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Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw

Part 3 out of 3

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CLEOPATRA (striking her on the mouth). Strike his life out as I
strike his name from your lips. Dash him down from the wall.
Break him on the stones. Kill, kill, KILL him.

FTATATEETA (showing all her teeth). The dog shall perish.

CLEOPATRA. Fail in this, and you go out from before me forever.

FTATATEETA (resolutely). So be it. You shall not see my face
until his eyes are darkened.

Caesar comes back, with Apollodorus, exquisitely dressed, and

CLEOPATRA (to Ftatateeta). Come soon--soon. (Ftatateeta turns her
meaning eyes for a moment on her mistress; then goes grimly away
past Ra and out. Cleopatra runs like a gazelle to Caesar.) So you
have come back to me, Caesar. (Caressingly) I thought you were
angry. Welcome, Apollodorus. (She gives him her hand to kiss,
with her other arm about Caesar.)

APOLLODORUS. Cleopatra grows more womanly beautiful from week to

CLEOPATRA. Truth, Apollodorus?

APOLLODORUS. Far, far short of the truth! Friend Rufio threw a
pearl into the sea: Caesar fished up a diamond.

CAESAR. Caesar fished up a touch of rheumatism, my friend. Come:
to dinner! To dinner! (They move towards the table.)

CLEOPATRA (skipping like a young fawn). Yes, to dinner. I have
ordered SUCH a dinner for you, Caesar!

CAESAR. Ay? What are we to have?

CLEOPATRA. Peacocks' brains.

CAESAR (as if his mouth watered). Peacocks' brains, Apollodorus!

APOLLODORUS. Not for me. I prefer nightingales' tongues. (He goes
to one of the two covers set side by side.)

CLEOPATRA. Roast boar, Rufio!

RUFIO (gluttonously). Good! (He goes to the seat next
Apollodorus, on his left.)

CAESAR (looking at his seat, which is at the end of the table,
to Ra's left hand). What has become of my leathern cushion?

CLEOPATRA (at the opposite end). I have got new ones for you.

THE MAJOR-DOMO. These cushions, Caesar, are of Maltese gauze,
stuffed with rose leaves.

CAESAR. Rose leaves! Am I a caterpillar? (He throws the cushions
away and seats himself on the leather mattress underneath.)

CLEOPATRA. What a shame! My new cushions!

THE MAJOR-DOMO (at Caesar's elbow). What shall we serve to whet
Caesar's appetite?

CAESAR. What have you got?

THE MAJOR-DOMO. Sea hedgehogs, black and white sea acorns, sea
nettles, beccaficoes, purple shellfish--

CAESAR. Any oysters?

THE MAJOR-DOMO. Assuredly.


THE MAJOR-DOMO (assenting). British oysters, Caesar.

CAESAR. Oysters, then. (The Major-Domo signs to a slave at each
order; and the slave goes out to execute it.) I have been in
Britain--that western land of romance--the last piece of earth on
the edge of the ocean that surrounds the world. I went there in
search of its famous pearls. The British pearl was a fable; but
in searching for it I found the British oyster.

APOLLODORUS. All posterity will bless you for it. (To the
Major-Domo) Sea hedgehogs for me.

RUFIO. Is there nothing solid to begin with?

THE MAJOR-DOMO. Fieldfares with asparagus-

CLEOPATRA (interrupting). Fattened fowls! Have some fattened
fowls, Rufio.

RUFIO. Ay, that will do.

CLEOPATRA (greedily). Fieldfares for me.

THE MAJOR-DOMO. Caesar will deign to choose his wine? Sicilian,
Lesbian, Chian--

RUFIO (contemptuously). All Greek.

APOLLODORUS. Who would drink Roman wine when he could get Greek?
Try the Lesbian, Caesar.

CAESAR. Bring me my barley water.

RUFIO (with intense disgust). Ugh! Bring ME my Falernian. (The
Falernian is presently brought to him.)

CLEOPATRA (pouting). It is waste of time giving you dinners,
Caesar. My scullions would not condescend to your diet.

CAESAR (relenting). Well, well: let us try the Lesbian. (The
Major-Domo fills Caesar's goblet; then Cleopatra's and
Apollodorus's.) But when I return to Rome, I will make laws
against these extravagances. I will even get the laws carried

CLEOPATRA (coaxingly). Never mind. To-day you are to be like
other people: idle, luxurious, and kind. (She stretches her hand
to him along the table.)

CAESAR. Well, for once I will sacrifice my comfort (kissing her
hand) there! (He takes a draught of wine.) Now are you satisfied?

CLEOPATRA. And you no longer believe that I long for your
departure for Rome?

CAESAR. I no longer believe anything. My brains are asleep.
Besides, who knows whether I shall return to Rome?

RUFIO (alarmed). How? Eh? What?

CAESAR. What has Rome to show me that I have not seen already?
One year of Rome is like another, except that I grow older,
whilst the crowd in the Appian Way is always the same age.

APOLLODORUS. It is no better here in Egypt. The old men, when
they are tired of life, say "We have seen everything except the
source of the Nile."

CAESAR (his imagination catching fire). And why not see
that? Cleopatra: will you come with me and track the flood
to its cradle in the heart of the regions of mystery? Shall
we leave Rome behind us--Rome, that has achieved greatness only
to learn how greatness destroys nations of men who are not great!
Shall I make you a new kingdom, and build you a holy city there
in the great unknown?

CLEOPATRA (rapturously). Yes, Yes. You shall.

RUFIO. Ay: now he will conquer Africa with two legions before we
come to the roast boar.

APOLLODORUS. Come: no scoffing, this is a noble scheme: in it
Caesar is no longer merely the conquering soldier, but the
creative poet-artist. Let us name the holy city, and consecrate
it with Lesbian Wine--and Cleopatra shall name it herself.

CLEOPATRA. It shall be called Caesar's Gift to his Beloved.

APOLLODORUS. No, no. Something vaster than that--something
universal, like the starry firmament.

CAESAR (prosaically). Why not simply The Cradle of the Nile?

CLEOPATRA. No: the Nile is my ancestor; and he is a god. Oh! I
have thought of something. The Nile shall name it himself. Let us
call upon him. (To the Major-Domo) Send for him. (The three men
stare at one another; but the Major-Domo goes out as if he had
received the most matter-of-fact order.) And (to the retinue)
away with you all.

The retinue withdraws, making obeisance.

A priest enters, carrying a miniature sphinx with a tiny tripod
before it. A morsel of incense is smoking in the tripod. The
priest comes to the table and places the image in the middle of
it. The light begins to change to the magenta purple of the
Egyptian sunset, as if the god had brought a strange colored
shadow with him. The three men are determined not to be
impressed; but they feel curious in spite of themselves.

CAESAR. What hocus-pocus is this?

