“Antony and Cleopatra”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 6-8

— 4.6 —

At Octavius Caesar’s camp at Alexandria were Caesar, Agrippa, Enobarbus, and others.

Caesar said, “Go forth, Agrippa, and begin the battle. Our will is that Antony be taken alive. Make sure that everyone knows that.”

“Caesar, I shall.”

He departed to carry out the order.

Octavius Caesar said, “The time of universal peace is near. If this proves to be a prosperous day, the three corners of the world — Europe, Asia, and Africa — shall bear the olive freely and enjoy peace.”

A messenger arrived and said, “Antony has come onto the battlefield.”

Caesar said, “Go order Agrippa to place those who have revolted against and deserted Antony in the front lines, so that Antony may seem to spend his fury upon himself and his own forces.”

Everyone exited except Enobarbus, who said to himself, “Alexas revolted against Mark Antony, and he went to Judea seemingly to carry out Antony’s orders. In Judea, Alexas persuaded great Herod to support Caesar and cease to support Antony. In return for Alexas’ pains, Caesar has hanged him. Canidius and the rest who fell away from Mark Antony have employment, but no positions of honorable trust. I have done something evil, for which I accuse myself so sorely that I will never be happy again.”

A soldier of Caesar’s walked up to him and said, “Enobarbus, Antony has sent all your treasure to you, along with a gift. Antony’s messenger came while I was on guard duty, and he is now unloading his mules at your tent.”

“I give my treasure to you,” Enobarbus said.

“Stop joking, Enobarbus,” the soldier replied. “I am telling you the truth. It is best that you escort the bringer of your treasure safely out of the camp. I must attend to my duty, or I would do it myself. Your Emperor continues to act generously, like a Jove.”

The soldier left.

“I am the worst villain on the earth,” Enobarbus said to himself, “and I feel it the most. Oh, Antony, you fount of generosity, how well would you have paid me for good service, when you crown my depravity and wickedness with gold! This explodes my heart. If swift thought does not break my heart, a swifter means of breaking it shall out-strike my thought and do more damage, but guilty thoughts will break my heart, I feel. Will I fight against you? No! I will go and find some ditch in which I can die; the foulest ditch and fate best suit the latter part of my life.”

— 4.7 —

On the battlefield, Agrippa said to some of Octavius Caesar’s soldiers, “Retreat, we have advanced too far. Caesar himself is hard pressed, and the forces against us exceed what we expected.”

In another part of the battlefield, Mark Antony and a wounded soldier named Scarus talked.

“Oh, my brave Emperor,” Scarus said, “this battle is well fought indeed! Had we fought like this in our earlier battle, we would have driven them home with blows and bandages on their heads.”

“You are bleeding a lot,” Mark Antony said.

“I had a wound here that was like a T,” Scarus said, pointing to the wound, “but now it has been made into an H.” He pronounced “H” like “aitch,” which sounded similar to “ache.” Even wounded, he was able to joke.

“The enemy soldiers are retreating,” Antony said.

“We’ll beat them so badly that they will hide in latrines,” Scarus said. “I still have room for six more wounds.”

Eros came over to them and said to Antony, “They are beaten, sir, and our superiority shows that we have won a clear victory over them.”

“Let us wound their backs, and snatch them up, as we take hares, from behind,” Scarus said. “It is good entertainment to maul a fleeing enemy soldier.”

“I will reward you once for your good humor, and ten-fold for your good bravery,” Antony replied to Scarus. “Come with me.”

Scarus replied, “I’ll limp and follow you.”

— 4.8 —

Later, Mark Antony, Scarus, and others stood under the walls of Alexandria.

Antony said, “We have beaten Octavius Caesar back to his camp. Let someone run ahead of us and let Queen Cleopatra know of our deeds in battle.”

An attendant departed to carry out the order.

Antony continued, “Tomorrow, before the Sun dawns and sees us, we’ll spill the blood that has today escaped from us. I thank you all because all of you are valiant in battle, and you have fought not as if you served my cause, but as if my cause had been your own cause. All of you have fought like the great Trojan War hero Hector.”

Hector was the greatest Trojan warrior, but he died in combat and the Trojans lost the war.

Antony continued, “Enter the city, embrace your wives and your friends, and tell them your feats in battle today while they with joyful tears wash the congealed blood from your wounds, and kiss the honored gashes and make them whole.”

He said to Scarus, “Give me your hand.”

They shook hands.

Cleopatra arrived with her attendants.

Antony said to Scarus, “To this great enchantress I’ll commend your acts and have her thank and bless you.”

Antony said to Cleopatra, “Oh, you light of the world, hug my armored neck as if you were a necklace. Leap with all your fine clothing through my armor that has withstood the enemy and enter my heart and enjoy this triumph in my panting breast.”

“Lord of lords!” Cleopatra said. “Oh, infinite virtue, have you come smiling uncaught from the world’s great snare? Have you really survived this great battle?”

“My nightingale, we have beaten them to their beds,” Antony replied.

Using the royal plural, he said, “What, girl! Although grey hairs somewhat mingle with our younger brown hairs, yet we have a brain that nourishes our nerves, sinews, and muscles and we can compete with younger men and match them goal for goal.”

Pointing to Scarus, Antony said, “Behold this man. Commend to his lips your hand and show him your favor.”

Cleopatra held her hand out to Scarus.

“Kiss it, my warrior,” Antony said.

Scarus kissed her hand.

Antony said to Cleopatra, “He has fought today as if he were a god who hated Mankind and actively sought to destroy it.”

“I’ll give you, friend,” Cleopatra said to Scarus, “a suit of armor made of gold; it belonged to a King.”

“He has deserved it, and he would deserve it even if it were decorated with valuable jewels like the chariot of the Sun-god: Phoebus Apollo,” Antony said.

He shook hands again with Scarus and said to his soldiers, “Through Alexandria make a jolly march. Let us carry our hacked shields with pride, such as becomes the men who own them. If our great palace had the capacity to hold all this host of soldiers, we all would eat together, and drink toasts to the next day’s fate, which promises royal peril and the greatest danger. Trumpeters, with a brazen din blast the city’s ears; mingle your sound with that of rattling drums. Let the noise echo from the sky so that Heaven and Earth may strike their sounds together, applauding our entry into Alexandria.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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