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Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw

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RUFIO (with a sudden splutter of raging ill usage, coming down to
Caesar and scolding him). Can I embark a legion in five minutes?
The first cohort is already on the beach. We can do no more. If
you want faster work, come and do it yourself?

CAESAR (soothing him). Good, good. Patience, Rufio, patience.

RUFIO. Patience! Who is impatient here, you or I? Would I be
here, if I could not oversee them from that balcony?

CAESAR. Forgive me, Rufio; and (anxiously) hurry them as much

He is interrupted by an outcry as of an old man in the extremity
of misfortune. It draws near rapidly; and Theodotus rushes in,
tearing his hair, and squeaking the most lamentable exclamations.
Rufio steps back to stare at him, amazed at his frantic
condition. Pothinus turns to listen.

THEODOTUS (on the steps, with uplifted arms). Horror unspeakable!
Woe, alas! Help!

RUFIO. What now?

CAESAR (frowning). Who is slain?

THEODOTUS. Slain! Oh, worse than the death of ten thousand men!
Loss irreparable to mankind!

RUFIO. What has happened, man?

THEODOTUS (rushing down the hall between them). The fire has
spread from your ships. The first of the seven wonders of the
world perishes. The library of Alexandria is in flames.

RUFIO. Psha! (Quite relieved, he goes up to the loggia and
watches the preparations of the troops on the beach.)

CAESAR. Is that all?

THEODOTUS (unable to believe his senses). All! Caesar: will you
go down to posterity as a barbarous soldier too ignorant to know
the value of books?

CAESAR. Theodotus: I am an author myself; and I tell you it is
better that the Egyptians should live their lives than dream them
away with the help of books.

THEODOTUS (kneeling, with genuine literary emotion: the passion
of the pedant). Caesar: once in ten generations of men, the world
gains an immortal book.

CAESAR (inflexible). If it did not flatter mankind, the common
executioner would burn it.

THEODOTUS. Without history, death would lay you beside your
meanest soldier.

CAESAR. Death will do that in any case. I ask no better grave.

THEODOTUS. What is burning there is the memory of mankind.

CAESAR. A shameful memory. Let it burn.

THEODOTUS (wildly). Will you destroy the past?

CAESAR. Ay, and build the future with its ruins. (Theodotus, in
despair, strikes himself on the temples with his fists.) But
harken, Theodotus, teacher of kings: you who valued Pompey's head
no more than a shepherd values an onion, and who now kneel to me,
with tears in your old eyes, to plead for a few sheepskins
scrawled with errors. I cannot spare you a man or a bucket of
water just now; but you shall pass freely out of the palace. Now,
away with you to Achillas; and borrow his legions to put out the
fire. (He hurries him to the steps.)

POTHINUS (significantly). You understand, Theodotus: I remain a

THEODOTUS. A prisoner!

CAESAR. Will you stay to talk whilst the memory of mankind is
burning? (Calling through the loggia) Ho there! Pass Theodotus
out. (To Theodotus) Away with you.

THEODOTUS (to Pothinus). I must go to save the library. (He
hurries out.)

CAESAR. Follow him to the gate, Pothinus. Bid him urge your
people to kill no more of my soldiers, for your sake.

POTHINUS. My life will cost you dear if you take it, Caesar. (He
goes out after Theodotus.)

Rufio, absorbed in watching the embarkation, does not notice the
departure of the two Egyptians.

RUFIO (shouting from the loggia to the beach). All ready, there?

A CENTURION (from below). All ready. We wait for Caesar.

CAESAR. Tell them Caesar is coming--the rogues! (Calling)
Britannicus. (This magniloquent version of his secretary's name
is one of Caesar's jokes. In later years it would have meant,
quite seriously and officially, Conqueror of Britain.)

RUFIO (calling down). Push off, all except the longboat. Stand by
it to embark, Caesar's guard there. (He leaves the balcony and
comes down into the hall.) Where are those Egyptians? Is this
more clemency? Have you let them go?

CAESAR (chuckling). I have let Theodotus go to save the library.
We must respect literature, Rufio.

RUFIO (raging). Folly on folly's head! I believe if you could
bring back all the dead of Spain, Gaul and Thessaly to life, you
would do it that we might have the trouble of fighting them over

CAESAR. Might not the gods destroy the world if their only
thought were to be at peace next year? (Rufio, out of all
patience, turns away in anger. Caesar suddenly grips his
sleeve, and adds slyly in his ear.) Besides, my friend: every
Egyptian we imprison means imprisoning two Roman soldiers to
guard him. Eh?

RUFIO. Agh! I might have known there was some fox's trick behind
your fine talking. (He gets away from Caesar with an ill-humored
shrug, and goes to the balcony for another look at the
preparations; finally goes out.)

CAESAR. Is Britannus asleep? I sent him for my armor an hour ago.
(Calling) Britannicus, thou British islander. Britannicus!

Cleopatra, runs in through the loggia with Caesar's helmet and
sword, snatched from Britannus, who follows her with a cuirass
and greaves. They come down to Caesar, she to his left hand,
Britannus to his right.

CLEOPATRA. I am going to dress you, Caesar. Sit down. (He obeys.)
These Roman helmets are so becoming! (She takes off his wreath.)
Oh! (She bursts out laughing at him.)

CAESAR. What are you laughing at?

CLEOPATRA. You're bald (beginning with a big B, and ending with a

CAESAR (almost annoyed). Cleopatra! (He rises, for the
convenience of Britannus, who puts the cuirass on him.)

CLEOPATRA. So that is why you wear the wreath--to hide it.

BRITANNUS. Peace, Egyptian: they are the bays of the conqueror.
(He buckles the cuirass.)

CLEOPATRA. Peace, thou: islander! (To Caesar) You should rub your
head with strong spirits of sugar, Caesar. That will make it

CAESAR (with a wry face). Cleopatra: do you like to be reminded
that you are very young?

CLEOPATRA (pouting). No.

CAESAR (sitting down again, and setting out his leg for
Britannus, who kneels to put on his greaves). Neither do I like
to be reminded that I am--middle aged. Let me give you ten of my
superfluous years. That will make you 26 and leave me only--no
matter. Is it a bargain?

CLEOPATRA. Agreed. 26, mind. (She puts the helmet on him.) Oh!
How nice! You look only about 50 in it!

BRITANNUS (Looking up severely at Cleopatra). You must not speak
in this manner to Caesar.

CLEOPATRA. Is it true that when Caesar caught you on that island,
you were painted all over blue?

BRITANNUS. Blue is the color worn by all Britons of good
standing. In war we stain our bodies blue; so that though our
enemies may strip us of our clothes and our lives, they cannot
strip us of our respectability. (He rises.)

CLEOPATRA (with Caesar's sword). Let me hang this on. Now you
look splendid. Have they made any statues of you in Rome?

CAESAR. Yes, many statues.

CLEOPATRA. You must send for one and give it to me.

RUFIO (coming back into the loggia, more impatient than ever).
Now Caesar: have you done talking? The moment your foot is aboard
there will be no holding our men back: the boats will race one
another for the lighthouse.

CAESAR (drawing his sword and trying the edge). Is this well set
to-day, Britannicus? At Pharsalia it was as blunt as a

BRITANNUS. It will split one of the Egyptian's hairs to-day,
Caesar. I have set it myself.

CLEOPATRA (suddenly throwing her arms in terror round Caesar).
Oh, you are not really going into battle to be killed?

CAESAR. No, Cleopatra. No man goes to battle to be killed.

CLEOPATRA. But they DO get killed. My sister's husband was killed
in battle. You must not go. Let HIM go (pointing to Rufio. They
all laugh at her). Oh please, PLEASE don't go. What will happen
to ME if you never come back?

CAESAR (gravely). Are you afraid?

CLEOPATRA (shrinking). No.

CAESAR (with quiet authority). Go to the balcony; and you shall
see us take the Pharos. You must learn to look on battles. Go.
(She goes, downcast, and looks out from the balcony.) That is
well. Now, Rufio. March.

CLEOPATRA (suddenly clapping her hands). Oh, you will not be able
to go!

CAESAR. Why? What now?

CLEOPATRA. They are drying up the harbor with buckets--a
multitude of soldiers--over there (pointing out across the sea to
her left)--they are dipping up the water.

RUFIO (hastening to look). It is true. The Egyptian army!
Crawling over the edge of the west harbor like locusts. (With
sudden anger he strides down to Caesar.) This is your accursed
clemency, Caesar. Theodotus has brought them.

CAESAR (delighted at his own cleverness). I meant him to, Rufio.
They have come to put out the fire. The library will keep them
busy whilst we seize the lighthouse. Eh? (He rushes out buoyantly
through the loggia, followed by Britannus.)

RUFIO (disgustedly). More foxing! Agh! (He rushes off. A shout
from the soldiers announces the appearance of Caesar below).