CLEOPATRA. You shall see. And it is NOT hocus-pocus. To do it
properly, we should kill something to please him; but perhaps he
will answer Caesar without that if we spill some wine to him.

APOLLODORUS (turning his head to look up over his shoulder at
Ra). Why not appeal to our hawkheaded friend here?

CLEOPATRA (nervously). Sh! He will hear you and be angry.

RUFIO (phlegmatically). The source of the Nile is out of his
district, I expect.

CLEOPATRA. No: I will have my city named by nobody but my dear
little sphinx, because it was in its arms that Caesar found me
asleep. (She languishes at Caesar; then turns curtly to the
priest.) Go, I am a priestess, and have power to take your charge
from you. (The priest makes a reverence and goes out.) Now let us
call on the Nile all together. Perhaps he will rap on the table.

CAESAR. What! Table rapping! Are such superstitions still
believed in this year 707 of the Republic?

CLEOPATRA. It is no superstition: our priests learn lots of
things from the tables. Is it not so, Apollodorus?

APOLLODORUS. Yes: I profess myself a converted man. When
Cleopatra is priestess, Apollodorus is devotee. Propose the

CLEOPATRA. You must say with me "Send us thy voice, Father Nile."

ALL FOUR (holding their glasses together before the idol). Send
us thy voice, Father Nile.

The death cry of a man in mortal terror and agony answers them.
Appalled, the men set down their glasses, and listen. Silence.
The purple deepens in the sky. Caesar, glancing at Cleopatra,
catches her pouring out her wine before the god, with gleaming
eyes, and mute assurances of gratitude and worship. Apollodorus
springs up and runs to the edge of the roof to peer down and

CAESAR (looking piercingly at Cleopatra). What was that?

CLEOPATRA (petulantly). Nothing. They are beating some slave.

CAESAR. Nothing!

RUFIO. A man with a knife in him, I'll swear.

CAESAR (rising). A murder!

APOLLODORUS (at the back, waving his hand for silence). S-sh!
Silence. Did you hear that?

CAESAR. Another cry?

APOLLODORUS (returning to the table). No, a thud. Something fell
on the beach, I think.

RUFIO (grimly, as he rises). Something with bones in it, eh?

CAESAR (shuddering). Hush, hush, Rufio. (He leaves the table and
returns to the colonnade: Rufio following at his left elbow, and
Apollodorus at the other side.)

CLEOPATRA (still in her place at the table). Will you leave me,
Caesar? Apollodorus: are you going?

APOLLODORUS. Faith, dearest Queen, my appetite is gone.

CAESAR. Go down to the courtyard, Apollodorus; and find out what
has happened.

Apollodorus nods and goes out, making for the staircase by which
Rufio ascended.

CLEOPATRA. Your soldiers have killed somebody, perhaps. What does
it matter?

The murmur of a crowd rises from the beach below. Caesar and
Rufio look at one another.

CAESAR. This must be seen to. (He is about to follow Apollodorus
when Rufio stops him with a hand on his arm as Ftatateeta comes
back by the far end of the roof, with dragging steps, a drowsy
satiety in her eyes and in the corners of the bloodhound lips.
For a moment Caesar suspects that she is drunk with wine. Not so
Rufio: he knows well the red vintage that has inebriated her.)

RUFIO (in a low tone). There is some mischief between those two.

FTATATEETA. The Queen looks again on the face of her servant.

Cleopatra looks at her for a moment with an exultant reflection
of her murderous expression. Then she flings her arms round her;
kisses her repeatedly and savagely; and tears off her jewels and
heaps them on her. The two men turn from the spectacle to look at
one another. Ftatateeta drags herself sleepily to the altar;
kneels before Ra; and remains there in prayer. Caesar goes to
Cleopatra, leaving Rufio in the colonnade.

CAESAR (with searching earnestness). Cleopatra: what has

CLEOPATRA (in mortal dread of him, but with her utmost cajolery).
Nothing, dearest Caesar. (With sickly sweetness, her voice almost
failing) Nothing. I am innocent. (She approaches him
affectionately) Dear Caesar: are you angry with me? Why do you
look at me so? I have been here with you all the time. How can I
know what has happened?

CAESAR (reflectively). That is true.

CLEOPATRA (greatly relieved, trying to caress him). Of course it
is true. (He does not respond to the caress.) You know it is
true, Rufio.

The murmur without suddenly swells to a roar and subsides.

RUFIO. I shall know presently. (He makes for the altar in the
burly trot that serves him for a stride, and touches Ftatateeta
on the shoulder.) Now, mistress: I shall want you. (He orders
her, with a gesture, to go before him.)

FTATATEETA (rising and glowering at him). My place is with the

CLEOPATRA. She has done no harm, Rufio.

CAESAR (to Rufio). Let her stay.

RUFIO (sitting down on the altar). Very well. Then my place is
here too; and you can see what is the matter for yourself. The
city is in a pretty uproar, it seems.

CAESAR (with grave displeasure). Rufio: there is a time for

RUFIO. And there is a time for obstinacy. (He folds his arms

CAESAR (to Cleopatra). Send her away.

CLEOPATRA (whining in her eagerness to propitiate him). Yes, I
will. I will do whatever you ask me, Caesar, always, because I
love you. Ftatateeta: go away.

FTATATEETA. The Queen's word is my will. I shall be at hand for
the Queen's call. (She goes out past Ra, as she came.)

RUFIO (following her). Remember, Caesar, YOUR bodyguard also is
within call. (He follows her out.)

Cleopatra, presuming upon Caesar's submission to Rufio, leaves
the table and sits down on the bench in the colonnade.

CLEOPATRA. Why do you allow Rufio to treat you so? You should
teach him his place.

CAESAR. Teach him to be my enemy, and to hide his thoughts from
me as you are now hiding yours.

CLEOPATRA (her fears returning). Why do you say that, Caesar?
Indeed, indeed, I am not hiding anything. You are wrong to treat
me like this. (She stifles a sob.) I am only a child; and you
turn into stone because you think some one has been killed. I
cannot bear it. (She purposely breaks down and weeps. He looks at
her with profound sadness and complete coldness. She looks up to
see what effect she is producing. Seeing that he is unmoved, she
sits up, pretending to struggle with her emotion and to put it
bravely away.) But there: I know you hate tears: you shall not be
troubled with them. I know you are not angry, but only sad; only
I am so silly, I cannot help being hurt when you speak coldly. Of
course you are quite right: it is dreadful to think of anyone
being killed or even hurt; and I hope nothing really serious
has-- (Her voice dies away under his contemptuous penetration.)

CAESAR. What has frightened you into this? What have you done? (A
trumpet sounds on the beach below.) Aha! That sounds like the

CLEOPATRA (sinking back trembling on the bench and covering her
face with her hands). I have not betrayed you, Caesar: I swear

CAESAR. I know that. I have not trusted you. (He turns from her,
and is about to go out when Apollodorus and Britannus drag in
Lucius Septimius to him. Rufio follows. Caesar shudders.) Again,
Pompey's murderer!

