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Most probable, That so she died; for her physician tells me, She hath pursu'd conclusions infinite 5 Of easy ways to die . —Take up her bed ; And bear her women from the monument: She shall be buried by her Antony: No grave upon the earth shall clip in it A pair so famous. High events as these Strike those that make them: and their story is No less in pity, than his glory, which Brought them to be lamented. Our army shall, In solemn show, attend this funeral ; And then to Rome.-Come, Dolabella, see High order in this great solemnity. [Exeunt !
s She hath pursu'd conclusions infinite -] To pursue conclusions, is to try experiments. So, in Hamlet :
like the famous ape, “To try conclusions,” &c. Again, in Cymbeline :
“I did amplify my judgment in
STEEVENS. Of easy ways to die.] Such was the death brought on by the aspick’s venom. Thus Lucan, lib. ix. I. 1815 :
At tibi Leve miser fixus præcordia pressit
Steevens. ។ shall CLIP
-] i. e. enfold. See p. 354, n. 4. Steevens. their story is No less in pity, than his glory, &c.] i. e. the narrative of such events demands not less compassion for the sufferers, than glory on the part of him who brought on their sufferings.
STEEVENS. 9 This play keeps curiosity always busy, and the passions always interested. The continual hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and the quick succession of one personage to another, call the mind forward without intermission from the first Act to the
But the power of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the scene; for, except the feminine arts, some of which are too low, which distinguish Cleopatra, no character is very strongly discriminated. Upton, who did not easily
miss what he desired to find, has discovered that the language of Antony is, with great skill and learning, made pompous and superb, according to his real practice. But I think his diction not distinguishable from that of others : the most tumid speech in the play is that which Cæsar makes to Octavia.
The events, of which the principal are described according to history, are produced without any art of connection or care of disposition. Johnson.
Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
And made their bends ADORNINGS :] See p. 236. This is sense indeed, and may be understood thus :--Her maids bowed with so good an air, that it added new graces to them. But this is not what Shakspeare would say. Cleopatra, in this famous scene, personated Venus just rising from the waves ; at which time, the mythologists tell us, the sea-deities surrounded the goddess to adore, and pay her homage. Agreeably to this fable, Cleopatra had dressed her maids, the poet tells us, like Nereids. To make the whole, therefore, conformable to the story represented, we may be assured, Shakspeare wrote:
“ And make their bends adorings.” They did her observance in the posture of adoration, as if she had been Venus. WARBURTON.
That Cleopatra personated Venus, we know; but that Shakspeare was acquainted with the circumstance of homage being paid her by the deities of the sea, is by no means as certain. The old term will probably appear the more elegant of the two to modern readers, who have heard so much about the line of beauty. The whole passage is taken from the following in Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch: “She disdained to set forward otherwise, but to take her barge in the riuer of Cydnus, the poope whereof was of golde, the sailes of purple, and the owers of siluer, whiche kept stroke in rowing after the sounde of the musicke of flutes, howboyes, citherns, violls, and such other instruments as they played vpon in the barge. And now for the person of her selfe: she was layed under a pauillion of cloth of gold of tissue, apparelled and attired like the Goddesse Venus, commonly drawn in picture; and hard by her, on either hand of her, pretie faire boyes apparelled as painters do set forth God Cupide, with little fannes in their hands, with the which they fanned wind vpon
her. Her ladies and gentlewomen also, the fairest of them were apparelled like the nymphes Nereides (which are the mermaides of the waters) and like the Graces, some stearing the helme, others tending the tackle and ropes of the barge, out of the which there came a wonderfull passing sweete sauor of perfumes, that perfumed the wharfes side, pestered with innumerable multitudes of people, Some of them followed the barge all alongst the riuer's side : others also ranne out of the citie to see her coming in. So that in thend, there ranne such multitudes of people one after another to see her, that Antonius was left post alone in the market place, in his imperiall seate to geve audience :” &c. Steevens.
There are few passages in these plays more puzzling than this ; but the commentators seem to me to have neglected entirely the difficult part of it, and to have confined all their learning and conjectures to that which requires but little, if any explanation : for if their interpretation of the words, “tended her i' the eyes,” be just, the obvious meaning of the succeeding line will be, that in paying their obeisance to Cleopatra, the humble inclination of their bodies was so graceful, that it added to their beauty.
