OCTAVIA

Thank you, my lord. May the powerful king of the gods make me, who am most weak, act as your mediator! If you were to go to war with each other, it would be as if the world had split in two, and the chasm would have to be filled with the bodies of dead men.

ANTONY

When it appears to you where this begins, Turn your displeasure that way, for our faults Can never be so equal that your love Can equally move with them. Provide your going; Choose your own company and command what cost Your heart has mind to.

ANTONY

When it becomes apparent to you who started this conflict, turn your anger against that person. For our faults could never be so equal that you, in your love, could condemn them equally. Get ready to leave. Choose your companions and make your preparations as expensive as you desire.

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.