CENTURION (below). All aboard. Give way there. (Another shout.)

CLEOPATRA (waving her scarf through the loggia arch). Goodbye,
goodbye, dear Caesar. Come back safe. Goodbye!


The edge of the quay in front of the palace, looking out west
over the east harbor of Alexandria to Pharos island, just
off the end of which, and connected with it by a narrow mole,
is the famous lighthouse, a gigantic square tower of white
marble diminishing in size storey by storey to the top, on which
stands a cresset beacon. The island is joined to the main land
by the Heptastadium, a great mole or causeway five miles long
bounding the harbor on the south.

In the middle of the quay a Roman sentinel stands on guard, pilum
in hand, looking out to the lighthouse with strained attention,
his left hand shading his eyes. The pilum is a stout wooden shaft
41 feet long, with an iron spit about three feet long fixed in
it. The sentinel is so absorbed that he does not notice the
approach from the north end of the quay of four Egyptian market
porters carrying rolls of carpet, preceded by Ftatateeta and
Apollodorus the Sicilian. Apollodorus is a dashing young man of
about 24, handsome and debonair, dressed with deliberate
astheticism in the most delicate purples and dove greys, with
ornaments of bronze, oxydized silver, and stones of jade and
agate. His sword, designed as carefully as a medieval cross, has
a blued blade showing through an openwork scabbard of purple
leather and filagree. The porters, conducted by Ftatateeta, pass
along the quay behind the sentinel to the steps of the palace,
where they put down their bales and squat on the ground.
Apollodorus does not pass along with them: he halts, amused by
the preoccupation of the sentinel.

APOLLODORUS (calling to the sentinel). Who goes there, eh?

SENTINEL (starting violently and turning with his pilum at the
charge, revealing himself as a small, wiry, sandy-haired,
conscientious young man with an elderly face). What's this?
Stand. Who are you?

APOLLODORUS. I am Apollodorus the Sicilian. Why, man, what are
you dreaming of? Since I came through the lines beyond the
theatre there, I have brought my caravan past three sentinels,
all so busy staring at the lighthouse that not one of them
challenged me. Is this Roman discipline?

SENTINEL. We are not here to watch the land but the water. Caesar
has just landed on the Pharos. (Looking at Ftatateeta) What have
you here? Who is this piece of Egyptian crockery?

FTATATEETA. Apollodorus: rebuke this Roman dog; and bid him
bridle his tongue in the presence of Ftatateeta, the mistress of
the Queen's household.

APOLLODORUS. My friend: this is a great lady, who stands high
with Caesar.

SENTINEL (not at all impressed, pointing to the carpets). And
what is all this truck?

APOLLODORUS. Carpets for the furnishing of the Queen's apartments
in the palace. I have picked them from the best carpets in the
world; and the Queen shall choose the best of my choosing.

SENTINEL. So you are the carpet merchant?

APOLLODORUS (hurt). My friend: I am a patrician.

SENTINEL. A patrician! A patrician keeping a shop instead of
following arms!

APOLLODORUS. I do not keep a shop. Mine is a temple of the arts.
I am a worshipper of beauty. My calling is to choose beautiful
things for beautiful Queens. My motto is Art for Art's sake.

SENTINEL. That is not the password.

APOLLODORUS. It is a universal password.

SENTINEL. I know nothing about universal passwords. Either give
me the password for the day or get back to your shop.

Ftatateeta, roused by his hostile tone, steals towards the edge
of the quay with the step of a panther, and gets behind him.

APOLLODORUS. How if I do neither?

SENTINEL. Then I will drive this pilum through you.

APOLLODORUS. At your service, my friend. (He draws his sword, and
springs to his guard with unruffled grace.)

FTATATEETA (suddenly seizing the sentinel's arms from behind).
Thrust your knife into the dog's throat, Apollodorus. (The
chivalrous Apollodorus laughingly shakes his head; breaks ground
away from the sentinel towards the palace; and lowers his point.)

SENTINEL (struggling vainly). Curse on you! Let me go. Help ho!

FTATATEETA (lifting him from the ground). Stab the little Roman
reptile. Spit him on your sword.

A couple of Roman soldiers, with a centurion, come running along
the edge of the quay from the north end. They rescue their
comrade, and throw off Ftatateeta, who is sent reeling away on
the left hand of the sentinel.

CENTURION (an unattractive man of fifty, short in his speech and
manners, with a vine wood cudgel in his hand). How now? What is
all this?

FTATATEETA (to Apollodorus). Why did you not stab him? There was

APOLLODORUS. Centurion: I am here by order of the Queen to--

CENTURION (interrupting him). The Queen! Yes, yes: (to the
sentinel) pass him in. Pass all these bazaar people in to the
Queen, with their goods. But mind you pass no one out that you
have not passed in--not even the Queen herself.

SENTINEL. This old woman is dangerous: she is as strong as three
men. She wanted the merchant to stab me.

APOLLODORUS. Centurion: I am not a merchant. I am a patrician and
a votary of art

CENTURION. Is the woman your wife?

APOLLODORUS (horrified). No, no! (Correcting himself politely)
Not that the lady is not a striking figure in her own way. But
(emphatically) she is NOT my wife.

FTATATEETA (to the Centurion). Roman: I am Ftatateeta, the
mistress of the Queen's household.

CENTURION. Keep your hands off our men, mistress; or I will have
you pitched into the harbor, though you were as strong as ten
men. (To his men) To your posts: march! (He returns with his men
the way they came.)

FTATATEETA (looking malignantly after him). We shall see whom
Isis loves best: her servant Ftatateeta or a dog of a Roman.

SENTINEL (to Apollodorus, with a wave of his pilum towards the
palace). Pass in there; and keep your distance. (Turning
to Ftatateeta) Come within a yard of me, you old crocodile; and I
will give you this (the pilum) in your jaws.

CLEOPATRA (calling from the palace). Ftatateeta, Ftatateeta.

FTATATEETA (Looking up, scandalized). Go from the window, go from
the window. There are men here.

CLEOPATRA. I am coming down.

FTATATEETA (distracted). No, no. What are you dreaming of? O ye
gods, ye gods! Apollodorus: bid your men pick up your bales; and
in with me quickly.

APOLLODORUS. Obey the mistress of the Queen's household.

FTATATEETA (impatiently, as the porters stoop to lift the bales).
Quick, quick: she will be out upon us. (Cleopatra comes from the
palace and runs across the quay to Ftatateeta.) Oh that ever I
was born!

CLEOPATRA (eagerly). Ftatateeta: I have thought of something. I
want a boat--at once.

FTATATEETA. A boat! No, no: you cannot. Apollodorus: speak to the

APOLLODORUS (gallantly). Beautiful Queen: I am Apollodorus the
Sicilian, your servant, from the bazaar. I have brought you the
three most beautiful Persian carpets in the world to choose from.

CLEOPATRA. I have no time for carpets to-day. Get me a boat.

FTATATEETA. What whim is this? You cannot go on the water except
in the royal barge.

APOLLODORUS. Royalty, Ftatateeta, lies not in the barge but in
the Queen. (To Cleopatra) The touch of your majesty's foot on
the gunwale of the meanest boat in the harbor will make it royal.
(He turns to the harbor and calls seaward) Ho there, boatman!
Pull in to the steps.

CLEOPATRA. Apollodorus: you are my perfect knight; and I will
always buy my carpets through you. (Apollodorus bows joyously. An
oar appears above the quay; and the boatman, a bullet-headed,
vivacious, grinning fellow, burnt almost black by the sun, comes
up a flight of steps from the water on the sentinel's right, oar
in hand, and waits at the top.) Can you row, Apollodorus?

APOLLODORUS. My oars shall be your majesty's wings. Whither shall
I row my Queen? To the lighthouse. Come. (She makes for the

SENTINEL (opposing her with his pilum at the charge). Stand. You
cannot pass.

CLEOPATRA (flushing angrily). How dare you? Do you know that I am
the Queen?

SENTINEL. I have my orders. You cannot pass.

CLEOPATRA. I will make Caesar have you killed if you do not obey

SENTINEL. He will do worse to me if I disobey my officer. Stand

CLEOPATRA. Ftatateeta: strangle him.

SENTINEL (alarmed--looking apprehensively at Ftatateeta, and
brandishing his pilum). Keep off there.

CLEOPATRA (running to Apollodorus). Apollodorus: make your slaves
help us.

APOLLODORUS. I shall not need their help, lady. (He draws his
sword.) Now soldier: choose which weapon you will defend yourself
with. Shall it be sword against pilum, or sword against sword?

SENTINEL. Roman against Sicilian, curse you. Take that. (He hurls
his pilum at Apollodorus, who drops expertly on one knee. The
pilum passes whizzing over his head and falls harmless.
Apollodorus, with a cry of triumph, springs up and attacks the
sentinel, who draws his sword and defends himself, crying) Ho
there, guard. Help!

