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,
prominent 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?
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.
Good: you shall teach me. How long will it take?
Not very long: only four years. Your Majesty must first
become proficient in the philosophy of Pythagoras.
Has she (indicating the slave) become proficient in
the philosophy of Pythagoras?
Oh, she is but a slave. She learns as a dog learns.
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.
Now, can any of you amuse me? Have you any stories or
Oh, Ftatateeta, Ftatateeta, always Ftatateeta. Some
new tale to set me against her.
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.
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.
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?
Because you try to imitate Caesar in everything; and he
lets everybody say what they please to him.
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?
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.
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
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?
He makes you so terribly prosy and serious and learned
and philosophical. It is worse than being religious, at OUR ages.
(The ladies laugh.)
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--
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?
I am no friend of rebellion. And a prisoner
does not receive news.
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?
You are but a child, Cleopatra, and do not understand
The ladies laugh. Cleopatra looks inscrutably at him.
I see you do not know the latest news, Pothinus.
That Cleopatra is no longer a child. Shall I tell you
how to grow much older, and much, MUCH wiser in one day?
I should prefer to grow wiser without growing older.
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
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
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
You are like the rest of them. You want
to be what these Romans call a New Woman. (She goes out, banging
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.
Do you speak with Caesar every day for six months: and
YOU will be changed.
It is the common talk that you are infatuated with this
Infatuated? What does that mean? Made foolish, is it
not? Oh no: I wish I were.
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
No, no: it is not that I am so clever, but that the
others are so stupid.
Truly, that is the great secret.
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.
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.
But how can you be sure that he does not love you as
men love women?
Because I cannot make him jealous. I have tried.
Hm! Perhaps I should have asked, then, do you love him?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
We are on the palace roof, O Beloved of Victory!
Good! the Beloved of Victory has no more stairs to get up.
A second official enters from the opposite end, walking
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!
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.
Well, he can swim a bit and fence a bit: he might be
worse, if he only knew how to hold his tongue.
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!
Ay! a nice time he would have of it with you when dinner
was over! Have you noticed that I am before my time?
Aha! I thought that meant something. What is it?
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 (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?
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
Ay. I have brought him with me. He is waiting there
(jerking his thumb over his shoulder) under guard.
Caesar: you think that Cleopatra is devoted to you.
My friend: I already know what I think. Come to
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.
Very handsome of you, indeed.
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
CAESAR (gently urging him to come to the point).
Yes, yes, my
friend. But what then?
I have to say that you have a traitress in your camp.
THE MAJOR-DOMO (at the table, announcing). The Queen! (Caesar and
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.
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.
Caesar does not employ those means.
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.
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.
RUFIO (interrupting him).
Caesar: the dinner will spoil if you
begin preaching your favourite sermon about life and death.
Peace, Rufio. I desire to hear Caesar.
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.
Caesar: you have taught Cleopatra the arts by which the
Romans govern the world.
Alas! They cannot even govern themselves. What then?
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?
What! Protestations! Contradictions!
CLEOPATRA (ashamed, but trembling with suppressed rage).
No. I do
not deign to contradict. Let him talk. (She sits down again.)
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.
Well, my friend; and is not this very natural?
Natural! Then you do not resent treachery?
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
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 (hurrying to her from the table and petting her).
Peace, child: be comforted--
CLEOPATRA (striking her on the mouth).
Strike his life out as I
strike his name from your lips. Dash him down from the wall.
Break him on the stones. Kill, kill, KILL him.
FTATATEETA (showing all her teeth).
The dog shall perish.
Fail in this, and you go out from before me forever.
So be it. You shall not see my face
until his eyes are darkened.
Caesar comes back, with Apollodorus, exquisitely dressed, and
CLEOPATRA (to Ftatateeta).
Come soon--soon. (Ftatateeta turns her
meaning eyes for a moment on her mistress; then goes grimly away
past Ra and out. Cleopatra runs like a gazelle to Caesar.) So you
have come back to me, Caesar. (Caressingly) I thought you were
angry. Welcome, Apollodorus. (She gives him her hand to kiss,
with her other arm about Caesar.)
Cleopatra grows more womanly beautiful from week to
THE MAJOR-DOMO (assenting)
British oysters, Caesar.
