“Antony and Cleopatra”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 4-5

— 4.4 —

In a room of Cleopatra’s palace were Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Attending them were Charmian and others.

Mark Antony called, “Bring me my armor, Eros!”

“Sleep a little,” Cleopatra said.

“No, my darling,” Antony replied.

He called again, “Eros, come here! Bring me my armor, Eros!”

Eros arrived, carrying Antony’s armor.

“Come good fellow, put my iron armor on me,” Mark Antony said to Eros. “If good fortune is not ours today, it is because we will deny her. Come on.”

“I’ll help, too,” Cleopatra said. She picked up a piece of armor and asked, “What’s this for? Where does it go?”

“Ah, let it be, let it alone!” Antony said. “You are the armorer of my heart — you give me courage.”

Cleopatra tried to put a piece of armor on Mark Antony, but he told her, “That is the wrong way. It goes like this.”

She replied, “I’ll help. Yes, indeed, it must go like this.”

“That’s right,” Antony said. “We shall thrive now.”

He said to Eros, “Do you see how Cleopatra is helping me, my good fellow? Go and put on your armor.”

“In a little while, sir,” Eros replied.

“Is not this buckled well?” Cleopatra said, referring to a piece of Antony’s armor.

“It is very excellently done,” Antony replied. “He who unbuckles this before I am pleased to take it off and rest shall hear a storm of blows against his armor.”

Both Eros and Cleopatra continued to help put on Antony’s armor.

Antony said, “You are fumbling, Eros. My Queen is a squire and armor-bearer who is more skilled at this than you are. Hurry.”

He said to Cleopatra, “Oh, love, I wish that you could see me in the battle today. If you could, you would see and know war — the royal occupation! You would see a true craftsman at work in the battle!”

A soldier wearing armor entered the room, and Mark Antony said to him, “Good morning to you, and welcome. You look like a man who knows a warlike charge. We rise early to go to the business that we love, and we go to it with delight.”

The soldier replied, “A thousand soldiers, sir, early though it is, have put on their riveted armor, and they are waiting for you at the gate.”

The shouts of soldiers and the sound of trumpets came from outside the palace.

Some captains and soldiers entered the room.

“The morning is fair,” a captain said. “Good morning, general.”

All said, “Good morning, general.”

“The trumpet was well blown, lads,” Antony said. “This morning, like the spirit of a youth who intends to do something noteworthy in his life, begins early.”

He said to Cleopatra, who was still helping him put on his armor, “So. Come. Give me that. It goes this way; well done. May you fare well, dame, whatever becomes of me. This is a soldier’s kiss.”

He kissed Cleopatra and then said, “I would deserve shameful rebuke and reproach if I were to insist on a formal leave-taking. I’ll leave you now, like a man of steel.”

He said to his captains and soldiers, “You who will fight, follow me closely. I’ll take you to the battle,” and then he said to Cleopatra, “Adieu.”

Mark Antony, Eros, and the captains and soldiers exited.

“Please, retire to your chamber,” Charmian said to Cleopatra.

“Lead me there,” Cleopatra said. “Mark Antony goes forth gallantly. I wish that Octavius Caesar and he could determine the outcome of this great war in single combat! Then Antony … but now … well, let’s go.”

— 4.5 —

In Mark Antony’s camp at Alexandria, a soldier met Antony and Eros. This soldier had advised Antony to fight a land battle and not a sea battle at Actium.

The soldier said, “May the gods make this a happy day for Antony!”

“I wish that you and those scars of yours had earlier prevailed to make me fight on land!” Antony replied.

“If you had done so, the Kings who have revolted against you, and the soldier who has this morning left you, would still be following at your heels.”

“Who has left me this morning?”

“Who!” the soldier said, surprised that Antony did not already know. “One always close to you. If you call for Enobarbus, he shall not hear you; or if he does, from Caesar’s camp he will say, ‘I am not one of your soldiers.’”

“What are you saying?” Mark Antony asked.

“Sir, Enobarbus deserted. He is with Caesar.”

Eros said, “Sir, Enobarbus left behind his chests and treasure.”

“Is he gone?” Antony asked.

“Most certainly,” the soldier replied.

“Go, Eros, and send his treasure after him,” Antony ordered. “Do it. Detain no jot, I order you. Write to him — I will sign the letter — and give him gentle adieus and greetings. Say that I hope that he never finds another reason to change his master. Oh, my bad fortune has corrupted honest men! Hurry. Oh, Enobarbus!”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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