RUFIO. The town has gone mad, I think. They are for tearing the
palace down and driving us into the sea straight away. We laid
hold of this renegade in clearing them out of the courtyard.

CAESAR. Release him. (They let go his arms.) What has offended
the citizens, Lucius Septimius?

LUCIUS. What did you expect, Caesar? Pothinus was a favorite of

CAESAR. What has happened to Pothinus? I set him free, here, not
half an hour ago. Did they not pass him out?

LUCIUS. Ay, through the gallery arch sixty feet above ground,
with three inches of steel in his ribs. He is as dead as Pompey.
We are quits now, as to killing--you and I.

CAESAR. (shocked). Assassinated!--our prisoner, our guest!
(He turns reproachfully on Rufio) Rufio--

RUFIO (emphatically--anticipating the question). Whoever did it
was a wise man and a friend of yours (Cleopatra is qreatly
emboldened); but none of US had a hand in it. So it is no use to
frown at me. (Caesar turns and looks at Cleopatra.)

CLEOPATRA (violently--rising). He was slain by order of the Queen
of Egypt. I am not Julius Caesar the dreamer, who allows every
slave to insult him. Rufio has said I did well: now the others
shall judge me too. (She turns to the others.) This Pothinus
sought to make me conspire with him to betray Caesar to Achillas
and Ptolemy. I refused; and he cursed me and came privily to
Caesar to accuse me of his own treachery. I caught him in the
act; and he insulted me--ME, the Queen! To my face. Caesar would
not revenge me: he spoke him fair and set him free. Was I right
to avenge myself? Speak, Lucius.

LUCIUS. I do not gainsay it. But you will get little thanks from
Caesar for it.

CLEOPATRA. Speak, Apollodorus. Was I wrong?

APOLLODORUS. I have only one word of blame, most beautiful. You
should have called upon me, your knight; and in fair duel I
should have slain the slanderer.

CLEOPATRA (passionately). I will be judged by your very slave,
Caesar. Britannus: speak. Was I wrong?

BRITANNUS. Were treachery, falsehood, and disloyalty left
unpunished, society must become like an arena full of wild
beasts, tearing one another to pieces. Caesar is in the wrong.

CAESAR (with quiet bitterness). And so the verdict is against me,
it seems.

CLEOPATRA (vehemently). Listen to me, Caesar. If one man in all
Alexandria can be found to say that I did wrong, I swear to have
myself crucified on the door of the palace by my own slaves.

CAESAR. If one man in all the world can be found, now or forever,
to know that you did wrong, that man will have either to conquer
the world as I have, or be crucified by it. (The uproar in the
streets again reaches them.) Do you hear? These knockers at your
gate are also believers in vengeance and in stabbing. You have
slain their leader: it is right that they shall slay you. If you
doubt it, ask your four counselors here. And then in the name of
that RIGHT (He emphasizes the word with great scorn.) shall I not
slay them for murdering their Queen, and be slain in my turn by
their countrymen as the invader of their fatherland? Can Rome do
less then than slay these slayers too, to show the world how Rome
avenges her sons and her honor? And so, to the end of history,
murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor
and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race
that can understand. (Fierce uproar. Cleopatra becomes white with
terror.) Hearken, you who must not be insulted. Go near enough to
catch their words: you will find them bitterer than the tongue of
Pothinus. (Loftily wrapping himself up in an impenetrable
dignity.) Let the Queen of Egypt now give her orders for
vengeance, and take her measures for defense; for she has
renounced Caesar. (He turns to go.)

CLEOPATRA (terrified, running to him and falling on her knees).
You will not desert me, Caesar. You will defend the palace.

CAESAR. You have taken the powers of life and death upon you. I
am only a dreamer.

CLEOPATRA. But they will kill me.

CAESAR. And why not?

CLEOPATRA. In pity--

CAESAR. Pity! What! Has it come to this so suddenly, that nothing
can save you now but pity? Did it save Pothinus?

She rises, wringing her hands, and goes back to the bench in
despair. Apollodorus shows his sympathy with her by quietly
posting himself behind the bench. The sky has by this time become
the most vivid purple, and soon begins to change to a glowing
pale orange, against which the colonnade and the great image show
darklier and darklier.

RUFIO. Caesar: enough of preaching. The enemy is at the gate.

CAESAR (turning on him and giving way to his wrath). Ay; and what
has held him baffled at the gate all these months? Was it my
folly, as you deem it, or your wisdom? In this Egyptian Red Sea
of blood, whose hand has held all your heads above the waves?
(Turning on Cleopatra) And yet, When Caesar says to such an one,
"Friend, go free," you, clinging for your little life to my
sword, dare steal out and stab him in the back? And you, soldiers
and gentlemen, and honest servants as you forget that you are,
applaud this assassination, and say "Caesar is in the wrong." By
the gods, I am tempted to open my hand and let you all sink into
the flood.

CLEOPATRA (with a ray of cunning hope). But, Caesar, if you do,
you will perish yourself.

Caesar's eyes blaze.

RUFIO (greatly alarmed). Now, by great Jove, you filthy little
Egyptian rat, that is the very word to make him walk out alone
into the city and leave us here to be cut to pieces.
(Desperately, to Caesar) Will you desert us because we are a
parcel of fools? I mean no harm by killing: I do it as a dog
kills a cat, by instinct. We are all dogs at your heels; but we
have served you faithfully.

CAESAR (relenting). Alas, Rufio, my son, my son: as dogs we are
like to perish now in the streets.

APOLLODORUS (at his post behind Cleopatra's seat). Caesar, what
you say has an Olympian ring in it: it must be right; for it is
fine art. But I am still on the side of Cleopatra. If we must
die, she shall not want the devotion of a man's heart nor the
strength of a man's arm.

CLEOPATRA (sobbing). But I don't want to die.

CAESAR (sadly). Oh, ignoble, ignoble!

LUCIUS (coming forward between Caesar and Cleopatra). Hearken to
me, Caesar. It may be ignoble; but I also mean to live as long as
I can.

CAESAR. Well, my friend, you are likely to outlive Caesar. Is it
any magic of mine, think you, that has kept your army and this
whole city at bay for so long? Yesterday, what quarrel had they
with me that they should risk their lives against me? But to-day
we have flung them down their hero, murdered; and now every man
of them is set upon clearing out this nest of assassins--for such
we are and no more. Take courage then; and sharpen your sword.
Pompey's head has fallen; and Caesar's head is ripe.

APOLLODORUS. Does Caesar despair?

CAESAR (with infinite pride). He who has never hoped can never
despair. Caesar, in good or bad fortune, looks his fate in the

LUCIUS. Look it in the face, then; and it will smile as it always
has on Caesar.

