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Title: Caesar and Cleopatra
Author: Shaw, Bernard
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By George Bernard Shaw





_An October night on the Syrian border of Egypt towards the end of the
XXXIII Dynasty, in the year 706 by Roman computation, afterwards
reckoned by Christian computation as 48 B.C. A great radiance of
silver fire, the dawn of a moonlit night, is rising in the east. The
stars and the cloudless sky are our own contemporaries, nineteen and a
half centuries younger than we know them; but you would not guess that
from their appearance. Below them are two notable drawbacks of
civilization: a palace, and soldiers. The palace, an old, low, Syrian
building of whitened mud, is not so ugly as Buckingham Palace; and the
officers in the courtyard are more highly civilized than modern
English officers: for example, they do not dig up the corpses of their
dead enemies and mutilate them, as we dug up Cromwell and the Mahdi.
They are in two groups: one intent on the gambling of their captain
Belzanor, a warrior of fifty, who, with his spear on the ground beside
his knee, is stooping to throw dice with a sly-looking young Persian
recruit; the other gathered about a guardsman who has just finished
telling a naughty story (still current in English barracks) at which
they are laughing uproariously. They are about a dozen in number, all
highly aristocratic young Egyptian guardsmen, handsomely equipped with
weapons and armor, very unEnglish in point of not being ashamed of and
uncomfortable in their professional dress; on the contrary, rather
ostentatiously and arrogantly warlike, as valuing themselves on their
military caste._

_Belzanor is a typical veteran, tough and wilful; prompt, capable and
crafty where brute force will serve; helpless and boyish when it will
not: an effective sergeant, an incompetent general, a deplorable
dictator. Would, if influentially connected, be employed in the two
last capacities by a modern European State on the strength of his
success in the first. Is rather to be pitied just now in view of the
fact that Julius Caesar is invading his country. Not knowing this, is
intent on his game with the Persian, whom, as a foreigner, he
considers quite capable of cheating him._

_His subalterns are mostly handsome young fellows whose interest in
the game and the story symbolizes with tolerable completeness the main
interests in life of which they are conscious. Their spears are
leaning against the walls, or lying on the ground ready to their
hands. The corner of the courtyard forms a triangle of which one side
is the front of the palace, with a doorway, the other a wall with a
gateway. The storytellers are on the palace side: the gamblers, on the
gateway side. Close to the gateway, against the wall, is a stone block
high enough to enable a Nubian sentinel, standing on it, to look over
the wall. The yard is lighted by a torch stuck in the wall. As the
laughter from the group round the storyteller dies away, the kneeling
Persian, winning the throw, snatches up the stake from the ground._

BELZANOR. By Apis, Persian, thy gods are good to thee.

THE PERSIAN. Try yet again, O captain. Double or quits!

BELZANOR. No more. I am not in the vein.

THE SENTINEL (_poising his javelin as he peers over the wall_). Stand.
Who goes there?

_They all start, listening. A strange voice replies from without._

VOICE. The bearer of evil tidings.

BELZANOR (_calling to the sentry_). Pass him.

THE SENTINEL (_grounding his javelin_). Draw near, O bearer of evil

BELZANOR (_pocketing the dice and picking up his spear_). Let us
receive this man with honor. He bears evil tidings.

_The guardsmen seize their spears and gather about the gate, leaving a
way through for the new comer._

PERSIAN (_rising from his knee_). Are evil tidings, then, honorable?

BELZANOR. O barbarous Persian, hear my instruction. In Egypt the
bearer of good tidings is sacrificed to the gods as a thank offering;
but no god will accept the blood of the messenger of evil. When we
have good tidings, we are careful to send them in the mouth of the
cheapest slave we can find. Evil tidings are borne by young noblemen
who desire to bring themselves into notice. (_They join the rest at
the gate._)

THE SENTINEL. Pass, O young captain; and bow the head in the House of
the Queen.

VOICE. Go anoint thy javelin with fat of swine, O Blackamoor; for
before morning the Romans will make thee eat it to the very butt.

_The owner of the voice, a fairhaired dandy, dressed in a different
fashion to that affected by the guardsmen, but no less extravagantly,
comes through the gateway laughing. He is somewhat battlestained; and
his left forearm, bandaged, comes through a torn sleeve. In his right
hand he carries a Roman sword in its sheath. He swaggers down the
courtyard, the Persian on his right, Belzanor on his left, and the
guardsmen crowding down behind him._

BELZANOR. Who art thou that laughest in the House of Cleopatra the
Queen, and in the teeth of Belzanor, the captain of her guard?

THE NEW COMER. I am Bel Affris, descended from the gods.

BELZANOR (_ceremoniously_). Hail, cousin!

ALL (_except the Persian_). Hail, cousin!

PERSIAN. All the Queen's guards are descended from the gods, O
stranger, save myself. I am Persian, and descended from many kings.

BEL AFFRIS (_to the guardsmen_). Hail, cousins! (_To the Persian,
condescendingly_) Hail, mortal!

BELZANOR. You have been in battle, Bel Affris; and you are a soldier
among soldiers. You will not let the Queen's women have the first of
your tidings.

BEL AFFRIS. I have no tidings, except that we shall have our throats
cut presently, women, soldiers, and all.

PERSIAN (_to Belzanor_). I told you so.

THE SENTINEL (_who has been listening_). Woe, alas!

BEL AFFRIS (_calling to him_). Peace, peace, poor Ethiop: destiny is
with the gods who painted thee black. (_To Belzanor_) What has this
mortal (_indicating the Persian_) told you?

BELZANOR. He says that the Roman Julius Caesar, who has landed on our
shores with a handful of followers, will make himself master of Egypt.
He is afraid of the Roman soldiers. (_The guardsmen laugh with
boisterous scorn._) Peasants, brought up to scare crows and follow the
plough. Sons of smiths and millers and tanners! And we nobles,
consecrated to arms, descended from the gods!

PERSIAN. Belzanor: the gods are not always good to their poor

BELZANOR (_hotly, to the Persian_). Man to man, are we worse than the
slaves of Caesar?

BEL AFFRIS (_stepping between them_). Listen, cousin. Man to man, we
Egyptians are as gods above the Romans.

THE GUARDSMEN (_exultingly_). Aha!

BEL AFFRIS. But this Caesar does not pit man against man: he throws a
legion at you where you are weakest as he throws a stone from a
catapult; and that legion is as a man with one head, a thousand arms,
and no religion. I have fought against them; and I know.

BELZANOR (_derisively_). Were you frightened, cousin?

_The guardsmen roar with laughter, their eyes sparkling at the wit of
their captain._

BEL AFFRIS. No, cousin; but I was beaten. They were frightened
(perhaps); but they scattered us like chaff.

_The guardsmen, much damped, utter a growl of contemptuous disgust._

BELZANOR. Could you not die?

BEL AFFRIS. No: that was too easy to be worthy of a descendant of the
gods. Besides, there was no time: all was over in a moment. The attack
came just where we least expected it.

BELZANOR. That shews that the Romans are cowards.

BEL AFFRIS. They care nothing about cowardice, these Romans: they
fight to win. The pride and honor of war are nothing to them.

PERSIAN. Tell us the tale of the battle. What befell?

THE GUARDSMEN (_gathering eagerly round Bel Affris_). Ay: the tale of
the battle.

BEL AFFRIS. Know then, that I am a novice in the guard of the temple
of Ra in Memphis, serving neither Cleopatra nor her brother Ptolemy,
but only the high gods. We went a journey to inquire of Ptolemy why he
had driven Cleopatra into Syria, and how we of Egypt should deal with
the Roman Pompey, newly come to our shores after his defeat by Caesar
at Pharsalia. What, think ye, did we learn? Even that Caesar is coming
also in hot pursuit of his foe, and that Ptolemy has slain Pompey,
whose severed head he holds in readiness to present to the conqueror.
(_Sensation among the guardsmen._) Nay, more: we found that Caesar is
already come; for we had not made half a day's journey on our way back
when we came upon a city rabble flying from his legions, whose landing
they had gone out to withstand.

BELZANOR. And ye, the temple guard! Did you not withstand these

BEL AFFRIS. What man could, that we did. But there came the sound of a
trumpet whose voice was as the cursing of a black mountain. Then saw
we a moving wall of shields coming towards us. You know how the heart
burns when you charge a fortified wall; but how if the fortified wall
were to charge _you_?

THE PERSIAN (_exulting in having told them so_). Did I not say it?

