Antony and Cleopatra
Act III. Scene iv.
Athens. Antony's house.
Enter ANTONY and OCTAVIA.
- Nay, nay, Octavia not only that -
That were1 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;2
Spoke scantly of me; when perforce he could not
But pay me in terms of honour, cold and sickly
He vented them; most narrow measure lent me;3
When the best hint was given him, he not took't,
Or did it from his teeth4.
- O my good lord,
Believe not all, or if you must believe,
Stomach5 not all. A more unhappy lady,
If this division chance, ne'er stood between,
Praying for both parts.
The good gods will mock me presently6
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.
- Gentle Octavia,
Let your best love draw to that point which seeks
Best to preserve it7. if I lose mine honour,
I lose myself: better I were not yours
Than yours so branchless8. 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.
- 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.
- When it appears to you where this begins,
Turn your displeasure that way9, for our faults
Can never be so equal that your love
Can equally move with them. Provide your going10,
Choose your own company, and command what cost
Your heart has mind to.
1. were: would be
2. made... ear: Caesar has curried popular favour by announcing that he has left money in his will for the people
3. when peforce... me: When he had to praise me, he did so grudgingly, giving me little credit
4. from his teeth: as opposed to from the heart
5. stomach: resent
6. presently: at once
7. let... it: let your strongest love support the one who does most to protect it
8. brachless: without honour
9. when... way: turn your displeasure against the one at fault (ie Caesar)
10. provide your going: make arrangements for your departure
Antony rails against Caesar, claiming that by breaking the truce with Pompey and speaking badly of him he has dishonoured him and forced the hand, necessitating war. Octavia is naturally distraught at the thought of having to choose sides between her husband and brother. Antony advises her to consider who is at fault, and determines that she shall act as a messenger between the two, the thought that she will play peacemaker seeming to please her. Whilst it may be that Antony is honest in his intentions, this could also be read as a cynical move to dispose of his naive wife in order to return to Cleopatra and the hedonistic lifestyle of Egypt.
I transcribed this by hand from the 1998 edition of the New Swan Shakespeare, which is published by the Longman Group and edited by John Ingledew. Hence, any errors are my own. Also mine is the scene summary, though I copied footnotes 3 - 10 almost verbatim from the New Swan.
dustfromamoth started this project, I have ripped off her format.