Alexandria. A hall on the first floor of the Palace, ending in a
loggia approached by two steps. Through the arches of the loggia
the Mediterranean can be seen, bright in the morning sun. The
clean lofty walls, painted with a procession of the Egyptian
theocracy, presented in profile as flat ornament, and the absence
of mirrors, sham perspectives, stuffy upholstery and textiles,
make the place handsome, wholesome, simple and cool, or, as a
rich English manufacturer would express it, poor, bare,
ridiculous and unhomely. For Tottenham Court Road civilization is
to this Egyptian civilization as glass bead and tattoo
civilization is to Tottenham Court Road.
The young king Ptolemy Dionysus (aged ten) is at the top of the
steps, on his way in through the loggia, led by his guardian
Pothinus, who has him by the hand. The court is assembled to
receive him. It is made up of men and women (some of the women
being officials) of various complexions and races, mostly
Egyptian; some of them, comparatively fair, from lower Egypt;
some, much darker, from upper Egypt; with a few Greeks and Jews.
Prominent in a group on Ptolemy's right hand is Theodotus,
Ptolemy's tutor. Another group, on Ptolemy's left, is headed by
Achillas, the general of Ptolemy's troops. Theodotus is a little
old man, whose features are as cramped and wizened as his limbs,
except his tall straight forehead, which occupies more space than
all the rest of his face. He maintains an air of magpie keenness
and profundity, listening to what the others say with the
sarcastic vigilance of a philosopher listening to the exercises
of his disciples. Achillas is a tall handsome man of thirty-five,
with a fine black beard curled like the coat of a poodle.
Apparently not a clever man, but distinguished and dignified.
Pothinus is a vigorous man of fifty, a eunuch, passionate,
energetic and quick witted, but of common mind and character;
impatient and unable to control his temper. He has fine tawny
hair, like fur. Ptolemy, the King, looks much older than an
English boy of ten; but he has the childish air, the habit of
being in leading strings, the mixture of impotence and petulance,
the appearance of being excessively washed, combed and dressed by
other hands, which is exhibited by court-bred princes of all
All receive the King with reverences. He comes down the steps to
a chair of state which stands a little to his right, the only
seat in the hall. Taking his place before it, he looks nervously
for instructions to Pothinus, who places himself at his left
THEODOTUS (in a squeak which he makes impressive by sheer
self-opinionativeness). Peace for the King's word!
PTOLEMY (without any vocal inflexions: he is evidently repeating
a lesson). Take notice of this all of you. I am the firstborn son
of Auletes the Flute Blower who was your King. My sister Berenice
drove him from his throne and reigned in his stead but--but (he
POTHINUS (stealthily prompting).--but the gods would not suffer--
Yes--the gods would not suffer--not suffer (he stops;
then, crestfallen) I forget what the gods would not suffer.
Let Pothinus, the King's guardian, speak for the King.
POTHINUS (suppressing his impatience with difficulty).
wished to say that the gods would not suffer the impiety of his
sister to go unpunished.
Yes: I remember the rest of it. (He resumes
his monotone). Therefore the gods sent a stranger, one Mark
Antony, a Roman captain of horsemen, across the sands of the
desert and he set my father again upon the throne. And my father
took Berenice my sister and struck her head off. And now that my
father is dead yet another of his daughters, my sister Cleopatra,
would snatch the kingdom from me and reign in my place. But the
gods would not suffer (Pothinus coughs admonitorily)--the gods--
the gods would not suffer--
Oh yes--will not maintain such iniquity, they will give
her head to the axe even as her sister's. But with the help of
the witch Ftatateeta she hath cast a spell on the Roman Julius
Caesar to make him uphold her false pretence to rule in Egypt.
Take notice then that I will not suffer--that I will not suffer--
(pettishly, to Pothinus)--What is it that I will not suffer?
POTHINUS (suddenly exploding with all the force and emphasis of
political passion). The King will not suffer a foreigner to take
from him the throne of our Egypt. (A shout of applause.) Tell the
King, Achillas, how many soldiers and horsemen follow the Roman?