Oysters, then. (The Major-Domo signs to a slave at each
order; and the slave goes out to execute it.) I have been in
Britain--that western land of romance--the last piece of earth on
the edge of the ocean that surrounds the world. I went there in
search of its famous pearls. The British pearl was a fable; but
in searching for it I found the British oyster.
All posterity will bless you for it. (To the
Major-Domo) Sea hedgehogs for me.
RUFIO (with intense disgust).
Ugh! Bring ME my Falernian. (The
Falernian is presently brought to him.)
It is waste of time giving you dinners,
Caesar. My scullions would not condescend to your diet.
Well, well: let us try the Lesbian. (The
Major-Domo fills Caesar's goblet; then Cleopatra's and
Apollodorus's.) But when I return to Rome, I will make laws
against these extravagances. I will even get the laws carried
Never mind. To-day you are to be like
other people: idle, luxurious, and kind. (She stretches her hand
to him along the table.)
Well, for once I will sacrifice my comfort (kissing her
hand) there! (He takes a draught of wine.) Now are you satisfied?
And you no longer believe that I long for your
departure for Rome?
I no longer believe anything. My brains are asleep.
Besides, who knows whether I shall return to Rome?
What has Rome to show me that I have not seen already?
One year of Rome is like another, except that I grow older,
whilst the crowd in the Appian Way is always the same age.
It is no better here in Egypt. The old men, when
they are tired of life, say "We have seen everything except the
source of the Nile."
CAESAR (his imagination catching fire).
And why not see
that? Cleopatra: will you come with me and track the flood
to its cradle in the heart of the regions of mystery? Shall
we leave Rome behind us--Rome, that has achieved greatness only
to learn how greatness destroys nations of men who are not great!
Shall I make you a new kingdom, and build you a holy city there
in the great unknown?
Ay: now he will conquer Africa with two legions before we
come to the roast boar.
Come: no scoffing, this is a noble scheme: in it
Caesar is no longer merely the conquering soldier, but the
creative poet-artist. Let us name the holy city, and consecrate
it with Lesbian Wine--and Cleopatra shall name it herself.
It shall be called Caesar's Gift to his Beloved.
No, no. Something vaster than that--something
universal, like the starry firmament.
Why not simply The Cradle of the Nile?
No: the Nile is my ancestor; and he is a god. Oh! I
have thought of something. The Nile shall name it himself. Let us
call upon him. (To the Major-Domo) Send for him. (The three men
stare at one another; but the Major-Domo goes out as if he had
received the most matter-of-fact order.) And (to the retinue)
away with you all.
A priest enters, carrying a miniature sphinx with a tiny tripod
before it. A morsel of incense is smoking in the tripod. The
priest comes to the table and places the image in the middle of
it. The light begins to change to the magenta purple of the
Egyptian sunset, as if the god had brought a strange colored
shadow with him. The three men are determined not to be
impressed; but they feel curious in spite of themselves.
You shall see. And it is NOT hocus-pocus. To do it
properly, we should kill something to please him; but perhaps he
will answer Caesar without that if we spill some wine to him.
APOLLODORUS (turning his head to look up over his shoulder at
Ra). Why not appeal to our hawkheaded friend here?
Sh! He will hear you and be angry.
The source of the Nile is out of his
district, I expect.
No: I will have my city named by nobody but my dear
little sphinx, because it was in its arms that Caesar found me
asleep. (She languishes at Caesar; then turns curtly to the
priest.) Go, I am a priestess, and have power to take your charge
from you. (The priest makes a reverence and goes out.) Now let us
call on the Nile all together. Perhaps he will rap on the table.
What! Table rapping! Are such superstitions still
believed in this year 707 of the Republic?
It is no superstition: our priests learn lots of
things from the tables. Is it not so, Apollodorus?
Yes: I profess myself a converted man. When
Cleopatra is priestess, Apollodorus is devotee. Propose the
You must say with me "Send us thy voice, Father Nile."
ALL FOUR (holding their glasses together before the idol).
us thy voice, Father Nile.
The death cry of a man in mortal terror and agony answers them.
Appalled, the men set down their glasses, and listen. Silence.
The purple deepens in the sky. Caesar, glancing at Cleopatra,
catches her pouring out her wine before the god, with gleaming
eyes, and mute assurances of gratitude and worship. Apollodorus
springs up and runs to the edge of the roof to peer down and
CAESAR (looking piercingly at Cleopatra).
What was that?
Nothing. They are beating some slave.