CAESAR (with involuntary haughtiness). Do you presume to
encourage me?

LUCIUS. I offer you my services. I will change sides if you will
have me.

CAESAR (suddenly coming down to earth again, and looking sharply
at him, divining that there is something behind the offer). What!
At this point?

LUCIUS (firmly). At this point.

RUFIO. Do you suppose Caesar is mad, to trust you?

LUCIUS. I do not ask him to trust me until he is victorious. I
ask for my life, and for a command in Caesar's army. And since
Caesar is a fair dealer, I will pay in advance.

CAESAR. Pay! How?

LUCIUS. With a piece of good news for you.

Caesar divines the news in a flash.

RUFIO. What news?

CAESAR (with an elate and buoyant energy which makes Cleopatra
sit up and stare). What news! What news, did you say, my son
Rufio? The relief has arrived: what other news remains for us? Is
it not so, Lucius Septimius? Mithridates of Pergamos is on the

LUCIUS. He has taken Pelusium.

CAESAR (delighted). Lucius Septimius: you are henceforth my
officer. Rufio: the Egyptians must have sent every soldier from
the city to prevent Mithridates crossing the Nile. There is
nothing in the streets now but mob--mob!

LUCIUS. It is so. Mithridates is marching by the great road to
Memphis to cross above the Delta. Achillas will fight him there.

CAESAR (all audacity). Achillas shall fight Caesar there. See,
Rufio. (He runs to the table; snatches a napkin; and draws a plan
on it with his finger dipped in wine, whilst Rufio and Lucius
Septimius crowd about him to watch, all looking closely, for the
light is now almost gone.) Here is the palace (pointing to his
plan): here is the theatre. You (to Rufio) take twenty men and
pretend to go by THAT street (pointing it out); and whilst they
are stoning you, out go the cohorts by this and this. My streets
are right, are they, Lucius?

LUCIUS. Ay, that is the fig market--

CAESAR (too much excited to listen to him). I saw them the day we
arrived. Good! (He throws the napkin on the table and comes down
again into the colonnade.) Away, Britannus: tell Petronius that
within an hour half our forces must take ship for the western
lake. See to my horse and armor. (Britannus runs out.) With the
rest I shall march round the lake and up the Nile to meet
Mithridates. Away, Lucius; and give the word.

Lucius hurries out after Britannus.

RUFIO. Come: this is something like business.

CAESAR (buoyantly). Is it not, my only son? (He claps his hands.
The slaves hurry in to the table.) No more of this mawkish
reveling: away with all this stuff: shut it out of my sight and
be off with you. (The slaves begin to remove the table; and the
curtains are drawn, shutting in the colonnade.) You understand
about the streets, Rufio?

RUFIO. Ay, I think I do. I will get through them, at all events.

The bucina sounds busily in the courtyard beneath.

CAESAR. Come, then: we must talk to the troops and hearten them.
You down to the beach: I to the courtyard. (He makes for the

CLEOPATRA (rising from her seat, where she has been quite
neglected all this time, and stretching out her hands timidly to
him). Caesar.

CAESAR (turning). Eh?

CLEOPATRA. Have you forgotten me?

CAESAR. (indulgently). I am busy now, my child, busy. When I
return your affairs shall be settled. Farewell; and be good and

He goes, preoccupied and quite indifferent. She stands with
clenched fists, in speechless rage and humiliation.

RUFIO. That game is played and lost, Cleopatra. The woman always
gets the worst of it.

CLEOPATRA (haughtily). Go. Follow your master.

RUFIO (in her ear, with rough familiarity). A word first. Tell
your executioner that if Pothinus had been properly killed--IN
THE THROAT--he would not have called out. Your man bungled his

CLEOPATRA (enigmatically). How do you know it was a man?

RUFIO (startled, and puzzled). It was not you: you were with us
when it happened. (She turns her back scornfully on him. He
shakes his head, and draws the curtains to go out. It is now a
magnificent moonlit night. The table has been removed. Ftatateeta
is seen in the light of the moon and stars, again in prayer
before the white altar-stone of Ra. Rufio starts; closes the
curtains again softly; and says in a low voice to Cleopatra) Was
it she? With her own hand?

CLEOPATRA (threateningly). Whoever it was, let my enemies beware
of her. Look to it, Rufio, you who dare make the Queen of Egypt a
fool before Caesar.

RUFIO (looking grimly at her). I will look to it, Cleopatra. (He
nods in confirmation of the promise, and slips out through the
curtains, loosening his sword in its sheath as he goes.)

ROMAN SOLDIERS (in the courtyard below). Hail, Caesar! Hail,

Cleopatra listens. The bucina sounds again, followed by several

CLEOPATRA (wringing her hands and calling). Ftatateeta.
Ftatateeta. It is dark; and I am alone. Come to me. (Silence.)
Ftatateeta. (Louder.) Ftatateeta. (Silence. In a panic she
snatches the cord and pulls the curtains apart.)

Ftatateeta is lying dead on the altar of Ra, with her throat cut.
Her blood deluges the white stone.


High noon. Festival and military pageant on the esplanade
before the palace. In the east harbor Caesar's galley, so
gorgeously decorated that it seems to be rigged with flowers, is
along-side the quay, close to the steps Apollodorus descended
when he embarked with the carpet. A Roman guard is posted there
in charge of a gangway, whence a red floorcloth is laid down the
middle of the esplanade, turning off to the north opposite the
central gate in the palace front, which shuts in the esplanade on
the south side. The broad steps of the gate, crowded with
Cleopatra's ladies, all in their gayest attire, are like a flower
garden. The facade is lined by her guard, officered by the same
gallants to whom Bel Affris announced the coming of Caesar six
months before in the old palace on the Syrian border. The north
side is lined by Roman soldiers, with the townsfolk on tiptoe
behind them, peering over their heads at the cleared esplanade,
in which the officers stroll about, chatting. Among these are
Belzanor and the Persian; also the Centurion, vinewood cudgel in
hand, battle worn, thick-booted, and much outshone, both socially
and decoratively, by the Egyptian officers.

Apollodorus makes his way through the townsfolk and calls to the
officers from behind the Roman line.

APOLLODORUS. Hullo! May I pass?

CENTURION. Pass Apollodorus the Sicilian there! (The soldiers let
him through.)

BELZANOR. Is Caesar at hand?

APOLLODORUS. Not yet. He is still in the market place. I could
not stand any more of the roaring of the soldiers! After half an
hour of the enthusiasm of an army, one feels the need of a little
sea air.

PERSIAN. Tell us the news. Hath he slain the priests?

APOLLODORUS. Not he. They met him in the market place with ashes
on their heads and their gods in their hands. They placed the
gods at his feet. The only one that was worth looking at was
Apis: a miracle of gold and ivory work. By my advice he offered
the chief priest two talents for it.

BELZANOR (appalled). Apis the all-knowing for two talents! What
said the chief priest?

