Antony and Cleopatra
Act III. Scene xi.
Alexandria. CLEOPATRA’S palace.
Enter ANTONY with ATTENDANTS.
- Hark, the land bids me tread no more upon’t;
It is ashamed to bear me. Friends, come hither.
I am so lated1 in the world that I
Have lost my way for ever. I have a ship
Laden with gold: take that, divide it, fly,
And make your peace with Caesar.
- Fly? Not we.
- I have fled myself, and have instructed2 cowards
To run and show their shoulders. Friends, be gone.
I have myself resolved upon a course
Which has no need of you. Be gone.
My treasure’s in the harbour. Take it. O,
I followed that I blush to look upon.
My very hairs do mutiny, for the white
Reprove the brown for rashness, and they them
For fear and doting.3 Friends, be gone. You shall
Have letters from me to some friends that will
Sweep your way for you. Pray you, look not sad,
Nor make replies of loathness; take the hint
Which my despair proclaims. Let that be left
Which leaves itself.4 To the sea-side straightaway.
I will possess you of that ship and treasure.
Leave me, I pray, a little: pray you now,
Nay, do so; for indeed I have lost command,
Therefore I pray you. I’ll see you by and by.
He sits down. Exeunt Attendants.
Enter CLEOPATRA led by CHARMIAN, IRAS and EROS.
- Nay, gentle madam, to him, comfort him.
- Do, most dear Queen.
- Do? Why, what else?
- Let me sit down. O Juno!
- No, no, no, no, no!5
- See you here, sir?
- O fie, fie fie!
- Madam, O, good empress!
- Sir, sir!
- Yes, my lord, yes. He at Philippi kept
His sword e’en like a dancer, while I struck
The lean and wrinkled Cassius, and ‘twas I
That the mad Brutus ended. He alone
Dealt on lieutenantry, and no practice had
In the brave squares of war, yet now – no matter.
- Ah, stand by.6
- The Queen, my lord, the Queen.
- Go to him, madam, speak to him;
He is unqualitied7 with very shame.
- Well then, sustain me. O!
- Most noble sir, arise, the Queen approaches:
Her head’s declined, and death will seize her, but
Your comfort makes the rescue.
- I have offended reputation;
A most unnoble swerving.8
- Sir, the Queen.
- O whither hast thou led me, Egypt? See
How I convey my shame out of thine eyes
By looking back what I have left behind
‘Stroyed in dishonour.
- O my lord, my lord,
Forgive my fearful sails! I little thought
You would have followed.
- Egypt, thou knew’st too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’strings,
And thou shouldst tow me after. O’er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew’st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
- O, my pardon!
- Now I must
To the young man send humble treaties, dodge
And palter in the shifts of lowness;10 who
With half the bulk o’ th’ world played as I pleased,
Making and marring fortunes. You did know
How much you were my conqueror, and that
My sword, made weak by my affection, would
Obey it on all cause.
- Pardon, pardon!
- Fall not a tear, I say; one of them rates
All that is won and lost. Give me a kiss.
Even this repays me.
We sent our schoolmaster; is ’a come back?
Love, I am full of lead. Some wine
Within there, and our viands! Fortune knows
We scorn her most when most she offers blows.
1. lated: belated; behind time
2. instructed: taught by example
3. my very hairs…doting: Antony’s mature (white hair) and immature (brown hair) parts blame each other for his downfall
4. let that…itself: leave me be, I am about to kill (leave) myself
5. …no: Antony is lost in reflections on the battle – he is unaware of his surrounds
6. stand by: Cleopatra is about to pretend to faint, so calls her maids to catch her
7. is unqualitied: has lost all dignity
8. I have offended…swerving: I have ruined my good name with my ignoble behaviour
9. see how I convey…dishonour: see how I remove my shame from your eyes by turning my back and reflecting upon my dishonour
10. dodge and palter in the shifts of lowness: play the degrading games the low must play
Antony bids his followers to depart, offering them a ship full of gold and telling them to go join Caesar’s army. He blames only himself and Cleopatra for his stupid actions during the Battle of Actium and is disgusted by the way in which he behaved. The mutual love between himself and his followers is clear, as they beg him to remain with them and he becomes choked with emotion as he gives them his wealth and tells them to leave him. Antony’s shame is made worse by the fact that he knows Caesar to be an inferior soldier to him, the kind who takes the credit for the work of his men. He also feels much anger towards Cleopatra. She is distraught and apologetic for having flown the battle, but claims she did not think that Antony would follow. He scorns this, saying that she should have known how attached he is to her. He forgives her and orders food and drink, mocking Fortune.
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 the footnotes rely mostly on the New Swan.
dustfromamoth started this project, I have ripped off her format.