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Caesar and Cleopatra

ACT II
Alexandria. A hall on the first floor of the Palace, ending in a loggia approached
by two steps. Through the arches of the loggia the Mediterranean can be seen,
bright in the morning sun. The clean lofty walls, painted with a procession of the
Egyptian theocracy, presented in profile as flat ornament, and the absence of
mirrors, sham perspectives, stuffy upholstery and textiles, make the place
handsome, wholesome, simple and cool, or, as a rich English manufacturer
would express it, poor, bare, ridiculous and unhomely. For Tottenham Court
Road civilization is to this Egyptian civilization as glass bead and tattoo
civilization is to Tottenham Court Road.
The young king Ptolemy Dionysus (aged ten) is at the top of the steps, on his
way in through the loggia, led by his guardian Pothinus, who has him by the
hand. The court is assembled to receive him. It is made up of men and women
(some of the women being officials) of various complexions and races, mostly
Egyptian; some of them, comparatively fair, from lower Egypt; some, much
darker, from upper Egypt; with a few Greeks and Jews. Prominent in a group on
Ptolemy's right hand is Theodotus, Ptolemy's tutor. Another group, on Ptolemy's
left, is headed by Achillas, the general of Ptolemy's troops. Theodotus is a little
old man, whose features are as cramped and wizened as his limbs, except his
tall straight forehead, which occupies more space than all the rest of his face. He
maintains an air of magpie keenness and profundity, listening to what the others
say with the sarcastic vigilance of a philosopher listening to the exercises of his
disciples. Achillas is a tall handsome man of thirty-five, with a fine black beard
curled like the coat of a poodle. Apparently not a clever man, but distinguished
and dignified. Pothinus is a vigorous man of fifty, a eunuch, passionate, energetic
and quick witted, but of common mind and character; impatient and unable to
control his temper. He has fine tawny hair, like fur. Ptolemy, the King, looks much
older than an English boy of ten; but he has the childish air, the habit of being in
leading strings, the mixture of impotence and petulance, the appearance of being
excessively washed, combed and dressed by other hands, which is exhibited by
court-bred princes of all ages.
All receive the King with reverences. He comes down the steps to a chair of state
which stands a little to his right, the only seat in the hall. Taking his place before
it, he looks nervously for instructions to Pothinus, who places himself at his left
hand.
POTHINUS. The King of Egypt has a word to speak.
THEODOTUS (in a squeak which he makes impressive by sheer self-
opinionativeness). Peace for the King's word!
 
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