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AMBITIOUS, brave, able, and enterprising, Marc Antony, takes rank among the foremost men of action of the second order: that is, of those who, possessing ability to achieve greatness, lack fortitude or the higher genius to use it wisely when obtained. The great criterion of excellence in all pursuits is power in repose; spontaneous, comprehensive, easy-working intellect: and in this cardinal quality the reveling Triumvir proves miserably wanting. While “the mighty Julius” lived, Marc Antony felt himself properly placed, as an active instrument in the hands of that great master-spirit; and under him, in Gaul and at Pharsalia, he served with willing vigor and fidelity. To the colder genius of Octavius, his dæmon, though “noble, high, unmatchable," when alone, yields involuntary homage, and “becomes a Fear, as being overpowered.” Antony, in short, is one of those who need incessant stimulus to keep their minds in health; and he falls at length, like many other conquerors in war, some better and some worse, a weak and easy victim to himself, in the languid, trying times of peace.
Yet, after all, the victor of Philippi, the deserter of Actium, was no ordinary mortal. His faults and his virtues — his strong points and his weak ones – lie intermixed in glittering profusion; and Shakspeare has achieved one of his greatest triumphs in the delineation of this splendid, though inconsistent, victim of ambition, love, and idleness. The pervading folly of the slave of pleasure is interspersed with intervals of selfreproach, of self-respect, and self-assertion. — Among the amiable traits in the character of Antony is his conduct on learning the defection of Enobarbus, his shrewd and long-devoted monitor. “My fortunes have corrupted honest men!” is his mild, pathetic exclamation; and his only rebuke to the repentant deserter, is to send his treasure, with “gentle adieus and greetings," after him, into the enemy's camp. Antony's anxiety, too, for the safety and welfare of his servants, after the ignominious flight from Actium, speaks something for the natural kindliness of his feelings: and altogether it would be difficult not to rejoice that a glimpse of former heroism and success precedes his final fall.
Cleopatra seems the natural counterpart of Antony: they are but sexual variations of the same bright, luxurious, weak, ambitious being. Gorgeous and munificent in prosperity, they retain the love of their attendants to the last: and the fascinating Egyptian, like her ill-starred slave and lover, shows a courage, tenderness, and constancy, in death, that earns some portion of respect as well as sympathy.
The Octavius of this drama (the all-praised, all-powerful Augustus of a later day) does not appear to us so destitute of good feeling and commanding intellect as has been sometimes thought. In the outset, he seems sincerely desirous of continuing friends with his great compeer, on equal terms: he gives to him the hand of a sister, for whom he entertains the most entire affection: and it is not till the natural revulsion of Antony's debauched appetite leads him to indolence and “his Egyptian dish again” (inducing him to banish an affectionate confiding wife on false pretenses), that the pride and outraged feeling of the insulted brother awake to vengeance and implacable hostility. — The admirable scene in Pompey's galley strikingly depicts the totally conflicting intellects and dispositions of the two great future contenders for exclusive universal empire. Antony plays upon the tolerated Lepidus with excellent humor, and finally yields himself a willing shouter in the “ Egyptian bacchanals." Octavius is polite and affable, but restrained and self-observant: when urged to drink, he answers, –
I could well forbear it,
And it grows fouler. His anxiety, also, to separate before the personal dignity of the guests shall be too far compromised, is highly characteristic. The great “coming event” of future mastery “throws its shadow before,” throughout this exquisite scene of rampant revelry.
Lepidus — the younger Pompey - Enobarbus — Ventidius — and the numerous other minor characters, would be minor only in so great a scene: all combine to excite that overpowering wonder which Coleridge speaks of as his predominant feeling in the perusal of this magnificent drama.
No edition of “ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA” is known to exist, prior to that of the first folio. The incidents, as in the two preceding plays, are derived from Plutarch's interesting narrative.
Friends of ANTONY.
Friends of CESAR.