Cleopatra, half frightened, half delighted, takes refuge near the
palace, where the porters are squatting among the bales. The
boatman, alarmed, hurries down the steps out of harm's way, but
stops, with his head just visible above the edge of the quay, to
watch the fight. The sentinel is handicapped by his fear of an
attack in the rear from Ftatateeta. His swordsmanship, which is
of a rough and ready sort, is heavily taxed, as he has
occasionally to strike at her to keep her off between a blow and
a guard with Apollodorus. The Centurion returns with several
soldiers. Apollodorus springs back towards Cleopatra as this
reinforcement confronts him.

CENTURION (coming to the sentinel's right hand). What is this?
What now?

SENTINEL (panting). I could do well enough for myself if it
weren't for the old woman. Keep her off me: that is all the help
I need.

CENTURION. Make your report, soldier. What has happened?

FTATATEETA. Centurion: he would have slain the Queen.

SENTINEL (bluntly). I would, sooner than let her pass. She wanted
to take boat, and go--so she said--to the lighthouse. I stopped
her, as I was ordered to; and she set this fellow on me. (He goes
to pick up his pilum and returns to his place with it.)

CENTURION (turning to Cleopatra). Cleopatra: I am loath to offend
you; but without Caesar's express order we dare not let you pass
beyond the Roman lines.

APOLLODORUS. Well, Centurion; and has not the lighthouse been
within the Roman lines since Caesar landed there?

CLEOPATRA. Yes, yes. Answer that, if you can.

CENTURION (to Apollodorus). As for you, Apollodorus, you may
thank the gods that you are not nailed to the palace door with a
pilum for your meddling.

APOLLODORUS (urbanely). My military friend, I was not born to be
slain by so ugly a weapon. When I fall, it will be (holding up
his sword) by this white queen of arms, the only weapon fit for
an artist. And now that you are convinced that we do not want to
go beyond the lines, let me finish killing your sentinel and
depart with the Queen.

CENTURION (as the sentinel makes an angry demonstration). Peace
there. Cleopatra. I must abide by my orders, and not by the
subtleties of this Sicilian. You must withdraw into the palace
and examine your carpets there.

CLEOPATRA (pouting). I will not: I am the Queen. Caesar does not
speak to me as you do. Have Caesar's centurions changed manners
with his scullions?

CENTURION (sulkily). I do my duty. That is enough for me.

APOLLODORUS. Majesty: when a stupid man is doing something he is
ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.

CENTURION (angry). Apollodorus--

APOLLODORUS (interrupting him with defiant elegance). I will make
amends for that insult with my sword at fitting time and place.
Who says artist, says duelist. (To Cleopatra) Hear my counsel,
star of the east. Until word comes to these soldiers from Caesar
himself, you are a prisoner. Let me go to him with a message from
you, and a present; and before the sun has stooped half way to
the arms of the sea, I will bring you back Caesar's order of

CENTURION (sneering at him), And you will sell the Queen the
present, no doubt.

APOLLODORUS. Centurion: the Queen shall have from me, without
payment, as the unforced tribute of Sicilian taste to Egyptian
beauty, the richest of these carpets for her present to Caesar.

CLEOPATRA (exultantly, to the Centurion). Now you see what an
ignorant common creature you are!

CENTURION (curtly). Well, a fool and his wares are soon parted
(He turns to his men). Two more men to this post here; and see
that no one leaves the palace but this man and his merchandize.
If he draws his sword again inside the lines, kill him. To your
posts. March.

He goes out, leaving two auxiliary sentinels with the other.

APOLLODORUS (with polite goodfellowship). My friends: will you
not enter the palace and bury our quarrel in a bowl of wine? (He
takes out his purse, jingling the coins in it.) The Queen has
presents for you all.

SENTINEL (very sulky). You heard our orders. Get about your

FIRST AUXILIARY. Yes: you ought to know better. Off with you.

SECOND AUXILIARY (looking longingly at the purse--this sentinel
is a hooknosed man, unlike his comrade, who is squab faced). Do
not tantalize a poor man.

APOLLODORUS (to Cleopatra). Pearl of Queens: the Centurion is at
hand; and the Roman soldier is incorruptible when his officer is
looking. I must carry your word to Caesar.

CLEOPATRA (who has been meditating among the carpets). Are these
carpets very heavy?

APOLLODORUS. It matters not how heavy. There are plenty of

CLEOPATRA. How do they put the carpets into boats? Do they throw
them down?

APOLLODORUS. Not into small boats, majesty. It would sink them.

CLEOPATRA. Not into that man's boat, for instance? (Pointing to
the boatman.)

APOLLODORUS. No. Too small.

CLEOPATRA. But you can take a carpet to Caesar in it if I send


CLEOPATRA. And you will have it carried gently down the steps and
take great care of it?

APOLLODORUS. Depend on me.


APOLLODORUS. More than of my own body.

CLEOPATRA. You will promise me not to let the porters drop it or
throw it about?

APOLLODORUS. Place the most delicate glass goblet in the palace
in the heart of the roll, Queen; and if it be broken, my head
shall pay for it.

CLEOPATRA. Good. Come, Ftatateeta. (Ftatateeta comes to her.
Apollodorus offers to squire them into the palace.) No,
Apollodorus, you must not come. I will choose a carpet for
myself. You must wait here. (She runs into the palace.)

APOLLODORUS (to the porters). Follow this lady (indicating
Ftatateeta); and obey her.

The porters rise and take up their bales.

FTATATEETA (addressing the porters as if they were vermin).
This way. And take your shoes off before you put your feet on
those stairs.

She goes in, followed by the porters with the carpets. Meanwhile
Apollodorus goes to the edge of the quay and looks out over the
harbor. The sentinels keep their eyes on him malignantly.

APOLLODORUS (addressing the sentinel). My friend--

SENTINEL (rudely). Silence there.

FIRST AUXILIARY. Shut your muzzle, you.

SECOND AUXILIARY (in a half whisper, glancing apprehensively
towards the north end of the quay). Can't you wait a bit?

APOLLODORUS. Patience, worthy three-headed donkey. (They mutter
ferociously; but he is not at all intimidated.) Listen: were you
set here to watch me, or to watch the Egyptians?

SENTINEL. We know our duty.

APOLLODORUS. Then why don't you do it? There's something going on
over there. (Pointing southwestward to the mole.)

SENTINEL (sulkily). I do not need to be told what to do by the
like of you.

APOLLODORUS. Blockhead. (He begins shouting) Ho there, Centurion.

SENTINEL. Curse your meddling. (Shouting) Hoiho! Alarm! Alarm!


The Centurion comes running in with his guard.

CENTURION. What now? Has the old woman attacked you again?
(Seeing Apollodorus) Are YOU here still?

APOLLODORUS (pointing as before). See there. The Egyptians are
moving. They are going to recapture the Pharos. They will attack
by sea and land: by land along the great mole; by sea from the
west harbor. Stir yourselves, my military friends: the hunt is
up. (A clangor of trumpets from several points along the quay.)
Aha! I told you so.

CENTURION (quickly). The two extra men pass the alarm to the
south posts. One man keep guard here. The rest with me--quick.

The two auxiliary sentinels run off to the south. The Centurion
and his guard run of northward; and immediately afterwards the
bucina sounds. The four porters come from the palace carrying a
carpet, followed by Ftatateeta.

SENTINEL (handling his pilum apprehensively). You again! (The
porters stop.)

FTATATEETA. Peace, Roman fellow: you are now single-handed.
Apollodorus: this carpet is Cleopatra's present to Caesar. It has
rolled up in it ten precious goblets of the thinnest Iberian
crystal, and a hundred eggs of the sacred blue pigeon. On your
honor, let not one of them be broken.

APOLLODORUS. On my head be it. (To the porters) Into the boat
with them carefully.

The porters carry the carpet to the steps.

FIRST PORTER (looking down at the boat). Beware what you do, sir.
Those eggs of which the lady speaks must weigh more than a pound
apiece. This boat is too small for such a load.

BOATMAN (excitedly rushing up the steps). Oh thou injurious
porter! Oh thou unnatural son of a she-camel! (To Apollodorus) My
boat, sir, hath often carried five men. Shall it not carry your
lordship and a bale of pigeons' eggs? (To the porter) Thou mangey
dromedary, the gods shall punish thee for this envious

FIRST PORTER (stolidly). I cannot quit this bale now to beat
thee; but another day I will lie in wait for thee.

APPOLODORUS (going between them). Peace there. If the boat were
but a single plank, I would get to Caesar on it.

FTATATEETA (anxiously). In the name of the gods, Apollodorus, run
no risks with that bale.

APOLLODORUS. Fear not, thou venerable grotesque: I guess its
great worth. (To the porters) Down with it, I say; and gently; or
ye shall eat nothing but stick for ten days.

The boatman goes down the steps, followed by the porters with the
bale: Ftatateeta and Apollodorus watching from the edge.