BEL AFFRIS. When the wall came nigh, it changed into a line of
men--common fellows enough, with helmets, leather tunics, and
breastplates. Every man of them flung his javelin: the one that came
my way drove through my shield as through a papyrus--lo there! (_he
points to the bandage on his left arm_) and would have gone through my
neck had I not stooped. They were charging at the double then, and
were upon us with short swords almost as soon as their javelins. When
a man is close to you with such a sword, you can do nothing with our
weapons: they are all too long.

THE PERSIAN. What did you do?

BEL AFFRIS. Doubled my fist and smote my Roman on the sharpness of his
jaw. He was but mortal after all: he lay down in a stupor; and I took
his sword and laid it on. (_Drawing the sword_) Lo! a Roman sword with
Roman blood on it!

THE GUARDSMEN (_approvingly_). Good! (_They take the sword and hand it
round, examining it curiously._)

THE PERSIAN. And your men?

BEL AFFRIS. Fled. Scattered like sheep.

BELZANOR (_furiously_). The cowardly slaves! Leaving the descendants
of the gods to be butchered!

BEL AFFRIS (_with acid coolness_). The descendants of the gods did not
stay to be butchered, cousin. The battle was not to the strong; but
the race was to the swift. The Romans, who have no chariots, sent a
cloud of horsemen in pursuit, and slew multitudes. Then our high
priest's captain rallied a dozen descendants of the gods and exhorted
us to die fighting. I said to myself: surely it is safer to stand than
to lose my breath and be stabbed in the back; so I joined our captain
and stood. Then the Romans treated us with respect; for no man attacks
a lion when the field is full of sheep, except for the pride and honor
of war, of which these Romans know nothing. So we escaped with our
lives; and I am come to warn you that you must open your gates to
Caesar; for his advance guard is scarce an hour behind me; and not an
Egyptian warrior is left standing between you and his legions.

THE SENTINEL. Woe, alas! (_He throws down his javelin and flies into
the palace._)

BELZANOR. Nail him to the door, quick! (_The guardsmen rush for him
with their spears; but he is too quick for them._) Now this news will
run through the palace like fire through stubble.

BEL AFFRIS. What shall we do to save the women from the Romans?

BELZANOR. Why not kill them?

PERSIAN. Because we should have to pay blood money for some of them.
Better let the Romans kill them: it is cheaper.

BELZANOR (_awestruck at his brain power_). O subtle one! O serpent!

BEL AFFRIS. But your Queen?

BELZANOR. True: we must carry off Cleopatra.

BEL AFFRIS. Will ye not await her command?

BELZANOR. Command! a girl of sixteen! Not we. At Memphis ye deem her a
Queen: here we know better. I will take her on the crupper of my
horse. When we soldiers have carried her out of Caesar's reach, then
the priests and the nurses and the rest of them can pretend she is a
queen again, and put their commands into her mouth.

PERSIAN. Listen to me, Belzanor.

BELZANOR. Speak, O subtle beyond thy years.

THE PERSIAN. Cleopatra's brother Ptolemy is at war with her. Let us
sell her to him.

THE GUARDSMEN. O subtle one! O serpent!

BELZANOR. We dare not. We are descended from the gods; but Cleopatra
is descended from the river Nile; and the lands of our fathers will
grow no grain if the Nile rises not to water them. Without our
father's gifts we should live the lives of dogs.

PERSIAN. It is true: the Queen's guard cannot live on its pay. But
hear me further, O ye kinsmen of Osiris.

THE GUARDSMEN. Speak, O subtle one. Hear the serpent begotten!

PERSIAN. Have I heretofore spoken truly to you of Caesar, when you
thought I mocked you?

GUARDSMEN. Truly, truly.

BELZANOR (_reluctantly admitting it_). So Bel Affris says.

PERSIAN. Hear more of him, then. This Caesar is a great lover of
women: he makes them his friends and counselors.

BELZANOR. Faugh! This rule of women will be the ruin of Egypt.

THE PERSIAN. Let it rather be the ruin of Rome! Caesar grows old now:
he is past fifty and full of labors and battles. He is too old for the
young women; and the old women are too wise to worship him.

BEL AFFRIS. Take heed, Persian. Caesar is by this time almost within

PERSIAN. Cleopatra is not yet a woman: neither is she wise. But she
already troubles men's wisdom.

BELZANOR. Ay: that is because she is descended from the river Nile and
a black kitten of the sacred White Cat. What then?

PERSIAN. Why, sell her secretly to Ptolemy, and then offer ourselves
to Caesar as volunteers to fight for the overthrow of her brother and
the rescue of our Queen, the Great Granddaughter of the Nile.


PERSIAN. He will listen to us if we come with her picture in our
mouths. He will conquer and kill her brother, and reign in Egypt with
Cleopatra for his Queen. And we shall be her guard.

GUARDSMEN. O subtlest of all the serpents! O admiration! O wisdom!

BEL AFFRIS. He will also have arrived before you have done talking, O
word spinner.

BELZANOR. That is true. (_An affrighted uproar in the palace
interrupts him._) Quick: the flight has begun: guard the door. (_They
rush to the door and form a cordon before it with their spears. A mob
of women-servants and nurses surges out. Those in front recoil from
the spears, screaming to those behind to keep back. Belzanor's voice
dominates the disturbance as he shouts_) Back there. In again,
unprofitable cattle.

THE GUARDSMEN. Back, unprofitable cattle.

BELZANOR. Send us out Ftatateeta, the Queen's chief nurse.

THE WOMEN (_calling into the palace_). Ftatateeta, Ftatateeta. Come,
come. Speak to Belzanor.

A WOMAN. Oh, keep back. You are thrusting me on the spearheads.

_A huge grim woman, her face covered with a network of tiny wrinkles,
and her eyes old, large, and wise; sinewy handed, very tall, very
strong; with the mouth of a bloodhound and the jaws of a bulldog,
appears on the threshold. She is dressed like a person of consequence
in the palace, and confronts the guardsmen insolently._

FTATATEETA. Make way for the Queen's chief nurse.

BELZANOR (_with solemn arrogance_). Ftatateeta: I am Belzanor, the
captain of the Queen's guard, descended from the gods.

FTATATEETA (_retorting his arrogance with interest_). Belzanor: I am
Ftatateeta, the Queen's chief nurse; and your divine ancestors were
proud to be painted on the wall in the pyramids of the kings whom my
fathers served.

_The women laugh triumphantly._

BELZANOR (_with grim humor_). Ftatateeta: daughter of a long-tongued,
swivel-eyed chameleon, the Romans are at hand. (_A cry of terror from
the women: they would fly but for the spears._) Not even the
descendants of the gods can resist them; for they have each man seven
arms, each carrying seven spears. The blood in their veins is boiling
quicksilver; and their wives become mothers in three hours, and are
slain and eaten the next day.

_A shudder of horror from the women. Ftatateeta, despising them and
scorning the soldiers, pushes her way through the crowd and confronts
the spear points undismayed._

FTATATEETA. Then fly and save yourselves, O cowardly sons of the cheap
clay gods that are sold to fish porters; and leave us to shift for

BELZANOR. Not until you have first done our bidding, O terror of
manhood. Bring out Cleopatra the Queen to us and then go whither you

FTATATEETA (_with a derisive laugh_). Now I know why the gods have
taken her out of our hands. (_The guardsmen start and look at one
another_). Know, thou foolish soldier, that the Queen has been missing
since an hour past sun down.

BELZANOR (_furiously_). Hag: you have hidden her to sell to Caesar or
her brother. (_He grasps her by the left wrist, and drags her, helped
by a few of the guard, to the middle of the courtyard, where, as they
fling her on her knees, he draws a murderous looking knife._) Where is
she? Where is she? or-- (_He threatens to cut her throat._)

FTATATEETA (_savagely_). Touch me, dog; and the Nile will not rise on
your fields for seven times seven years of famine.

BELZANOR (_frightened, but desperate_). I will sacrifice: I will pay.
Or stay. (_To the Persian_) You, O subtle one: your father's lands lie
far from the Nile. Slay her.

PERSIAN (_threatening her with his knife_). Persia has but one god;
yet he loves the blood of old women. Where is Cleopatra?

FTATATEETA. Persian: as Osiris lives, I do not know. I chid her for
bringing evil days upon us by talking to the sacred cats of the
priests, and carrying them in her arms. I told her she would be left
alone here when the Romans came as a punishment for her disobedience.
And now she is gone--run away--hidden. I speak the truth. I call
Osiris to witness----

THE WOMEN (_protesting officiously_). She speaks the truth, Belzanor.

