Antony and Octavius. Scenes for the Study - Scene the Fourth

[At Alexandria, after arrival of Octavius, 30 B.C.]


Cleopatra . At the first entrance of your lord, before
He ordered you, before he spake a word,
Why did ye run away?
Charmian . I was afraid,
Never so in my life; he lookt so fierce
He fear'd his own wild eyes, he placed one hand
(His right) across them on lowered brow, his left
Waved us away as would a hurricane
A palm-tree on the desert.
Cleopatra ( to I RAS ). And wert thou,
Iras, so terrified?
Iras . Not I indeed;
My lady, never man shall frighten me .
Cleopatra . Thou silly creature! I have seen a mouse
Do it.
Iras . A mouse is quite another thing.
Charmian ( hesitating ). Our lord and master . .
Cleopatra . What of Antony?
Charmian . Octavius . .
Cleopatra . Who? Our lord and master he?
He never shall be mine . . that is to say . .
Charmian . What! lady?
Cleopatra . I forget . . 'twas not worth saying.
Charmian! where hast thou been this last half-hour?
Charmian . In my own room.
Cleopatra . So fearful?
Charmian . Far more sad.
Cleopatra . Where, Iras, thou?
Iras . I wanted to report
To my sweet lady what I might espy.
Cleopatra . And what have those long narrow eyes espied?
Iras . All.
Cleopatra . 'Twas done speedily; but what is all?
Army and fleet from any terrace-roof
Are quite discernible, the separate men
Iras . My heart had told me what delight
Its queen would feel to hear exactly how
The leaders look.
Cleopatra . And how then did they look?
Tell me: some might have ridden near enough
The town to judge by, where the sight is sharp.
Iras . Merciful Isis! ridden! and so close!
Horses are frightful, horses kick and rear
And whinny, full of wickedness; 'twere rash
To venture nigh them.
Cleopatra . There are things more rash.
Iras . Quieter creatures than those generals are
Never were seen.
Cleopatra . Barbarians! not a word
About them, Iras, if thou lovest me;
They would destroy my city, seize my realm,
And ruin him we live for.
Iras . Surely no;
It were a pity; none are so unkind;
Caesar the least of all.
Cleopatra . Ah simple child!
Thou knowest not his heart.
Iras . I do indeed.
Cleopatra . No, nor thy own.
Iras . His better; for of mine
I never askt a question. He himself
Told me how good he would be.
Cleopatra . He told thee ?
What! hast thou seen him?
Iras . Aye, and face to face,
Close as our lord's to yours.
Cleopatra . O impudence!
Iras . But he would have it so; just like our lord.
Cleopatra . Impudent girl! thou shalt be whipt for this.
Iras . I am too old; but lotuses don't hurt
Like other things; they cool the strokes they give.
Cleopatra . I have no patience with thee. How I hate
That boy Octavius!
Dared he touch thy cheek?
Iras . He could; he only whispered in my ear,
Holding it by the ring.
Cleopatra . Whispered? what words?
Iras . The kindest.
Cleopatra . Ah! no doubt! but what were they?
Iras . He said, The loveliest creature in the world . .
Cleopatra . The vulgar brute! Our ferrymen talk so:
And couldst thou listen, Iras, to such speech?
Iras . Only when people praise our gracious queen.
Cleopatra . Me? this of me? Thou didst thy duty, child:
He might have fail'd in what he would express.
The birds have different voices, yet we bear
To hear those sing which do not sing the best.
Iras! I never thought thee half so wise.
And so, he said those gentle words of me ?
Iras . All, and forgot to kiss me when I vow'd
I would report them faithfully.
Cleopatra . Is there
Resemblance in him to that marble image
I would have broken, but my Antony
Seiz'd both my hands?
Iras . Alas! that image wants
The radiant eyes, and hair more radiant stil,
Such as Apollo's may have been if myrrh
Were sprinkled into its redundant waves.
Cleopatra . He must be tenderer than I fancied him
If this be true.
Iras . He spoke those very words.
Cleopatra . Iras! 'tis vain to mind the words of men;
But if he lookt as thou hast said he lookt,
I think I may put trust in him.
Iras . And see him?
Cleopatra . I am not hasty.
Iras . If you could but see him.
Cleopatra . Call Charmian: I am weary: I must rest
Iras . My sweetest lady! could not I,
Who have been used to it almost a year,
Help you as well as Charmian? While you sleep
Could I not go again and bid him haste
To comfort you?
Cleopatra . Is the girl mad? Call Charmian.


Charmian! hath Iras tickled thee away
From moping in thy chamber? thou hast sped.
Charmian . Iras is growing bold.
Cleopatra . I was bold too
While I was innocent as Iras is.
Charmian . Our lady looks more flurried than deprest.
Cleopatra . I am not flurried, I am not deprest.
[ After a pause .

Believest thou in Caesar's generosity?
Charmian . I know it.
Cleopatra . In what matter?
Charmian . Half the guards
And half the ministers of state have shown
Signs of his bounty to the other half.
Cleopatra . Gifts are poor signs of bounty. Do not slaves
Slip off the gold-black pouches from their necks
Untied but to buy other slaves therewith?
Do not tame creatures lure into the trap
Their wilder brethren with some filthy bait?
All want companions, and the worst the most.
I am much troubled: even hope troubles me.
Charmian . I dare not ask our lady why she weeps.
Cleopatra . Caesarion, my first-born, my dearest one,
Is safely shielded by his father's name:
He loves his brothers, he may save them both,
He only can: I would fain take the advice
Of Dolabella, fain would venture him
In Caesar's camp: the father's voice and look
Must melt him, for his heart is not so hard
That he could hurt so beautiful a child;
Nay, what man's is?
Charmian . But trust not the two younger;
Their father will not help them in their need.
Cleopatra . Caesarion in fit hour will plead for them.
Charmian, what ponderest thou? what doubtest thou?
Charmian . Caesar I doubt, and Dolabella more;
And what I pondered were your words: It may be
That givers are not always benefactors.
Cleopatra . I have one secret, but keep none from thee:
He loves me!
Charmian . All do.
Cleopatra . Yes, but some have power.
Charmian . Power, as most power is, gain'd by treachery.
Cleopatra . Whom,
In Egypt, Europe, Asia, can I trust?
Charmian . Few, nor those few too far, nor without watch.
Cleopatra . Not Charmian?
Charmian . Bid her die; here; now; and judge.
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