Page images
PDF
EPUB

mislike thee (said he) thou hast Hipparchus one of my enfranchised bondmen with thee : hang him if thou wilt, or whippe him at thy pleasure, that we may cry quittance. From henceforth Cleopatra, to cleare her selfe of the suspition he had of her, made more of him than ever she did. For first of all, where she did solemnize the day of her birth very meanely and sparingly, fit for her present misfortune, she now in contrary manner did keepe it with such solemnity, that she exceeded all measure of sumptuousnes and magnificence: so that the guests that were bidden to the feasts, and came poore, went away rich.”

ACT IV. (1) SCENE VIII.

I'll give thee, friend,

An armour all of gold; it was a king's.] Then he came againe to the pallace, greatly boasting of this victory, and sweetly kissed Cleopatra, armed as he was when he came from the fight, recommending one of his men of armes unto her, that had valiantly fought in this skirmish. Cleopatra to reward his manlinesse, gave him an armor and head peece of cleane gold: howbeit the man at armes when he had received this rich gift, stole away by night and went to Cæsar. Antonius sent again to challenge Cæsar, to fight with him hande to hande. Cæsar aunswered him, That he had many other waies to dye then so. Then Antonius seeing there was no way more honorable for him to dye, then fighting valiantly, he determined to set up his rest, both by sea and land. So being at supper (as is reported) he commanded his officers and household servants that waited on him at his boord, that they should fill his cuppes full, and make as muche of him as they could: for said he, you know not whether

you shall do so much for me to morrow or not, or whether you shall serve another maister: and it may be you shall see me no more, but a dead bodie. This notwithstanding, perceeving that his frends and men fell a weeping to heare him say so: to salve that he had spoken, he added this more unto it that he would leade them to battell, where he thought rather safely to returne with victory, then valiantly to die with honour. Further more the selfe same night within a little of midnight, when all the city was quiet, full of feare and sorrow, thinking what would be the issue and ende of this warre, it is said, that sodainly they heard a marvellous sweete harmony of sundry sorts of instruments of musicke, with the crie of a multitude of people, as they had been dauncing, and had sung as they use in Bacchus feastes.”

(2) SCENE XIV.- Sometime we see a cloud that's dragonish.] To the instances of a similar thought, which are given in the Variorum, may be added the following, from a curious black-letter volume, entitled “A most pleasant Prospect into the Garden of Naturall Contemplation, to behold the Naturall Causes of all Kind of Meteors : &c. &c. by W. Fulke, Doctor of Divinitie. 1602." “Flying Dragons, or as Englishmen call them, fire-Drakes, be caused on this maner. When a certayne quantitie of vapors are gathered together on a heap being very neere compact, and as it were hard tempered together, this lump of vapors ascending to ye region of cold, is forcibly beaten backe, which violence of moving is sufficient to kindle it (although some inen wil have it to be caused between 2 cloudes, a hote and a cold) then the highest part which was climing upward, being by reason more subtil and thín, appeareth as the Dragon's neck, smoking, for ye it was lately in the repulse bowed or made crooked to represent the Dragon's belly. The last part by ye same repulse, turned upward, maketh the tayle, both appearing smaller, for yt it is further off, and also for that the cold bindeth it. This Dragon being thus caused, flieth along in ye ayre, and sometime turneth to and fro, if it meet with a cold cloud to beat it back, to ye great terrour of them that behold it, of whome some call it a fire Drake: some say it is the Devill himselfe, and so make report to other. More than 47 yeeres agoe, on May day, when many young folke went abroad early in the morning, I remember, by sise of the clocke in the forenoone, there was newes came to London, that the Devill

, the same morning, was seene flying over the Temmes : afterward came word, that hee lighted at Stratford, and was there taken and set in the Stockes, and that though he would have dissembled the matter, by turning himselfe into the likenesse of a man, yet was hee knowne well yenough by his cloven feete. I knew some then living, that went to see him, and returning, affirmed, that hee was indeede seene flying in the ayre, but was not taken prisoner. I remember also, that some wished he had bene shot at with Gunnes or shafts, as hee flew over the Temmes. Thus doe ignorant men iudge of these things that they know

As for this Divell, I suppose it was a flying Dragon, whereof wee speake, vorie fearfull to looke upon, as though hee had life, because hee moveth, whereas hee is

not.

nothing else but clowdes and smoake, bo mightie is God, that hee can feare his enemies with these and such like operations, whereof some examples may bee found in holy Scripture."