BELZANOR. You have frightened the child: she is hiding.
Search--quick--into the palace--search every corner.

_The guards, led by Belzanor, shoulder their way into the palace
through the flying crowd of women, who escape through the courtyard

FTATATEETA (_screaming_). Sacrilege! Men in the Queen's chambers! Sa--
(_Her voice dies away as the Persian puts his knife to her throat._)

BEL AFFRIS (_laying a hand on Ftatateeta's left shoulder_). Forbear
her yet a moment, Persian. (_To Ftatateeta, very significantly_)
Mother: your gods are asleep or away hunting; and the sword is at your
throat. Bring us to where the Queen is hid, and you shall live.

FTATATEETA (_contemptuously_). Who shall stay the sword in the hand of
a fool, if the high gods put it there? Listen to me, ye young men
without understanding. Cleopatra fears me; but she fears the Romans
more. There is but one power greater in her eyes than the wrath of the
Queen's nurse and the cruelty of Caesar; and that is the power of the
Sphinx that sits in the desert watching the way to the sea. What she
would have it know, she tells into the ears of the sacred cats; and on
her birthday she sacrifices to it and decks it with poppies. Go ye
therefore into the desert and seek Cleopatra in the shadow of the
Sphinx; and on your heads see to it that no harm comes to her.

BEL AFFRIS (_to the Persian_). May we believe this, O subtle one?

PERSIAN. Which way come the Romans?

BEL AFFRIS. Over the desert, from the sea, by this very Sphinx.

PERSIAN (_to Ftatateeta_). O mother of guile! O aspic's tongue! You
have made up this tale so that we two may go into the desert and
perish on the spears of the Romans. (_Lifting his knife_) Taste death.

FTATATEETA. Not from thee, baby. (_She snatches his ankle from under
him and flies stooping along the palace wall, vanishing in the
darkness within its precinct. Bel Affris roars with laughter as the
Persian tumbles. The guardsmen rush out of the palace with Belzanor
and a mob of fugitives, mostly carrying bundles._)

PERSIAN. Have you found Cleopatra?

BELZANOR. She is gone. We have searched every corner.

THE NUBIAN SENTINEL (_appearing at the door of the palace_). Woe!
Alas! Fly, fly!

BELZANOR. What is the matter now?

THE NUBIAN SENTINEL. The sacred white cat has been stolen.

ALL. Woe! Woe!

(_General panic. They all fly with cries of consternation. The torch
is thrown down and extinguished in the rush. Darkness. The noise of
the fugitives dies away. Dead silence. Suspense. Then the blackness
and stillness breaks softly into silver mist and strange airs as the
windswept harp of Memnon plays at the dawning of the moon. It rises
full over the desert; and a vast horizon comes into relief, broken by
a huge shape which soon reveals itself in the spreading radiance as a
Sphinx pedestalled on the sands. The light still clears, until the
upraised eyes of the image are distinguished looking straight forward
and upward in infinite fearless vigil, and a mass of color between its
great paws defines itself as a heap of red poppies on which a girl
lies motionless, her silken vest heaving gently and regularly with the
breathing of a dreamless sleeper, and her braided hair glittering in a
shaft of moonlight like a bird's wing._

_Suddenly there comes from afar a vaguely fearful sound (it might be
the bellow of a Minotaur softened by great distance) and Memnon's
music stops. Silence: then a few faint high-ringing trumpet notes.
Then silence again. Then a man comes from the south with stealing
steps, ravished by the mystery of the night, all wonder, and halts,
lost in contemplation, opposite the left flank of the Sphinx, whose
bosom, with its burden, is hidden from him by its massive shoulder.)_

THE MAN. Hail, Sphinx: salutation from Julius Caesar! I have wandered
in many lands, seeking the lost regions from which my birth into this
world exiled me, and the company of creatures such as I myself. I have
found flocks and pastures, men and cities, but no other Caesar, no air
native to me, no man kindred to me, none who can do my day's deed, and
think my night's thought. In the little world yonder, Sphinx, my place
is as high as yours in this great desert; only I wander, and you sit
still; I conquer, and you endure; I work and wonder, you watch and
wait; I look up and am dazzled, look down and am darkened, look round
and am puzzled, whilst your eyes never turn from looking out--out of
the world--to the lost region--the home from which we have strayed.
Sphinx, you and I, strangers to the race of men, are no strangers to
one another: have I not been conscious of you and of this place since
I was born? Rome is a madman's dream: this is my Reality. These starry
lamps of yours I have seen from afar in Gaul, in Britain, in Spain, in
Thessaly, signalling great secrets to some eternal sentinel below,
whose post I never could find. And here at last is their sentinel--an
image of the constant and immortal part of my life, silent, full of
thoughts, alone in the silver desert. Sphinx, Sphinx: I have climbed
mountains at night to hear in the distance the stealthy footfall of
the winds that chase your sands in forbidden play--our invisible
children, O Sphinx, laughing in whispers. My way hither was the way of
destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute,
part woman, and part God--nothing of man in me at all. Have I read
your riddle, Sphinx?

THE GIRL (_who has wakened, and peeped cautiously from her nest to see
who is speaking_). Old gentleman.

CAESAR (_starting violently, and clutching his sword_). Immortal gods!

THE GIRL. Old gentleman: don't run away.

CAESAR (_stupefied_). "Old gentleman: don't run away!!!" This! To
Julius Caesar!

THE GIRL (_urgently_). Old gentleman.

CAESAR. Sphinx: you presume on your centuries. I am younger than you,
though your voice is but a girl's voice as yet.

THE GIRL. Climb up here, quickly; or the Romans will come and eat you.

CAESAR (_running forward past the Sphinx's shoulder, and seeing her_).
A child at its breast! A divine child!

THE GIRL. Come up quickly. You must get up at its side and creep

CAESAR (_amazed_). Who are you?

THE GIRL. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.

CAESAR. Queen of the Gypsies, you mean.

CLEOPATRA. You must not be disrespectful to me, or the Sphinx will let
the Romans eat you. Come up. It is quite cosy here.

CAESAR (_to himself_). What a dream! What a magnificent dream! Only
let me not wake, and I will conquer ten continents to pay for dreaming
it out to the end. (_He climbs to the Sphinx's flank, and presently
reappears to her on the pedestal, stepping round its right shoulder._)

CLEOPATRA. Take care. That's right. Now sit down: you may have its
other paw. (_She seats herself comfortably on its left paw._) It is
very powerful and will protect us; but (_shivering, and with plaintive
loneliness_) it would not take any notice of me or keep me company. I
am glad you have come: I was very lonely. Did you happen to see a
white cat anywhere?

CAESAR (_sitting slowly down on the right paw in extreme wonderment_).
Have you lost one?

CLEOPATRA. Yes: the sacred white cat: is it not dreadful? I brought
him here to sacrifice him to the Sphinx; but when we got a little way
from the city a black cat called him, and he jumped out of my arms and
ran away to it. Do you think that the black cat can have been my

CAESAR (_staring at her_). Your great-great-great-grandmother! Well,
why not? Nothing would surprise me on this night of nights.

CLEOPATRA. I think it must have been. My great-grandmother's
great-grandmother was a black kitten of the sacred white cat; and the
river Nile made her his seventh wife. That is why my hair is so wavy.
And I always want to be let do as I like, no matter whether it is the
will of the gods or not: that is because my blood is made with Nile

CAESAR. What are you doing here at this time of night? Do you live

CLEOPATRA. Of course not: I am the Queen; and I shall live in the
palace at Alexandria when I have killed my brother, who drove me out
of it. When I am old enough I shall do just what I like. I shall be
able to poison the slaves and see them wriggle, and pretend to
Ftatateeta that she is going to be put into the fiery furnace.

CAESAR. Hm! Meanwhile why are you not at home and in bed?

CLEOPATRA. Because the Romans are coming to eat us all. _You_ are not
at home and in bed either.

CAESAR (_with conviction_). Yes I am. I live in a tent; and I am now
in that tent, fast asleep and dreaming. Do you suppose that I believe
you are real, you impossible little dream witch?

CLEOPATRA (_giggling and leaning trustfully towards him_). You are a
funny old gentleman. I like you.

