Act V


Enter Cleopatra, Charmion, and Iras.

Char. Be juster, Heaven; such virtue punished thus,
Will make us think that chance rules all above,
And shuffles, with a random hand, the lots,
Which man is forced to draw.

Cleo. I could tear our these eyes, that gained his heart,
And had not power to keep it. O the curse
Of doting on, even when I find it dotage!
Bear witness, gods, you heard him bid me go;
You, whom he mocked with imprecating vows
Of promised faith!—I’ll die; I will not bear it.
You may hold me—

[She pulls out her dagger, and they hold her.

But I can keep my breath; I can die inward,
And choke this love.

Enter Alexas.

Iras. Help, O Alexas, help!
The queen grows desperate; her soul struggles in her
With all the agonies of love and rage,
And strives to force its passage.

Cleo. Let me go.
Art thou there, traitor!—O,
O for a little breath, to vent my rage,
Give, give me way, and let me loose upon him.

Alex. Yes, I deserve it, for my ill-timed truth.
Was it for me to prop
The ruins of a falling majesty?
To place myself beneath the mighty flaw,
Thus to be crushed, and pounded into atoms,
By its o’erwhelming weight? ’Tis too presuming
For subjects to preserve that wilful power,
Which courts its own destruction.

Cleo. I would reason
More calmly with you. Did not you o’errule,
And force my plain, direct, and open love,
Into these crooked paths of jealousy?
Now, what’s the event? Octavia is removed;
But Cleopatra’s banished. Thou, thou villain,
Hast pushed my boat to open sea; to prove,
At my sad cost, if thou canst steer it back.
It cannot be: I’m lost too far; I’m ruined:
Hence, thou impostor, traitor, monster, devil!—
I can no more: Thou, and my griefs, have sunk
Me down so low, that I want voice to curse thee.

Alex. Suppose some shipwrecked seaman near the shore,
Dropping and faint with climbing up the cliff,
If, from above, some charitable hand
Pull him to safety, hazarding himself,
To draw the other’s weight; would he look back,
And curse him for his pains? The case is yours;
But one step more, and you have gained the height.

Cleo. Sunk, never more to rise.

Alex. Octavia’s gone, and Dolabella banished.
Believe me, madam, Antony is yours.
His heart was never lost, but started off
To jealousy, love’s last retreat and covert;
Where it lies hid in shades, watchful in silence,
And listening for the sound that calls it back.
Some other, any man (’tis so advanced),
May perfect this unfinished work, which I
(Unhappy only to myself) have left
So easy to his hand.

Cleo. Look well thou do’t; else—

Alex. Else, what your silence threatens.—Antony
Is mounted up the Pharos; from whose turret,
He stands surveying our Egyptian galleys,
Engaged with Cæsar’s fleet. Now death or conquest!
If the first happen, fate acquits my promise;
If we o’ercome, the conqueror is yours.

[A distant shout within.

Char. Have comfort, madam: Did you mark that shout?

[Second shout nearer.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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