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Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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pg 2574Sc. 21.2

Editor’s NoteEnter Enobarbus, Lamprius, a Soothsayer, Rannius, Lucillius, Charmian, Iras, Mardian the eunuch, and Alexas

charmian Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, most anything Alexas, almost Editor’s Note2most absolute Alexas, where's the soothsayer that you praised so 3to th' Queen?

4O that I knew this husband, which you say

Editor’s Note5Must charge his horns with garlands!

alexas Soothsayer!


soothsayer Your will?


charmian Is this the man? Is't you, sir, that know things?


soothsayer In nature's infinite book of secrecy

9A little I can read.


alexas [to Charmian] Show him your hand.

Editor’s Note11

enobarbus [calling] Bring in the banquet quickly,

Link 12Wine enough Cleopatra's health to drink.

Editor’s Note[Servants bring food and wine]

charmian [to Soothsayer] Good sir, give me good fortune.

soothsayer I make not, but foresee.


charmian Pray then, foresee me one.

soothsayer You shall be yet

Editor’s Note15Far fairer than you are.

charmian He means in flesh.

Editor’s Note16

iras No, you shall paint when you are old.

charmian Wrinkles forbid!


alexas Vex not his prescience. Be attentive.

charmian Hush!


soothsayer You shall be more beloving than beloved.

Editor’s Note19

charmian I had rather heat my liver with drinking.


alexas Nay, hear him.

Editor’s Note21

charmian Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married to 22three kings in a forenoon and widow them all. Let me have a child Editor’s Note23at fifty to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage. Find me to marry Editor’s Note24me with Octavius Caesar, and companion me with my mistress.


soothsayer You shall outlive the lady whom you serve.

Editor’s Note26

charmian O, excellent! I love long life better than figs.

Editor’s Note27

soothsayer You have seen and proved a fairer former fortune

28Than that which is to approach.

Editor’s Note29

charmian Then belike my children shall have no names. Prithee, how Editor’s Note30many boys and wenches must I have?


soothsayer If every of your wishes had a womb,

32And fertile every wish, a millïon.

Editor’s Note33

charmian Out, fool—I forgive thee for a witch.

pg 2575 Editor’s Note34

alexas You think none but your sheets are privy to your wishes.


charmian [to Soothsayer] Nay, come, tell Iras hers.


alexas We'll know all our fortunes.

Editor’s Note37

enobarbus Mine, and most of our fortunes, tonight shall be drunk to 38bed.

Editor’s Note39

iras [showing her hand to Soothsayer] There's a palm presages chastity, 40if nothing else.

Editor’s Note41

charmian E'en as the o'erflowing Nilus presageth famine.


iras Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.

Editor’s Note43

charmian Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful prognostication, I Editor’s Note44cannot scratch mine ear. [To Soothsayer] Prithee, tell her but a workaday 45fortune.


soothsayer Your fortunes are alike.

iras But how, but how?

47Give me particulars.

soothsayer I have said.


iras Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?


charmian Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than I, where 50would you choose it?


iras Not in my husband's nose.

Editor’s Note52

charmian Our worser thoughts heavens mend! Alexas—come, his fortune, his Editor’s Note53fortune. O, let him marry a woman that cannot go, sweet Editor’s Note54Isis, I beseech thee, and let her die too, and give him a worse, and let 55worse follow worse till the worst of all follow him laughing to his 56grave, fiftyfold a cuckold. Good Isis, hear me this prayer, though thou 57deny me a matter of more weight; good Isis, I beseech thee.


iras Amen, dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people. For as it is Editor’s Note59a heart-breaking to see a handsome man loose-wived, so it is a deadly Editor’s Note60sorrow to behold a foul knave uncuckolded. Therefore, dear Isis, Editor’s Note61keep decorum, and fortune him accordingly.


charmian Amen.


alexas Lo now, if it lay in their hands to make me a cuckold, they Editor’s Note64would make themselves whores but they'd do't.

Editor’s NoteEnter Cleopatra

enobarbus Hush, here comes Antony.

charmian Not he, the Queen.


cleopatra Saw you my lord?

enobarbus No, lady.

cleopatra Was he not here?

charmian No, madam.


cleopatra He was disposed to mirth, but on the sudden

Editor’s Note68A Roman thought hath struck him. Enobarbus!


enobarbus Madam?


cleopatra Seek him, and bring him hither. Where's Alexas?

pg 2576 71

alexas Here, at your service. My lord approaches.

Editor’s NoteEnter Antony with a Messenger

cleopatra We will not look upon him. Go with us.

Exeunt all but Antony and the Messenger
Editor’s Note73

first messenger Fulvia thy wife first came into the field.