CAESAR. Ah, that spoils the dream. Why don't you dream that I am

CLEOPATRA. I wish you were; only I think I should be more afraid of
you. I like men, especially young men with round strong arms; but I am
afraid of them. You are old and rather thin and stringy; but you have
a nice voice; and I like to have somebody to talk to, though I think
you are a little mad. It is the moon that makes you talk to yourself
in that silly way.

CAESAR. What! you heard that, did you? I was saying my prayers to the
great Sphinx.

CLEOPATRA. But this isn't the great Sphinx.

CAESAR (_much disappointed, looking up at the statue_). What!

CLEOPATRA. This is only a dear little kitten of the Sphinx. Why, the
great Sphinx is so big that it has a temple between its paws. This is
my pet Sphinx. Tell me: do you think the Romans have any sorcerers who
could take us away from the Sphinx by magic?

CAESAR. Why? Are you afraid of the Romans?

CLEOPATRA (_very seriously_). Oh, they would eat us if they caught us.
They are barbarians. Their chief is called Julius Caesar. His father
was a tiger and his mother a burning mountain; and his nose is like an
elephant's trunk. (_Caesar involuntarily rubs his nose._) They all
have long noses, and ivory tusks, and little tails, and seven arms
with a hundred arrows in each; and they live on human flesh.

CAESAR. Would you like me to shew you a real Roman?

CLEOPATRA (_terrified_). No. You are frightening me.

CAESAR. No matter: this is only a dream----

CLEOPATRA (_excitedly_). It is not a dream: it is not a dream. See,
see. (_She plucks a pin from her hair and jabs it repeatedly into his

CAESAR. Ffff--Stop. (_Wrathfully_) How dare you?

CLEOPATRA (_abashed_). You said you were dreaming. (_Whimpering_) I
only wanted to shew you----

CAESAR (_gently_). Come, come: don't cry. A queen mustn't cry. (_He
rubs his arm, wondering at the reality of the smart._) Am I awake?
(_He strikes his hand against the Sphinx to test its solidity. It
feels so real that he begins to be alarmed, and says perplexedly_)
Yes, I--(_quite panic-stricken_) no: impossible: madness, madness!
(_Desperately_) Back to camp--to camp. (_He rises to spring down from
the pedestal._)

CLEOPATRA (_flinging her arms in terror round him_). No: you shan't
leave me. No, no, no: don't go. I'm afraid--afraid of the Romans.

CAESAR (_as the conviction that he is really awake forces itself on
him_). Cleopatra: can you see my face well?

CLEOPATRA. Yes. It is so white in the moonlight.

CAESAR. Are you sure it is the moonlight that makes me look whiter
than an Egyptian? (_Grimly_) Do you notice that I have a rather long

CLEOPATRA (_recoiling, paralyzed by a terrible suspicion_). Oh!

CAESAR. It is a Roman nose, Cleopatra.

CLEOPATRA. Ah! (_With a piercing scream she springs up; darts round
the left shoulder of the Sphinx; scrambles down to the sand; and falls
on her knees in frantic supplication, shrieking_) Bite him in two,
Sphinx: bite him in two. I meant to sacrifice the white cat--I did
indeed--I (_Caesar, who has slipped down from the pedestal, touches
her on the shoulder_) Ah! (_She buries her head in her arms._)

CAESAR. Cleopatra: shall I teach you a way to prevent Caesar from
eating you?

CLEOPATRA (_clinging to him piteously_). Oh do, do, do. I will steal
Ftatateeta's jewels and give them to you. I will make the river Nile
water your lands twice a year.

CAESAR. Peace, peace, my child. Your gods are afraid of the Romans:
you see the Sphinx dare not bite me, nor prevent me carrying you off
to Julius Caesar.

CLEOPATRA (_in pleading murmurings_). You won't, you won't. You said
you wouldn't.

CAESAR. Caesar never eats women.

CLEOPATRA (_springing up full of hope_). What!

CAESAR (_impressively_). But he eats girls (_she relapses_) and cats.
Now you are a silly little girl; and you are descended from the black
kitten. You are both a girl and a cat.

CLEOPATRA (_trembling_). And will he eat me?

CAESAR. Yes; unless you make him believe that you are a woman.

CLEOPATRA. Oh, you must get a sorcerer to make a woman of me. Are you
a sorcerer?

CAESAR. Perhaps. But it will take a long time; and this very night you
must stand face to face with Caesar in the palace of your fathers.

CLEOPATRA. No, no. I daren't.

CAESAR. Whatever dread may be in your soul--however terrible Caesar
may be to you--you must confront him as a brave woman and a great
queen; and you must feel no fear. If your hand shakes: if your voice
quavers; then--night and death! (_She moans._) But if he thinks you
worthy to rule, he will set you on the throne by his side and make you
the real ruler of Egypt.

CLEOPATRA (_despairingly_). No: he will find me out: he will find me

CAESAR (_rather mournfully_). He is easily deceived by women. Their
eyes dazzle him; and he sees them not as they are, but as he wishes
them to appear to him.

CLEOPATRA (_hopefully_). Then we will cheat him. I will put on
Ftatateeta's head-dress; and he will think me quite an old woman.

CAESAR. If you do that he will eat you at one mouthful.

CLEOPATRA. But I will give him a cake with my magic opal and seven
hairs of the white cat baked in it; and----

CAESAR (_abruptly_). Pah! you are a little fool. He will eat your cake
and you too. (_He turns contemptuously from her._)

CLEOPATRA (_running after him and clinging to him_). Oh, please,
_please_! I will do whatever you tell me. I will be good! I will be
your slave. (_Again the terrible bellowing note sounds across the
desert, now closer at hand. It is the bucina, the Roman war trumpet._)


CLEOPATRA (_trembling_). What was that?

CAESAR. Caesar's voice.

CLEOPATRA (_pulling at his hand_). Let us run away. Come. Oh, come.

CAESAR. You are safe with me until you stand on your throne to receive
Caesar. Now lead me thither.

CLEOPATRA (_only too glad to get away_). I will, I will. (_Again the
bucina._) Oh, come, come, come: the gods are angry. Do you feel the
earth shaking?

CAESAR. It is the tread of Caesar's legions.

CLEOPATRA (_drawing him away_). This way, quickly. And let us look for
the white cat as we go. It is he that has turned you into a Roman.

CAESAR. Incorrigible, oh, incorrigible! Away! (_He follows her, the
bucina sounding louder as they steal across the desert. The moonlight
wanes: the horizon again shows black against the sky, broken only by
the fantastic silhouette of the Sphinx. The sky itself vanishes in
darkness, from which there is no relief until the gleam of a distant
torch falls on great Egyptian pillars supporting the roof of a
majestic corridor. At the further end of this corridor a Nubian slave
appears carrying the torch. Caesar, still led by Cleopatra, follows
him. They come down the corridor, Caesar peering keenly about at the
strange architecture, and at the pillar shadows between which, as the
passing torch makes them hurry noiselessly backwards, figures of men
with wings and hawks' heads, and vast black marble cats, seem to flit
in and out of ambush. Further along, the wall turns a corner and makes
a spacious transept in which Caesar sees, on his right, a throne, and
behind the throne a door. On each side of the throne is a slender
pillar with a lamp on it._)

CAESAR. What place is this?

CLEOPATRA. This is where I sit on the throne when I am allowed to wear
my crown and robes. (_The slave holds his torch to shew the throne._)

CAESAR. Order the slave to light the lamps.

CLEOPATRA (_shyly_). Do you think I may?

CAESAR. Of course. You are the Queen. (_She hesitates._) Go on.

CLEOPATRA (_timidly, to the slave_). Light all the lamps.

FTATATEETA (_suddenly coming from behind the throne_). Stop. (_The
slave stops. She turns sternly to Cleopatra, who quails like a naughty
child._) Who is this you have with you; and how dare you order the
lamps to be lighted without my permission? (_Cleopatra is dumb with

CAESAR. Who is she?

CLEOPATRA. Ftatateeta.

FTATATEETA (_arrogantly_). Chief nurse to----

CAESAR (_cutting her short_). I speak to the Queen. Be silent. (_To
Cleopatra_) Is this how your servants know their places? Send her
away; and you (_to the slave_) do as the Queen has bidden. (_The slave
lights the lamps. Meanwhile Cleopatra stands hesitating, afraid of
Ftatateeta._) You are the Queen: send her away.

CLEOPATRA (_cajoling_). Ftatateeta, dear: you must go away--just for a

CAESAR. You are not commanding her to go away: you are begging her.
You are no Queen. You will be eaten. Farewell. (_He turns to go._)

CLEOPATRA (_clutching him_). No, no, no. Don't leave me.