APOLLODORUS. Gently, my sons, my children--(with sudden alarm)
gently, ye dogs. Lay it level in the stern--so--'tis well.

FTATATEETA (screaming down at one of the porters). Do not step on
it, do not step on it. Oh thou brute beast!

FIRST PORTER (ascending). Be not excited, mistress: all is well.

FTATATEETA (panting). All well! Oh, thou hast given my heart a
turn! (She clutches her side, gasping.)

The four porters have now come up and are waiting at the
stairhead to be paid.

APOLLODORUS. Here, ye hungry ones. (He gives money to the first
porter, who holds it in his hand to show to the others. They
crowd greedily to see how much it is, quite prepared, after the
Eastern fashion, to protest to heaven against their patron's
stinginess. But his liberality overpowers them.)

FIRST PORTER. O bounteous prince!

SECOND PORTER. O lord of the bazaar!

THIRD PORTER. O favored of the gods!

FOURTH PORTER. O father to all the porters of the market!

SENTINEL (enviously, threatening them fiercely with his pilum).
Hence, dogs: off. Out of this. (They fly before him northward
along the quay.)

APOLLODORUS. Farewell, Ftatateeta. I shall be at the lighthouse
before the Egyptians. (He descends the steps.)

FTATATEETA. The gods speed thee and protect my nursling!

The sentry returns from chasing the porters and looks down at the
boat, standing near the stairhead lest Ftatateeta should attempt
to escape.

APOLLODORUS (from beneath, as the boat moves off). Farewell,
valiant pilum pitcher.

SENTINEL. Farewell shopkeeper.

APOLLODORUS. Ha, ha! Pull, thou brave boatman, pull. So
Ho-o-o-o-o! (He begins to sing in barcarolle measure to the
rhythm of the oars)

My heart, my heart, spread out thy wings:
Shake off thy heavy load of love--

Give me the oars, O son of a snail.

SENTINEL (threatening Ftatateeta). Now mistress: back to your
henhouse. In with you.

FTATATEETA (falling on her knees and stretching her hands over
the waters). Gods of the seas, bear her safely to the shore!

SENTINEL. Bear WHO safely? What do you mean?

FTATATEETA (looking darkly at him). Gods of Egypt and of
Vengeance, let this Roman fool be beaten like a dog by his
captain for suffering her to be taken over the waters.

SENTINEL. Accursed one: is she then in the boat? (He calls over
the sea) Hoiho, there, boatman! Hoiho!

APOLLODORUS (singing in the distance).
My heart, my heart, be whole and free:
Love is thine only enemy.

Meanwhile Rufio, the morning's fighting done, sits munching dates
on a faggot of brushwood outside the door of the lighthouse,
which towers gigantic to the clouds on his left. His helmet, full
of dates, is between his knees; and a leathern bottle of wine is
by his side. Behind him the great stone pedestal of the
lighthouse is shut in from the open sea by a low stone parapet,
with a couple of steps in the middle to the broad coping. A huge
chain with a hook hangs down from the lighthouse crane above his
head. Faggots like the one he sits on lie beneath it ready to be
drawn up to feed the beacon.

Caesar is standing on the step at the parapet looking out
anxiously, evidently ill at ease. Britannus comes out of the
lighthouse door.

RUFIO. Well, my British islander. Have you been up to the top?

BRITANNUS. I have. I reckon it at 200 feet high.

RUFIO. Anybody up there?

BRITANNUS. One elderly Tyrian to work the crane; and his son, a
well conducted youth of 14.

RUFIO (looking at the chain). What! An old man and a boy work
that! Twenty men, you mean.

BRITANNUS. Two only, I assure you. They have counterweights, and
a machine with boiling water in it which I do not understand: it
is not of British design. They use it to haul up barrels of oil
and faggots to burn in the brazier on the roof.

RUFIO. But--

BRITANNUS. Excuse me: I came down because there are messengers
coming along the mole to us from the island. I must see what
their business is. (He hurries out past the lighthouse.)

CAESAR (coming away from the parapet, shivering and out of
sorts). Rufio: this has been a mad expedition. We shall be
beaten. I wish I knew how our men are getting on with that
barricade across the great mole.

RUFIO (angrily). Must I leave my food and go starving to bring
you a report?

CAESAR (soothing him nervously). No, Rufio, no. Eat, my son. Eat.
(He takes another turn, Rufio chewing dates meanwhile.) The
Egyptians cannot be such fools as not to storm the barricade and
swoop down on us here before it is finished. It is the first time
I have ever run an avoidable risk. I should not have come to

RUFIO. An hour ago you were all for victory.

CAESAR (apologetically). Yes: I was a fool--rash, Rufio--boyish.

RUFIO. Boyish! Not a bit of it. Here. (Offering him a handful of

CAESAR. What are these for?

RUFIO. To eat. That's what's the matter with you. When a man
comes to your age, he runs down before his midday meal. Eat and
drink; and then have another look at our chances.

CAESAR (taking the dates). My age! (He shakes his head and bites
a date.) Yes, Rufio: I am an old man--worn out now--true, quite
true. (He gives way to melancholy contemplation, and eats another
date.) Achillas is still in his prime: Ptolemy is a boy. (He eats
another date, and plucks up a little.) Well, every dog has his
day; and I have had mine: I cannot complain. (With sudden
cheerfulness) These dates are not bad, Rufio. (Britannus returns,
greatly excited, with a leathern bag. Caesar is himself again in
a moment.) What now?

BRITANNUS (triumphantly). Our brave Rhodian mariners have
captured a treasure. There! (He throws the bag down at Caesar's
feet.) Our enemies are delivered into our hands.

CAESAR. In that bag?

BRITANNUS. Wait till you hear, Caesar. This bag contains all the
letters which have passed between Pompey's party and the army of
occupation here.


BRITANNUS (impatient of Caesar's slowness to grasp the
situation). Well, we shall now know who your foes are. The name
of every man who has plotted against you since you crossed the
Rubicon may be in these papers, for all we know.

CAESAR. Put them in the fire.

BRITANNUS. Put them--(he gasps)!!!!

CAESAR. In the fire. Would you have me waste the next three years
of my life in proscribing and condemning men who will be my
friends when I have proved that my friendship is worth more than
Pompey's was--than Cato's is. O incorrigible British islander: am
I a bull dog, to seek quarrels merely to show how stubborn my
jaws are?

BRITANNUS. But your honor--the honor of Rome--

CAESAR. I do not make human sacrifices to my honor, as your
Druids do. Since you will not burn these, at least I can drown
them. (He picks up the bag and throws it over the parapet into
the sea.)

BRITANNUS. Caesar: this is mere eccentricity. Are traitors to be
allowed to go free for the sake of a paradox?

RUFIO (rising). Caesar: when the islander has finished preaching,
call me again. I am going to have a look at the boiling water
machine. (He goes into the lighthouse.)

BRITANNUS (with genuine feeling). O Caesar, my great master, if I
could but persuade you to regard life seriously, as men do in my

CAESAR. Do they truly do so, Britannus?

BRITANNUS. Have you not been there? Have you not seen them? What
Briton speaks as you do in your moments of levity? What Briton
neglects to attend the services at the sacred grove? What Briton
wears clothes of many colors as you do, instead of plain blue, as
all solid, well esteemed men should? These are moral questions
with us.
CAESAR. Well, well, my friend: some day I shall settle down and
have a blue toga, perhaps. Meanwhile, I must get on as best I can
in my flippant Roman way. (Apollodorus comes past the
lighthouse.) What now?

BRITANNUS (turning quickly, and challenging the stranger with
official haughtiness). What is this? Who are you? How did you
come here?

APOLLODORUS. Calm yourself, my friend: I am not going to eat you.
I have come by boat, from Alexandria, with precious gifts for

CAESAR. From Alexandria!

BRITANNUS (severely). That is Caesar, sir.

RUFI0 (appearing at the lighthouse door). What's the matter now?

APOLLODORUS. Hail, great Caesar! I am Apollodorus the Sicilian,
an artist.

BRITANNUS. An artist! Why have they admitted this vagabond?

CAESAR. Peace, man. Apollodorus is a famous patrician amateur.

BRITANNUS (disconcerted). I crave the gentleman's pardon. (To
Caesar) I understood him to say that he was a professional.
(Somewhat out of countenance, he allows Apollodorus to approach
Caesar, changing places with him. Rufio, after looking
Apollodorus up and down with marked disparagement, goes to the
other side of the platform.)

CAESAR. You are welcome, Apollodorus. What is your business?

APOLLODORUS. First, to deliver to you a present from the Queen of

CAESAR. Who is that?

APOLLODORUS. Cleopatra of Egypt.

CAESAR (taking him into his confidence in his most winning
manner). Apollodorus: this is no time for playing with presents.
Pray you, go back to the Queen, and tell her that if all goes
well I shall return to the palace this evening.