APOLLODORUS. He invoked the mercy of Apis, and asked for five.

BELZANOR. There will be famine and tempest in the land for this.

PERSIAN. Pooh! Why did not Apis cause Caesar to be vanquished by
Achillas? Any fresh news from the war, Apollodorus?

APOLLODORUS. The little King Ptolemy was drowned.

BELZANOR. Drowned! How?

APLLODORUS. With the rest of them. Caesar attacked them from
three sides at once and swept them into the Nile. Ptolemy's barge

BELZANOR. A marvelous man, this Caesar! Will he come soon, think

APOLLODORUS. He was settling the Jewish question when I left.

A flourish of trumpets from the north, and commotion among
the townsfolk, announces the approach of Caesar.

PERSIAN. He has made short work of them. Here he comes. (He
hurries to his post in front of the Egyptian lines.)

BELZANOR (following him). Ho there! Caesar comes.

The soldiers stand at attention, and dress their lines.
Apollodorus goes to the Egyptian line.

CENTURION (hurrying to the gangway guard). Attention there!
Caesar comes.

Caesar arrives in state with Rufio: Britannus following. The
soldiers receive him with enthusiastic shouting.

RUFIO (at his left hand). You have not yet appointed a Roman
governor for this province.

CAESAR (Looking whimsically at him, but speaking with perfect
gravity). What say you to Mithridates of Pergamos, my reliever
and rescuer, the great son of Eupator?

RUFIO. Why, that you will want him elsewhere. Do you forget that
you have some three or four armies to conquer on your way home?

CAESAR. Indeed! Well, what say you to yourself?

RUFIO (incredulously). I! I a governor! What are you dreaming of?
Do you not know that I am only the son of a freedman?

CAESAR (affectionately). Has not Caesar called you his son?
(Calling to the whole assembly) Peace awhile there; and hear me.


CAESAR. Hear the service, quality, rank and name of the Roman
governor. By service, Caesar's shield; by quality, Caesar's
friend; by rank, a Roman soldier. (The Roman soldiers give a
triumphant shout.) By name, Rufio. (They shout again.)

RUFIO (kissing Caesar's hand). Ay: I am Caesar's shield; but of
what use shall I be when I am no longer on Caesar's arm? Well,
no matter-- (He becomes husky, and turns away to recover

CAESAR. Where is that British Islander of mine?

BRITANNUS (coming forward on Caesar's right hand). Here, Caesar.

CAESAR. Who bade you, pray, thrust yourself into the battle of
the Delta, uttering the barbarous cries of your native land, and
affirming yourself a match for any four of the Egyptians, to whom
you applied unseemly epithets?

BRITANNUS. Caesar: I ask you to excuse the language that escaped
me in the heat of the moment.

CAESAR. And how did you, who cannot swim, cross the canal with us
when we stormed the camp?

BRITANNUS. Caesar: I clung to the tail of your horse.

CAESAR. These are not the deeds of a slave, Britannicus, but of a
free man.

BRITANNUS. Caesar: I was born free.

CAESAR. But they call you Caesar's slave.

BRITANNUS. Only as Caesar's slave have I found real freedom.

CAESAR (moved). Well said. Ungrateful that I am, I was about to
set you free; but now I will not part from you for a million
talents. (He claps him friendly on the shoulder. Britannus,
gratified, but a trifle shamefaced, takes his hand and kisses it

BELZANOR (to the Persian). This Roman knows how to make men serve

PERSIAN. Ay: men too humble to become dangerous rivals to him.

BELZANOR. O subtle one! O cynic!

CAESAR (seeing Apollodorus in the Egyptian corner and calling to
him). Apollodorus: I leave the art of Egypt in your charge.
Remember: Rome loves art and will encourage it ungrudgingly.

APOLLODORUS. I understand, Caesar. Rome will produce no art
itself; but it will buy up and take away whatever the other
nations produce.

CAESAR. What! Rome produces no art! Is peace not an art? Is war
not an art? Is government not an art? Is civilization not an art?
All these we give you in exchange for a few ornaments. You will
have the best of the bargain. (Turning to Rufio) And now, what
else have I to do before I embark? (Trying to recollect) There is
something I cannot remember: what CAN it be? Well, well: it must
remain undone: we must not waste this favorable wind. Farewell,

RUFIO. Caesar: I am loath to let you go to Rome without your
shield. There are too many daggers there.

CAESAR. It matters not: I shall finish my life's work on my way
back; and then I shall have lived long enough. Besides: I have
always disliked the idea of dying: I had rather be killed.

RUFIO (with a sigh, raising his hands and giving Caesar up as
incorrigible). Farewell. (They shake hands.)

CAESAR (waving his hand to Apollodorus). Farewell, Apollodorus,
and my friends, all of you. Aboard!

The gangway is run out from the quay to the ship. As Caesar moves
towards it, Cleopatra, cold and tragic, cunningly dressed in
black, without ornaments or decoration of any kind, and thus
making a striking figure among the brilliantly dressed bevy of
ladies as she passes through it, comes from the palace and stands
on the steps. Caesar does not see her until she speaks.

CLEOPATRA. Has Cleopatra no part in this leave taking?

CAESAR (enlightened). Ah, I KNEW there was something. (To Rufio)
How could you let me forget her, Rufio? (Hastening to her) Had I
gone without seeing you, I should never have forgiven myself. (He
takes her hands, and brings her into the middle of the esplanade.
She submits stonily.) Is this mourning for me?


CAESAR (remorsefully). Ah, that was thoughtless of me! It is for
your brother.


CIESAR. For whom, then?

CLEOPATRA. Ask the Roman governor whom you have left us.

CAESAR. Rufio?

CLEOPATRA. Yes: Rufio. (She points at him with deadly scorn.) He
who is to rule here in Caesar's name, in Caesar's way, according
to Caesar's boasted laws of life.

CAESAR (dubiously). He is to rule as he can, Cleopatra. He has
taken the work upon him, and will do it in his own way.

CLEOPATRA. Not in your way, then?

CAESAR (puzzled). What do you mean by my way?

CLEOPATRA. Without punishment. Without revenge. Without judgment.

CAESAR (approvingly). Ay: that is the right way, the great way,
the only possible way in the end. (To Rufio) Believe it, Rufio,
if you can.

RUFIO. Why, I believe it, Caesar. You have convinced me of it
long ago. But look you. You are sailing for Numidia to-day. Now
tell me: if you meet a hungry lion you will not punish it for
wanting to eat you?

CAESAR (wondering what he is driving at). No.

RUFIO. Nor revenge upon it the blood of those it has already


RUFIO. Nor judge it for its guiltiness.


RUFIO. What, then, will you do to save your life from it?

CAESAR (promptly). Kill it, man, without malice, just as it would
kill me. What does this parable of the lion mean?