But two Roman legions, O King. Three thousand soldiers
and scarce a thousand horsemen.
The court breaks into derisive laughter; and a great chattering
begins, amid which Rufio, a Roman officer, appears in the loggia.
He is a burly, black-bearded man of middle age, very blunt,
prompt and rough, with small clear eyes, and plump nose and
cheeks, which, however, like the rest of his flesh, are in
RUFIO (from the steps).
Peace, ho! (The laughter and chatter
cease abruptly.) Caesar approaches.
THEODOTUS (with much presence of mind).
The King permits the
Roman commander to enter!
Caesar, plainly dressed, but, wearing an oak wreath to conceal
his baldness, enters from, the loggia, attended by Britannus, his
secretary, a Briton, about forty, tall, solemn, and already
slightly bald, with a heavy, drooping, hazel-colored moustache
trained so as to lose its ends in a pair of trim whiskers. He
is carefully dressed in blue, with portfolio, inkhorn, and reed
pen at his girdle. His serious air and sense of the importance
of the business in hand is in marked contrast to the kindly
interest of Caesar, who looks at the scene, which is new to him,
with the frank curiosity of a child, and then turns to the King's
chair: Britannus and Rufio posting themselves near the steps at
the other side.
CAESAR (looking at Pothinus and Ptolemy).
Which is the King? The
man or the boy?
I am Pothinus, the guardian of my lord the King.
Caesar (patting Ptolemy kindly on the shoulder). So you are the
King. Dull work at your age, eh? (To Pothinus) your servant,
Pothinus. (He turns away unconcernedly and comes slowly along the
middle of the hall, looking from side to side at the courtiers
until he reaches Achillas.) And this gentleman?
Yes: I notice that there is but one chair in it.
RUFIO (shouting gruffly).
Bring a chair there, some of you, for
PTOLEMY (rising shyly to offer his chair).
No, no, my boy: that is your chair of state. Sit
He makes Ptolemy sit down again. Meanwhile Rufio, looking about
him, sees in the nearest corner an image of the god Ra,
represented as a seated man with the head of a hawk. Before
the image is a bronze tripod, about as large as a three-legged
stool, with a stick of incense burning on it. Rufio, with Roman
resourcefulness and indifference to foreign superstitions,
promptly seizes the tripod; shakes off the incense; blows away
the ash; and dumps it down behind Caesar, nearly in the middle of
A shiver runs through the court, followed by a hissing whisper of
CAESAR (seating himself).
Now, Pothinus, to business. I am badly
in want of money.
BRITANNUS (disapproving of these informal expressions).
would say that there is a lawful debt due to Rome by Egypt,
contracted by the King's deceased father to the Triumvirate; and
that it is Caesar's duty to his country to require immediate
Ah, I forgot. I have not made my companions
known here. Pothinus: this is Britannus, my secretary. He is an
islander from the western end of the world, a day's voyage from
Gaul. (Britannus bows stiffly.) This gentleman is Rufio, my
comrade in arms. (Rufio nods.) Pothinus: I want 1,600 talents.
The courtiers, appalled, murmur loudly, and Theodotus and
Achillas appeal mutely to one another against so monstrous a
Forty million sesterces! Impossible. There is
not so much money in the King's treasury.
ONLY sixteen hundred talents, Pothinus.
Why count it in sesterces? A sestertius is only worth a loaf of
And a talent is worth a racehorse. I say it is
impossible. We have been at strife here, because the King's
sister Cleopatra falsely claims his throne. The King's taxes have
not been collected for a whole year.
Yes they have, Pothinus. My officers have been collecting
them all the morning. (Renewed whisper and sensation, not without
some stifled laughter, among the courtiers.)
You must pay, Pothinus. Why waste words? You are
getting off cheaply enough.
