David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scenes 3-4

— 2.3 —

Standing in a room in Octavius Caesar’s house were Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar; Octavia was standing in between them. Some attendants were also present.

Mark Antony said to Octavia, “The world and my great position will sometimes separate me from your bosom.”

“All the time that we are separated, I will bow my knees before the gods and pray to them for you.”

“Good night, sir,” Mark Antony said to Octavius Caesar.

He added, “My Octavia, don’t believe what the world reports about my blemishes. I have not kept to the straight and narrow road, but in the future I shall do so. I shall keep to the straight and narrow road as if I had the benefits of a carpenter’s square and ruler. Good night, dear lady.”

He said again, “Good night, sir.”

Octavius Caesar said, “Good night.”

Octavius Caesar and Octavia left the room, and a soothsayer entered it.

Mark Antony said to the soothsayer, “I understand that you wish you were in Egypt?”

“I wish that I had never left Egypt and that you had never come to Egypt!”

“If you can, tell me your reason.”

“I feel it intuitively, but I do not have the words to describe it; however, you should hurry back to Egypt.”

“Tell me,” Mark Antony said, “whose fortunes shall rise higher: Octavius Caesar’s or mine?”

“Caesar’s,” the soothsayer said. “Therefore, Antony, do not stay by his side. Your guardian spirit — the spirit that looks after you — is noble, very courageous, and unmatchable, while Caesar’s is not; however, when near Caesar, your guardian angel becomes afraid, as if it were overpowered. Therefore, keep space between yourself and Caesar.”

“Speak about this no more.”

“I will speak about it to none but you; I will say no more, except when I speak to you. If you play with Caesar at any game, you are sure to lose. Because of his natural luck, he beats you even when the odds are against him. Your luster diminishes when he shines nearby you. I say again, your guardian spirit is entirely afraid to govern you while you are near Caesar, but when Caesar is away from you, your guardian spirit is noble.”

“Go now,” Mark Antony said. “Say to Ventidius that I want to speak to him.”

The soothsayer departed.

“Ventidius shall go to Parthia,” Mark Antony said. “Whether the soothsayer has occult knowledge or just luck, he is speaking the truth. Even the dice obey Octavius Caesar, and in our sports and entertainments my better ability comes in second to his luck. If we draw lots, Caesar wins. His cocks always win the battle against mine, even when the odds favor my cocks 100 percent to none. His little fighting birds always beat mine in the fighting ring, although the odds are in my favor.

“I will go to Egypt. Although I am making this marriage to Octavia to make peace with Octavius Caesar, my pleasure lies with Cleopatra in the East.”

Ventidius entered the room.

Mark Antony said, “Come, Ventidius, you must go to Parthia. Your commission to lead an army there is ready. Follow me, and receive it.”

— 2.4 —

In Rome, Lepidus, Maecenas, and Agrippa were speaking about traveling to meet with and fight — if no peace treaty could be made — Sextus Pompey.

Lepidus said to Maecenas and Agrippa, “Trouble yourselves no further. Please, encourage your generals to make haste.”

“Sir, Mark Antony will kiss Octavia, and then we’ll leave,” Agrippa said.

“Until I shall see you in your soldier’s clothing, which will become you both, farewell,” Lepidus said.

Maecenas said, “I calculate that we will be at Mount Misena in the Bay of Naples before you get there.”

“Your road is shorter,” Lepidus said. “My plan is to take a longer road. You will reach Mount Misena two days before I do.”

“Sir, may you have good success!” Maecenas and Agrippa said.

“Farewell,” Lepidus replied.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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