APOLLODORUS. Caesar: I cannot return. As I approached the
lighthouse, some fool threw a great leathern bag into the sea. It
broke the nose of my boat; and I had hardly time to get myself
and my charge to the shore before the poor little cockleshell

CAESAR. I am sorry, Apollodorus. The fool shall be rebuked. Well,
well: what have you brought me? The Queen will be hurt if I do
not look at it.

RUFIO. Have we time to waste on this trumpery? The Queen is only
a child.

CAESAR. Just so: that is why we must not disappoint her. What is
the present, Apollodorus?

APOLLODORUS. Caesar: it is a Persian carpet--a beauty! And in it
are--so I am told--pigeons' eggs and crystal goblets and fragile
precious things. I dare not for my head have it carried up that
narrow ladder from the causeway.

RUFIO. Swing it up by the crane, then. We will send the eggs to
the cook; drink our wine from the goblets; and the carpet will
make a bed for Caesar.

APOLLODORUS. The crane! Caesar: I have sworn to tender this bale
of carpet as I tender my own life.

CAESAR (cheerfully). Then let them swing you up at the same time;
and if the chain breaks, you and the pigeons' eggs will perish
together. (He goes to the chairs and looks up along it, examining
it curiously.)

APOLLODORUS (to Britannus). Is Caesar serious?

BRITANNUS. His manner is frivolous because he is an Italian; but
he means what he says.

APOLLODORUS. Serious or not, he spoke well. Give me a squad of
soldiers to work the crane.

BRITANNUS. Leave the crane to me. Go and await the descent of the

APOLLODORUS. Good. You will presently see me there (turning to
them all and pointing with an eloquent gesture to the sky above
the parapet) rising like the sun with my treasure.

He goes back the, way he came. Britannus goes into the

RUFIO (ill-humoredly). Are you really going to wait here for this
foolery, Caesar?

CAESAR (backing away from the crane as it gives signs of
working). Why not?

RUFIO. The Egyptians will let you know why not if they have the
sense to make a rush from the shore end of the mole before our
barricade is finished. And here we are waiting like children to
see a carpet full of pigeons' eggs.

The chain rattles, and is drawn up high enough to clear the
parapet. It then swings round out of sight behind the lighthouse.

CAESAR. Fear not, my son Rufio. When the first Egyptian takes his
first step along the mole, the alarm will sound; and we two will
reach the barricade from our end before the Egyptians reach it
from their end--we two, Rufio: I, the old man, and you, his
biggest boy. And the old man will be there first. So peace; and
give me some more dates.

APOLLODORUS (from the causeway below). So-ho, haul away. So-ho-o-
o-o! (The chain is drawn up and comes round again from behind the
lighthouse. Apollodorus is swinging in the air with his bale of
carpet at the end of it. He breaks into song as he soars above
the parapet.)

Aloft, aloft, behold the blue
That never shone in woman's eyes

Easy there: stop her. (He ceases to rise.) Further round! (The
chain comes forward above the platform.)

RUFIO (calling up). Lower away there. (The chain and its load
begin to descend.)

APOLLODORUS (calling up). Gently--slowly--mind the eggs.

RUFIO (calling up). Easy there--slowly--slowly.

Apollodorus and the bale are deposited safely on the flags in
the middle of the platform. Rufio and Caesar help Apollodorus to
cast off the chain from the bale.

RUFIO. Haul up.

The chain rises clear of their heads with a rattle. Britannus
comes from the lighthouse and helps them to uncord the carpet.

APOLLODORUS (when the cords are loose). Stand off, my friends:
let Caesar see. (He throws the carpet open.)

RUFIO. Nothing but a heap of shawls. Where are the pigeons' eggs?

APOLLODORUS. Approach, Caesar; and search for them among the

RUFIO (drawing his sword). Ha, treachery! Keep back, Caesar: I
saw the shawl move: there is something alive there.

BRITANNUS (drawing his sword). It is a serpent.

APOLLODORUS. Dares Caesar thrust his hand into the sack where the
serpent moves?

RUFIO (turning on him). Treacherous dog--

CAESAR. Peace. Put up your swords. Apollodorus: your serpent
seems to breathe very regularly. (He thrusts his hand under the
shawls and draws out a bare arm.) This is a pretty little snake.

RUFIO (drawing out the other arm). Let us have the rest of you.

They pull Cleopatra up by the wrists into a sitting position.
Britannus, scandalized, sheathes his sword with a drive of

CLEOPATRA (gasping). Oh, I'm smothered. Oh, Caesar; a man stood
on me in the boat; and a great sack of something fell upon me out
of the sky; and then the boat sank, and then I was swung up into
the air and bumped down.

CAESAR (petting her as she rises and takes refuge on his breast).
Well, never mind: here you are safe and sound at last.

RUFIO. Ay; and now that she is here, what are we to do with her?

BRITANNUS. She cannot stay here, Caesar, without the
companionship of some matron.

CLEOPATRA (jealously, to Caesar, who is obviously perplexed).
Aren't you glad to see me?

CAESAR. Yes, yes; I am very glad. But Rufio is very angry; and
Britannus is shocked.

CLEOPATRA (contemptuously). You can have their heads cut off, can
you not?

CAESAR. They would not be so useful with their heads cut off as
they are now, my sea bird.

RUFIO (to Cleopatra). We shall have to go away presently and cut
some of your Egyptians' heads off. How will you like being left
here with the chance of being captured by that little brother of
yours if we are beaten?

CLEOPATRA. But you mustn't leave me alone. Caesar you will not
leave me alone, will you?

RUFIO. What! Not when the trumpet sounds and all our lives depend
on Caesar's being at the barricade before the Egyptians reach it?

CLEOPATRA. Let them lose their lives: they are only soldiers.

CAESAR (gravely). Cleopatra: when that trumpet sounds, we must
take every man his life in his hand, and throw it in the face of
Death. And of my soldiers who have trusted me there is not one
whose hand I shall not hold more sacred than your head.
(Cleopatra is overwhelmed. Her eyes fill with tears.)
Apollodorus: you must take her back to the palace.

APOLLODORUS. Am I a dolphin, Caesar, to cross the seas with young
ladies on my back? My boat is sunk: all yours are either at the
barricade or have returned to the city. I will hail one if I can:
that is all I can do. (He goes back to the causeway.)

CLEOPATRA (struggling with her tears). It does not matter. I will
not go back. Nobody cares for me.

CAESAR. Cleopatra--

CLEOPATRA. You want me to be killed.

CAESAR (still more gravely). My poor child: your life matters
little here to anyone but yourself. (She gives way altogether at
this, casting herself down on the faggots weeping. Suddenly a
great tumult is heard in the distance, bucinas and trumpets
sounding through a storm of shouting. Britannus rushes to the
parapet and looks along the mole. Caesar and Rufio turn to one
another with quick intelligence.)

CAESAR. Come, Rufio.

CLEOPATRA (scrambling to her knees and clinging to him). No, no.
Do not leave me, Caesar. (He snatches his skirt from her clutch.)

BRITANNUS (from the parapet). Caesar: we are cut off. The
Egyptians have landed from the west harbor between us and the

RUFIO (running to see). Curses! It is true. We are caught like
rats in a trap.

CAESAR (ruthfully). Rufio, Rufio: my men at the barricade are
between the sea party and the shore party. I have murdered them.

RUFIO (coming back from the parapet to Caesar's right hand). Ay:
that comes of fooling with this girl here.

APOLLODORUS (coming up quickly from the causeway). Look over the
parapet, Caesar.

CAESAR. We have looked, my friend. We must defend ourselves here.

APOLLODORUS. I have thrown the ladder into the sea. They cannot
get in without it.

RUFIO. Ay; and we cannot get out. Have you thought of that?

APOLLODORUS. Not get out! Why not? You have ships in the east

BRITANNUS (hopefully, at the parapet). The Rhodian galleys are
standing in towards us already. (Caesar quickly joins Britannus
at the parapet.)

RUFIO (to Apollodorus, impatiently). And by what road are we to
walk to the galleys, pray?

APOLLODORUS (with gay, defiant rhetoric). By the road that leads
everywhere--the diamond path of the sun and moon. Have you never
seen the child's shadow play of The Broken Bridge? "Ducks and
geese with ease get over"--eh? (He throws away his cloak and cap,
and binds his sword on his back.)

RUFIO. What are you talking about?

APOLLODORUS. I will show you. (Calling to Britannus) How far off
is the nearest galley?

BRITANNUS. Fifty fathom.

CAESAR. No, no: they are further off than they seem in this clear
air to your British eyes. Nearly quarter of a mile, Apollodorus.

APOLLODORUS. Good. Defend yourselves here until I send you a boat
from that galley.

RUFIO. Have you wings, perhaps?

APOLLODORUS. Water wings, soldier. Behold!

