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Behold, sir. [Exit CHARMIAN. Cleo.
I your servant.
Iras, what think'st thou ?
The gods forbid ! Cleo. Nay, 'tis most certain, Iras: Saucy lictors Will catch at us, like strumpets; and scald rhymers Ballad us out o'tune : the quick comedians
and scALD RHYMERS
in rhymes, And sung by children in succeeding times.” MALONE, Scald was a word of contempt implying poverty, disease, and filth. Johnson.
So, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Evans calls the host of the Garter “scald, scurvy companion ;” and in King Henry V. Fluellen bestows the same epithet on Pistol. STEEVENS. the Quick comedians-] The gay inventive players.
Johnson. Quick means, here, rather ready than gay. M. Mason.
Extemporally will stage us, and present
O the good gods !
Iras. I'll never see it; for, I am sure, my nails Are stronger than mine eyes. CLEO.
Why, that's the way
The lively, inventive, quick-witted comedians. So, (ut meos quoque attingam,) in an ancient tract, entitled A briefe Description of Ireland, made in this Yeare, 1589, by Robert Payne, &c. 8vo. 1589 : “ They are quick-witted and of good constitution of bodie.". See p. 182, n. 3. MALONE,
- boy my greatness -] The parts of women were acted on the stage by boys. HANMER.
Nash, in Pierce Pennylesse his Supplication, &c. 1595, says, “Our players are not as the players beyond sea, a sort of squirting bawdy comedians, that have whores and common courtesans to play women's parts," &c. To obviate the impropriety of men representing women, T. Goff, in his tragedy of The Raging Turk, or Bajazat II. 1631, has no female character. STEEVENS.
8 Their most ABSURD intents.] Why should Cleopatra call Cæsar's designs absurd? She could not think his intent of carrying her in triumph, such, with regard to his own glory; and her finding an expedient to disappoint him, could not bring it under that predicament. I much rather think the poet wrote:
“ Their most assur'd intents" i. e. the purposes which they make themselves most sure of accomplishing. TheoBALD.
I have preserved the old reading. The design certainly appeared absurd enough to Cleopatra, both as she thought it unreasonable in itself, and as she knew it would fail. Johnson.
9 SIRRAH, Iras, go} - From hence it appears that Sirrah, an
Now, noble Charmian, we'll despatch indeed :
leave To play till dooms-day.—Bring our crown and all. Wherefore's this noise ?
[Exit Iras. A noise within.
Enter one of the Guard.
Here is a rural fellow,
[Exit Guard. May do a noble deed! he brings me liberty. My resolution's plac'd, and I have nothing Of woman in me: Now from head to foot I am marble-constant: now the fleeting moon No planet is of mine?
appellation generally addressed to males, was equally applicable to females. Thus, in Arthur Hall's translation of the sixth Iliad : “Unto the maides quoth Hector then, your mistresse where
is she? “ What, is not she now gone abroade some sister hers to see, “ Or to my good sisters there hir griefe to put away, “ And so to passe the time with them ? now Sirs do quickly
say.” Steevens. Coles, in his Dictionary, interprets Sirra by heus tu, according to which explanation it would be applicable to either sex.
MALONE. How poor, &c.] Thus the second folio. The first nonsensically reads—What poor, &c. Steevens.
“What a poor instrument,” would certainly not be nonsense ; and we have many inversions equally harsh in these plays.
Malone. now the fleeting moon No planet is of mine.] Alluding to the Ægyptian devotion paid to the moon under the name of Isis. WARBURTON.
I really believe that our poet was not at all acquainted with the devotion that the Ægyptians paid to this planet under the name of Isis ; but that Cleopatra having said, “ I have nothing VOL. XII.
Re-enter Guard, with a Clown bringing in a
This is the man. Cleo. Avoid, and leave him. [Exit Guard. Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there, That kills and pains not ?
of woman in me,” added, by way of amplification, that she had not “even the changes of disposition peculiar to her sex, and which sometimes happen as frequently as those of the moon ; or that she was not, like the sea, governed by the moon. So, in King Richard III. : “ - I being governed by the watry moon," &c. Why should she say on this occasion that she no longer made use of the forms of worship peculiar to her country ?
Fleeting is inconstant. So, in William Walter's Guistard and Sismond, 12mo. 1597 :
“ More variant than is the flitting lune.” Again, in Greene's Metamorphosis, 1617: “ – to show the world she was not fleeting." STEVENS.
Our author will himself furnish us with a commodious interpretation of this passage. I am now “whole as the marble, founded as the rock," and no longer changeable and fluctuating between different purposes, like the fleeting and inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb.” Malone.
- the pretty Worm of Nilus -] Worm is the Teutonick word for serpent ; we have the blind-worm and slow-worm still in our language, and the Norwegians call an enormous monster, seen sometimes in the Northern ocean, the sea-worm. Johnson. So, in The Dumb Knight, 1633:
“ Those coals the Roman Portia did devour,
“ Yet lost their stings.”
" I'll watch for fear
Of venomous worms." STEEVENS. In the Northern counties, the word worm is still given to the serpent species in general. I have seen a Northumberland ballad, entituled, The laidly Worm of Spindleston Heughes, i. e. The loathsome or foul serpent of Spindleston Craggs ; certain rocks so called, near Bamburgh Castle.
Shakspeare uses worm again in the same sense. See The Second Part of King Henry VI.:
“ The mortal worm might make the sleep eternal.” PERCY. Again, in the old version of The New Testament, Acts xxviii. : Clown. Truly I have him: but I would not be the party that should desire you to touch him, for his biting is immortal ; those, that do die of it, do seldom or never recover.
Cleo. Remember'st thou any that have died on't?
I heard of one of them no longer than yesterday: a very honest woman, but something given to lie; as a woman should not do, but in the way of honesty: how she died of the biting of it, what pain she felt, -Truly, she makes a very good report o' the worm: But he that will believe all that they say, shall never be saved by half that they do 4: But this is most fallible, the worm's an odd worm.
CLEO. Get thee hence; farewell.
Clown. You must think this, look you, that the worm will do his kind 5.
“Now when the barbarians sawe the worme hang on his hand," &c. TolleT.
4 But he that will believe all that they say, shall never be saved by half that they do :) Shakspeare's clowns are always jokers, and deal in sly satire. It is plain this must be read the contrary way, and all and half change places. WARBURTON.
Probably Shakspeare designed that confusion which the critick would disentangle. STEEVENS.
5 - will do his kind.] The serpent will act according to his nature. Johnson.
So, in Heywood's If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody, 1633 :
“ Good girls, they do their kind.” Again, in the ancient black letter romance of Syr Tryamouré, no date :
“ He dyd full gentylly his kinde.” Again, in Philemon Holland's translation of the 8th book of Pliny's Nat. Hist. ch. 42 : - Queene Semiramis loved a great horse that she had so farre forth, that she was content hee should doe his kind with her.” STEEVENS.