Editor’s Note74

antony Against my brother Lucius?

Editor’s Note75

first messenger Ay, but soon that war had end, and the time's state

Editor’s Note76Made friends of them, jointing their force 'gainst Caesar,

Editor’s Note77Whose better issue in the war from Italy

78Upon the first encounter drove them.

antony Well, what worst?

Editor’s Note79

first messenger The nature of bad news infects the teller.

Editor’s Note80

antony When it concerns the fool or coward. On.

81Things that are past are done. With me 'tis thus:

82Who tells me true, though in his tale lie death,

Editor’s Note83I hear him as he flattered.

first messenger Labienus—

84This is stiff news—hath with his Parthian force

Editor’s Note85Extended Asïa; from Eúphrates

86His conquering banner shook, from Syria

87To Lydia, and to Ionia,


antony 'Antony', thou wouldst say?

first messenger O, my lord!

Editor’s Note89

antony Speak to me home. Mince not the general tongue—

90Name Cleopatra as she is called in Rome.

Editor’s Note91Rail thou in Fulvia's phrase, and taunt my faults

Editor’s Note92With such full licence as both truth and malice

93Have power to utter. O, then we bring forth weeds

Editor’s Note94When our quick minds lie still, and our ills told us

Editor’s Note95Is as our earing. Fare thee well a while.


first messenger At your noble pleasure.

Editor’s NoteExit Messenger Enter another Messenger
Editor’s Note97

antony From Sicyon, ho, the news? Speak there.


[second messenger] The man from Sicyon—

[antony] Is there such a one?

Editor’s Note99

second messenger He stays upon your will.

antony Let him appear.

[Exit Second Messenger]

100These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,

pg 2577101Or lose myself in dotage.

Enter another Messenger with a letter

What are you?


third messenger Fulvia thy wife is dead.

antony Where died she?


[third messenger] In Sicyon.

104Her length of sickness, with what else more serious

Editor’s Note105Importeth thee to know, this bears.

[He gives Antony the letter]

antony Forbear me.

[Exit Third Messenger]

106There's a great spirit gone. Thus did I desire it.

Editor’s Note107What our contempts doth often hurl from us,

Link 108We wish it ours again. The present pleasure,

Editor’s Note109By revolution low'ring, does become

110The opposite of itself. She's good being gone—

Editor’s Note111The hand could pluck her back that shoved her on.

Editor’s Note112I must from this enchanting queen break off.

113Ten thousand harms more than the ills I know

Editor’s Note114My idleness doth hatch. How now, Enobarbus!

Editor’s NoteEnter Enobarbus

enobarbus What's your pleasure, sir?

antony I must with haste from hence.


enobarbus Why then we kill all our women. We see how mortal an 117unkindness is to them; if they suffer our departure, death's the word.


antony I must be gone.


enobarbus Under a compelling occasion let women die. It were pity to 120cast them away for nothing—though between them and a great cause 121they should be esteemed nothing. Cleopatra catching but the least Editor’s Note122noise of this dies instantly. I have seen her die twenty times upon Editor’s Note123far poorer moment. I do think there is mettle in death, which Editor’s Note124commits some loving act upon her, she hath such a celerity in dying.


antony She is cunning past man's thought.


enobarbus Alack, sir, no—her passions are made of nothing but the 127finest part of pure love. We cannot call her winds and waters sighs 128and tears; they are greater storms and tempests than almanacs 129can report. This cannot be cunning in her; if it be, she makes a shower Editor’s Note130of rain as well as Jove.


antony Would I had never seen her!

Editor’s Note132

enobarbus O, sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece of work, Editor’s Note133which not to have been blessed withal would have discredited your travel.


antony Fulvia is dead.


enobarbus Sir.


antony Fulvia is dead.

pg 2578 137

enobarbus Fulvia?


antony Dead.


enobarbus Why, sir, give the gods a thankful sacrifice. When it 140pleaseth their deities to take the wife of a man from him, it shows to Editor’s Note141man the tailors of the earth; comforting therein that when old robes Editor’s Note142are worn out there are members to make new. If there were no more Editor’s Note143women but Fulvia, then had you indeed a cut, and the case to be 144lamented. This grief is crowned with consolation; your old smock Editor’s Note145brings forth a new petticoat—and indeed the tears live in an 146onion that should water this sorrow.

