Antony and Cleopatra

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 5

Original Text

Modern Text

ANTONY

Well, what worst?

ANTONY

Well, give me the worst news.

FIRST MESSENGER

The nature of bad news infects the teller.

FIRST MESSENGER

The bearer of bad news is often blamed for it.

ANTONY

95When it concerns the fool or coward. On.
Things that are past are done, with me. ’Tis thus:
Who tells me true, though in his tale lie death,
I hear him as he flattered.

ANTONY

Only if the hearer is a fool or a coward. Go on. As far as I’m concerned, what’s past is done. It’s like this: as long as a person tells me the truth, even though it means my death, I will listen as though he praised me.

FIRST MESSENGER

                                                 Labienus—
This is stiff news—hath with his Parthian force
100Extended Asia: from Euphrates
His conquering banner shook, from Syria
To Lydia and to Ionia,
Whilst—

FIRST MESSENGER

ANTONY

“Antony,” thou wouldst say.

ANTONY

“While Antony . . .” is what you want to say.

FIRST MESSENGER

                                                        O my lord!

FIRST MESSENGER

Oh, my lord!

ANTONY

105Speak to me home. Mince not the general tongue.
Name Cleopatra as she is called in Rome.
Rail thou in Fulvia’s phrase, and taunt my faults
With such full license as both truth and malice
Have power to utter. Oh, then we bring forth weeds
110When our quick minds lie still, and our ills told us
Is as our earing.

ANTONY

Speak plainly. Don’t tone down what the people are saying. Call Cleopatra what the Romans call her. Use Fulvia’s abusive language. Freely scold me for my faults with as much severity as an enemy with truth on his side. It’s easy to err when left to our own devices, but criticism helps us to see our faults and correct them.
Enter SECOND MESSENGER
A SECOND MESSENGER enters.
                                  Fare thee well awhile.
Good-bye for a while.