Is it possible that Caesar, the conqueror of
the world, has time to occupy himself with such a trifle as our
My friend: taxes are the chief business of a conqueror of
Then take warning, Caesar. This day, the treasures of
the temples and the gold of the King's treasury will be sent to
the mint to be melted down for our ransom in the sight of the
people. They shall see us sitting under bare walls and drinking
from wooden cups. And their wrath be on your head, Caesar, if you
force us to this sacrilege!
Do not fear, Pothinus: the people know how well wine
tastes in wooden cups. In return for your bounty, I will settle
this dispute about the throne for you, if you will. What say you?
Cleopatra immediately comes down to the chair of state; seizes
Ptolemy and drags him out of his seat; then takes his place in
the chair. Ftatateeta seats herself on the step of the loggia,
and sits there, watching the scene with sybilline intensity.
PTOLEMY (mortified, and struggling with his tears).
is how she treats me always. If I am a King why is she allowed to
take everything from me?
You are not to be King, you little cry-baby. You are
to be eaten by the Romans.
CAESAR (touched by Ptolemy's distress).
Come here, my boy, and
stand by me.
Ptolemy goes over to Caesar, who, resuming his seat on the
tripod, takes the boy's hand to encourage him. Cleopatra,
furiously jealous, rises and glares at them.
CLEOPATRA (with flaming cheeks).
Take your throne: I don't want
it. (She flings away from the chair, and approaches Ptolemy, who
shrinks from her.) Go this instant and sit down in your place.
Go, Ptolemy. Always take a throne when it is offered to
I hope you will have the good sense to follow your own
advice when we return to Rome, Caesar.
Ptolemy slowly goes back to the throne, giving Cleopatra a
wide berth, in evident fear of her hands. She takes his place
CLEOPATRA (interrupting him).
Are you not going to speak to me?
Be quiet. Open your mouth again before I give you leave;
and you shall be eaten.
I am not afraid. A queen must not be afraid. Eat my
husband there, if you like: he is afraid.
Your husband! What do you mean?
CLEOPATRA (pointing to Ptolemy).
That little thing.
The two Romans and the Briton stare at one another in amazement.
Caesar: you are a stranger here, and not conversant
with our laws. The kings and queens of Egypt may not marry except
with their own royal blood. Ptolemy and Cleopatra are born king
and consort just as they are born brother and sister.
Are your men Romans? If not, it matters not
how many there are, provided you are no stronger than 500 to ten.
It is useless to try to bluff us, Rufio. Caesar has
been defeated before and may be defeated again. A few weeks ago
Caesar was flying for his life before Pompey: a few months hence
he may be flying for his life before Cato and Juba of Numidia,
the African King.
ACHILLAS (following up Pothinus's speech menacingly).
you do with 4,000 men?
THEODOTUS (following up Achillas's speech with a raucous squeak).
And without money? Away with you.
ALL THE COURTIERS (shouting fiercely and crowding towards
Caesar). Away with you. Egypt for the Egyptians! Begone.
Rufio bites his beard, too angry to speak. Caesar sits on
comfortably as if he were at breakfast, and the cat were
clamoring for a piece of Finnan-haddie.
Why do you let them talk to you like that Caesar? Are
The loggia immediately fills with Caesar's soldiers, who stand,
sword in hand, at the top of the steps, waiting the word to
charge from their centurion, who carries a cudgel. For a moment
the Egyptians face them proudly: then they retire sullenly to
their former places.
Why not? He would cut off mine, if he got the chance.
Wouldn't you, Ptolemy?
PTOLEMY (pale and obstinate).
I would. I will, too, when I grow
Cleopatra is rent by a struggle between her newly-acquired
dignity as a queen, and a strong impulse to put out her tongue at
him. She takes no part in the scene which follows, but watches it
with curiosity and wonder, fidgeting with the restlessness of a
child, and sitting down on Caesar's tripod when he rises.
He will succeed, Egyptian: make up your mind to that. We
hold the palace, the beach, and the eastern harbor. The road to
Rome is open; and you shall travel it if Caesar chooses.