(3) SCENE XV.

a Roman by a Roman

Valiantly vanquish'd.] " Then she being affraid of his furie, fled into the tombe which he had caused to be made, and there she locked the doores unto her, & shut all the springs of the lockes with great bolts, and in the meane time sent unto Antonius to tell him, that she was dead. Antonius beleeving it, said unto himselfe: What doest thou looke for further, Antonius, sith spitefull fortune hath taken from thee the only ioy thou hadst, for whom thou yet reservedst thy life? When he had said these words, he went into a chamber & unarmed himself, & being naked, said thus: 0 Cleopatra, it grieveth me not that I have lost thy company, for I wil not be long from thee: but I am sory, that having bene so great a Captaine & Emperor, I am indeed condemned to be iudged of lesse courage and noble mind then a woman. Now he had a man of his called Eros, whom he loved and trusted much, and whom he had long before caused to sweare unto him, that he should kill him when he did command him: and then he willed him to keepe his promise. His man drawing his sword,

lift it up as though he had ment to have stricken his master : but turning his head at one side, thrust his sword into himselfe, and fell downe dead at his masters foote, Then said Antonius: O noble Eros, I thanke thee for this, and it is valiantly done of thee, to shew me what I should do to my selfe, which thou couldest not doe for me. Therewithall he tooke his sword, and thrust it into his belly, and so fell downe upon a little bed. The wound he had, killed him not presently, for the bloud stinted a litle when he was laide: and when he came somewhat to himselfe againe, he prayed them that were about him, to dispatch him. But they all fled out of the chamber, and left him crying out tormenting himselfe: untill at the last there came a Secretarie unto him (called Diomedes) who was commanded to bring him into the tomb or monument where Cleopatra was. When he heard that she was alive, he very earnestly prayed his men to carie his body thither, and so he was caried in his mens armes into the entry of the monument. Notwithstanding, Cleopatra would not open the gates, but came to the high windowes, and cast out certaine chaines and ropes, in the which Antonius was trussed : and Cleopatra her owne selfe, with two women onely, which she had suffered to come with her into these monuments, trised Antonius up. They that were present to behold it, said they never saw so pitifull a sight. For they plucked up poore Antonius all bloudie as he was, and drawing on with pangs of death: who holding up his hands to Cleopatra, raised up himselfe as well as he could. It was a hard thing for these women to do, to lift him up: but Cleopatra stooping down with her head, putting too all her strength to her uttermost power, did lift him up with much ado, and never let go her hold, with the helpe of the women beneath that bad her be of good courage, & were as sory to see her labour so, as she her selfe. So when she had gotten him in after that sort, and laid him on a bed, she rent her garments upon him, clapping her breast,

and scratching her face and stomacke. Then she dried up his bloud that had bewrayed his face, & called him her Lord, her husband, & Emperor, forgetting her own misery and calamity, for the pity and compassion she took of him. Antonius made her ceasse her lamenting, & called for wine, either because he was a thirst, or else for that he thought thereby to hasten his death. When he had drunke, he earnestly prayed her, and perswaded her, that she would seeke to save her life, if sho could possible, without reproch & dishonour : and that chiefly she should trust Proculeius above any man else about Cæsar. And as for himse, that she should not lament nor sorow for the miserable

change of his fortune at the end of his daies : but rather that she should thinke him the more fortunate, for the former triumphes and honors he had received; considering that while he lived, he was the noblest & greatest Prince of the world, and that now,

he was overcome, not cowardly, but valiantly, a ROMAINE by another ROMAINE.”

ACT V. (1) SCENE II.

