« PreviousContinue »
That so she died; for her physician tells me
Of easy ways to die.-Take up her bed,
"Take but good note, and you shall see in him The triple pillar of the world transformed Into a strumpet's fool."-Act I., Scene 1. Triple is here used for third, or one of three; meaning one of the triumvirs, or masters of the world. The word is used in the same sense in "ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL:"
"Which, as the dearest issue of his practice,
"To-night we'll wander through the streets, and note The qualities of people."—Act I., Scene 1.
Sometime also, when he would go up and down the city disguised like a slave in the night, and would peer into poor men's windows and their shops, and scold and brawl with them within the house, Cleopatra would be also in a chambermaid's array, and amble up and down the streets with him.-PLUTARCH (North's translation).
"I'm full sorry
That he approves the common liar, who
Thus speaks of him at Rome."-Act I., Scene 1. Meaning, that he proves the common liar, Fame, to be a true reporter in his case.
"Look, pr'y thee, Charmian,
How this Herculean Roman does become
Antony professed to trace his descent from Anton, a son of Hercules.
"When thou once
Wast beaten from Modena (where thou slew'st
Cicero, on the other side, being the chiefest man of authority and estimation in the city, he stirred up all men against Antonius; so that in the end he made the Senate pronounce him an enemy to his country, and appointed young Cæsar sergeants to carry axes before him, and such other signs as were incident to the dignity of a consul or prætor; and moreover sent Hirtius and Pansa, then consuls, to drive Antonius out of Italy. These two consuls, together with Cæsar, who also had an army, went against Antonius, that besieged the city of Modena, and there overthrew him in battle; but both the consuls were slain there.
Antonius, flying upon this overthrow, fell into great misery all at once; but the chiefest want of all other, and that which pinched him most, was famine. Howbeit he was of such a strong nature, that by patience he would overcome any adversity; and the heavier fortune lay upon him, the more constant shewed he himself.
Every man that feeleth want or adversity, knoweth by virtue and discretion what he should do: but when indeed they are overlaid with extremity, and be sore oppressed, few have the hearts to follow that which they praise and commend, and much less to avoid that they reprove and mislike; but rather to the contrary, they yield to their accustomed easy life, and through faint heart and lack of
courage do change their first mind and purpose. And therefore it was a wonderful example to the soldiers to see Antonius, that was brought up in all fineness and superfluity, so easily to drink puddle-water, and to eat wild fruits and roots and moreover it is reported that even, as they passed the Alps, they did eat the barks of trees, and such beasts as never man tasted of their flesh before.PLUTARCH.
"Let us rear
The higher our opinion, that our stirring
The ne'er lust-wearied Antony.”-Act II., Scene 1. Cleopatra is styled "Egypt's widow" because Julius Cæsar had married her to young Ptolemy, who was afterwards drowned.
"Near him, thy angel
Becomes a Fear, as being o'erpowered."—Act II., Scene 3.
A Fear was a personage in some of the old Moralities. Fletcher alludes to such an imaginary being in the "MAID'S TRAGEDY," where Aspasia is instructing her servants how, in needlework, to describe her situation:
"And then a Fear:
Do that Fear bravely, wench."
"His cocks do win the battle still of mine
When it is all to nought; and his quails ever
Shakspere derived this from Plutarch. The ancients used to match quails as we match cocks. Julius Pollox relates that a circle was made in which the birds were placed, and he whose quail was first driven out of the circle lost the stake. We are told by Mr. Marsden that the Sumatrans practise these quail combats. The Chinese have always been extremely fond of quail fighting. Mr. Douce has given a print, from an elegant Chinese miniature painting, which represents some ladies engaged at this amusement, where the quails are actually inhooped.—SINGER. Inhooped, means inclosed or confined, that they may be compelled to fight.
2nd Sol. 'T is the god Hercules, whom Antony loved, Now leaves him."-Act IV., Scene 3.
Furthermore, the self-same night, within a little of midnight, when all the city was quiet, full of fear and sorrow, thinking what would be the end and issue of this war, it is said that suddenly they heard a marvellous sweet harmony of sundry sorts of instruments of music, with the cry of a multitude of people, as they had been dancing, and had sung as they had been used in Bacchus' feasts, with movings and turnings, after the manner of the satyrs: and it seemed that this dance went through the city unto the gate that opened to the enemies, and that all the troop that made this noise they heard went out of the city at that gate. Now, such as in reason sought the depth of the interpretation of this wonder, thought that it was the god unto whom Antonius bare singular devotion, to counterfeit and resemble him, that did forsake them.-PLUTARCH.
This is without doubt one of the finest pieces of poetry in Shakspere. The splendour of the imagery, the semblance of reality, the lofty range of picturesque objects hanging over the world, their evanescent nature, the total uncertainty of what is left behind,-are just like the mouldering schemes of human greatness.-HAZLITT.
"The miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at."-Act IV., Scene 13.
As for himself, she should not lament nor sorrow for the miserable change of his fortune at the end of his days; but rather that she should think him the more fortunate for the former triumphs and honours he had received; considering that while he lived he was the noblest and greatest prince of the world, and that now he was overcome not cowardly, but valiantly; a Roman by another Roman.-PLUTARCH.
Wherefore is that? and what art thou that dar'st
After Antonius had thrust his sword into himself, as they carried him into the tombs and monuments of Cleopatra, one of his guard, called Dercetæus, took his sword with which he had stricken himself, and hid it: then he secretly stole away, and brought Octavius Cæsar the first news of his death, and shewed him his sword that was bloodied.
Cæsar, hearing these news, straight withdrew himself into a secret place of his tent, and there burst out with tears, lamenting his hard and miserable fortune that had been his friend and brother-in-law, his equal in the empire, and companion with him in sundry great exploits and battles. Then he called for all his friends, and shewed them the letters Antonius had written to him, and his answers also sent him again, during the quarrel and strife, and how fiercely and proudly the other answered him, to all just and reasonable matters he wrote unto him.
After this, he sent Proculeius, and commanded him to do what he could possible to get Cleopatra alive, fearing lest otherwise all the treasure would be lost: and furthermore, he thought that if he could take Cleopatra, and bring her alive to Rome, she would marvellously beautify and set out his triumph.-PLUTARCH.
"Alexandria. A Room in the Monument."
Act V., Scene 2. In this scene, as in one of "KING HENRY VIII.," the outside and inside of a building are exhibited at the same time. The old dramatists were enabled to cope with a difficulty of this kind by the aid of the inner or secondary stage, which was also used in "HAMLET," "OTHELLO," &c., and was a constant accompaniment to the principal one.
--"Realms and islands were
As plates dropped from his pocket."-Act V., Scene 2. The term " 'plates" was applied to some kind of silver money. As in Marlowe's "JEW OF MALTA:"
"Ratest thou this Moor but at two hundred plates?" They are supposed to have been round pieces without stamp or impress, and were probably of fluctuating value.
Of all Shakspere's historical plays, "ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA" is by far the most wonderful.-The highest praise, or rather form of praise, of this play, which I can offer in my own mind, is the doubt which the perusal always occasions in me, whether the "ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA" is not, in all exhibitions of a giant power, in its strength and vigour of maturity, a formidable rival of "MACBETH," "LEAR," "HAMLET," and "OTHELLO."-COLERIDGE.