Warburton's amendment, the reading adorings, instead of adornings, would render the passage less poetical, and it cannot express the sense he wishes for, without an alteration ; for although, as Mr. Steevens justly observes, the verb adore is frequently used by the ancient dramatick writers in the sense of to adorn, I do not find that to adorn was reciprocally used in the sense of to adore. Tollet's explanation is ill imagined; for though the word band might formerly have been spelled with an e, and a troop of beautiful attendants would add to the general magnificence of the scene, they would be more likely to eclipse than to increase the charms of their mistress. And as for Malone's conjecture, though rather more ingenious, it is just as ill founded. That a particular bend of the eye may add lustre to the charms of a beautiful woman, every man must have felt; and it must be acknowledged that the words, their bends, may refer to the eyes of Cleopatra; but the word made must necessarily refer to her gentlewomen : and it would be absurd to say that they made the bends of her eyes, adornings.-But all these explanations, from the first to the last, are equally erroneous, and are founded on a supposition that the passage is correct, and that the words, “tended her i' the eyes," must mean, that her attendants watched her eyes, and from them received her commands. How those words can, by any possible construction, imply that meaning, the editors have not shown, nor can I conceive. Of this I am certain, that if such arbitrary and fanciful interpretations be admitted, we shall be able to extort what sense we please from any combination of words. The passage, as it stands, appears to me wholly unintelligible; but it may be amended by a very slight deviation from the text, by reading, the guise, instead of the eyes, and then it will run thus :
· Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
“ And made their bends, adornings." “ In the guise," means in the form of mermaids, who were supposed to have the head and body of a beautiful woman, concluding in a fish's tail : and by the bends which they made adornings,
Enobarbus means the flexure of the fictitious fishes' tails, in which the limbs of the women were necessarily involved, in order to carry on the deception, and which it seems they adapted with so much art as to make them an ornament, instead of a deformity. This conjecture is supported by the very next sentence, where Enobarbus, proceeding in his description, says:
at the helm “ A seeming mermaid steers.” M. Mason. In many of the remarks of Mr. M. Mason I perfectly concur, though they are subversive of opinions I had formerly hazarded. On the present occasion, I have the misfortune wholly to disagree with him.
His deviation from the text cannot be received ; for who ever employed the phrase he recommends, without adding somewhat immediately after it, that would determine its precise meaning ? We may properly say-in the guise of a shepherd, of a friar, or of a Nereid. But to tell us that Cleopatra's women attended her " in the guise,” without subsequently informing us what that guise was, is phraseology unauthorised by the practice of any writer I have met with. In Cymbeline, Posthumus says:
“To shame the guise of the world, I will begin
“ The fashion, less without, and more within." If the word the commentator would introduce had been genuine, and had referred to the antecedent, Nereides, Shakspeare would most probably have said " tended her in that guise :"-at least he would have employed some expression to connect his supplement with the foregoing clause of his description. But
in the guise" seems unreducible to sense, and unjustifiable on every principle of grammar.-Besides, when our poet had once absolutely declared these women were like Nereides or Mermaids, would it have been necessary for him to subjoin that they appeared in the form, or with the accoutrements of such beings ? for how else could they have been distinguished ?
Yet, whatever grace the tails of legitimate mermaids might boast of in their native element, they must have produced but aukward effects when taken out of it, and exhibited on the deck of a galley. Nor can I conceive that our fair representatives of these nymphs of the sea were much more adroit and picturesque in their motions; for when their legs were cramped within the fictitious tails the commentator has made for them, I do not discover how they could have undulated their hinder parts in a lucky imitation of semi-fishes. Like poor Elkanah Settle, in his dragon of green leather, they could only wag the remigium caudæ without ease, variety, or even a chance of labouring into a graceful curve. I will undertake, in short, the expence of providing characteristick tails for any set of mimick Nereides, if my opponent will engage to teach them the exercise of these adscititious terminations, so to render them a grace instead of a deformity.” In such an attempa
a party of British chambermaids would prove as docile as an equal number of Egyptian maids of honour. It may
be added also, that the Sirens and descendants of Nereus, are understood to have been complete and beautiful women, whose breed was uncrossed by the salmon or dolphin tribes ; and as such they are uniformly described by Greek and Roman poets. Antony, in a future scene, (though perhaps with reference to this adventure on the Cydnus,) has styled Cleopatra his Thetis, a goddess whose train of Nereids is circumstantially depicted by Homer, though without a hint that the vertebræ of their backs were lengthened into tails. Extravagance of shape is only met with in the lowest orders of oceanick and terrestrial deities. Tritons are furnished with fins and tails, and Satyrs have horns and hoofs. But a Nereid's tail is an unclassical image adopted from modern sign-posts, and happily exposed to ridicule by Hogarth, in his print of Strolling Actresses dressing in a Barn. What Horace too has reprobated as a disgusting combination, can never hope to be received as a pattern of the graceful:
ut turpitur atrum
Desinat in piscem mulier formosa superne. I allow that the figure at the helm of the vessel was likewise a Mermaid or Nereid; but all mention of a tail is wanting there, as in every other passage throughout the dramas of our author, in which a Mermaid is introduced.
For reasons like these, (notwithstanding, in support of our commentator's appendages, and the present female fashion of bolstered hips and cork rumps, we might read, omitting only a single letter—" made their ends adornings; "--and though I have not forgotten Bayes's advice to an actress-" Always, madam, up with your end,") I should unwillingly confine the graces of Cleopatra's Nereids, to the flexibility of their pantomimick tails. For these, however ornamentally wreathed like Virgil's snake, or respectfully lowered like a lictor's fasces, must have afforded less decoration than the charms diffused over their unsophisticated parts, I mean, the bending of their necks and arms, the rise and fall of their bosoms, and the general elegance of submission paid by them to the vanity of their royal mistress.
The plain sense of the contested passage seems to be that these ladies rendered that homage which their assumed characters obliged them to pay to their Queen, a circumstance ornamental to themselves. Each inclined her person so gracefully, that the
very act of humiliation was an improvement of her own beauty. The foregoing notes supply a very powerful instance of the uncertainty of verbal criticism ; for here we meet with the same phrase explained with reference to four different images—bows, groups, eyes, and tails. STEEVENS.
A passage in Drayton's Mortimeriados, quarto, no date, may serve to illustrate that before us :