He runs up the steps between Caesar and Britannus to the coping
of the parapet; springs into the air; and plunges head foremost
into the sea.

CAESAR (like a schoolboy--wildly excited). Bravo, bravo!
(Throwing off his cloak) By Jupiter, I will do that too.

RUFIO (seizing him). You are mad. You shall not.

CAESAR. Why not? Can I not swim as well as he?

RUFIO (frantic). Can an old fool dive and swim like a young one?
He is twenty-five and you are fifty.

CAESAR (breaking loose from Rufio). Old!!!

BRITANNUS (shocked). Rufio: you forget yourself.

CAESAR. I will race you to the galley for a week's pay, father

CLEOPATRA. But me! Me!! Me!!! What is to become of me?

CAESAR. I will carry you on my back to the galley like a dolphin.
Rufio: when you see me rise to the surface, throw her in: I will
answer for her. And then in with you after her, both of you.

CLEOPATRA. No, no, NO. I shall be drowned.

BRITANNUS. Caesar: I am a man and a Briton, not a fish. I must
have a boat. I cannot swim.

CLEOPATRA. Neither can I.

CAESAR (to Britannus). Stay here, then, alone, until I recapture
the lighthouse: I will not forget you. Now, Rufio.

RUFIO. You have made up your mind to this folly?

CAESAR. The Egyptians have made it up for me. What else is there
to do? And mind where you jump: I do not want to get your
fourteen stone in the small of my back as I come up. (He runs up
the steps and stands on the coping.)

BRITANNUS (anxiously). One last word, Caesar. Do not let yourself
be seen in the fashionable part of Alexandria until you have
changed your clothes.

CAESAR (calling over the sea). Ho, Apollodorus: (he points
skyward and quotes the barcarolle)

The white upon the blue above--

APOLLODORUS (swimming in the distance)

Is purple on the green below--

CAESAR (exultantly). Aha! (He plunges into the sea.)

CLEOPATRA (running excitedly to the steps). Oh, let me see. He
will be drowned. (Rufio seizes her.) Ah--ah--ah--ah! (He pitches
her screaming into the sea. Rufio and Britannus roar with

RUFIO (looking down after her). He has got her. (To Britannus)
Hold the fort, Briton. Caesar will not forget you. (He springs

BRITANNUS (running to the steps to watch them as they swim). All
safe, Rufio?

RUFIO (swimming). All safe.

CAESAR (swimming further of). Take refuge up there by the beacon;
and pile the fuel on the trap door, Britannus.

BRITANNUS (calling in reply). I will first do so, and then
commend myself to my country's gods. (A sound of cheering from
the sea. Britannus gives full vent to his excitement) The boat
has reached him: Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!



Cleopatra's sousing in the east harbor of Alexandria was in
October 48 B. C. In March 47 she is passing the afternoon in her
boudoir in the palace, among a bevy of her ladies, listening to a
slave girl who is playing the harp in the middle of the room.
The harpist's master, an old musician, with a lined face,
brows, white beard, moustache and eyebrows twisted and horned at
the ends, and a consciously keen and pretentious expression, is
squatting on the floor close to her on her right, watching her
performance. Ftatateeta is in attendance near the door, in front
of a group of female slaves. Except the harp player all are
seated: Cleopatra in a chair opposite the door on the other side
of the room; the rest on the ground. Cleopatra's ladies are all
young, the most conspicuous being Charmian and Iras, her
favorites. Charmian is a hatchet faced, terra cotta colored
little goblin, swift in her movements, and neatly finished at the
hands and feet. Iras is a plump, goodnatured creature, rather
fatuous, with a profusion of red hair, and a tendency to giggle
on the slightest provocation.


FTATATEETA (insolently, to the player). Peace, thou! The Queen
speaks. (The player stops.)

CLEOPATRA (to the old musician). I want to learn to play the harp
with my own hands. Caesar loves music. Can you teach me?

MUSICIAN. Assuredly I and no one else can teach the Queen. Have
I not discovered the lost method of the ancient Egyptians, who
could make a pyramid tremble by touching a bass string? All the
other teachers are quacks: I have exposed them repeatedly.

CLEOPATRA. Good: you shall teach me. How long will it take?

MUSICIAN. Not very long: only four years. Your Majesty must first
become proficient in the philosophy of Pythagoras.

CLEOPATRA. Has she (indicating the slave) become proficient in
the philosophy of Pythagoras?

MUSICIAN. Oh, she is but a slave. She learns as a dog learns.

CLEOPATRA. Well, then, I will learn as a dog learns; for she
plays better than you. You shall give me a lesson every day for a
fortnight. (The musician hastily scrambles to his feet and bows
profoundly.) After that, whenever I strike a false note you shall
be flogged; and if I strike so many that there is not time to
flog you, you shall be thrown into the Nile to feed the
Give the girl a piece of gold; and send them away.

MUSICIAN (much taken aback). But true art will not be thus

FTATATEETA (pushing him out). What is this? Answering the Queen,
forsooth. Out with you.

He is pushed out by Ftatateeta, the girl following with her harp,
amid the laughter of the ladies and slaves.

CLEOPATRA. Now, can any of you amuse me? Have you any stories or
any news?

IRAS. Ftatateeta--

CLEOPATRA. Oh, Ftatateeta, Ftatateeta, always Ftatateeta. Some
new tale to set me against her.

IRAS. No: this time Ftatateeta has been virtuous. (All the ladies
laugh--not the slaves.) Pothinus has been trying to bribe her to
let him speak with you.

CLEOPATRA (wrathfully). Ha! You all sell audiences with me, as if
I saw whom you please, and not whom I please. I should like to
know how much of her gold piece that harp girl will have to give
up before she leaves the palace.

IRAS. We can easily find out that for you.

The ladies laugh.

CLEOPATRA (frowning). You laugh; but take care, take care. I will
find out some day how to make myself served as Caesar is served.

CHARMIAN. Old hooknose! (They laugh again.)

CLEOPATRA (revolted). Silence. Charmian: do not you be a silly
little Egyptian fool. Do you know why I allow you all to chatter
impertinently just as you please, instead of treating you as
Ftatateeta would treat you if she were Queen?

CHARMIAN. Because you try to imitate Caesar in everything; and he
lets everybody say what they please to him.

CLEOPATRA. No; but because I asked him one day why he did so; and
he said "Let your women talk; and you will learn something from
them." What have I to learn from them? I said. "What they ARE,"
said he; and oh! you should have seen his eye as he said it. You
would have curled up, you shallow things. (They laugh. She turns
fiercely on Iras) At whom are you laughing--at me or at Caesar?

IRAS. At Caesar.

CLEOPATRA. If you were not a fool, you would laugh at me; and if
you were not a coward you would not be afraid to tell me so.
(Ftatateeta returns.) Ftatateeta: they tell me that Pothinus has
offered you a bribe to admit him to my presence.

FTATATEETA (protesting). Now by my father's gods--

CLEOPATRA (cutting her short despotically). Have I not told you
not to deny things? You would spend the day calling your father's
gods to witness to your virtues if I let you. Go take the bribe;
and bring in Pothinus. (Ftatateeta is about to reply.) Don't
answer me. Go.

Ftatateeta goes out; and Cleopatra rises and begins to prowl to
and fro between her chair and the door, meditating. All rise and

IRAS (as she reluctantly rises). Heigho! I wish Caesar were back
in Rome.

CLEOPATRA (threateningly). It will be a bad day for you all when
he goes. Oh, if I were not ashamed to let him see that I am as
cruel at heart as my father, I would make you repent that speech!
Why do you wish him away?

CHARMIAN. He makes you so terribly prosy and serious and learned
and philosophical. It is worse than being religious, at OUR ages.
(The ladies laugh.)

CLEOPATRA. Cease that endless cackling, will you. Hold your

CHARMIAN (with mock resignation). Well, well: we must try to live
up to Caesar.

They laugh again. Cleopatra rages silently as she continues to
prowl to and fro. Ftatateeta comes back with Pothinus, who halts
on the threshold.

FTATATEETA (at the door). Pothinus craves the ear of the--

CLEOPATRA. There, there: that will do: let him come in.

(She resumes her seat. All sit down except Pothinus, who advances
to the middle of the room. Ftatateeta takes her former place.)
Well, Pothinus: what is the latest news from your rebel friends?

POTHINUS (haughtily). I am no friend of rebellion. And a prisoner
does not receive news.

CLEOPATRA. You are no more a prisoner than I am--than Caesar is.
These six months we have been besieged in this palace by my
subjects. You are allowed to walk on the beach among the
soldiers. Can I go further myself, or can Caesar?

POTHINUS. You are but a child, Cleopatra, and do not understand
these matters.

The ladies laugh. Cleopatra looks inscrutably at him.

CHARMIAN. I see you do not know the latest news, Pothinus.

POTHINUS. What is that?

