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- Caesar and Cleopatra - 5/28 -


CLEOPATRA (drawing him away). This way, quickly. And let us look for the white cat as we go. It is he that has turned you into a Roman.

CAESAR. Incorrigible, oh, incorrigible! Away! (He follows her, the bucina sounding louder as they steal across the desert. The moonlight wanes: the horizon again shows black against the sky, broken only by the fantastic silhouette of the Sphinx. The sky itself vanishes in darkness, from which there is no relief until the gleam of a distant torch falls on great Egyptian pillars supporting the roof of a majestic corridor. At the further end of this corridor a Nubian slave appears carrying the torch. Caesar, still led by Cleopatra, follows him. They come down the corridor, Caesar peering keenly about at the strange architecture, and at the pillar shadows between which, as the passing torch makes them hurry noiselessly backwards, figures of men with wings and hawks' heads, and vast black marble cats, seem to flit in and out of ambush. Further along, the wall turns a corner and makes a spacious transept in which Caesar sees, on his right, a throne, and behind the throne a door. On each side of the throne is a slender pillar with a lamp on it.)

CAESAR. What place is this?

CLEOPATRA. This is where I sit on the throne when I am allowed to wear my crown and robes. (The slave holds his torch to show the throne.)

CAESAR. Order the slave to light the lamps.

CLEOPATRA (shyly). Do you think I may?

CAESAR. Of course. You are the Queen. (She hesitates.) Go on.

CLEOPATRA (timidly, to the slave). Light all the lamps.

FTATATEETA (suddenly coming from behind the throne). Stop. (The slave stops. She turns sternly to Cleopatra, who quails like a naughty child.) Who is this you have with you; and how dare you order the lamps to be lighted without my permission? (Cleopatra is dumb with apprehension.)

CAESAR. Who is she?

CLEOPATRA. Ftatateeta.

FTATATEETA (arrogantly). Chief nurse to--

CAESAR (cutting her short). I speak to the Queen. Be silent. (To Cleopatra) Is this how your servants know their places? Send her away; and you (to the slave) do as the Queen has bidden. (The slave lights the lamps. Meanwhile Cleopatra stands hesitating, afraid of Ftatateeta.) You are the Queen: send her away.

CLEOPATRA (cajoling). Ftatateeta, dear: you must go away--just for a little.

CAESAR. You are not commanding her to go away: you are begging her. You are no Queen. You will be eaten. Farewell. (He turns to go.)

CLEOPATRA (clutching him). No, no, no. Don't leave me.

CAESAR. A Roman does not stay with queens who are afraid of their slaves.

CLEOPATRA. I am not afraid. Indeed I am not afraid.

FTATATEETA. We shall see who is afraid here. (Menacingly) Cleopatra--

CAESAR. On your knees, woman: am I also a child that you dare trifle with me? (He points to the floor at Cleopatra's feet. Ftatateeta, half cowed, half savage, hesitates. Caesar calls to the Nubian) Slave. (The Nubian comes to him.) Can you cut off a head? (The Nubian nods and grins ecstatically, showing all his teeth. Caesar takes his sword by the scabbard, ready to offer the hilt to the Nubian, and turns again to Ftatateeta, repeating his gesture.) Have you remembered yourself, mistress?

Ftatateeta, crushed, kneels before Cleopatra, who can hardly believe her eyes.

FTATATEETA (hoarsely). O Queen, forget not thy servant in the days of thy greatness.

CLEOPATRA (blazing with excitement). Go. Begone. Go away. (Ftatateeta rises with stooped head, and moves backwards towards the door. Cleopatra watches her submission eagerly, almost clapping her hands, which are trembling. Suddenly she cries) Give me something to beat her with. (She snatches a snake-skin from the throne and dashes after Ftatateeta, whirling it like a scourge in the air. Caesar makes a bound and manages to catch her and hold her while Ftatateeta escapes.)

CAESAR. You scratch, kitten, do you?