Editor’s Note147

antony The business she hath broachèd in the state

148Cannot endure my absence.


enobarbus And the business you have broached here cannot be 150without you, especially that of Cleopatra's, which wholly depends on Editor’s Note151your abode.


antony No more light answers. Let our officers

153Have notice what we purpose. I shall break

Editor’s Note154The cause of our expedience to the Queen,

155And get her leave to part; for not alone

Editor’s Note156The death of Fulvia, with more urgent touches,

157Do strongly speak to us, but the letters too

Editor’s Note158Of many our contriving friends in Rome

Editor’s Note159Petition us at home. Sextus Pompeius

160Hath given the dare to Caesar and commands

161The empire of the sea. Our slippery people,

162Whose love is never linked to the deserver

Editor’s Note163Till his deserts are past, begin to throw

164Pompey the Great and all his dignities

165Upon his son, who—high in name and power,

Editor’s Note166Higher than both in blood and life—stands up

Editor’s Note167For the main soldier; whose quality, going on,

Editor’s Note168The sides o'th' world may danger. Much is breeding

Editor’s Note169Which, like the courser's hair, hath yet but life,

170And not a serpent's poison. Say our pleasure,

Editor’s Note171To such whose place is under us, requires

172Our quick remove from hence.

enobarbus I shall do't.

Editor’s Note[Exeunt severally]

