High noon. Festival and military pageant on the esplanade
before the palace. In the east harbor Caesar's galley, so
gorgeously decorated that it seems to be rigged with flowers, is
along-side the quay, close to the steps Apollodorus descended
when he embarked with the carpet. A Roman guard is posted there
in charge of a gangway, whence a red floorcloth is laid down the
middle of the esplanade, turning off to the north opposite the
central gate in the palace front, which shuts in the esplanade on
the south side. The broad steps of the gate, crowded with
Cleopatra's ladies, all in their gayest attire, are like a flower
garden. The facade is lined by her guard, officered by the same
gallants to whom Bel Affris announced the coming of Caesar six
months before in the old palace on the Syrian border. The north
side is lined by Roman soldiers, with the townsfolk on tiptoe
behind them, peering over their heads at the cleared esplanade,
in which the officers stroll about, chatting. Among these are
Belzanor and the Persian; also the Centurion, vinewood cudgel in
hand, battle worn, thick-booted, and much outshone, both socially
and decoratively, by the Egyptian officers.
Apollodorus makes his way through the townsfolk and calls to the
officers from behind the Roman line.
Not yet. He is still in the market place. I could
not stand any more of the roaring of the soldiers! After half an
hour of the enthusiasm of an army, one feels the need of a little
Tell us the news. Hath he slain the priests?
Not he. They met him in the market place with ashes
on their heads and their gods in their hands. They placed the
gods at his feet. The only one that was worth looking at was
Apis: a miracle of gold and ivory work. By my advice he offered
the chief priest two talents for it.
Apis the all-knowing for two talents! What
said the chief priest?
He invoked the mercy of Apis, and asked for five.
There will be famine and tempest in the land for this.
Pooh! Why did not Apis cause Caesar to be vanquished by
Achillas? Any fresh news from the war, Apollodorus?
Hear the service, quality, rank and name of the Roman
governor. By service, Caesar's shield; by quality, Caesar's
friend; by rank, a Roman soldier. (The Roman soldiers give a
triumphant shout.) By name, Rufio. (They shout again.)
RUFIO (kissing Caesar's hand).
Ay: I am Caesar's shield; but of
what use shall I be when I am no longer on Caesar's arm? Well,
no matter-- (He becomes husky, and turns away to recover
BRITANNUS (coming forward on Caesar's right hand).
Who bade you, pray, thrust yourself into the battle of
the Delta, uttering the barbarous cries of your native land, and
affirming yourself a match for any four of the Egyptians, to whom
you applied unseemly epithets?
Caesar: I ask you to excuse the language that escaped
me in the heat of the moment.
And how did you, who cannot swim, cross the canal with us
when we stormed the camp?
Caesar: I clung to the tail of your horse.
These are not the deeds of a slave, Britannicus, but of a
Only as Caesar's slave have I found real freedom.
Well said. Ungrateful that I am, I was about to
set you free; but now I will not part from you for a million
talents. (He claps him friendly on the shoulder. Britannus,
gratified, but a trifle shamefaced, takes his hand and kisses it
BELZANOR (to the Persian).
This Roman knows how to make men serve
Ay: men too humble to become dangerous rivals to him.
CAESAR (seeing Apollodorus in the Egyptian corner and calling to
him). Apollodorus: I leave the art of Egypt in your charge.
Remember: Rome loves art and will encourage it ungrudgingly.
I understand, Caesar. Rome will produce no art
itself; but it will buy up and take away whatever the other
What! Rome produces no art! Is peace not an art? Is war
not an art? Is government not an art? Is civilization not an art?
All these we give you in exchange for a few ornaments. You will
have the best of the bargain. (Turning to Rufio) And now, what
else have I to do before I embark? (Trying to recollect) There is
something I cannot remember: what CAN it be? Well, well: it must
remain undone: we must not waste this favorable wind. Farewell,
Caesar: I am loath to let you go to Rome without your
shield. There are too many daggers there.
It matters not: I shall finish my life's work on my way
back; and then I shall have lived long enough. Besides: I have
always disliked the idea of dying: I had rather be killed.
RUFIO (with a sigh, raising his hands and giving Caesar up as
incorrigible). Farewell. (They shake hands.)
CAESAR (waving his hand to Apollodorus).
and my friends, all of you. Aboard!
The gangway is run out from the quay to the ship. As Caesar moves
towards it, Cleopatra, cold and tragic, cunningly dressed in
black, without ornaments or decoration of any kind, and thus
making a striking figure among the brilliantly dressed bevy of
ladies as she passes through it, comes from the palace and stands
on the steps. Caesar does not see her until she speaks.
Has Cleopatra no part in this leave taking?
Ah, I KNEW there was something. (To Rufio)
How could you let me forget her, Rufio? (Hastening to her) Had I
gone without seeing you, I should never have forgiven myself. (He
takes her hands, and brings her into the middle of the esplanade.
She submits stonily.) Is this mourning for me?
Without punishment. Without revenge. Without judgment.
Ay: that is the right way, the great way,
the only possible way in the end. (To Rufio) Believe it, Rufio,
if you can.
Why, I believe it, Caesar. You have convinced me of it
long ago. But look you. You are sailing for Numidia to-day. Now
tell me: if you meet a hungry lion you will not punish it for
wanting to eat you?
What, then, will you do to save your life from it?
Kill it, man, without malice, just as it would
kill me. What does this parable of the lion mean?
Why, Cleopatra had a tigress that killed men at bidding. I
thought she might bid it kill you some day. Well, had I not been
Caesar's pupil, what pious things might I not have done to that
tigress? I might have punished it. I might have revenged Pothinus
I might have judged it. But I put all these
follies behind me; and, without malice, only cut its throat. And
that is why Cleopatra comes to you in mourning.
He has shed the blood of my servant
Ftatateeta. On your head be it as upon his, Caesar, if you hold
him free of it.
On my head be it, then; for it was well
done. Rufio: had you set yourself in the seat of the judge, and
with hateful ceremonies and appeals to the gods handed that woman
over to some hired executioner to be slain before the people in
the name of justice, never again would I have touched your hand
without a shudder. But this was natural slaying: I feel no horror
Rufio, satisfied, nods at Cleopatra, mutely inviting her to mark
CLEOPATRA (pettish and childish in her impotence).
No: not when a
Roman slays an Egyptian. All the world will now see how unjust
and corrupt Caesar is.
CAESAR (taking her handy coaxingly).
Come: do not be angry with
me. I am sorry for that poor Totateeta. (She laughs in spite of
herself.) Aha! You are laughing. Does that mean reconciliation?
CLEOPATRA (angry with herself for laughing).
No, no, NO!! But it
is so ridiculous to hear you call her Totateeta.
What! As much a child as ever, Cleopatra! Have I not made
a woman of you after all?
Oh, it is you, who are a great baby: you make me seem
silly because you will not behave seriously. But you have treated
me badly; and I do not forgive you.
Her sons. Come, Cleopatra: forgive me and bid me
farewell; and I will send you a man, Roman from head to heel and
Roman of the noblest; not old and ripe for the knife; not lean in
the arms and cold in the heart; not hiding a bald head under his
conqueror's laurels; not stooped with the weight of the world on
his shoulders; but brisk and fresh, strong and young, hoping in
the morning, fighting in the day, and reveling in the evening.
Will you take such an one in exchange for Caesar?