CAESAR. A Roman does not stay with queens who are afraid of their

CLEOPATRA. I am not afraid. Indeed I am not afraid.

FTATATEETA. We shall see who is afraid here. (_Menacingly_)

CAESAR. On your knees, woman: am I also a child that you dare trifle
with me? (_He points to the floor at Cleopatra's feet. Ftatateeta,
half cowed, half savage, hesitates. Caesar calls to the Nubian_)
Slave. (_The Nubian comes to him._) Can you cut off a head? (_The
Nubian nods and grins ecstatically, showing all his teeth. Caesar
takes his sword by the scabbard, ready to offer the hilt to the
Nubian, and turns again to Ftatateeta, repeating his gesture._) Have
you remembered yourself, mistress?

_Ftatateeta, crushed, kneels before Cleopatra, who can hardly believe
her eyes._

FTATATEETA (_hoarsely_). O Queen, forget not thy servant in the days
of thy greatness.

CLEOPATRA (_blazing with excitement_). Go. Begone. Go away.
(_Ftatateeta rises with stooped head, and moves backwards towards the
door. Cleopatra watches her submission eagerly, almost clapping her
hands, which are trembling. Suddenly she cries_) Give me something to
beat her with. (_She snatches a snake-skin from the throne and dashes
after Ftatateeta, whirling it like a scourge in the air. Caesar makes
a bound and manages to catch her and hold her while Ftatateeta

CAESAR. You scratch, kitten, do you?

CLEOPATRA (_breaking from him_). I _will_ beat somebody. I will beat
_him_. (_She attacks the slave._) There, there, there! (_The slave
flies for his life up the corridor and vanishes. She throws the
snake-skin away and jumps on the step of the throne with her arms
waving, crying_) I am a real Queen at last--a real, real Queen!
Cleopatra the Queen! (_Caesar shakes his head dubiously, the advantage
of the change seeming open to question from the point of view of the
general welfare of Egypt. She turns and looks at him exultantly. Then
she jumps down from the step, runs to him, and flings her arms round
him rapturously, crying_) Oh, I love you for making me a Queen.

CAESAR. But queens love only kings.

CLEOPATRA. I will make all the men I love kings. I will make you a
king. I will have many young kings, with round, strong arms; and when
I am tired of them I will whip them to death; but you shall always be
my king: my nice, kind, wise, good old king.

CAESAR. Oh, my wrinkles, my wrinkles! And my child's heart! You will
be the most dangerous of all Caesar's conquests.

CLEOPATRA (_appalled_). Caesar! I forgot Caesar. (_Anxiously_) You
will tell him that I am a Queen, will you not?--a real Queen. Listen!
(_stealthily coaxing him_) let us run away and hide until Caesar is

CAESAR. If you fear Caesar, you are no true Queen; and though you were
to hide beneath a pyramid, he would go straight to it and lift it with
one hand. And then--! (_He chops his teeth together._)

CLEOPATRA (_trembling_). Oh!

CAESAR. Be afraid if you dare. (_The note of the bucina resounds again
in the distance. She moans with fear. Caesar exalts in it,
exclaiming_) Aha! Caesar approaches the throne of Cleopatra. Come:
take your place. (_He takes her hand and leads her to the throne. She
is too downcast to speak._) Ho, there, Teetatota. How do you call your

CLEOPATRA (_spiritlessly, as she sinks on the throne and cowers there,
shaking_). Clap your hands.

_He claps his hands. Ftatateeta returns._

CAESAR. Bring the Queen's robes, and her crown, and her women; and
prepare her.

CLEOPATRA (_eagerly--recovering herself a little_). Yes, the crown,
Ftatateeta: I shall wear the crown.

FTATATEETA. For whom must the Queen put on her state?

CAESAR. For a citizen of Rome. A king of kings, Totateeta.

CLEOPATRA (_stamping at her_). How dare you ask questions? Go and do
as you are told. (_Ftatateeta goes out with a grim smile. Cleopatra
goes on eagerly, to Caesar_) Caesar will know that I am a Queen when
he sees my crown and robes, will he not?

CAESAR. No. How shall he know that you are not a slave dressed up in
the Queen's ornaments?

CLEOPATRA. You must tell him.

CAESAR. He will not ask me. He will know Cleopatra by her pride, her
courage, her majesty, and her beauty. (_She looks very doubtful._) Are
you trembling?

CLEOPATRA (_shivering with dread_). No, I--I--(_in a very sickly
voice_) No.

_Ftatateeta and three women come in with the regalia._

FTATATEETA. Of all the Queen's women, these three alone are left. The
rest are fled. (_They begin to deck Cleopatra, who submits, pale and

CAESAR. Good, good. Three are enough. Poor Caesar generally has to
dress himself.

FTATATEETA (_contemptuously_). The Queen of Egypt is not a Roman
barbarian. (_To Cleopatra_) Be brave, my nursling. Hold up your head
before this stranger.

CAESAR (_admiring Cleopatra, and placing the crown on her head_). Is
it sweet or bitter to be a Queen, Cleopatra?


CAESAR. Cast out fear; and you will conquer Caesar. Tota: are the
Romans at hand?

FTATATEETA. They are at hand; and the guard has fled.

THE WOMEN (_wailing subduedly_). Woe to us!

_The Nubian comes running down the hall._

NUBIAN. The Romans are in the courtyard. (_He bolts through the door.
With a shriek, the women fly after him. Ftatateeta's jaw expresses
savage resolution: she does not budge. Cleopatra can hardly restrain
herself from following them. Caesar grips her wrist, and looks
steadfastly at her. She stands like a martyr._)

CAESAR. The Queen must face Caesar alone. Answer "So be it."

CLEOPATRA (_white_). So be it.

CAESAR (_releasing her_). Good.

_A tramp and tumult of armed men is heard. Cleopatra's terror
increases. The bucina sounds close at hand, followed by a formidable
clangor of trumpets. This is too much for Cleopatra: she utters a cry
and darts towards the door. Ftatateeta stops her ruthlessly._

FTATATEETA. You are my nursling. You have said "So be it"; and if you
die for it, you must make the Queen's word good. (_She hands Cleopatra
to Caesar, who takes her back, almost beside herself with
apprehension, to the throne._)

CAESAR. Now, if you quail--! (_He seats himself on the throne._)

_She stands on the step, all but unconscious, waiting for death. The
Roman soldiers troop in tumultuously through the corridor, headed by
their ensign with his eagle, and their bucinator, a burly fellow with
his instrument coiled round his body, its brazen bell shaped like the
head of a howling wolf. When they reach the transept, they stare in
amazement at the throne; dress into ordered rank opposite it; draw
their swords and lift them in the air with a shout of_ Hail, Caesar.
_Cleopatra turns and stares wildly at Caesar; grasps the situation;
and, with a great sob of relief, falls into his arms._


_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 ages._

_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 hand._

POTHINUS. The King of Egypt has a word to speak.

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----

PTOLEMY. Yes--the gods would not suffer--not suffer--(_he stops; then,
crestfallen_) I forget what the gods would not suffer.

THEODOTUS. Let Pothinus, the King's guardian, speak for the King.

POTHINUS (_suppressing his impatience with difficulty_). The King
wished to say that the gods would not suffer the impiety of his sister
to go unpunished.

PTOLEMY (_hastily_). 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----

POTHINUS (_prompting_).--will not maintain----

PTOLEMY. 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?

THEODOTUS. Let the King's general speak!

ACHILLAS. 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 ironhard condition._

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?

POTHINUS. 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?

THEODOTUS. Achillas, the King's general.

CAESAR (_to Achillas, very friendly_). A general, eh? I am a general
myself. But I began too old, too old. Health and many victories,

ACHILLAS. As the gods will, Caesar.

CAESAR (_turning to Theodotus_). And you, sir, are----?

THEODOTUS. Theodotus, the King's tutor.

CAESAR. You teach men how to be kings, Theodotus. That is very clever
of you. (_Looking at the gods on the walls as he turns away from
Theodotus and goes up again to Pothinus._) And this place?

POTHINUS. The council chamber of the chancellors of the King's
treasury, Caesar.

CAESAR. Ah! That reminds me. I want some money.

POTHINUS. The King's treasury is poor, Caesar.

CAESAR. 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_). Caesar----

CAESAR (_kindly_). 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 the hall._

RUFIO. Sit on that, Caesar.