I could do no less, Pothinus, to secure the
retreat of my own soldiers. I am accountable for every life among
them. But you are free to go. So are all here, and in the palace.
RUFIO (aghast at this clemency).
What! Renegades and all?
CAESAR (softening the expression).
Roman army of occupation and
Then I make a last appeal to Caesar's
justice. I shall call a witness to prove that but for us, the
Roman army of occupation, led by the greatest soldier in the
world, would now have Caesar at its mercy. (Calling through the
loggia) Ho, there, Lucius Septimius (Caesar starts, deeply
moved): if my voice can reach you, come forth and testify before
Yes, I say. Let the military tribune bear witness.
Lucius Septimius, a clean shaven, trim athlete of about 40, with
symmetrical features, resolute mouth, and handsome, thin Roman
nose, in the dress of a Roman officer, comes in through the
loggia and confronts Caesar, who hides his face with his robe for
a moment; then, mastering himself, drops it, and confronts the
tribune with dignity.
Bear witness, Lucius Septimius. Caesar came hither in
pursuit of his foe. Did we shelter his foe?
As Pompey's foot touched the Egyptian shore, his head
fell by the stroke of my sword.
THEODOTUS (with viperish relish).
Under the eyes of his wife and
child! Remember that, Caesar! They saw it from the ship he had
just left. We have given you a full and sweet measure of
Our first gift to you, as your galley came into the
roadstead, was the head of your rival for the empire of the
world. Bear witness, Lucius Septimius: is it not so?
It is so. With this hand, that slew Pompey, I placed his
head at the feet of Caesar.
Murderer! So would you have slain Caesar, had Pompey been
victorious at Pharsalia.
Woe to the vanquished, Caesar! When I served Pompey, I
slew as good men as he, only because he conquered them. His turn
came at last.
The deed was not yours, Caesar, but
ours--nay, mine; for it was done by my counsel. Thanks to us, you
keep your reputation for clemency, and have your vengeance too.
Vengeance! Vengeance!! Oh, if I could stoop to vengeance,
what would I not exact from you as the price of this murdered
man's blood. (They shrink back, appalled and disconcerted.) Was
he not my son-in-law, my ancient friend, for 20 years the master
of great Rome, for 30 years the compeller of victory? Did not I,
as a Roman, share his glory? Was the Fate that forced us to fight
for the mastery of the world, of our making? Am I Julius Caesar,
or am I a wolf, that you fling to me the grey head of the old
soldier, the laurelled conqueror, the mighty Roman, treacherously
struck down by this callous ruffian, and then claim my gratitude
for it! (To Lucius Septimius) Begone: you fill me with horror.
LUCIUS (cold and undaunted).
Pshaw! You have seen severed heads
before, Caesar, and severed right hands too, I think; some
thousands of them, in Gaul, after you vanquished Vercingetorix.
Did you spare him, with all your clemency? Was that vengeance?
No, by the gods! Would that it had been! Vengeance at
least is human. No, I say: those severed right hands, and the
brave Vercingetorix basely strangled in a vault beneath the
Capitol, were (with shuddering satire) a wise severity, a
necessary protection to the commonwealth, a duty of
statesmanship--follies and fictions ten times bloodier than
honest vengeance! What a fool was I then! To think that
men's lives should be at the mercy of such fools! (Humbly) Lucius
Septimius, pardon me: why should the slayer of Vercingetorix
rebuke the slayer of Pompey? You are free to go with the rest. Or
stay if you will: I will find a place for you in my service.
The odds are against you, Caesar. I go. (He turns to go
out through the loggia.)
RUFIO (full of wrath at seeing his prey escaping).
that he is a Republican.
LUCIUS (turning defiantly on the loggia steps).
And what are you?
Lucius: believe me, Caesar is no Caesarian.
Were Rome a true republic, then were Caesar the first of
Republicans. But you have made your choice. Farewell.
Farewell. Come, Achillas, whilst there is yet time.