Go down to the courtyard, Apollodorus; and find out what
Apollodorus nods and goes out, making for the staircase by which
Your soldiers have killed somebody, perhaps. What does
The murmur of a crowd rises from the beach below. Caesar and
Rufio look at one another.
This must be seen to. (He is about to follow Apollodorus
when Rufio stops him with a hand on his arm as Ftatateeta comes
back by the far end of the roof, with dragging steps, a drowsy
satiety in her eyes and in the corners of the bloodhound lips.
For a moment Caesar suspects that she is drunk with wine. Not so
Rufio: he knows well the red vintage that has inebriated her.)
RUFIO (in a low tone).
There is some mischief between those two.
The Queen looks again on the face of her servant.
Cleopatra looks at her for a moment with an exultant reflection
of her murderous expression. Then she flings her arms round her;
kisses her repeatedly and savagely; and tears off her jewels and
heaps them on her. The two men turn from the spectacle to look at
one another. Ftatateeta drags herself sleepily to the altar;
kneels before Ra; and remains there in prayer. Caesar goes to
Cleopatra, leaving Rufio in the colonnade.
CAESAR (with searching earnestness).
Cleopatra: what has
CLEOPATRA (in mortal dread of him, but with her utmost cajolery).
Nothing, dearest Caesar. (With sickly sweetness, her voice almost
failing) Nothing. I am innocent. (She approaches him
affectionately) Dear Caesar: are you angry with me? Why do you
look at me so? I have been here with you all the time. How can I
know what has happened?
CLEOPATRA (greatly relieved, trying to caress him).
Of course it
is true. (He does not respond to the caress.) You know it is
The murmur without suddenly swells to a roar and subsides.
I shall know presently. (He makes for the altar in the
burly trot that serves him for a stride, and touches Ftatateeta
on the shoulder.) Now, mistress: I shall want you. (He orders
her, with a gesture, to go before him.)
FTATATEETA (rising and glowering at him).
My place is with the
CLEOPATRA (whining in her eagerness to propitiate him).
will. I will do whatever you ask me, Caesar, always, because I
love you. Ftatateeta: go away.
The Queen's word is my will. I shall be at hand for
the Queen's call. (She goes out past Ra, as she came.)
RUFIO (following her).
Remember, Caesar, YOUR bodyguard also is
within call. (He follows her out.)
Cleopatra, presuming upon Caesar's submission to Rufio, leaves
the table and sits down on the bench in the colonnade.
Why do you allow Rufio to treat you so? You should
teach him his place.
Teach him to be my enemy, and to hide his thoughts from
me as you are now hiding yours.
CLEOPATRA (her fears returning).
Why do you say that, Caesar?
Indeed, indeed, I am not hiding anything. You are wrong to treat
me like this. (She stifles a sob.) I am only a child; and you
turn into stone because you think some one has been killed. I
cannot bear it. (She purposely breaks down and weeps. He looks at
her with profound sadness and complete coldness. She looks up to
see what effect she is producing. Seeing that he is unmoved, she
sits up, pretending to struggle with her emotion and to put it
bravely away.) But there: I know you hate tears: you shall not be
troubled with them. I know you are not angry, but only sad; only
I am so silly, I cannot help being hurt when you speak coldly. Of
course you are quite right: it is dreadful to think of anyone
being killed or even hurt; and I hope nothing really serious
has-- (Her voice dies away under his contemptuous penetration.)
What has frightened you into this? What have you done? (A
trumpet sounds on the beach below.) Aha! That sounds like the
CLEOPATRA (sinking back trembling on the bench and covering her
face with her hands). I have not betrayed you, Caesar: I swear
I know that. I have not trusted you. (He turns from her,
and is about to go out when Apollodorus and Britannus drag in
Lucius Septimius to him. Rufio follows. Caesar shudders.) Again,
The town has gone mad, I think. They are for tearing the
palace down and driving us into the sea straight away. We laid
hold of this renegade in clearing them out of the courtyard.
Release him. (They let go his arms.) What has offended
the citizens, Lucius Septimius?
What did you expect, Caesar? Pothinus was a favorite of
What has happened to Pothinus? I set him free, here, not
half an hour ago. Did they not pass him out?
Ay, through the gallery arch sixty feet above ground,
with three inches of steel in his ribs. He is as dead as Pompey.
We are quits now, as to killing--you and I.
(shocked). Assassinated!--our prisoner, our guest!