_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_). My master
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 payment.

CAESAR (_blandly_). 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 demand._

POTHINUS (_aghast_). Forty million sesterces! Impossible. There is not
so much money in the King's treasury.

CAESAR (_encouragingly_). _Only_ sixteen hundred talents, Pothinus.
Why count it in sesterces? A sestertius is only worth a loaf of bread.

POTHINUS. 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.

CAESAR. 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._)

RUFIO (_bluntly_). You must pay, Pothinus. Why waste words? You are
getting off cheaply enough.

POTHINUS (_bitterly_). Is it possible that Caesar, the conqueror of
the world, has time to occupy himself with such a trifle as our taxes?

CAESAR. My friend: taxes are the chief business of a conqueror of the

POTHINUS. 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

CAESAR. 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?

POTHINUS. If I say no, will that hinder you?

RUFIO (_defiantly_). No.

CAESAR. You say the matter has been at issue for a year, Pothinus. May
I have ten minutes at it?

POTHINUS. You will do your pleasure, doubtless.

CAESAR. Good! But first, let us have Cleopatra here.

THEODOTUS. She is not in Alexandria: she is fled into Syria.

CAESAR. I think not. (_To Rufio_) Call Totateeta.

RUFIO (_calling_). Ho there, Teetatota.

_Ftatateeta enters the loggia, and stands arrogantly at the top of the

FTATATEETA. Who pronounces the name of Ftatateeta, the Queen's chief

CAESAR. Nobody can pronounce it, Tota, except yourself. Where is your

_Cleopatra, who is hiding behind Ftafateeta, peeps out at them,
laughing. Caesar rises._

CAESAR. Will the Queen favor us with her presence for a moment?

CLEOPATRA (_pushing Ftatateeta aside and standing haughtily on the
brink of the steps_). Am I to behave like a Queen?


_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_). Caesar: this is
how she treats me always. If I am a King why is she allowed to take
everything from me?

CLEOPATRA. 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.

CAESAR. Go, Ptolemy. Always take a throne when it is offered to you.

RUFIO. 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 beside

CAESAR. Pothinus----

CLEOPATRA (_interrupting him_). Are you not going to speak to me?

CAESAR. Be quiet. Open your mouth again before I give you leave; and
you shall be eaten.

CLEOPATRA. I am not afraid. A queen must not be afraid. Eat my husband
there, if you like: _he_ is afraid.

CAESAR (_starting_). 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._

THEODOTUS. 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.

BRITANNUS (_shocked_). Caesar: this is not proper.

THEODOTUS (_outraged_). How!

CAESAR (_recovering his self-possession_). Pardon him, Theodotus: he
is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island
are the laws of nature.

BRITANNUS. On the contrary, Caesar, it is these Egyptians who are
barbarians; and you do wrong to encourage them. I say it is a scandal.

CAESAR. Scandal or not, my friend, it opens the gate of peace. (_He
rises and addresses Pothinus seriously._) Pothinus: hear what I

RUFIO. Hear Caesar there.

CAESAR. Ptolemy and Cleopatra shall reign jointly in Egypt.

ACHILLAS. What of the King's younger brother and Cleopatra's younger

RUFIO (_explaining_). There is another little Ptolemy, Caesar: so they
tell me.

CAESAR. Well, the little Ptolemy can marry the other sister; and we
will make them both a present of Cyprus.

POTHINUS (_impatiently_). Cyprus is of no use to anybody.

CAESAR. No matter: you shall have it for the sake of peace.

BRITANNUS (_unconsciously anticipating a later statesman_). Peace with
honor, Pothinus.

POTHINUS (_mutinously_). Caesar: be honest. The money you demand is
the price of our freedom. Take it; and leave us to settle our own

THE BOLDER COURTIERS (_encouraged by Pothinus's tone and Caesar's
quietness_). Yes, yes. Egypt for the Egyptians!

_The conference now becomes an altercation, the Egyptians becoming
more and more heated. Caesar remains unruffled; but Rufio grows
fiercer and doggeder, and Britannus haughtily indignant._

RUFIO (_contemptuously_). Egypt for the Egyptians! Do you forget that
there is a Roman army of occupation here, left by Aulus Gabinius when
he set up your toy king for you?

ACHILLAS (_suddenly asserting himself_). And now under _my_ command.
_I_ am the Roman general here, Caesar.

CAESAR (_tickled by the humor of the situation_). And also the
Egyptian general, eh?

POTHINUS (_triumphantly_). That is so, Caesar.

CAESAR (_to Achillas_). So you can make war on the Egyptians in the
name of Rome, and on the Romans--on _me_, if necessary--in the name of

ACHILLAS. That is so, Caesar.

CAESAR. And which side are you on at present, if I may presume to ask,

ACHILLAS. On the side of the right and of the gods.

CAESAR. Hm! How many men have you?

ACHILLAS. That will appear when I take the field.

RUFIO (_truculently_). Are your men Romans? If not, it matters not how
many there are, provided you are no stronger than 500 to ten.

POTHINUS. 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_). What can 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

CLEOPATRA. Why do you let them talk to you like that, Caesar? Are you

CAESAR. Why, my dear, what they say is quite true.

CLEOPATRA. But if you go away, I shall not be Queen.

CAESAR. I shall not go away until you are Queen.

POTHINUS. Achillas: if you are not a fool, you will take that girl
whilst she is under your hand.

RUFIO (_daring them_). Why not take Caesar as well, Achillas?

POTHINUS (_retorting the defiance with interest_). Well said, Rufio.
Why not?

RUFIO. Try, Achillas. (_Calling_) Guard there.

_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._

BRITANNUS. You are Caesar's prisoners, all of you.

CAESAR (_benevolently_). Oh no, no, no. By no means. Caesar's guests,

CLEOPATRA. Won't you cut their heads off?

CAESAR. What! Cut off your brother's head?

CLEOPATRA. 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 up.

_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._

POTHINUS. Caesar: if you attempt to detain us----

RUFIO. 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.

CAESAR (_courteously_). 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 all,

POTHINUS (_desperately_). 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 Caesar.

CAESAR (_shrinking_). No, no.

THEODOTUS. 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._

POTHINUS. Bear witness, Lucius Septimius. Caesar came hither in
pursuit of his foe. Did we shelter his foe?

LUCIUS. 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 vengeance.

CAESAR (_with horror_). Vengeance!

POTHINUS. 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?

LUCIUS. It is so. With this hand, that slew Pompey, I placed his head
at the feet of Caesar.

CAESAR. Murderer! So would you have slain Caesar, had Pompey been
victorious at Pharsalia.

LUCIUS. 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.

THEODOTUS (_flatteringly_). 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.

CAESAR. 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?

CAESAR. 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.

LUCIUS. 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 means that
he is a Republican.

LUCIUS (_turning defiantly on the loggia steps_). And what are you?

RUFIO. A Caesarian, like all Caesar's soldiers.

CAESAR (_courteously_). 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.

LUCIUS. 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?

CAESAR. I have no right to suppose that his ways are any baser than

RUFIO. Psha!

CAESAR. Rufio: if I take Lucius Septimius for my model, and become
exactly like him, ceasing to be Caesar, will you serve me still?

BRITANNUS. 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._)

RUFIO. 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
to-morrow 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

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_). Come, your

PTOLEMY (_to Caesar, drawing away his hand from Rufio_). Is he turning
me out of my palace?

RUFIO (_grimly_). You are welcome to stay if you wish.

CAESAR (_kindly_). 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._)

CAESAR (_laughing approvingly_). Brave boy!

CLEOPATRA (_jealous of Caesar's approbation, calling after Ptolemy_).
Little silly. You think that very clever.

CAESAR. Britannus: Attend the King. Give him in charge to that
Pothinus fellow. (_Britannus goes out after Ptolemy._)

RUFIO (_pointing to Cleopatra_). And this piece of goods? What is to
be done with _her_? However, I suppose I may leave that to you. (_He
goes out through the loggia._)

CLEOPATRA (_flushing suddenly and turning on Caesar_). Did you mean me
to go with the rest?

CAESAR (_a little preoccupied, goes with a sigh to Ptolemy's chair,
whilst she waits for his answer with red cheeks and clenched fists_).
You are free to do just as you please, Cleopatra.

CLEOPATRA. Then you do not care whether I stay or not?

CAESAR (_smiling_). Of course I had rather you stayed.

CLEOPATRA. Much, _much_ rather?