Caesar, seeing that Rufio's temper threatens to get the worse of
him, puts his hand on his shoulder and brings him down the hall
out of harm's way, Britannus accompanying them and posting
himself on Caesar's right hand. This movement brings the three in
a little group to the place occupied by Achillas, who moves
haughtily away and joins Theodotus on the other side. Lucius
Septimius goes out through the soldiers in the loggia. Pothinus,
Theodotus and Achillas follow him with the courtiers, very
mistrustful of the soldiers, who close up in their rear and go
out after them, keeping them moving without much ceremony. The
King is left in his chair, piteous, obstinate, with twitching
face and fingers. During these movements Rufio maintains an
energetic grumbling, as follows:--
RUFIO (as Lucius departs).
Do you suppose he would let us go if
he had our heads in his hands?
I have no right to suppose that his ways are any baser
Rufio: if I take Lucius Septimius for my model, and
become exactly like him, ceasing to be Caesar, will you serve me
Caesar: this is not good sense. Your duty to Rome
demands that her enemies should be prevented from doing further
mischief. (Caesar, whose delight in the moral eye-to-business of
his British secretary is inexhaustible, smiles intelligently.)
It is no use talking to him, Britannus: you may save your
breath to cool your porridge. But mark this, Caesar. Clemency is
very well for you; but what is it for your soldiers, who have to
fight tomorrow the men you spared yesterday? You may give what
orders you please; but I tell you that your next victory will be
a massacre, thanks to your clemency. I, for one, will take no
prisoners. I will kill my enemies in the field; and then you can
preach as much clemency as you please: I shall never have to
fight them again. And now, with your leave, I will see these
gentry off the premises. (He turns to go.)
CAESAR (turning also and seeing Ptolemy).
What! Have they left
the boy alone! Oh shame, shame!
RUFIO (taking Ptolemy's hand and making him rise).
PTOLEMY (to Caesar, drawing away his hand from Rufio).
turning me out of my palace?
You are welcome to stay if you wish.
Go, my boy. I will not harm you; but you will be
safer away, among your friends. Here you are in the lion's mouth.
PTOLEMY (turning to go).
It is not the lion I fear, but (looking
at Rufio) the jackal. (He goes out through the loggia.)
Then I consent to stay, because I am asked. But I do
not want to, mind.
That is quite understood. (Calling) Totateeta.
Ftatateeta, still seated, turns her eyes on him with a sinister
expression, but does not move.
CLEOPATRA (with a splutter of laughter).
Her name is not
Totateeta: it is Ftatateeta. (Calling) Ftatateeta. (Ftatateeta
instantly rises and comes to Cleopatra.)
CAESAR (stumbling over the name).
Ftatafeeta will forgive the
erring tongue of a Roman. Tota: the Queen will hold her state
here in Alexandria. Engage women to attend upon her; and do all
that is needful.
Am I then the mistress of the Queen's household?
No: I am the mistress of the Queen's
household. Go and do as you are told, or I will have you thrown
into the Nile this very afternoon, to poison the poor crocodiles.
My father was King of Egypt; and he never worked. But
he was a great King, and cut off my sister's head because she
rebelled against him and took the throne from him.
Well; and how did he get his throne back again?
CLEOPATRA (eagerly, her eyes lighting up).
I will tell you. A
beautiful young man, with strong round arms, came over the desert
with many horsemen, and slew my sister's husband and gave my
father back his throne. (Wistfully) I was only twelve then. Oh, I
wish he would come again, now that I am a Queen. I would
make him my husband.
It might be managed, perhaps; for it was I who sent that
beautiful young man to help your father.
Has he come with you? (Caesar shakes his head: she is
cruelly disappointed.) Oh, I wish he had, I wish he had. If only
I were a little older; so that he might not think me a mere
kitten, as you do! But perhaps that is because YOU are old. He is
many, MANY years younger than you, is he not?
CAESAR (as if swallowing a pill).
He is somewhat younger.
Would he be my husband, do you think, if I asked him?
Mark Antony, Mark Antony, Mark Antony!