(He turns reproachfully on Rufio) Rufio--
RUFIO (emphatically--anticipating the question).
Whoever did it
was a wise man and a friend of yours (Cleopatra is qreatly
emboldened); but none of US had a hand in it. So it is no use to
frown at me. (Caesar turns and looks at Cleopatra.)
He was slain by order of the Queen
of Egypt. I am not Julius Caesar the dreamer, who allows every
slave to insult him. Rufio has said I did well: now the others
shall judge me too. (She turns to the others.) This Pothinus
sought to make me conspire with him to betray Caesar to Achillas
and Ptolemy. I refused; and he cursed me and came privily to
Caesar to accuse me of his own treachery. I caught him in the
act; and he insulted me--ME, the Queen! To my face. Caesar would
not revenge me: he spoke him fair and set him free. Was I right
to avenge myself? Speak, Lucius.
I do not gainsay it. But you will get little thanks from
Caesar for it.
I have only one word of blame, most beautiful. You
should have called upon me, your knight; and in fair duel I
should have slain the slanderer.
I will be judged by your very slave,
Caesar. Britannus: speak. Was I wrong?
Were treachery, falsehood, and disloyalty left
unpunished, society must become like an arena full of wild
beasts, tearing one another to pieces. Caesar is in the wrong.
CAESAR (with quiet bitterness).
And so the verdict is against me,
Listen to me, Caesar. If one man in all
Alexandria can be found to say that I did wrong, I swear to have
myself crucified on the door of the palace by my own slaves.
If one man in all the world can be found, now or forever,
to know that you did wrong, that man will have either to conquer
the world as I have, or be crucified by it. (The uproar in the
streets again reaches them.) Do you hear? These knockers at your
gate are also believers in vengeance and in stabbing. You have
slain their leader: it is right that they shall slay you. If you
doubt it, ask your four counselors here. And then in the name of
that RIGHT (He emphasizes the word with great scorn.) shall I not
slay them for murdering their Queen, and be slain in my turn by
their countrymen as the invader of their fatherland? Can Rome do
less then than slay these slayers too, to show the world how Rome
avenges her sons and her honor? And so, to the end of history,
murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor
and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race
that can understand. (Fierce uproar. Cleopatra becomes white with
terror.) Hearken, you who must not be insulted. Go near enough to
catch their words: you will find them bitterer than the tongue of
Pothinus. (Loftily wrapping himself up in an impenetrable
dignity.) Let the Queen of Egypt now give her orders for
vengeance, and take her measures for defense; for she has
renounced Caesar. (He turns to go.)
CLEOPATRA (terrified, running to him and falling on her knees).
You will not desert me, Caesar. You will defend the palace.
You have taken the powers of life and death upon you. I
am only a dreamer.
Pity! What! Has it come to this so suddenly, that nothing
can save you now but pity? Did it save Pothinus?
She rises, wringing her hands, and goes back to the bench in
despair. Apollodorus shows his sympathy with her by quietly
posting himself behind the bench. The sky has by this time become
the most vivid purple, and soon begins to change to a glowing
pale orange, against which the colonnade and the great image show
darklier and darklier.
Caesar: enough of preaching. The enemy is at the gate.
CAESAR (turning on him and giving way to his wrath).
Ay; and what
has held him baffled at the gate all these months? Was it my
folly, as you deem it, or your wisdom? In this Egyptian Red Sea
of blood, whose hand has held all your heads above the waves?
(Turning on Cleopatra) And yet, When Caesar says to such an one,
"Friend, go free," you, clinging for your little life to my
sword, dare steal out and stab him in the back? And you, soldiers
and gentlemen, and honest servants as you forget that you are,
applaud this assassination, and say "Caesar is in the wrong." By
the gods, I am tempted to open my hand and let you all sink into
CLEOPATRA (with a ray of cunning hope).
But, Caesar, if you do,
you will perish yourself.
RUFIO (greatly alarmed).
Now, by great Jove, you filthy little
Egyptian rat, that is the very word to make him walk out alone
into the city and leave us here to be cut to pieces.
(Desperately, to Caesar) Will you desert us because we are a
parcel of fools? I mean no harm by killing: I do it as a dog
kills a cat, by instinct. We are all dogs at your heels; but we
have served you faithfully.
Alas, Rufio, my son, my son: as dogs we are
like to perish now in the streets.