RUFIO. Why, Cleopatra had a tigress that killed men at bidding. I
thought she might bid it kill you some day. Well, had I not been
Caesar's pupil, what pious things might I not have done to that
tigress? I might have punished it. I might have revenged Pothinus
on it.

CAESAR (interjects). Pothinus!

RUFIO (continuing). I might have judged it. But I put all these
follies behind me; and, without malice, only cut its throat. And
that is why Cleopatra comes to you in mourning.

CLEOPATRA (vehemently). He has shed the blood of my servant
Ftatateeta. On your head be it as upon his, Caesar, if you hold
him free of it.

CAESAR (energetically). On my head be it, then; for it was well
done. Rufio: had you set yourself in the seat of the judge, and
with hateful ceremonies and appeals to the gods handed that woman
over to some hired executioner to be slain before the people in
the name of justice, never again would I have touched your hand
without a shudder. But this was natural slaying: I feel no horror
at it.

Rufio, satisfied, nods at Cleopatra, mutely inviting her to mark

CLEOPATRA (pettish and childish in her impotence). No: not when a
Roman slays an Egyptian. All the world will now see how unjust
and corrupt Caesar is.

CAESAR (taking her handy coaxingly). Come: do not be angry with
me. I am sorry for that poor Totateeta. (She laughs in spite of
herself.) Aha! You are laughing. Does that mean reconciliation?

CLEOPATRA (angry with herself for laughing). No, no, NO!! But it
is so ridiculous to hear you call her Totateeta.

CAESAR. What! As much a child as ever, Cleopatra! Have I not made
a woman of you after all?

CLEOPATRA. Oh, it is you, who are a great baby: you make me seem
silly because you will not behave seriously. But you have treated
me badly; and I do not forgive you.

CAESAR. Bid me farewell.

CLEOPATRA. I will not.

CAESAR (coaxing). I will send you a beautiful present from Rome.

CLEOPATRA (proudly). Beauty from Rome to Egypt indeed! What can
Rome give ME that Egypt cannot give me?

APOLLODORUS. That is true, Caesar. If the present is to be really
beautiful, I shall have to buy it for you in Alexandria.

CAESAR. You are forgetting the treasures for which Rome is most
famous, my friend. You cannot buy THEM in Alexandria.

APOLLODORUS. What are they, Caesar?

CAESAR. Her sons. Come, Cleopatra: forgive me and bid me
farewell; and I will send you a man, Roman from head to heel and
Roman of the noblest; not old and ripe for the knife; not lean in
the arms and cold in the heart; not hiding a bald head under his
conqueror's laurels; not stooped with the weight of the world on
his shoulders; but brisk and fresh, strong and young, hoping in
the morning, fighting in the day, and reveling in the evening.
Will you take such an one in exchange for Caesar?

CLEOPATRA (palpitating). His name, his name?

CAESAR. Shall it be Mark Antony? (She throws herself in his

RUFIO. You are a bad hand at a bargain, mistress, if you will
swap Caesar for Antony.

CAESAR. So now you are satisfied.

CLEOPATRA. You will not forget.

CAESAR. I will not forget. Farewell: I do not think we shall meet
again. Farewell. (He kisses her on the forehead. She is much
affected and begins to sniff. He embarks.)

THE ROMAN SOLDIERS (as he sets his foot on the gangway). Hail,
Caesar; and farewell!

He reaches the ship and returns Rufio's wave of the hand.

APOLLODORUS (to Cleopatra). No tears, dearest Queen: they stab
your servant to the heart. He will return some day.

CLEOPATRA. I hope not. But I can't help crying, all the same.
(She waves her handkerchief to Caesar; and the ship begins to

THE ROMAN SOLDIERS (drawing their swords and raising them in the
air). Hail, Caesar!



For the sake of conciseness in a hurried situation I have made
Cleopatra recommend rum. This, I am afraid, is an anachronism:
the only real one in the play. To balance it, I give a couple of
the remedies she actually believed in. They are quoted by Galen
from Cleopatra's book on Cosmetic.

"For bald patches, powder red sulphuret of arsenic and take it up
with oak gum, as much as it will bear. Put on a rag and apply,
having soaped the place well first. I have mixed the above with a
foam of nitre, and it worked well."

Several other receipts follow, ending with: "The following is the
best of all, acting for fallen hairs, when applied with oil or
pomatum; acts also for falling off of eyelashes or for people
getting bald all over. It is wonderful. Of domestic mice burnt,
one part; of vine rag burnt, one part; of horse's teeth burnt,
one part; of bear's grease one; of deer's marrow one; of reed
bark one. To be pounded when dry, and mixed with plenty of honey
til it gets the consistency of honey; then the bear's grease and
marrow to be mixed (when melted), the medicine to be put in a
brass flask, and the bald part rubbed til it sprouts."

Concerning these ingredients, my fellow-dramatist, Gilbert
Murray, who, as a Professor of Greek, has applied to classical
antiquity the methods of high scholarship (my own method is pure
divination), writes to me as follows: " Some of this I don't
understand, and possibly Galen did not, as he quotes your
heroine's own language. Foam of nitre is, I think, something like
soapsuds. Reed bark is an odd expression. It might mean the
outside membrane of a reed: I do not know what it ought to be
called. In the burnt mice receipt I take that you first mixed the
solid powders with honey, and then added the grease. I expect
Cleopatra preferred it because in most of the others you have to
lacerate the skin, prick it, or rub it till it bleeds. I do not
know what vine rag is. I translate literally."


The only way to write a play which shall convey to the general
public an impression of antiquity is to make the characters speak
blank verse and abstain from reference to steam, telegraphy, or
any of the material conditions of their existence. The more
ignorant men are, the more convinced are they that their little
parish and their little chapel is an apex which civilization and
philosophy have painfully struggled up the pyramid of time from a
desert of savagery. Savagery, they think, became barbarism;
barbarism became ancient civilization; ancient civilization
became Pauline Christianity; Pauline Christianity became Roman
Catholicism; Roman Catholicism became the Dark Ages; and the Dark
Ages were finally enlightened by the Protestant instincts of the
English race. The whole process is summed up as Progress with a
capital P. And any elderly gentleman of Progressive temperament
will testify that the improvement since he was a boy is enormous.

