Antony and Cleopatra

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 3

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CHARMIAN

E’en as the o’erflowing Nilus presageth famine.

CHARMIAN

IRAS

Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.

IRAS

Oh stop it, you lusty bed-hopper. You can’t see the future.

CHARMIAN

Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful prognostication, I cannot scratch mine ear.—Prithee, tell her but a workaday fortune.

CHARMIAN

Well, if a moist palm isn’t a clear sign of promiscuity, then I can’t scratch my own ear. (to FORTUNETELLER ) Please, tell her an ordinary fortune.

SOOTHSAYER

Your fortunes are alike.

FORTUNETELLER

Your fortunes are the same.

IRAS

But how, but how? Give me particulars.

IRAS

But how? How is that possible? Give me details.

SOOTHSAYER

I have said.

FORTUNETELLER

I’ve said what I have to say.

IRAS

Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?

IRAS

Isn’t my fortune just a little better than hers? By an inch, even?

CHARMIAN

55 Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than I, where would you choose it?

CHARMIAN

Well, if you could have just an inch of better fortune than me, where would you like the improvement?

IRAS

Not in my husband’s nose.

IRAS

Not in my husband’s nose.

CHARMIAN

Our worser thoughts heavens mend. Alexas! (to SOOTHSAYER ) Come, his fortune, his fortune! Oh, let him marry a woman that cannot go, sweet Isis, I beseech thee, and let her die too, and give him a worse, and let worse follow worse, till the worst of all follow him laughing to his grave, fifty-fold a cuckold! Good Isis, hear me this prayer, though thou deny me a matter of more weight, good Isis, I beseech thee!

CHARMIAN

May heaven save us from indecent thoughts! Alexas! (to the FORTUNETELLER ) Come and tell his fortune. Let him marry a woman he can’t satisfy, dear

Isis

Isis was Egypt’s primary female deity, generally associated with the earth, the moon, and fertility.

Isis
, I pray! And then let her die, and give him someone worse. Then let her die, and let her replacement be even worse. And so on until the last one, who is unfaithful with at least fifty other men and laughs at him until he dies. I beg you to grant my prayer, good Isis, even though it means you deny me something more important for myself. Good Isis, I beg you!

IRAS

65 Amen, dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people! For, as it is a heartbreaking to see a handsome man loose-wived, so it is a deadly sorrow to behold a foul knave uncuckolded. Therefore, dear Isis, keep decorum, and fortune him accordingly.

IRAS

Amen, dear goddess. Listen to our prayer. If it’s sad to see a handsome man with a cheating wife, it’s a tragedy to see an ugly thug with a wife who’s faithful. Therefore, dear Isis, do the right thing and give him the fortune he deserves.