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Antony and Cleopatra

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Enter OCTAVIUS CAESAR, reading a letter, LEPIDUS, and their train
OCTAVIUS CAESAR enters, reading a letter, with LEPIDUS and their courtiers and attendants.





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CAESAR
You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
It is not Caesar’s natural vice to hate
Our great competitor. From Alexandria
This is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes
The lamps of night in revel; is not more manlike
Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy
More womanly than he; hardly gave audience, or
Vouchsafed to think he had partners. You shall find there
A man who is th’ abstract of all faults
That all men follow.
CAESAR
Now you’ll see, Lepidus, that I don’t disdain our noble ally because of a personal whim. Here’s the news from Alexandra: Antony fishes, drinks, and celebrates all night. He’s become as frivolous and self-indulgent as

Ptolemy

Ptolemy was Pharaoh of Egypt and Cleopatra’s husband, now dead. (He was also her younger brother.)

Ptolemy
’s queen, Cleopatra. He rarely attends to his duties or acknowledges he has partners to be considered. Here’s a man who is the epitome of all the vices known to man.






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LEPIDUS
                                        I must not think there are
Evils enough to darken all his goodness.
His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,
More fiery by night’s blackness, hereditary
Rather than purchased, what he cannot change
Than what he chooses.
LEPIDUS
I can’t believe there could be enough vice in the world to outshine all the good in him. His faults stand out because they must be compared to all his virtues, like stars that shine brightly against the dark night sky. They’re more likely to be the result of inherited weakness than independent choice.





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CAESAR
You are too indulgent. Let’s grant, it is not
Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy,
To give a kingdom for a mirth, to sit
And keep the turn of tippling with a slave,
To reel the streets at noon, and stand the buffet
With knaves that smell of sweat. Say this becomes him—
As his composure must be rare indeed
Whom these things cannot blemish—yet must Antony
No way excuse his foils when we do bear
So great weight in his lightness. If he filled
His vacancy with his voluptuousness,
Full surfeits and the dryness of his bones
Call on him for ’t. But to confound such time
That drums him from his sport and speaks as loud
As his own state and ours, ’tis to be chid
As we rate boys who, being mature in knowledge,
Pawn their experience to their present pleasure
And so rebel to judgment.
CAESAR
You’re too forgiving. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that it’s not improper to fool around with Ptolemy’s wife, or to trade a kingdom for a joke. That it’s fine to engage in drinking matches with inferiors, or stumble drunkenly through the streets in the middle of the day, or get into fist fights with sweaty servants. Even if we said that this behavior suits him—though only a man with a perfect character could avoid being disgraced by such antics—there’s no excuse for the extra work we’ve had to take on while he’s been off amusing himself. If he’s been spending his leisure time in lustful pursuits, then he’ll be punished with venereal diseases, and that’s his business. But he’s wasting time and resources vital to our cause and endangering both his position and ours. He should be chastised, like any boy who knows what’s right but chooses to satisfy his desires regardless.

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