CHARMIAN. That Cleopatra is no longer a child. Shall I tell you
how to grow much older, and much, MUCH wiser in one day?

POTHINUS. I should prefer to grow wiser without growing older.

CHARMIAN. Well, go up to the top of the lighthouse; and get
somebody to take you by the hair and throw you into the sea. (The
ladies laugh.)

CLEOPATRA. She is right, Pothinus: you will come to the shore
with much conceit washed out of you. (The ladies laugh. Cleopatra
rises impatiently.) Begone, all of you. I will speak with
Pothinus alone. Drive them out, Ftatateeta. (They run out
laughing. Ftatateeta shuts the door on them.) What are YOU
waiting for?

FTATATEETA. It is not meet that the Queen remain alone with--

CLEOPATRA (interrupting her). Ftatateeta: must I sacrifice you to
your father's gods to teach you that I am Queen of Egypt, and not

FTATATEETA (indignantly). You are like the rest of them. You want
to be what these Romans call a New Woman. (She goes out, banging
the door.)

CLEOPATRA (sitting down again). Now, Pothinus: why did you bribe
Ftatateeta to bring you hither?

POTHINUS (studying her gravely). Cleopatra: what they tell me is
true. You are changed.

CLEOPATRA. Do you speak with Caesar every day for six months: and
YOU will be changed.

POTHINUS. It is the common talk that you are infatuated with this
old man.

CLEOPATRA. Infatuated? What does that mean? Made foolish, is it
not? Oh no: I wish I were.

POTHINUS. You wish you were made foolish! How so?

CLEOPATRA. When I was foolish, I did what I liked, except when
Ftatateeta beat me; and even then I cheated her and did it by
stealth. Now that Caesar has made me wise, it is no use my liking
or disliking; I do what must be done, and have no time to attend
to myself. That is not happiness; but it is greatness. If Caesar
were gone, I think I could govern the Egyptians; for what Caesar
is to me, I am to the fools around me.

POTHINUS (looking hard at her). Cleopatra: this may be the vanity
of youth.

CLEOPATRA. No, no: it is not that I am so clever, but that the
others are so stupid.

POTHINUS (musingly). Truly, that is the great secret.

CLEOPATRA. Well, now tell me what you came to say?

POTHINUS (embarrassed). I! Nothing.


POTHINUS. At least--to beg for my liberty: that is all.

CLEOPATRA. For that you would have knelt to Caesar. No, Pothinus:
you came with some plan that depended on Cleopatra being a little
nursery kitten. Now that Cleopatra is a Queen, the plan is upset.

POTHINUS (bowing his head submissively). It is so.

CLEOPATRA (exultant). Aha!

POTHINUS (raising his eyes keenly to hers). Is Cleopatra then
indeed a Queen, and no longer Caesar's prisoner and slave?

CLEOPATRA. Pothinus: we are all Caesar's slaves--all we in this
land of Egypt--whether we will or no. And she who is wise enough
to know this will reign when Caesar departs.

POTHINUS. You harp on Caesar's departure.

CLEOPATRA. What if I do?

POTHINUS. Does he not love you?

CLEOPATRA. Love me! Pothinus: Caesar loves no one. Who are those
we love? Only those whom we do not hate: all people are strangers
and enemies to us except those we love. But it is not so with
Caesar. He has no hatred in him: he makes friends with everyone
as he does with dogs and children. His kindness to me is a
wonder: neither mother, father, nor nurse have ever taken so much
care for me, or thrown open their thoughts to me so freely.

POTHINUS. Well: is not this love?

CLEOPATRA. What! When he will do as much for the first girl he
meets on his way back to Rome? Ask his slave, Britannus: he has
been just as good to him. Nay, ask his very horse! His kindness
is not for anything in ME: it is in his own nature.

POTHINUS. But how can you be sure that he does not love you as
men love women?

CLEOPATRA. Because I cannot make him jealous. I have tried.

POTHINUS. Hm! Perhaps I should have asked, then, do you love him?

CLEOPATRA. Can one love a god? Besides, I love another Roman: one
whom I saw long before Caesar--no god, but a man--one who can
love and hate--one whom I can hurt and who would hurt me.

POTHINUS. Does Caesar know this?


POTHINUS. And he is not angry.

CLEOPATRA. He promises to send him to Egypt to please me!

POTHINUS. I do not understand this man?

CLEOPATRA (with superb contempt). YOU understand Caesar! How
could you? (Proudly) I do--by instinct.

POTHINUS (deferentially, after a moment's thought). Your Majesty
caused me to be admitted to-day. What message has the Queen for

CLEOPATRA. This. You think that by making my brother king, you
will rule in Egypt, because you are his guardian and he is a
little silly.

POTHINUB. The Queen is pleased to say so.

CLEOPATRA. The Queen is pleased to say this also. That Caesar
will eat up you, and Achillas, and my brother, as a cat eats up
mice; and that he will put on this land of Egypt as a shepherd
puts on his garment. And when he has done that, he will return to
Rome, and leave Cleopatra here as his viceroy.

POTHINUS (breaking out wrathfully). That he will never do. We
have a thousand men to his ten; and we will drive him and his
beggarly legions into the sea.

CLEOPATRA (with scorn, getting up to go). You rant like any
common fellow. Go, then, and marshal your thousands; and make
haste; for Mithridates of Pergamos is at hand with reinforcements
for Caesar. Caesar has held you at bay with two legions: we shall
see what he will do with twenty.

POTHINUS. Cleopatra--

CLEOPATRA. Enough, enough: Caesar has spoiled me for talking to
weak things like you. (She goes out. Pothinus, with a gesture of
rage, is following, when Ftatateeta enters and stops him.)

POTHINUS. Let me go forth from this hateful place.

FTATATEETA. What angers you?

POTHINUS. The curse of all the gods of Egypt be upon her! She has
sold her country to the Roman, that she may buy it back from him
with her kisses.

FTATATEETA. Fool: did she not tell you that she would have Caesar

POTHINUS. You listened?

FTATATEETA. I took care that some honest woman should be at hand
whilst you were with her.

POTHINUS. Now by the gods--

FTATATEETA. Enough of your gods! Caesar's gods are all powerful
here. It is no use YOU coming to Cleopatra: you are only an
Egyptian. She will not listen to any of her own race: she treats
us all as children.

POTHINUS. May she perish for it!

FTATATEETA (balefully). May your tongue wither for that wish! Go!
send for Lucius Septimius, the slayer of Pompey. He is a Roman:
may be she will listen to him. Begone!

POTHINUS (darkly). I know to whom I must go now.

FTATATEETA (suspiciously). To whom, then?

POTHINUS. To a greater Roman than Lucius. And mark this,
mistress. You thought, before Caesar came, that Egypt should
presently be ruled by you and your crew in the name of Cleopatra.
I set myself against it.

FTATATEETA (interrupting him--wrangling). Ay; that it might be
ruled by you and YOUR crew in the name of Ptolemy.

POTHINUS. Better me, or even you, than a woman with a Roman
heart; and that is what Cleopatra is now become. Whilst I live,
she shall never rule. So guide yourself accordingly. (He goes

It is by this time drawing on to dinner time. The table is
laid on the roof of the palace; and thither Rufio is now
climbing, ushered by a majestic palace official, wand of office
in hand, and followed by a slave carrying an inlaid stool. After
many stairs they emerge at last into a massive colonnade on
the roof. Light curtains are drawn between the columns on
the north and east to soften the westering sun. The official
leads Rufio to one of these shaded sections. A cord for pulling
the curtains apart hangs down between the pillars.

THE OFFICIAL (bowing). The Roman commander will await Caesar

The slave sets down the stool near the southernmost column, and
slips out through the curtains.

RUFIO (sitting down, a little blown). Pouf! That was a climb. How
high have we come?

THE OFFICIAL. We are on the palace roof, O Beloved of Victory!

RUFIO. Good! the Beloved of Victory has no more stairs to get up.

A second official enters from the opposite end, walking

THE SECOND OFFICIAL. Caesar approaches.

Caesar, fresh from the bath, clad in a new tunic of purple
silk, comes in, beaming and festive, followed by two slaves
carrying a light couch, which is hardly more than an elaborately
designed bench. They place it near the northmost of the two
curtained columns. When this is done they slip out through the
curtains; and the two officials, formally bowing, follow them.
Rufio rises to receive Caesar.

CAESAR (coming over to him). Why, Rufio! (Surveying his dress
with an air of admiring astonishment) A new baldrick! A new
golden pommel to your sword! And you have had your hair cut! But
not your beard--? Impossible! (He sniffs at Rufio's beard.) Yes,
perfumed, by Jupiter Olympus!

RUFIO (growling). Well: is it to please myself?

CAESAR (affectionately). No, my son Rufio, but to please me--to
celebrate my birthday.

RUFIO (contemptuously). Your birthday! You always have a birthday
when there is a pretty girl to be flattered or an ambassador to
be conciliated. We had seven of them in ten months last year.

