Act II - Act II, Scene 3
Rome. A Room in CAESAR'S House.
[Enter CAESAR, ANTONY, OCTAVIA between them, and Attendants.]
The world and my great office will sometimes
Divide me from your bosom.
All which time
Before the gods my knee shall bow my prayers
To them for you.
Good night, sir.--My Octavia,
Read not my blemishes in the world's report:
I have not kept my square; but that to come
Shall all be done by the rule. Good night, dear lady.--
Good night, sir.
[Exeunt CAESAR and OCTAVIA.]
Now, sirrah, you do wish yourself in Egypt?
Would I had never come from thence, nor you
If you can, your reason.
I see it in my motion, have it not in my tongue; but yet
Hie you to Egypt again.
Say to me,
Whose fortunes shall rise higher, Caesar's or mine?
Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side:
Thy demon, that thy spirit which keeps thee, is
Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable,
Where Caesar's is not; but near him thy angel
Becomes a fear, as being o'erpower'd: therefore
Make space enough between you.
Speak this no more.
To none but thee; no more but when to thee.
If thou dost play with him at any game,
Thou art sure to lose; and of that natural luck
He beats thee 'gainst the odds: thy lustre thickens
When he shines by: I say again, thy spirit
Is all afraid to govern thee near him;
But, he away, 'tis noble.
Get thee gone:
Say to Ventidius I would speak with him:--
He shall to Parthia.--Be it art or hap,
He hath spoken true: the very dice obey him;--
And in our sports my better cunning faints
Under his chance: if we draw lots, he speeds;
His cocks do win the battle still of mine,
When it is all to nought; and his quails ever
Beat mine, inhoop'd, at odds. I will to Egypt:
And though I make this marriage for my peace,
I' the East my pleasure lies.
O, come, Ventidius,
You must to Parthia: your commission's ready;
Follow me and receive it.
— William Delaney
When Macbeth is plotting to have Banquo murdered (Macbeth, Act. III, Scene i), he refers to the relationship between Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony, originally recorded by Plutarch and borrowed by Shakespeare for fuller development in Antony and Cleopatra. Macbeth's soliloquy contains the following:
There is none but he [Banquo]
Whose being I do fear; and under him
My genius is rebuked, as it is said
Mark Antony's was by Caesar. - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/etext/act-iii#sthash.Yy6Yjylv.dpuf
Many of us have experienced similar uncanny feelings in our relations with one person or another. As the Soothsayer says to Antony:
If thou dost play with him at any game, / Thou art sure to lose...
This whole conversation between Antony and the Soothsayer is worth careful reading and reflection.
What Antony means by "my better cunning" is "my superior skill."