Cleopatra,
Not what you have reserv'd, nor what acknowledg'd,

Put we i' the roll of conquest.] " At length, she gave him a briefe and memoriall of all the ready mony and treasure she had. But by chance there stood one Seleucus by, one of her Treasurers, who to sceme, a good servant, came straight to Cæsar to disprove Cleopatra, that she had not set in all, but kept many things back of purpose. Cleopatra was in such a rage with him that she flew upon him, and tooke him by the haire of the head, and boxed him well favouredly. Cæsar fella laughing & parted the fray. Alas, said she, O Casar: is not this a great shame and reproch, that thou having vouchsafed to take the paines to come unto me, and done me this honor, poore wretch, & caitife creature, brought into this pitifull and miserable state: and that mine owne servants should come now to accuse me: though it may be I have reserved some iewels and trifles meet for women, but not for me (poore soule) to set out my selfe withall, but meaning to give some pretie presents and gifts unto Octavius and Livia, that they making means and intercession for me to thee, thou mightest yet extend thy favour and mercy upon me. Cesar was glad to heare her say so, perswading himselfe thereby that she had yet a desire to save her life. So he made her answer, that he did not only give her that to dispose of at her pleasure, which she had kept back, but further promised to use her more honourably and bountifully, then she would thinke for: and so he took his leave of her, supposing he had deceived her, but indeed he was deceived himselfe."

(2) SCENE II.

It is well done, and fitting for a princess

Descended of so many royal kings.] “ There was a yong Gentleman Cornelius Dolabella, that was one of Cæsars very great familiars, and besides did beare no ill will unto Cleopatra. He sent her word secretly (as she had requested him) that Cæsar determined to take his iourny through SYRIA, & that within three daies he would send her away before with her children. When this was told Cleopatra, she requested Cæsar that it would please him to suffer her to offer the last oblations of the dead, unto the soule of Antonius. This being granted her, she was caried to the place where his tombe was, and there falling downe on her knees, embracing the tombe with her women, the teares running downe her cheeks, she began to speak in this sort: O my deare Lord Antonius, it is not long sithence I buried thee here, being a free woman: & now I offer unto thee the funerall sprinklings and oblations, being a captive and prisoner; and yet I am forbidden and kept from tearing and murthering this captive body of mine with blowes, which they carefully guard and keepe, onely to triumph of thee : looke therefore henceforth for no other honors, offerings, nor sacrifices from me: for these are the last which Cleopatra can give thee, sith now they carie her away. Whilest we lived together, nothing could sever our companies : but now at our death, I feare me they will make us change our countries. For as thou being a ROMAIN, hast bene buried in Ægypt: even so wretched creature I an ÆGYPTIAN, shall be buried in ITALY, which shall be all the good that I have received by thy country. If therefore the gods where thou art now have any power & authority, sith our gods here have forsaken us, suffer not thy true friend and lover to be caried away alive, that in me they triumph of_thee: but receive me with thee, and let me be buried in one selfe tombe with thee. For though my griefes and miseries be infinit, yet none hath grieved me more, nor that I could lesse beare withall, then this small time which I have bene driven to live alone without thee. Then having ended these doleful plaints, and crowned the tombe with garlands & sundry nosegayes, and mar, vellous lovingly embraced the same, she commanded they should prepare her bath; and when she had bathed and washed herselfe, she fell to her meate, and was sumptuously served. Now whilest she was at dinner, there came a countriman and brought her a basket. The souldiers that warded at the gates, asked him straight what he had in his basket. He opened his basket, and tooke out the leaves that covered the figs, and shewed them that they were figs he brought. They all of them marvelled to see so goodly figges. The countrieman laughed to heare them, and bad them take some if they would. They beleeved he told them truly, and so bad him carie them in. After Cleopatra had dined, she sent a certaine table written and sealed unto Cæsar, and commanded them all to go out of the tombes where she was, but the two women; then she shut the doores to her. Cæsar when he received this table, and began to reade her lamentation and petition, requesting him that he would let her be buried with Antonius, found straight what she meant, and thought to have gone thither himselfc : howbeit, he sent one before in all hast that might be, to see what it was. Her death was very sodaine: for those whom Cæsar sent unto her, ran thither in all hast possible, and found the souldiers standing at the gate, mistrusting nothing, nor understanding of her death. But when they had opened the doores, they found Cleopatra starke dead, laid upon a bed of gold, attired and arrayed in her royall robes, and one of her two women, which was called Iras, dead at her feet: and her other woman (called Charmion) half dead, & trembling, trimming the Diademe which Cleopatra wore upon her head. One of the soldiers seeing her, angrily said unto her: Is that well done Charmion? Very well, said she againe, and meete for a Princesse descended from the race of so many noble Kings: she said no more, but fel down dead hard by the bed.”

