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- Caesar and Cleopatra - 6/28 -
wrist, and looks steadfastly at her. She stands like a martyr.)
CAESAR. The Queen must face Caesar alone. Answer "So be it."
CLEOPATRA (white). So be it.
CAESAR (releasing her). Good.
A tramp and tumult of armed men is heard. Cleopatra's terror increases. The bucina sounds close at hand, followed by a formidable clangor of trumpets. This is too much for Cleopatra: she utters a cry and darts towards the door. Ftatateeta stops her ruthlessly.
FTATATEETA. You are my nursling. You have said "So be it"; and if you die for it, you must make the Queen's word good. (She hands Cleopatra to Caesar, who takes her back, almost beside herself with apprehension, to the throne.)
CAESAR. Now, if you quail--! (He seats himself on the throne.)
She stands on the step, all but unconscious, waiting for death. The Roman soldiers troop in tumultuously through the corridor, headed by their ensign with his eagle, and their bucinator, a burly fellow with his instrument coiled round his body, its brazen bell shaped like the head of a howling wolf. When they reach the transept, they stare in amazement at the throne; dress into ordered rank opposite it; draw their swords and lift them in the air with a shout of HAIL CAESAR. Cleopatra turns and stares wildly at Caesar; grasps the situation; and, with a great sob of relief, falls into his arms.
Alexandria. A hall on the first floor of the Palace, ending in a loggia approached by two steps. Through the arches of the loggia the Mediterranean can be seen, bright in the morning sun. The clean lofty walls, painted with a procession of the Egyptian theocracy, presented in profile as flat ornament, and the absence of mirrors, sham perspectives, stuffy upholstery and textiles, make the place handsome, wholesome, simple and cool, or, as a rich English manufacturer would express it, poor, bare, ridiculous and unhomely. For Tottenham Court Road civilization is to this Egyptian civilization as glass bead and tattoo civilization is to Tottenham Court Road.
The young king Ptolemy Dionysus (aged ten) is at the top of the steps, on his way in through the loggia, led by his guardian Pothinus, who has him by the hand. The court is assembled to receive him. It is made up of men and women (some of the women being officials) of various complexions and races, mostly Egyptian; some of them, comparatively fair, from lower Egypt; some, much darker, from upper Egypt; with a few Greeks and Jews. Prominent in a group on Ptolemy's right hand is Theodotus, Ptolemy's tutor. Another group, on Ptolemy's left, is headed by Achillas, the general of Ptolemy's troops. Theodotus is a little old man, whose features are as cramped and wizened as his limbs, except his tall straight forehead, which occupies more space than all the rest of his face. He maintains an air of magpie keenness and profundity, listening to what the others say with the sarcastic vigilance of a philosopher listening to the exercises of his disciples. Achillas is a tall handsome man of thirty-five, with a fine black beard curled like the coat of a poodle. Apparently not a clever man, but distinguished and dignified. Pothinus is a vigorous man of fifty, a eunuch, passionate, energetic and quick witted, but of common mind and character; impatient and unable to control his temper. He has fine tawny hair, like fur. Ptolemy, the King, looks much older than an English boy of ten; but he has the childish air, the habit of being in leading strings, the mixture of impotence and petulance, the appearance of being excessively washed, combed and dressed by other hands, which is exhibited by court-bred princes of all ages.
All receive the King with reverences. He comes down the steps to a chair of state which stands a little to his right, the only seat in the hall. Taking his place before it, he looks nervously for instructions to Pothinus, who places himself at his left hand.
POTHINUS. The King of Egypt has a word to speak.
THEODOTUS (in a squeak which he makes impressive by sheer self-opinionativeness). Peace for the King's word!
PTOLEMY (without any vocal inflexions: he is evidently repeating a lesson). Take notice of this all of you. I am the firstborn son of Auletes the Flute Blower who was your King. My sister Berenice drove him from his throne and reigned in his stead but--but (he hesitates)--
POTHINUS (stealthily prompting).--but the gods would not suffer--
PTOLEMY. Yes--the gods would not suffer--not suffer (he stops; then, crestfallen) I forget what the gods would not suffer.