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2.0 Enter They may all enter together, or from separate directions (one male Roman group, one primarily female Egyptian group).
Editor’s Note
2.0 Lamprius … Rannius, Lucillius These characters never speak, and are usually deleted by editors; in performance they can simply be Roman men, to balance the Egyptian women. Lamprius might be the Soothsayer's name.
Editor’s Note
2.2 absolute perfect
Editor’s Note
2.5 charge his horns with garlands decorate his (proverbial) cuckold's horns, i.e. rejoice at being sacrificed
Editor’s Note
2.11 banquet dessert, served at the end of a meal (associated with court extravagance)
Editor’s Note
2.11 enobarbus usually a laid-back, likeable, mid-ranking career soldier, who often enters carrying wine
Editor’s Note
2.12.1 Servants may be attendants who entered earlier, or they may enter now. They sometimes bring chairs, cushions, and tables, while the conversation continues.
Editor’s Note
2.15 fairer … in flesh either 'more beautiful' or 'plumper'
Editor’s Note
2.16 paint use cosmetics
Editor’s Note
2.19 heat my liver with drinking Both falling in love and excessive drinking were thought to inflame the liver, the seat of the passions.
Editor’s Note
2.19 I had … drinking Charmian's (drunken) prose contrasts with the continuing verse and sobriety of the (Roman?) Soothsayer. He is almost always distinguished by costume and demeanour.
Editor’s Note
2.21 Good now come on!
Editor’s Note
2.23 Herod of Jewry proverbial for his brutality to children in slaughtering the Holy Innocents: Antony made him King of Judaea (Jewry)
Editor’s Note
2.24 companion me make me equal
Editor’s Note
2.26 figs phallic (and she may be eating one)
Editor’s Note
2.27 proved experienced
Editor’s Note
2.29 belike probably
Editor’s Note
2.29 have no names be illegitimate
Editor’s Note
2.30 wenches girls
Editor’s Note
2.33 forgive thee for do not think you guilty of being
Editor’s Note
2.33 witch (used of men as well as women)
Editor’s Note
2.34 are privy to your know your secret
Editor’s Note
2.37 be drunk be to go drunk
Editor’s Note
2.39–40 palm presages chastity (in contemporary medical thought, sexual self-restraint was associated with a dry and cold body)
Editor’s Note
2.41 o'erflowing Nilus The silt brought down by the flooding Nile each year gives Egypt its fertile soil.
Editor’s Note
2.43 oily palm A moist (and hot) palm was said to show sensuality.
Editor’s Note
2.43–4 fruitful prognostication an (accurate) sign of fertility
Editor’s Note
2.44 workaday everyday, ordinary
Editor’s Note
2.52 thoughts i.e. about the part of her husband's body that Iras might wish to be longer
Editor’s Note
2.53 go copulate; perhaps 'come' (in the sense, 'have an orgasm')
Editor’s Note
2.54 Isis Egyptian goddess of fertility, as well as of the earth and moon
Editor’s Note
2.59 loose-wived with an unfaithful wife
Editor’s Note
2.60 foul ugly
Editor’s Note
2.61 keep decorum pursue the proper course
Editor’s Note
2.64–5 but they'd do't rather than fail to do so
Editor’s Note
2.64.1 Cleopatra Her tone and pace usually contrast sharply with the Cleopatra of the first scene.
Editor’s Note
2.68 Roman i.e. serious, earnest
Editor’s Note
2.71.1 a Messenger often (but not always) the same messenger; he and Antony seem to be in mid-conversation
Editor’s Note
2.73 field battlefield
Editor’s Note
2.74 Lucius Lucius Antonius. (But it was a common Roman name, used for instance in Titus Andronicus and Cymbeline, so even spectators and readers who could not have identified the exact historical figure would have recognized it as appropriate. This is true of many names in the play.)
Editor’s Note
2.75 the time's state prevailing circumstances
Editor’s Note
2.76 jointing uniting
Editor’s Note
2.77 better issue greater success
Editor’s Note
2.79 infects the teller i.e. makes the teller hated by the hearer
Editor’s Note
2.80 concerns i.e. is heard by
Editor’s Note
2.83 as as if
Editor’s Note
2.83 Labienus Quintus Labienus, sent by Brutus and Cassius for aid from the Parthians; after their defeat at Philippi he took command of the Parthian army.
Editor’s Note
2.85 Extended seized
Editor’s Note
2.89 home plainly, straightforwardly
Editor’s Note
2.89 Mince not the general tongue do not tone down common opinion
Editor’s Note
2.91 Rail thou in Fulvia's phrase scold me in Fulvia's words
Editor’s Note
2.92 licence freedom
Editor’s Note
2.94 quick live, potentially fertile
Editor’s Note
2.94 ills faults
Editor’s Note
2.95 earing ploughing (in preparation for food crop)
Editor’s Note
2.96.1, 111 another Messenger … another MessengerThe speed of the entrances and exits of these successive messengers establishes the urgency of the scene and the rapidly changing political situation (like modern continuous news updates).
Editor’s Note
2.97 Sicyon a city in Greece where Antony left Fulvia
Editor’s Note
2.99 stays attends
Editor’s Note
2.105 Importeth thee is important for you
Editor’s Note
2.105 Forbear leave
Editor’s Note
2.107 often (modifies the whole sentence, as if written 'Often, what …')
Editor’s Note
2.109 By revolution low'ring growing lower (and hence threatening) by turning (as of a wheel, such as Fortune's)
Editor’s Note
2.111 could would wish to
Editor’s Note
2.112 enchanting spell-binding (literally)
Editor’s Note
2.112 break off If Antony has been dressed in something Egyptian, he might here discard it, beginning to return to a Roman look.
Editor’s Note
2.114 idleness irresponsibility
Editor’s Note
2.114.1 Enter Enobarbus He could enter here, in response to Antony calling for him, or in the middle of the previous line (perhaps crossing the stage, and Antony interrupting him). His tone, pace, prose, and volubility in the following dialogue (up to 'No more light answers') contrast with Antony's mood; Enobarbus is often drinking and laughing.
Editor’s Note
2.122 noise rumour
Editor’s Note
2.122 upon far poorer moment for a far more trivial reason
Editor’s Note
2.123 mettle vigour, spirit
Editor’s Note
2.124 dying (playing on the sense 'coming to (sexual) climax'
Editor’s Note
2.130 Jove Jupiter: one of his duties was governing weather
Editor’s Note
2.132 piece of work masterpiece
Editor’s Note
2.133 discredited your travel cast doubt on your success as a traveller
Editor’s Note
2.141 tailors proverbially, the makers of men
Editor’s Note
2.141 robes dresses; women
Editor’s Note
2.142 members limbs: sexual organs
Editor’s Note
2.143 cut severe blow (also a slash in a garment)
Editor’s Note
2.143 case situation; vagina; set of clothes
Editor’s Note
2.145–6 tears live in an onion i.e. real tears are not called for
Editor’s Note
2.147 broachèd opened up. (Enobarbus implies a sexual cause.)
Editor’s Note
2.151 abode staying
Editor’s Note
2.154 expedience haste
Editor’s Note
2.156 touches concerns
Editor’s Note
2.158 our … friends our many friends working in our interest
Editor’s Note
2.159 at home to go home
Editor’s Note
2.159 Sextus Pompeius Younger son of Pompey the Great (see Julius Caesar 1.1); rebelling against the military junta, he had gained control of the shipping routes around Sicily.
Editor’s Note
2.163 throw confer (the title of)
Editor’s Note
2.166 blood and life vitality and energy
Editor’s Note
2.166–9 stands … main presents himself as the most mighty
Editor’s Note
2.167 quality accomplishments and character
Editor’s Note
2.168 sides framework
Editor’s Note
2.168 danger endanger
Editor’s Note
2.169 courser's hair A horse's hair was believed to become a live snake if put in water.
Editor’s Note
2.171 place rank
Editor’s Note
2.172.1–3.0 Exeunt … Enter Here and throughout, there is no change of 'scene' or 'scenery', but new characters enter as others leave, creating a rapid, continuous cinematic sense of action.
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