Caesar and Cleopatra
High noon. Festival and military pageant on the esplanade before the palace. In
the east harbor Caesar's galley, so gorgeously decorated that it seems to be
rigged with flowers, is along-side the quay, close to the steps Apollodorus
descended when he embarked with the carpet. A Roman guard is posted there in
charge of a gangway, whence a red floorcloth is laid down the middle of the
esplanade, turning off to the north opposite the central gate in the palace front,
which shuts in the esplanade on the south side. The broad steps of the gate,
crowded with Cleopatra's ladies, all in their gayest attire, are like a flower garden.
The facade is lined by her guard, officered by the same gallants to whom Bel
Affris announced the coming of Caesar six months before in the old palace on
the Syrian border. The north side is lined by Roman soldiers, with the townsfolk
on tiptoe behind them, peering over their heads at the cleared esplanade, in
which the officers stroll about, chatting. Among these are Belzanor and the
Persian; also the Centurion, vinewood cudgel in hand, battle worn, thick-booted,
and much outshone, both socially and decoratively, by the Egyptian officers.
Apollodorus makes his way through the townsfolk and calls to the officers from
behind the Roman line.
APOLLODORUS. Hullo! May I pass?
CENTURION. Pass Apollodorus the Sicilian there! (The soldiers let him through.)
BELZANOR. Is Caesar at hand?
APOLLODORUS. Not yet. He is still in the market place. I could not stand any
more of the roaring of the soldiers! After half an hour of the enthusiasm of an
army, one feels the need of a little sea air.
PERSIAN. Tell us the news. Hath he slain the priests?
APOLLODORUS. Not he. They met him in the market place with ashes on their
heads and their gods in their hands. They placed the gods at his feet. The only
one that was worth looking at was Apis: a miracle of gold and ivory work. By my
advice he offered the chief priest two talents for it.
BELZANOR (appalled). Apis the all-knowing for two talents! What said the chief
APOLLODORUS. He invoked the mercy of Apis, and asked for five.
BELZANOR. There will be famine and tempest in the land for this.