Now if we count the generations of Progressive elderly gentlemen
since, say, Plato, and add together the successive enormous
improvements to which each of them has testified, it will strike
us at once as an unaccountable fact that the world, instead of
having been improved in 67 generations out all recognition,
presents, on the whole, a rather less dignified appearance in
Ibsen's Enemy of the People than in Plato's Republic. And in
truth, the period of time covered by history is far too short to
allow of any perceptible progress in the popular sense of
Evolution of the Human Species. The notion that there has been
any such Progress since Caesar's time (less than 20 centuries) is
too absurd for discussion. All the savagery, barbarism, dark ages
and the rest of it of which we have any record as existing in the
past, exists at the present moment. A British carpenter or
stonemason may point out that he gets twice as much money for his
labor as his father did in the same trade, and that his suburban
house, with its bath, its cottage piano, its drawingroom suite,
and its album of photographs, would have shamed the plainness of
his grandmother's. But the descendants of feudal barons, living
in squalid lodgings on a salary of fifteen shillings a week
instead of in castles on princely revenues, do not congratulate
the world on the change. Such changes, in fact, are not to the
point. It has been known, as far back as our records go, that man
running wild in the woods is different to man kennelled in a city
slum; that a dog seems to understand a shepherd better than a
hewer of wood and drawer of water can understand an astronomer;
and that breeding, gentle nurture and luxurious food and shelter
will produce a kind of man with whom the common laborer is
socially incompatible. The same thing is true of horses and dogs.
Now there is clearly room for great changes in the world by
increasing the percentage of individuals who are carefully bred
and gently nurtured even to finally making the most of every man
and woman born. But that possibility existed in the days of the
Hittites as much as it does to-day. It does not give the
slightest real support to the common assumption that the
civilized contemporaries of the Hittites were unlike their
civilized descendants to-day.

This would appear the truest commonplace if it were not that the
ordinary citizen's ignorance of the past combines with his
idealization of the present to mislead and flatter him. Our
latest book on the new railway across Asia describes the dulness
of the Siberian farmer and the vulgar pursepride of the Siberian
man of business without the least consciousness that the sting of
contemptuous instances given might have been saved by writing
simply "Farmers and provincial plutocrats in Siberia are exactly
what they are in England." The latest professor descanting on the
civilization of the Western Empire in the fifth century feels
bound to assume, in the teeth of his own researches, that the
Christian was one sort of animal and the Pagan another. It might
as well be assumed, as indeed it generally is assumed by
implication, that a murder committed with a poisoned arrow is
different to a murder committed with a Mauser rifle. All such
notions are illusions. Go back to the first syllable of recorded
time, and there you will find your Christian and your Pagan, your
yokel and your poet, helot and hero, Don Quixote and Sancho,
Tamino and Papageno, Newton and bushman unable to count eleven,
all alive and contemporaneous, and all convinced that they are
heirs of all the ages and the privileged recipients of THE truth
(all others damnable heresies), just as you have them to-day,
flourishing in countries each of which is the bravest and best
that ever sprang at Heaven's command from out of the azure main.

Again, there is the illusion of "increased command over Nature,"
meaning that cotton is cheap and that ten miles of country road
on a bicycle have replaced four on foot. But even if man's
increased command over Nature included any increased command over
himself (the only sort of command relevant to his evolution into
a higher being), the fact remains that it is only by running away
from the increased command over Nature to country places where
Nature is still in primitive command over Man that he can recover
from the effects of the smoke, the stench, the foul air, the
overcrowding, the racket, the ugliness, the dirt which the cheap
cotton costs us. If manufacturing activity means Progress, the
town must be more advanced than the country; and the field
laborers and village artizans of to-day must be much less changed
from the servants of Job than the proletariat of modern London
from the proletariat of Caesar's Rome. Yet the cockney
proletarian is so inferior to the village laborer that it is only
by steady recruiting from the country that London is kept alive.
This does not seem as if the change since Job's time were
Progress in the popular sense: quite the reverse. The common
stock of discoveries in physics has accumulated a little: that is

One more illustration. Is the Englishman prepared to admit that
the American is his superior as a human being? I ask this
question because the scarcity of labor in America relatively to
the demand for it has led to a development of machinery there,
and a consequent "increase of command over Nature" which makes
many of our English methods appear almost medieval to the
up-to-date Chicagoan. This means that the American has an
advantage over the Englishman of exactly the same nature that the
Englishman has over the contemporaries of Cicero. Is the
Englishman prepared to draw the same conclusion in both cases? I
think not. The American, of course, will draw it cheerfully; but
I must then ask him whether, since a modern negro has a greater
"command over Nature" than Washington had, we are also to accept
the conclusion, involved in his former one, that humanity has
progressed from Washington to the fin de siecle negro.

Finally, I would point out that if life is crowned by its success
and devotion in industrial organization and ingenuity, we had
better worship the ant and the bee (as moralists urge us to do in
our childhood), and humble ourselves before the arrogance of the
birds of Aristophanes.

My reason then for ignoring the popular conception of Progress in
Caesar and Cleopatra is that there is no reason to suppose that
any Progress has taken place since their time. But even if I
shared the popular delusion, I do not see that I could have made
any essential difference in the play. I can only imitate humanity
as I know it. Nobody knows whether Shakespear thought that
ancient Athenian joiners, weavers, or bellows menders were any
different from Elizabethan ones; but it is quite certain that one
could not have made them so, unless, indeed, he had played the
literary man and made Quince say, not "Is all our company here?"
but "Bottom: was not that Socrates that passed us at the Piraeus
with Glaucon and Polemarchus on his way to the house of
Kephalus." And so on.


Cleopatra was only sixteen when Caesar went to Egypt; but in
Egypt sixteen is a riper age than it is in England. The
childishness I have ascribed to her, as far as it is childishness
of character and not lack of experience, is not a matter of
years. It may be observed in our own climate at the present day
in many women of fifty. It is a mistake to suppose that the
difference between wisdom and folly has anything to do with the
difference between physical age and physical youth. Some women
are younger at seventy than most women at seventeen.

It must be borne in mind, too, that Cleopatra was a queen, and
was therefore not the typical Greek-cultured, educated Eyptian
lady of her time. To represent her by any such type would be as
absurd as to represent George IV by a type founded on the
attainments of Sir Isaac Newton. It is true that an ordinarily
well educated Alexandrian girl of her time would no more have
believed bogey stories about the Romans than the daughter of a
modern Oxford professor would believe them about the Germans
(though, by the way, it is possible to talk great nonsense at
Oxford about foreigners when we are at war with them). But I do
not feel bound to believe that Cleopatra was well educated. Her
father, the illustrious Flute Blower, was not at all a parent of
the Oxford professor type. And Cleopatra was a chip of the old


I find among those who have read this play in manuscript a strong
conviction that an ancient Briton could not possibly have been
like a modern one. I see no reason to adopt this curious view. It
is true that the Roman and Norman conquests must have for a time
disturbed the normal British type produced by the climate. But
Britannus, born before these events, represents the unadulterated
Briton who fought Caesar and impressed Roman observers much as we
should expect the ancestors of Mr. Podsnap to impress the
cultivated Italians of their time.