CAESAR (contritely). It is true, Rufio! I shall never break
myself of these petty deceits.

RUFIO. Who is to dine with us--besides Cleopatra?

CAESAR. Apollodorus the Sicilian.

RUFIO. That popinjay!

CAESAR. Come! the popinjay is an amusing dog--tells a story;
sings a song; and saves us the trouble of flattering the Queen.
What does she care for old politicians and campfed bears like us?
No: Apollodorus is good company, Rufio, good company.

RUFIO. Well, he can swim a bit and fence a bit: he might be
worse, if he only knew how to hold his tongue.

CAESAR. The gods forbid he should ever learn! Oh, this military
life! this tedious, brutal life of action! That is the worst of
us Romans: we are mere doers and drudgers: a swarm of bees turned
into men. Give me a good talker--one with wit and imagination
enough to live without continually doing something!

RUFIO. Ay! a nice time he would have of it with you when dinner
was over! Have you noticed that I am before my time?

CAESAR. Aha! I thought that meant something. What is it?

RUFIO. Can we be overheard here?

CAESAR. Our privacy invites eavesdropping. I can remedy that. (He
claps his hands twice. The curtains are drawn, revealing the roof
garden with a banqueting table set across in the middle for four
persons, one at each end, and two side by side. The side next
Caesar and Rufio is blocked with golden wine vessels and basins.
A gorgeous major-domo is superintending the laying of the table
by a staff of slaves. The colonnade goes round the garden at both
sides to the further end, where a gap in it, like a great
gateway, leaves the view open to the sky beyond the western edge
of the roof, except in the middle, where a life size image of Ra,
seated on a huge plinth, towers up, with hawk head and crown of
asp and disk. His altar, which stands at his feet, is a single
white stone.) Now everybody can see us, nobody will think of
listening to us. (He sits down on the bench left by the two

RUFIO (sitting down on his stool). Pothinus wants to speak to
you. I advise you to see him: there is some plotting going on
here among the women.

CAESAR. Who is Pothinus?

RUFIO. The fellow with hair like squirrel's fur--the little
King's bear leader, whom you kept prisoner.

CAEBAR (annoyed). And has he not escaped?


CAESAR (rising imperiously). Why not? You have been guarding this
man instead of watching the enemy. Have I not told you always to
let prisoners escape unless there are special orders to the
contrary? Are there not enough mouths to be fed without him?

RUFIO. Yes; and if you would have a little sense and let me cut
his throat, you would save his rations. Anyhow, he WON'T escape.
Three sentries have told him they would put a pilum through him
if they saw him again. What more can they do? He prefers to stay
and spy on us. So would I if I had to do with generals subject to
fits of clemency.

CAESAR (resuming his seat, argued down). Hm! And so he wants to
see me.

RUFIO. Ay. I have brought him with me. He is waiting there
(jerking his thumb over his shoulder) under guard.

CAESAR. And you want me to see him?

RUFI0 (obstinately). I don't want anything. I daresay you will do
what you like. Don't put it on to me.

CAESAR (with an air of doing it expressly to indulge Rufio).
Well, well: let us have him.

RUFIO (calling). Ho there, guard! Release your man and send him
up. (Beckoning) Come along!

Pothinus enters and stops mistrustfully between the two, looking
from one to the other.

CAESAR (graciously). Ah, Pothinus! You are welcome. And what is
the news this afternoon?

POTHINUS. Caesar: I come to warn you of a danger, and to make you
an offer.

CAESAR. Never mind the danger. Make the offer.

RUFIO. Never mind the offer. What's the danger?

POTHINUS. Caesar: you think that Cleopatra is devoted to you.

CAESAR (gravely). My friend: I already know what I think. Come to
your offer.

POTHINUS. I will deal plainly. I know not by what strange gods
you have been enabled to defend a palace and a few yards of beach
against a city and an army. Since we cut you off from Lake
Mareotis, and you dug wells in the salt sea sand and brought up
buckets of fresh water from them, we have known that your gods
are irresistible, and that you are a worker of miracles. I no
longer threaten you.

RUFIO (sarcastically). Very handsome of you, indeed.

POTHINUS. So be it: you are the master. Our gods sent the north
west winds to keep you in our hands; but you have been too strong
for them.

CAESAR (gently urging him to come to the point). Yes, yes, my
friend. But what then?

RUFIO. Spit it out, man. What have you to say?

POTHINUS. I have to say that you have a traitress in your camp.

THE MAJOR-DOMO (at the table, announcing). The Queen! (Caesar and
Rufio rise.)

RUFIO (aside to Pothinus). You should have spat it out sooner,
you fool. Now it is too late.

Cleopatra, in gorgeous raiment, enters in state through the
gap in the colonnade, and comes down past the image of Ra
and past the table to Caesar. Her retinue, headed by Ftatateeta,
joins the staff at the table. Caesar gives Cleopatra his seat,
which she takes.

CLEOPATRA (quickly, seeing Pothinus). What is HE doing here?

CAESAR (seating himself beside her, in the most amiable of
tempers). Just going to tell me something about you. You shall
hear it. Proceed, Pothinus.

POTHINUS (disconcerted). Caesar-- (He stammers.)

CAESAR. Well, out with it.

POTHINUS. What I have to say is for your ear, not for the

CLEOPATRA (with subdued ferocity). There are means of making you
speak. Take care.

POTHINUS (defiantly). Caesar does not employ those means.

CAESAR. My friend: when a man has anything to tell in this world,
the difficulty is not to make him tell it, but to prevent him
from telling it too often. Let me celebrate my birthday by
setting you free. Farewell: we'll not meet again.

CLEOPATRA (angrily). Caesar: this mercy is foolish.

POTHINUS (to Caesar). Will you not give me a private audience?
Your life may depend on it. (Caesar rises loftily.)

RUFIO (aside to Pothinus). Ass! Now we shall have some heroics.

CAESAR (oratorically). Pothinus--

RUFIO (interrupting him). Caesar: the dinner will spoil if you
begin preaching your favourite sermon about life and death.

CLEOPATRA (priggishly). Peace, Rufio. I desire to hear Caesar.

RUFIO (bluntly). Your Majesty has heard it before. You repeated
it to Apollodorus last week; and he thought it was all your own.
(Caesar's dignity collapses. Much tickled, he sits down again and
looks roguishly at Cleopatra, who is furious. Rufio calls as
before) Ho there, guard! Pass the prisoner out. He is released.
(To Pothinus) Now off with you. You have lost your chance.

POTHINUS (his temper overcoming his prudence). I WILL speak.

CAESAR (to Cleopatra). You see. Torture would not have wrung a
word from him.

POTHINUS. Caesar: you have taught Cleopatra the arts by which the
Romans govern the world.

CAESAR. Alas! They cannot even govern themselves. What then?

POTHINUS. What then? Are you so besotted with her beauty that you
do not see that she is impatient to reign in Egypt alone, and
that her heart is set on your departure?

CLEOPATRA (rising). Liar!

CAESAR (shocked). What! Protestations! Contradictions!

CLEOPATRA (ashamed, but trembling with suppressed rage). No. I do
not deign to contradict. Let him talk. (She sits down again.)

POTHINUS. From her own lips I have heard it. You are to be her
catspaw: you are to tear the crown from her brother's head and
set it on her own, delivering us all into her hand--delivering
yourself also. And then Caesar can return to Rome, or depart
through the gate of death, which is nearer and surer.

CAESAR (calmly). Well, my friend; and is not this very natural?

POTHINUS (astonished). Natural! Then you do not resent treachery?

CAESAR. Resent! O thou foolish Egyptian, what have I to do with
resentment? Do I resent the wind when it chills me, or the night
when it makes me stumble in the darkness? Shall I resent youth
when it turns from age, and ambition when it turns from
servitude? To tell me such a story as this is but to tell me that
the sun will rise to-morrow.

CLEOPATRA (unable to contain herself). But it is false--false. I
swear it.

CAESAR. It is true, though you swore it a thousand times, and
believed all you swore. (She is convulsed with emotion. To screen
her, he rises and takes Pothinus to Rufio, saying) Come, Rufio:
let us see Pothinus past the guard. I have a word to say to him.
(Aside to them) We must give the Queen a moment to recover
herself. (Aloud) Come. (He takes Pothinus and Rufio out with him,
conversing with them meanwhile.) Tell your friends, Pothinus,
that they must not think I am opposed to a reasonable settlement
of the country's affairs-- (They pass out of hearing.)

CLEOPATRA (in a stifled whisper). Ftatateeta, Ftatateeta.

FTATATEETA (hurrying to her from the table and petting her).
Peace, child: be comforted--

CLEOPATRA (interrupting her). Can they hear us?

FTATATEETA. No, dear heart, no.

CLEOPATRA. Listen to me. If he leaves the Palace alive, never see
my face again.


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