Antony and Cleopatra

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 2

page Act 2 Scene 2 Page 11

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AGRIPPA

                                                   Oh, rare for Antony!

AGRIPPA

How excellent for Antony!

ENOBARBUS

Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
So many mermaids, tended her i’ th’ eyes,
And made their bends adornings. At the helm
220A seeming mermaid steers. The silken tackle
Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands
That yarely frame the office. From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
225Her people out upon her, and Antony,
Enthroned i’ th’ marketplace, did sit alone,
Whistling to th’ air, which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too
And made a gap in nature.

ENOBARBUS

Her ladies-in-waiting—like

Nereides

sea nymphs

Nereides
, or mermaids—tended to Cleopatra as she watched them, and their graceful movements added to the beauty of the scene. It seemed as if a mermaid were steering. The silken sails and ropes swelled in the wind, expertly handled by the ladies’ soft hands. People on the wharves could smell exotic perfume wafting from the barge as it passed them. All the people came out to see her, and Antony, waiting for her in the marketplace, was left alone. Even the air itself would have gone to look at Cleopatra, if that wouldn’t have caused an unnatural vacuum in the atmosphere.

AGRIPPA

                                                    Rare Egyptian!

AGRIPPA

Extraordinary Egyptian!

ENOBARBUS

230Upon her landing, Antony sent to her,
Invited her to supper. She replied
It should be better he became her guest,
Which she entreated. Our courteous Antony,
Whom ne’er the word of “No” woman heard speak,
235Being barbered ten times o’er, goes to the feast,
And for his ordinary pays his heart
For what his eyes eat only.

ENOBARBUS

When she landed at the port, Antony sent an invitation for her to come to supper. She replied by saying that it would be better for him to be her guest instead. Our courteous Antony, who has never said “no” to any woman, after spending plenty of time being groomed by the barber, goes to the feast. For that simple meal, he paid with his heart—even though it was only his eyes that were satisfied.