THEODOTUS. Let Pothinus, the King's guardian, speak for the King.
POTHINUS (suppressing his impatience with difficulty). The King wished to say that the gods would not suffer the impiety of his sister to go unpunished.
PTOLEMY (hastily). Yes: I remember the rest of it. (He resumes his monotone). Therefore the gods sent a stranger, one Mark Antony, a Roman captain of horsemen, across the sands of the desert and he set my father again upon the throne. And my father took Berenice my sister and struck her head off. And now that my father is dead yet another of his daughters, my sister Cleopatra, would snatch the kingdom from me and reign in my place. But the gods would not suffer (Pothinus coughs admonitorily)--the gods-- the gods would not suffer--
POTHINUS (prompting).--will not maintain--
PTOLEMY. Oh yes--will not maintain such iniquity, they will give her head to the axe even as her sister's. But with the help of the witch Ftatateeta she hath cast a spell on the Roman Julius Caesar to make him uphold her false pretence to rule in Egypt. Take notice then that I will not suffer--that I will not suffer-- (pettishly, to Pothinus)--What is it that I will not suffer?
POTHINUS (suddenly exploding with all the force and emphasis of political passion). The King will not suffer a foreigner to take from him the throne of our Egypt. (A shout of applause.) Tell the King, Achillas, how many soldiers and horsemen follow the Roman?
THEODOTUS. Let the King's general speak!
ACHILLAS. But two Roman legions, O King. Three thousand soldiers and scarce a thousand horsemen.
The court breaks into derisive laughter; and a great chattering begins, amid which Rufio, a Roman officer, appears in the loggia. He is a burly, black-bearded man of middle age, very blunt, prompt and rough, with small clear eyes, and plump nose and cheeks, which, however, like the rest of his flesh, are in ironhard condition.
RUFIO (from the steps). Peace, ho! (The laughter and chatter cease abruptly.) Caesar approaches.
THEODOTUS (with much presence of mind). The King permits the Roman commander to enter!
Caesar, plainly dressed, but, wearing an oak wreath to conceal his baldness, enters from, the loggia, attended by Britannus, his secretary, a Briton, about forty, tall, solemn, and already slightly bald, with a heavy, drooping, hazel-colored moustache trained so as to lose its ends in a pair of trim whiskers. He is carefully dressed in blue, with portfolio, inkhorn, and reed pen at his girdle. His serious air and sense of the importance of the business in hand is in marked contrast to the kindly interest of Caesar, who looks at the scene, which is new to him, with the frank curiosity of a child, and then turns to the King's chair: Britannus and Rufio posting themselves near the steps at the other side.
CAESAR (looking at Pothinus and Ptolemy). Which is the King? The man or the boy?
POTHINUS. I am Pothinus, the guardian of my lord the King.
Caesar (patting Ptolemy kindly on the shoulder). So you are the King. Dull work at your age, eh? (To Pothinus) your servant, Pothinus. (He turns away unconcernedly and comes slowly along the middle of the hall, looking from side to side at the courtiers until he reaches Achillas.) And this gentleman?
THEODOTUS. Achillas, the King's general.
CAESAR (to Achillas, very friendly). A general, eh? I am a general myself. But I began too old, too old. Health and many victories, Achillas!
ACHILLAS. As the gods will, Caesar.
CAESAR (turning to Theodotus). And you, sir, are--?
THEODOTUS. Theodotus, the King's tutor.
CAESAR. You teach men how to be kings, Theodotus. That is very clever of you. (Looking at the gods on the walls as he turns away from Theodotus and goes up again to Pothinus.) And this place?
POTHINUS. The council chamber of the chancellors of the King's treasury, Caesar.
CAESAR. Ah! That reminds me. I want some money.
POTHINUS. The King's treasury is poor, Caesar.
CAESAR. Yes: I notice that there is but one chair in it.
RUFIO (shouting gruffly). Bring a chair there, some of you, for Caesar.
PTOLEMY (rising shyly to offer his chair). Caesar--
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