APOLLODORUS (at his post behind Cleopatra's seat).
you say has an Olympian ring in it: it must be right; for it is
fine art. But I am still on the side of Cleopatra. If we must
die, she shall not want the devotion of a man's heart nor the
strength of a man's arm.
LUCIUS (coming forward between Caesar and Cleopatra).
me, Caesar. It may be ignoble; but I also mean to live as long as
Well, my friend, you are likely to outlive Caesar. Is it
any magic of mine, think you, that has kept your army and this
whole city at bay for so long? Yesterday, what quarrel had they
with me that they should risk their lives against me? But to-day
we have flung them down their hero, murdered; and now every man
of them is set upon clearing out this nest of assassins--for such
we are and no more. Take courage then; and sharpen your sword.
Pompey's head has fallen; and Caesar's head is ripe.
CAESAR (with an elate and buoyant energy which makes Cleopatra
sit up and stare). What news! What news, did you say, my son
Rufio? The relief has arrived: what other news remains for us? Is
it not so, Lucius Septimius? Mithridates of Pergamos is on the
Lucius Septimius: you are henceforth my
officer. Rufio: the Egyptians must have sent every soldier from
the city to prevent Mithridates crossing the Nile. There is
nothing in the streets now but mob--mob!
It is so. Mithridates is marching by the great road to
Memphis to cross above the Delta. Achillas will fight him there.
CAESAR (all audacity).
Achillas shall fight Caesar there. See,
Rufio. (He runs to the table; snatches a napkin; and draws a plan
on it with his finger dipped in wine, whilst Rufio and Lucius
Septimius crowd about him to watch, all looking closely, for the
light is now almost gone.) Here is the palace (pointing to his
plan): here is the theatre. You (to Rufio) take twenty men and
pretend to go by THAT street (pointing it out); and whilst they
are stoning you, out go the cohorts by this and this. My streets
are right, are they, Lucius?
CAESAR (too much excited to listen to him).
I saw them the day we
arrived. Good! (He throws the napkin on the table and comes down
again into the colonnade.) Away, Britannus: tell Petronius that
within an hour half our forces must take ship for the western
lake. See to my horse and armor. (Britannus runs out.) With the
rest I shall march round the lake and up the Nile to meet
Mithridates. Away, Lucius; and give the word.
Is it not, my only son? (He claps his hands.
The slaves hurry in to the table.) No more of this mawkish
reveling: away with all this stuff: shut it out of my sight and
be off with you. (The slaves begin to remove the table; and the
curtains are drawn, shutting in the colonnade.) You understand
about the streets, Rufio?
Ay, I think I do. I will get through them, at all events.
The bucina sounds busily in the courtyard beneath.
Come, then: we must talk to the troops and hearten them.
You down to the beach: I to the courtyard. (He makes for the
CLEOPATRA (rising from her seat, where she has been quite
neglected all this time, and stretching out her hands timidly to
RUFIO (in her ear, with rough familiarity).
A word first. Tell
your executioner that if Pothinus had been properly killed--IN
THE THROAT--he would not have called out. Your man bungled his
How do you know it was a man?
RUFIO (startled, and puzzled).
It was not you: you were with us
when it happened. (She turns her back scornfully on him. He
shakes his head, and draws the curtains to go out. It is now a
magnificent moonlit night. The table has been removed. Ftatateeta
is seen in the light of the moon and stars, again in prayer
before the white altar-stone of Ra. Rufio starts; closes the
curtains again softly; and says in a low voice to Cleopatra) Was
it she? With her own hand?
Whoever it was, let my enemies beware
of her. Look to it, Rufio, you who dare make the Queen of Egypt a
fool before Caesar.
RUFIO (looking grimly at her).
I will look to it, Cleopatra. (He
nods in confirmation of the promise, and slips out through the
curtains, loosening his sword in its sheath as he goes.)
ROMAN SOLDIERS (in the courtyard below).
Hail, Caesar! Hail,
Cleopatra listens. The bucina sounds again, followed by several
CLEOPATRA (wringing her hands and calling).
Ftatateeta. It is dark; and I am alone. Come to me. (Silence.)
Ftatateeta. (Louder.) Ftatateeta. (Silence. In a panic she
snatches the cord and pulls the curtains apart.)
Ftatateeta is lying dead on the altar of Ra, with her throat cut.
Her blood deluges the white stone.