CAESAR (_nodding_). Much, much rather.

CLEOPATRA. Then I consent to stay, because I am asked. But I do not
want to, mind.

CAESAR. 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_). Tfatafeeta 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

FTATATEETA. Am I then the mistress of the Queen's household?

CLEOPATRA (_sharply_). 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.

CAESAR (_shocked_). Oh no, no.

CLEOPATRA. Oh yes, yes. You are very sentimental, Caesar; but you are
clever; and if you do as I tell you, you will soon learn to govern.

_Caesar, quite dumbfounded by this impertinence, turns in his chair
and stares at her._

_Ftatateeta, smiling grimly, and showing a splendid set of teeth,
goes, leaving them alone together._

CAESAR. Cleopatra: I really think I must eat you, after all.

CLEOPATRA (_kneeling beside him and looking at him with eager
interest, half real, half affected to shew how intelligent she is_).
You must not talk to me now as if I were a child.

CAESAR. You have been growing up since the Sphinx introduced us the
other night; and you think you know more than I do already.

CLEOPATRA (_taken down, and anxious to justify herself_). No: that
would be very silly of me: of course I know that. But--(_suddenly_)
are you angry with me?


CLEOPATRA (_only half believing him_). Then why are you so thoughtful?

CAESAR (_rising_). I have work to do, Cleopatra.

CLEOPATRA (_drawing back_). Work! (_Offended_) You are tired of
talking to me; and that is your excuse to get away from me.

CAESAR (_sitting down again to appease her_). Well, well: another
minute. But then--work!

CLEOPATRA. Work! What nonsense! You must remember that you are a King
now: I have made you one. Kings don't work.

CAESAR. Oh! Who told you that, little kitten? Eh?

CLEOPATRA. 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.

CAESAR. 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.

CAESAR. It might be managed, perhaps; for it was I who sent that
beautiful young man to help your father.

CLEOPATRA (_enraptured_). You know him!

CAESAR (_nodding_). I do.

CLEOPATRA. 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.

CLEOPATRA. Would he be my husband, do you think, if I asked him?

CAESAR. Very likely.

CLEOPATRA. But I should not like to ask him. Could you not persuade
him to ask me--without knowing that I wanted him to?

CAESAR (_touched by her innocence of the beautiful young man's
character_). My poor child!

CLEOPATRA. Why do you say that as if you were sorry for me? Does he
love anyone else?

CAESAR. I am afraid so.

CLEOPATRA (_tearfully_). Then I shall not be his first love.

CAESAR. Not quite the first. He is greatly admired by women.

CLEOPATRA. I wish I could be the first. But if he loves me, I will
make him kill all the rest. Tell me: is he still beautiful? Do his
strong round arms shine in the sun like marble?

CAESAR. He is in excellent condition--considering how much he eats and

CLEOPATRA. Oh, you must not say common, earthly things about him; for
I love him. He is a god.

CAESAR. He is a great captain of horsemen, and swifter of foot than
any other Roman.

CLEOPATRA. What is his real name?

CAESAR (_puzzled_). His _real_ name?

CLEOPATRA. Yes. I always call him Horus, because Horus is the most
beautiful of our gods. But I want to know his real name.

CAESAR. His name is Mark Antony.

CLEOPATRA (_musically_). 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?

CAESAR. 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.

CLEOPATRA. Did he ever pay you?

CAESAR. Not in full.

CLEOPATRA. He was quite right: it was too dear. The whole world is not
worth 16,000 talents.

CAESAR. 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 me.

CLEOPATRA (_coaxing_). No: I want to stay and hear you talk about Mark

CAESAR. 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

CLEOPATRA. No matter: I don't want you to go back to Rome.

CAESAR. But you want Mark Antony to come from it.

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 (_quiet but attending_). Ay. Why?

SOLDIER. There is an army come to Alexandria, calling itself the Roman

CAESAR. The Roman army of occupation. Ay?

SOLDIER. Commanded by one Achillas.


SOLDIER. The citizens rose against us when the army entered the gates.
I was with two others in the market place when the news came. They set
upon us. I cut my way out; and here I am.

CAESAR. Good. I am glad to see you alive. (_Rufio enters the loggia
hastily, passing behind the soldier to look out through one of the
arches at the quay beneath._) Rufio, we are besieged.

RUFIO. What! Already?

CAESAR. Now or to-morrow: what does it matter? We _shall_ be besieged.

_Britannus runs in._

BRITANNUS. Caesar----

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.

RUFIO (_staring_). Burn them!!

CAESAR. 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?

CAESAR. We have not got it, Rufio. This palace we have; and--what is
that building next door?

RUFIO. The theatre.

CAESAR. We will have that too: it commands the strand. For the rest,
Egypt for the Egyptians!

RUFIO. Well, you know best, I suppose. Is that all?

CAESAR. That is all. Are those ships burnt yet?

RUFIO. Be easy: I shall waste no more time. (_He runs out._)

BRITANNUS. Caesar: Pothinus demands speech of you. It's my opinion he
needs a lesson. His manner is most insolent.

CAESAR. Where is he?

BRITANNUS. He waits without.

CAESAR. Ho there! Admit Pothinus.

_Pothinus appears in the loggia, and comes down the hall very
haughtily to Caesar's left hand._

CAESAR. Well, Pothinus?

POTHINUS. I have brought you our ultimatum, Caesar.

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._)

POTHINUS (_scornfully_). 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 Alexandria?

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

CAESAR. What, ablaze already! Impossible!

RUFIO. 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.

CAESAR (_anxiously_). 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.

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 as----

_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

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

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

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 again.

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

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 grow.

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 barrel-hoop.

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.

CLEOPATRA (_suddenly clapping her hands_). Oh, you will not be able to

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 4½ 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 æstheticism 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

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

SENTINEL. We are not here to watch the land but the sea. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

CLEOPATRA. To the lighthouse. Come. (_She makes for the steps._)

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 me.

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

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

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 loth 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 release.

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 porters.

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

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

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

APOLLODORUS. No. Too small.

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


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

APOLLODORUS. Depend on me.

CLEOPATRA. Great, _great_ care?

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

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 off 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 wickedness.

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 shew 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

APOLLODORUS (_from beneath, as the boat moves off_). Farewell, valiant
pilum pitcher.

SENTINEL. Farewell shopkeeper.

APOLLODORUS. Ha, ha! Pull, thou brave boatman, pull. Soho-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

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

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 Egypt.

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 shew 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

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

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

CAESAR. From Alexandria!

BRITANNUS (_severely_). That is Caesar, sir.

RUFIO (_appearing at the lighthouse door_). What's the matter now?

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

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

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 sank.

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

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 chain and looks up along it, examining it

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 spake 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 lighthouse._

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_). Soho, 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 shawls.

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 protest._

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? Eh?

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

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._) Oh!

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

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 harbor.

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 shew 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

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 Rufio.

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

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 laughter._)

RUFIO (_looking down after her_). He has got her. (_To Britannus_)
Hold the fort, Briton. Caesar will not forget you. (_He springs off._)

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, 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


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 crocodiles. Give the girl a piece of
gold; and send them away.

MUSICIAN (_much taken aback_). But true art will not be thus forced.

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

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 stand._

IRAS (_as she reluctantly rises_). Heigho! I wish Caesar were back in

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 tongues.

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

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

_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

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

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

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

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 me?

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.

POTHINUS. 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

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

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 out._)

_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 here.

_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 backwards._

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

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 slaves._)

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

CAESAR. Who is Pothinus?

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

CAESAR (_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

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?

RUFIO (_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

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 (_disconcerted_). Caesar-- (_He stammers._)

CAESAR. Well, out with it.

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

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

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.

FTATATEETA. He? Poth----

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 (_shewing all her teeth_). The dog shall perish.

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

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

_Caesar comes back, with Apollodorus, exquisitely dressed, and Rufio._

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

APOLLODORUS. Cleopatra grows more womanly beautiful from week to week.

CLEOPATRA. Truth, Apollodorus?

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

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

CLEOPATRA (_skipping like a young fawn_). Yes, to dinner. I have
ordered _such_ a dinner for you, Caesar!

CAESAR. Ay? What are we to have?

CLEOPATRA. Peacocks' brains.

CAESAR (_as if his mouth watered_). Peacocks' brains, Apollodorus!

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

CLEOPATRA. Roast boar, Rufio!

RUFIO (_gluttonously_). Good! (_He goes to the seat next Apollodorus,
on his left._)

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

CLEOPATRA (_at the opposite end_). I have got new ones for you.