CRITICAL OPINIONS.

“« ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA’ may, in some measure, be considered as a continuation of 'Julius Cæsar :' the two principal characters of Antony and Augustus are equally sustained in both pieces. 'Antony and Cleopatra' is a play of great extent; the progress is less simple than in 'Julius Cæsar.' The fulness and variety of political and warlike events, to which the union of the three divisions of the Roman world under one master necessarily gave rise, were perhaps too great to admit of being clearly exhibited in one dramatic picture. In this consists the great difficulty of the historical drama :-it must be a crowded extract, and a living development of history ;—the difficulty, however, has generally been successfully overcome by Shakspeare. But now many things, which are transacted in the background, are here merely alluded to, in a manner which supposes an intimate acquaintance with the history; but a work of art should contain, within itself, everything necessary for its being fully understood. Many persons of historical importance are merely introduced in passing ; the preparatory and concurring circumstances are not sufficiently collected into masses to avoid distracting our attention. The principal personages, however, are most emphatically distinguished by lineament and colouring, and powerfully arrest the imagination. In Antony we observe a mixture of great qualities, weaknesses, and vices ; violent ambition and ebullitions of magnanimity; we see him now sinking into luxurious enjoyment, and then nobly ashamed of his own aberrations,-manning himself to resolutions not unworthy of himself, which are always shipwrecked against the seductions of an artful woman. It is Hercules in the chains of Omphale, drawn from the fabulous heroic ages into history, and invested with the Roman costume. The seductive arts of Cleopatra are in no respect veiled over ; she is an ambiguous being made up of royal pride, female vanity, luxury, inconstancy, and true attachment. Although the mutual passion of herself and Antony is without moral dignity, it still excites our sympathy as an insurmountable fascination :—they seem formed for each other, and Cleopatra is as remarkable for her seductive charms, as Antony for the splendour of his deeds. As they die for each other, we forgive them for having lived for each other. The open and lavish character of Antony is admirably contrasted with the heartless littleness of Octavius, whom Shakspeare seems to have completely seen through, without allowing himself to be led astray by the fortune and the fame of Augustus."-SCHLEGEL.

* 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.' Feliciter audax is the motto for its style, comparatively with that of Shakspeare's other works, even as it is the general motto of all his works compared with those of other poets. Be it remembered, too, that this happy valiancy of style is but the representative and result of all the material excellencies so expressed.

“This play should be perused in mental contrast with * Romeo and Juliet,'— as the love of passion and appetite opposed to the love of affection and instinct. But the art displayed in the character of Cleopatra is profound ; in this. especially,—that the sense of criminality in her passion is lessened by our insight into its depth and energy, at the very moment that we cannot but perceive that the passion itself springs out of the habitual craving of a licentious nature, and that it is supported and reinforced by voluntary stimulus and sought-for associations, instead of blossoming out of spontaneous emotion.

“Of all Shakspeare's historical plays, 'Antony and Cleopatra' is by far the most wonderful. There is not one in which he has followed history so minutely, and yet there are few in which he impresses the notion of angelic strength so much, -perhaps none in which he impresses it more strongly. This is greatly owing to the manner in which the fiery force is sustained throughout, and to the numerous momentary flashes of nature counteracting the historic abstraction. As a wonderful specimen of the way in which Shakspeare lives up to the very end of this play, read the last part of the concluding scene ; and if you would feel the judgment as well as the genius of Shakspeare in your heart's core, compare this astonishing drama with Dryden's All for Love."-COLERIDGE.

« PreviousContinue »