I am told that it is not scientific to treat national character
as a product of climate. This only shows the wide difference
between common knowledge and the intellectual game called
science. We have men of exactly the same stock, and speaking the
same language, growing in Great Britain, in Ireland, and in
America. The result is three of the most distinctly marked
nationalities under the sun. Racial characteristics are quite
another matter. The difference between a Jew and a Gentile has
nothing to do with the difference between an Englishman and a
German. The characteristics of Britannus are local
characteristics, not race characteristics. In an ancient Briton
they would, I take it, be exaggerated, since modern Britain,
disforested, drained, urbanified and consequently cosmopolized,
is presumably less characteristically British than Caesar's

And again I ask does anyone who, in the light of a competent
knowledge of his own age, has studied history from contemporary
documents, believe that 67 generations of promiscuous marriage
have made any appreciable difference in the human fauna of these
isles? Certainly I do not.


As to Caesar himself, I have purposely avoided the usual
anachronism of going to Caesar's books, and concluding that the
style is the man. That is only true of authors who have the
specific literary genius, and have practised long enough to
attain complete self-expression in letters. It is not true even
on these conditions in an age when literature is conceived
as a game of style, and not as a vehicle of self-expression by
the author. Now Caesar was an amateur stylist writing books of
travel and campaign histories in a style so impersonal that
the authenticity of the later volumes is disputed. They reveal
some of his qualities just as the Voyage of a Naturalist Round
the World reveals some of Darwin's, without expressing his
private personality. An Englishman reading them would say that
Caesar was a man of great common sense and good taste, meaning
thereby a man without originality or moral courage.

In exhibiting Caesar as a much more various person than the
historian of the Gallic wars, I hope I have not succumbed
unconsciously to the dramatic illusion to which all great men owe
part of their reputation and some the whole of it. I admit that
reputations gained in war are specially questionable. Able
civilians taking up the profession of arms, like Caesar and
Cromwell, in middle age, have snatched all its laurels from
opponent commanders bred to it, apparently because capable
persons engaged in military pursuits are so scarce that the
existence of two of them at the same time in the same hemisphere
is extremely rare. The capacity of any conqueror is therefore
more likely than not to be an illusion produced by the incapacity
of his adversary. At all events, Caesar might have won his
battles without being wiser than Charles XII or Nelson or Joan of
Arc, who were, like most modern "self-made" millionaires,
half-witted geniuses, enjoying the worship accorded by all races
to certain forms of insanity. But Caesar's victories were only
advertisements for an eminence that would never have become
popular without them. Caesar is greater off the battle field than
on it. Nelson off his quarterdeck was so quaintly out of the
question that when his head was injured at the battle of the
Nile, and his conduct became for some years openly scandalous,
the difference was not important enough to be noticed. It may,
however, be said that peace hath her illusory reputations no less
than war. And it is certainly true that in civil life mere
capacity for work--the power of killing a dozen secretaries under
you, so to speak, as a life-or-death courier kills horses--
enables men with common ideas and superstitions to distance all
competitors in the strife of political ambition. It was this
power of work that astonished Cicero as the most prodigious of
Caesar's gifts, as it astonished later observers in Napoleon
before it wore him out. How if Caesar were nothing but a Nelson
and a Gladstone combined! A prodigy of vitality without any
special quality of mind! Nay, with ideas that were worn out
before he was born, as Nelson's and Gladstone's were! I have
considered that possibility too, and rejected it. I cannot cite
all the stories about Caesar which seem to me to show that he was
genuinely original; but let me at least point out that I have
been careful to attribute nothing but originality to him.
Originality gives a man an air of frankness, generosity, and
magnanimity by enabling him to estimate the value of truth,
money, or success in any particular instance quite independently
of convention and moral generalization. He therefore will not, in
the ordinary Treasury bench fashion, tell a lie which everybody
knows to be a lie (and consequently expects him as a matter of
good taste to tell). His lies are not found out: they pass for
candors. He understands the paradox of money, and gives it away
when he can get most for it: in other words, when its value is
least, which is just when a common man tries hardest to get it.
He knows that the real moment of success is not the moment
apparent to the crowd. Hence, in order to produce an impression
of complete disinterestedness and magnanimity, he has only to act
with entire selfishness; and this is perhaps the only sense in
which a man can be said to be naturally great. It is in this
sense that I have represented Caesar as great. Having virtue, he
has no need of goodness. He is neither forgiving, frank, nor
generous, because a man who is too great to resent has nothing to
forgive; a man who says things that other people are afraid to
say need be no more frank than Bismarck was; and there is no
generosity in giving things you do not want to people of whom you
intend to make use. This distinction between virtue and goodness
is not understood in England: hence the poverty of our drama in
heroes. Our stage attempts at them are mere goody-goodies.
Goodness, in its popular British sense of self-denial, implies
that man is vicious by nature, and that supreme goodness is
supreme martyrdom. Not sharing that pious opinion, I have not
given countenance to it in any of my plays. In this I follow the
precedent of the ancient myths, which represent the hero as
vanquishing his enemies, not in fair fight, but with enchanted
sword, superequine horse and magical invulnerability, the
possession of which, from the vulgar moralistic point of view,
robs his exploits of any merit whatever.

As to Caesar's sense of humor, there is no more reason to assume
that he lacked it than to assume that he was deaf or blind. It is
said that on the occasion of his assassination by a conspiracy of
moralists (it is always your moralist who makes assassination a
duty, on the scaffold or off it), he defended himself until the
good Brutes struck him, when he exclaimed "What! you too,
Brutes!" and disdained further fight. If this be true, he must
have been an incorrigible comedian. But even if we waive this
story, or accept the traditional sentimental interpretation of
it, there is still abundant evidence of his lightheartedness and
adventurousness. Indeed it is clear from his whole history that
what has been called his ambition was an instinct for
exploration. He had much more of Columbus and Franklin in him
than of Henry V.

However, nobody need deny Caesar a share, at least, of the
qualities I have attributed to him. All men, much more Julius
Caesars, possess all qualities in some degree. The really
interesting question is whether I am right in assuming that the
way to produce an impression of greatness is by exhibiting a man,
not as mortifying his nature by doing his duty, in the manner
which our system of putting little men into great positions (not
having enough great men in our influential families to go round)
forces us to inculcate, but by simply doing what he naturally
wants to do. For this raises the question whether our world has
not been wrong in its moral theory for the last 2,500 years or
so. It must be a constant puzzle to many of us that the Christian
era, so excellent in its intentions, should have been practically
such a very discreditable episode in the history of the race. I
doubt if this is altogether due to the vulgar and sanguinary
sensationalism of our religious legends, with their substitution
of gross physical torments and public executions for the passion
of humanity. Islam, substituting voluptuousness for torment (a
merely superficial difference, it is true) has done no better. It
may have been the failure of Christianity to emancipate itself
from expiatory theories of moral responsibility, guilt,
innocence, reward, punishment, and the rest of it, that baffled
its intention of changing the world. But these are bound up in
all philosophies of creation as opposed to cosmism. They may
therefore be regarded as the price we pay for popular religion.

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