What a beautiful name! (She throws her arms round Caesar's neck.)
Oh, how I love you for sending him to help my father! Did you
love my father very much?
No, my child; but your father, as you say, never worked.
I always work. So when he lost his crown he had to promise me
16,000 talents to get it back for him.
He was quite right: it was too dear. The whole world
is not worth 16,000 talents.
That is perhaps true, Cleopatra. Those Egyptians who work
paid as much of it as he could drag from them. The rest is still
due. But as I most likely shall not get it, I must go back to my
work. So you must run away for a little and send my secretary to
No: I want to stay and hear you talk about
But if I do not get to work, Pothinus and the rest of
them will cut us off from the harbor; and then the way from Rome
will be blocked.
No matter: I don't want you to go back to Rome.
CLEOPATRA (springing up).
Oh yes, yes, yes: I forgot. Go quickly
and work, Caesar; and keep the way over the sea open for my Mark
Antony. (She runs out through the loggia, kissing her hand to
Mark Antony across the sea.)
CAESAR (going briskly up the middle of the hall to the loggia
steps). Ho, Britannus. (He is startled by the entry of a wounded
Roman soldier, who confronts him from the upper step.) What now?
SOLDIER (pointing to his bandaged head).
This, Caesar; and two of
my comrades killed in the market place.
CAESAR (anticipating him).
Yes: I know. (Rufio and Britannus come
down the hall from the loggia at opposite sides, past Caesar, who
waits for a moment near the step to say to the soldier.) Comrade:
give the word to turn out on the beach and stand by the boats.
Get your wound attended to. Go. (The soldier hurries out. Caesar
comes down the hall between Rufio and Britannus) Rufio: we have
some ships in the west harbor. Burn them.
Take every boat we have in the east harbor, and seize the
Pharos--that island with the lighthouse. Leave half our men
behind to hold the beach and the quay outside this palace: that
is the way home.
RUFIO (disapproving strongly).
Are we to give up the city?
We have not got it, Rufio. This palace we have; and--what
is that building next door?
I have brought you our ultimatum, Caesar.
Ultimatum! The door was open: you should have gone out
through it before you declared war. You are my prisoner now. (He
goes to the chair and loosens his toga.)
I YOUR prisoner! Do you know that you are
in Alexandria, and that King Ptolemy, with an army outnumbering
your little troop a hundred to one, is in possession of
CAESAR (unconcernedly taking off his toga and throwing it on the
chair). Well, my friend, get out if you can. And tell your
friends not to kill any more Romans in the market place.
Otherwise my soldiers, who do not share my celebrated clemency,
will probably kill you. Britannus: Pass the word to the guard;
and fetch my armor. (Britannus runs out. Rufio returns.) Well?
RUFIO (pointing from the loggia to a cloud of smoke drifting
over the harbor). See there! (Pothinus runs eagerly up the steps
to look out.)
Yes, five good ships, and a barge laden with oil grappled
to each. But it is not my doing: the Egyptians have saved me the
trouble. They have captured the west harbor.
And the east harbor? The lighthouse, Rufio?
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.
Patience! Who is impatient here, you or I? Would I be
here, if I could not oversee them from that balcony?
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).
Woe, alas! Help!
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.)
You understand, Theodotus: I remain a
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
Follow him to the gate, Pothinus. Bid him urge your
people to kill no more of my soldiers, for your sake.
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.
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?
I have let Theodotus go to save the library.
We must respect literature, Rufio.
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
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?
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.)
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.
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 (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?
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.
Is it true that when Caesar caught you on that island,
you were painted all over blue?
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?
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
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?
No, Cleopatra. No man goes to battle to be killed.
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 (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
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.)
More foxing! Agh! (He rushes off. A shout
from the soldiers announces the appearance of Caesar below).
All aboard. Give way there. (Another shout.)
CLEOPATRA (waving her scarf through the loggia arch).
Goodbye, goodbye, dear Caesar. Come back safe. Goodbye!