Excerpt from Cleopatra

They Bless Her When She’s Frisky: From Act Two

Set Design

Enter all minor court figures, CHARMIAN, IRAS, ALEXAS and a particularly small or young court lady, Arsinoe. Talking and laughter.

CHARMIAN

Where’s Arsinoe? (Arsinoe is pushed forward, with her thumb in her mouth, a nervous gesture. When her thumb is not in her mouth, she’s scratching her backside, another nervous gesture.)

IRAS

Thumb OUT! (Arsinoe takes it out) You’re a court lady. Mouth SHUT, please. Stand UP. What’s your name?

ARSINOE

er…uh..uh (replaces thumb in mouth. Charmian takes this hand and smacks it. Arsimoe immediately scratches her backside, Iras smacks that hand.)

IRAS

Speak UP

ARSINOE

er Arsinoe.

CHARMIAN

erArsinoe?

ARSINOE

Arsinoe!

IRAS

Arsinoe. Oh dear. That’s the name of Cleopatra’s sister.

CHARMIAN

Whom she hates.

IRAS

Who’s now dead.

ARSINOE

(whimpers, replaces thumb in mouth, her hand is snatched away and smacked by Iras, scratches backside, her hand is smacked by Charmian).

CHARMIAN

You don’t have to talk, just stand there.

IRAS

Looking pretty,  but not too beautiful.

CHARMIAN

Attentive, but not taking in anything too personal.

IRAS

Instantly available, but not  intrusive. Not intrusive.

CHARMIAN

Observe Iras. She’s good at this.

IRAS

That’s right.

CHARMIAN

Alert, but not  too intelligent. Not  too intelligent.

IRAS

Observe Charmian. She’s  very good at that.

CHARMIAN

Exactly. (pause) Hey!  (They square up to each other and then are distracted by entrance of Alexas and move to him, abandoning Arsinoe who puts her thumb back in her mouth.)

IRAS

Alexas! Alexas! The news, the news!

ALEXAS

Charmian’s pregnant.

IRAS

No!

CHARMIAN

Am I?

IRAS

Are you?

CHARMIAN

No!

ALEXAS

Yes, you are. I can tell by the shape of your nose. It’s a little swollen. You shouldn’t make love under a full moon. Isis at her most fertile.

CHARMIAN

I eat garlic before love-making. It always works. No babies.

IRAS

No boyfriends, I should think.

CHARMIAN

Fortunately, my Scarus doesn’t have a sense of smell.

IRAS

What’s the real news? (Iras and other court ladies poke and pull at Alexas)

CHARMIAN

(screams loudly) By Isis!

IRAS

What’s the matter with you?

CHARMIAN

I gave my garlic to the royal cook.

IRAS

Let’s see your nose. (abandons Alexas to examine Charmian. A crowd of court ladies surround her. Enter Cleopatra. A wave of prostrations, except for Arsinoe  who stays standing frozen, thumb in mouth, like an animal  caught in headlamps).

CLEOPATRA

Who are you?

ARSINOE

Er ..uh..er.

CLEOPATRA

Down!  Where’s Iras? Charmian? (They report) Where’s Alexas? (They point) Come here! (He does on his knees).

CLEOPATRA

The news! You’re late! Why? Where’s my lord? Have you seen him already? You’re very late.

ALEXAS

Your highness….!

CLEOPATRA

Speak up! Don’t stare at me like a boiled fish.

ALEXAS

Your highness..! I ..er..!

CLEOPATRA

Frightened? What of?  Just tell me the news…. or I’ll have you castrated.
(Iras moves forward, whispers something in her ear)

CLEOPATRA

Is that so? I see. (Looks at Alexas. Pause. Laughs happily, complete mood change) Well, I’ll find something  to cut off. (Laughs again, Charmian and Irias laugh as well. Approaches Alexas, pulls up his head, looks into his face). The news from Rome.

ALEXAS

Fulvia fought with  Lucius.

CLEOPATRA

Who’s Lucius?

IRAS

My lord’s brother.

CLEOPATRA

What then?

ALEXAS

They made up and both fought with Octavius. He beat them.

CLEOPATRA

What then?

ALEXAS

Sextus Pompey has raised a revolt against Octavius.

CLEOPATRA

Sextus Pompey?

IRAS

The last republican.

CLEOPATRA

These Romans. They talk about civilization but they can’t stop fighting each other. What does it all mean?

IRAS

If they fight each other, they can’t fight us.

CHARMIAN

They should make love, not war.

CLEOPATRA

Why are you talking of love? Let me see your nose. (Examines it, pushes her away, turns) What then, Alexas? (turns back to Charmian) Be careful, my dear, it’s the full moon.

ALEXAS

Fulvia is dead.

CLEOPATRA

Fulvia’s dead! How did she die?

ALEXAS

She fell off her horse in a fit of temper and broke her neck.

CLEOPATRA

Why?

ALEXAS

Because Octavius refused to marry her daughter Clodia.

CLEOPATRA

Why?

ALEXAS

Octavius wanted to marry Scribonia.

CLEOPATRA

Why?

ALEXAS

To be friends with Sextus Pompeius.

CLEOPATRA

How did Antony take the news of Fulvia’s death?

ALEXAS

He was sad. (Iras indicates a no, followed by a happy dance)

CLEOPATRA

Sad!

ALEXAS

I mean he looked serious for a moment, just for a moment.

CLEOPATRA

Serious! Did he smile?

ALEXAS

(Iras indicates a broad smile) He sort of – smirked.

CLEOPATRA

Sad! That he means he loved her.

ALEXAS

He smiled. (Iras shakes head. Charmian nods.)

CLEOPATRA

(Aggressively) That means he’s has no decent feelings. Is that what you mean?

ALEXAS

Yes, I mean, no.

CLEOPATRA

What? Was he sad or did he smile? (Iras indicates sadness, Charmian indicates happiness. They quarrel behind Cleopatra’s back. Alexas is nonplussed. Cleopatra, enraged, advances on him. Her girls stop fighting and try restrain her which she resists. Enter Antony with Enobarbus and Scarus etc.)

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