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

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

CLEOPATRA. What a shame! My new cushions!

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

CAESAR. What have you got?

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

CAESAR. Any oysters?

THE MAJOR-DOMO. Assuredly.

CAESAR. _British_ oysters?

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

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

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

RUFIO. Is there nothing solid to begin with?

THE MAJOR-DOMO. Fieldfares with asparagus----

CLEOPATRA (_interrupting_). Fattened fowls! have some fattened fowls,

RUFIO. Ay, that will do.

CLEOPATRA (_greedily_). Fieldfares for me.

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

RUFIO (_contemptuously_). All Greek.

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

CAESAR. Bring me my barley water.

RUFIO (_with intense disgust_). Ugh! Bring _me_ my Falernian. (_The
Falernian is presently brought to him._)

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

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

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

CAESAR. Well, for once I will sacrifice my comfort--(_kissing her
hand_) there! (_He takes a draught of wine._) Now are you satisfied?

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

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

RUFIO (_alarmed_). How? Eh? What?

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

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

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

CLEOPATRA (_rapturously_). Yes, yes. You shall.

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

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

CAESAR. Cleopatra shall name it herself.

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

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

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

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

_The retinue withdraws, making obeisance._

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

CAESAR. What hocus-pocus is this?

CLEOPATRA. You shall see. And it is _not_ hocus-pocus. To do it
properly, we should kill something to please him; but perhaps he will
answer Caesar without that if we spill some wine to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAESAR (_looking piercingly at Cleopatra_). What was that?

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

CAESAR. Nothing!

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

CAESAR (_rising_). A murder!

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

CAESAR. Another cry?

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

RUFIO (_grimly, as he rises_). Something with bones in it, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUFIO (_in a low tone_). There is some mischief between those two.

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

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

CAESAR (_with searching earnestness_). Cleopatra: what has happened?

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

CAESAR (_reflectively_). That is true.

CLEOPATRA (_greatly relieved, trying to caress him_). Of course it is
true. (_He does not respond to the caress._) _You_ know it is true,

_The murmur without suddenly swells to a roar and subsides._

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

FTATATEETA (_rising and glowering at him_). My place is with the

CLEOPATRA. She has done no harm, Rufio.

CAESAR (_to Rufio_). Let her stay.

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

CAESAR (_with grave displeasure_). Rufio: there is a time for

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

CAESAR (_to Cleopatra_). Send her away.

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

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

RUFIO (_following her_). Remember, Caesar, _your_ bodyguard also is
within call. (_He follows her out._)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAESAR. (_shocked_). Assassinated!--our prisoner, our guest! (_He
turns reproachfully on Rufio_) Rufio----

RUFIO (_emphatically--anticipating the question_). Whoever did it was
a wise man and a friend of yours (_Cleopatra is qreatly emboldened_);
but none of _us_ had a hand in it. So it is no use to frown at me.
(_Caesar turns and looks at Cleopatra._)

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

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

CLEOPATRA. Speak, Apollodorus. Was I wrong?

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

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

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

CAESAR (_with quiet bitterness_). And so the verdict is against me, it

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

CAESAR. If one man in all the world can be found, now or forever, to
_know_ that you did wrong, that man will have either to conquer the
world as I have, or be crucified by it. (_The uproar in the streets
again reaches them._) Do you hear? These knockers at your gate are
also believers in vengeance and in stabbing. You have slain their
leader: it is right that they shall slay you. If you doubt it, ask
your four counselors here. And then in the name of that _right_ (_He
emphasizes the word with great scorn._) shall I not slay them for
murdering their Queen, and be slain in my turn by their countrymen as
the invader of their fatherland? Can Rome do less then than slay these
slayers too, to shew 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 defence; for she has
renounced Caesar. (_He turns to go._)

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

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

CLEOPATRA. But they will kill me.

CAESAR. And why not?

CLEOPATRA. In pity----

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

_She rises, wringing her hands, and goes back to the bench in despair.
Apollodorus shews 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 shew darklier and darklier._

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

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

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

_Caesar's eyes blaze._

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

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

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

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

CAESAR (_sadly_). Oh, ignoble, ignoble!

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

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

APOLLODORUS. Does Caesar despair?

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

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

CAESAR (_with involuntary haughtiness_). Do you presume to encourage

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

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

LUCIUS (_firmly_). At this point.

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

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

CAESAR. Pay! How?

LUCIUS. With a piece of good news for you.

_Caesar divines the news in a flash._

RUFIO. What news?

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

LUCIUS. He has taken Pelusium.

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

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

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

LUCIUS. Ay, that is the fig market----

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

_Lucius hurries out after Britannus._

RUFIO. Come: this is something like business.

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

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

_The bucina sounds busily in the courtyard beneath._

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

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

CAESAR (_turning_). Eh?

CLEOPATRA. Have you forgotten me?

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

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

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

CLEOPATRA (_haughtily_). Go. Follow your master.

RUFIO (_in her ear, with rough familiarity_). A word first. Tell your
executioner that if Pothinus had been properly killed--_in the
throat_--he would not have called out. Your man bungled his work.

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

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

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

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

ROMAN SOLDIERS (_in the courtyard below_). Hail, Caesar! Hail, hail!

_Cleopatra listens. The bucina sounds again, followed by several

CLEOPATRA (_wringing her hands and calling_). Ftatateeta. Ftatateeta.
It is dark; and I am alone. Come to me. (_Silence._) Ftatateeta.
(_Louder._) Ftatateeta. (_Silence. In a panic she snatches the cord
and pulls the curtains apart._)

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


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

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

APOLLODORUS. Hullo! May I pass?

CENTURION. Pass Apollodorus the Sicilian there! (_The soldiers let him

BELZANOR. Is Caesar at hand?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APOLLODORUS. The little King Ptolemy was drowned.

BELZANOR. Drowned! How?

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

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

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

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

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

BELZANOR (_following him_). Ho there! Caesar comes.

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

CENTURION (_hurrying to the gangway guard_). Attention there! Caesar

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

CAESAR. I see my ship awaits me. The hour of Caesar's farewell to
Egypt has arrived. And now, Rufio, what remains to be done before I

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

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

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

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

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

CAESAR (_affectionately_). Has not Caesar called you his son?
(_Calling to the whole assembly_) Peace awhile there; and hear me.


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

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

CAESAR. Where is that British Islander of mine?

BRITANNUS (_coming forward on Caesar's right hand_). Here, Caesar.

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

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

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

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

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

BRITANNUS. Caesar: I was born free.

CAESAR. But they call you Caesar's slave.

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

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

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

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

BELZANOR. O subtle one! O cynic!

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

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

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

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

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

RUFIO (_with a sigh, raising his hands and giving Caesar up as
incorrigible_). Farewell. (_They shake hands._)

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

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

CLEOPATRA. Has Cleopatra no part in this leave taking?

CAESAR (_enlightened_). Ah, I _knew_ there was something. (_To Rufio_)
How could you let me forget her, Rufio? (_Hastening to her_) Had I
gone without seeing you, I should never have forgiven myself. (_He
takes her hands, and brings her into the middle of the esplanade. She
submits stonily._) Is this mourning for me?


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


CAESAR. For whom, then?

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

CAESAR. Rufio?

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

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

CLEOPATRA. Not in your way, then?

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

CLEOPATRA. Without punishment. Without revenge. Without judgment.

CAESAR (_approvingly_). Ay: that is the right way, the great way, the
only possible way in the end. (_To Rufio_) Believe it, Rufio, if you

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

CAESAR (_wondering what he is driving at_). No.

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


RUFIO. Nor judge it for its guiltiness.


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

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

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

CAESAR (_interjects_). Pothinus!

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

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

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

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

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

CAESAR (_taking her handy coaxingly_). Come: do not be angry with me.
I am sorry for that poor Totateeta. (_She laughs in spite of
herself._) Aha! you are laughing. Does that mean reconciliation?

CLEOPATRA (_angry with herself for laughing_). No, _no_, NO!! But it
is so ridiculous to hear you call her Totateeta.

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

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

CAESAR. Bid me farewell.

CLEOPATRA. I will not.

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

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

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

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

APOLLODORUS. What are they, Caesar?

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

CLEOPATRA (_palpitating_). His name, his name?

CAESAR. Shall it be Mark Antony? (_She throws herself in his arms._)

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

CAESAR. So now you are satisfied.

CLEOPATRA. You will not forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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