CLEOPATRA (breaking from him). I will beat somebody. I will beat him. (She attacks the slave.) There, there, there! (The slave flies for his life up the corridor and vanishes. She throws the snake-skin away and jumps on the step of the throne with her arms waving, crying) I am a real Queen at last--a real, real Queen! Cleopatra the Queen! (Caesar shakes his head dubiously, the advantage of the change seeming open to question from the point of view of the general welfare of Egypt. She turns and looks at him exultantly. Then she jumps down from the step, runs to him, and flings her arms round him rapturously, crying) Oh, I love you for making me a Queen.

CAESAR. But queens love only kings.

CLEOPATRA. I will make all the men I love kings. I will make you a king. I will have many young kings, with round, strong arms; and when I am tired of them I will whip them to death; but you shall always be my king: my nice, kind, wise, proud old king.

CAESAR. Oh, my wrinkles, my wrinkles! And my child's heart! You will be the most dangerous of all Caesar's conguests.

CLEOPATRA (appalled). Caesar! I forgot Caesar. (Anxiously) You will tell him that I am a Queen, will you not? a real Queen. Listen! (stealthily coaxing him) let us run away and hide until Caesar is gone.

CAESAR. If you fear Caesar, you are no true Queen; and though you were to hide beneath a pyramid, he would go straight to it and lift it with one hand. And then--! (He chops his teeth together.)

CLEOPATRA (trembling). Oh!

CAESAR. Be afraid if you dare. (The note of the bucina resounds again in the distance. She moans with fear. Caesar exalts in it, exclaiming) Aha! Caesar approaches the throne of Cleopatra. Come: take your place. (He takes her hand and leads her to the throne. She is too downcast to speak.) Ho, there, Teetatota. How do you call your slaves?

CLEOPATRA (spiritlessly, as she sinks on the throne and cowers there, shaking). Clap your hands.

He claps his hands. Ftatateeta returns.

CAESAR. Bring the Queen's robes, and her crown, and her women; and prepare her.

CLEOPATRA (eagerly--recovering herself a little). Yes, the Crown, Ftatateeta: I shall wear the crown.

FTATATEETA. For whom must the Queen put on her state?

CAESAR. For a citizen of Rome. A king of kings, Totateeta.

CLEOPATRA (stamping at her). How dare you ask questions? Go and do as you are told. (Ftatateeta goes out with a grim smile. Cleopatra goes on eagerly, to Caesar) Caesar will know that I am a Queen when he sees my crown and robes, will he not?

CAESAR. No. How shall he know that you are not a slave dressed up in the Queen's ornaments?

CLEOPATRA. You must tell him.

CAESAR. He will not ask me. He will know Cleopatra by her pride, her courage, her majesty, and her beauty. (She looks very doubtful.) Are you trembling?

CLEOPATRA (shivering with dread). No, I--I--(in a very sickly voice) No.

Ftatateeta and three women come in with the regalia.

FTATATEETA. Of all the Queen's women, these three alone are left. The rest are fled. (They begin to deck Cleopatra, who submits, pale and motionless.)

CAESAR. Good, good. Three are enough. Poor Caesar generally has to dress himself.

FTATATEETA (contemptuously). The Queen of Egypt is not a Roman barbarian. (To Cleopatra) Be brave, my nursling. Hold up your head before this stranger.

CAESAR (admiring Cleopatra, and placing the crown on her head). Is it sweet or bitter to be a Queen, Cleopatra?

CLEOPATRA. Bitter.

CAESAR. Cast out fear; and you will conquer Caesar. Tota: are the Romans at hand?

FTATATEETA. They are at hand; and the guard has fled.

THE WOMEN (wailing subduedly). Woe to us!

The Nubian comes running down the hall.

NUBIAN. The Romans are in the courtyard. (He bolts through the door. With a shriek, the women fly after him. Ftatateeta's jaw expresses savage resolution: she does not budge. Cleopatra can hardly restrain herself from following them. Caesar grips her


Caesar and Cleopatra - 5/28

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