Friends of POMPEY.
on CLEOPATRA. A Soothsayer. — A Clown.
CLEOPATRA, Queen of Egypt.
Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE. Dispersed; in several parts of the Roman
I NORMAN. HUDSONO
Antony and Cleopatra.
SCENE I. — Alexandria. A Room in CLEOPA- | If the scarce-bearded Cæsar have not sent
His powerful mandate to you, “Do this, or this:
Take in that kingdom, and enfranchise that: Enter DEMETRIUS and Philo.
Perform 't, or else we damn thee." Phi. Nay, but this dotage of our general's Ant. How, my love ! O’erflows the measure: those his goodly eyes, Cleo. Perchance (nay, and most like), That o'er the files and musters of the war You must not stay here longer : your dismission Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn, Is come from Cæsar : therefore hear it, Antony. The office and devotion of their view
Where's Fulvia's process ? — Cæsar's, I would Upon a tawny front: his captain's heart,
say:- both :Which in the scufiles of great fights hath burst Call in the messengers. — As I am Egypt's queen, The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper; Thou blushest, Antony, and that blood of thine And is become the bellows and the fan
Is Cæsar's homager : else so thy cheek pays shame To cool a gipsy's lust. — Look, where they come ! | When shrill-tongued Fulvia scolds. — The messenTake but good note, and you shall see in him
gers. The triple pillar of the world transformed
Ant. Let Rome in Tyber melt, and the wide Into a strumpet's fool. Behold and see.
Of the ranged empire fall !-- Here is my space. Flourish. Enter Antony and CLEOPATRA, with
Kingdoms are clay: our dungy earth alike their Trains : Eunuchs fanning her.
Feeds beast as man: the nobleness of life Cleo. If it be love indeed, tell me how much. Is to do thus [Embracing], when such a mutual Ant. There's beggary in the love that can be pair reckoned.
And such a twain can do't: in which I bind, Cleo. I'll set a bourn how far to be beloved. On pain of punishment, the world to weet Ant. Then must thou needs find out new heaven, We stand up peerless. new earth.
Cleo. Excellent falsehood !
Why did he marry Fulvia, and not love her ? —
I'll seem the fool I am not: Antony
Ant. But stirred by Cleopatra. —
Now, for the love of Love and her soft hours, Fulvia perchance is angry: or who knows Let's not confound the time with conference harsh :
There's not a minute of our lives should stretch Char. Pray, then, foresee me one. Without some pleasure now. What sport to Sooth. You shall be yet far fairer than you are. night?
Char. He means, in flesh. Cleo. Hear the ambassadors.
Iras. No; you shall paint when you are old. Ant. Fie, wrangling queen,
Char. Wrinkles forbid ! Whom everything becomes ! to chide, to laugh, Alex. Vex not his prescience: be attentive. To weep: whose every passion fully strives
Char. Hush ! To make itself, in thee, fair and admired !
Sooth. You shall be more beloving than beloved. No messenger : but thine, and all alone,
Char. I had rather heat my liver with drinking. To-night we'll wander through the streets and Alex. Nay, hear him.
Char. Good now, some excellent fortune! Let The qualities of people. Come, my queen: me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and Last night you did desire it. — Speak not to us. widow them all : let me have a child at fifty, to
[Exeunt ANTONY, CLEOPATRA, and Train. whom Herod of Jewry may do homage : find me Dem. Is Cæsar with Antonius prized so slight? to marry me with Octavius Cæsar, and companion
Phi. Sir, sometimes, when he is not Antony, me with my mistress. He comes too short of that great property
Sooth. You shall outlive the lady whom you Which still should go with Antony.
serve. Dem. I'm full sorry
Char. O excellent! I love long life better than That he approves the common liar, who
figs. Thus speaks of him at Rome: but I will hope Sooth. You have seen and proved a fairer former Of better deeds to-morrow. Rest you happy! fortune than that which is to approach.
[Exeunt. Char. Then belike my children shall have no
names. Pr’y thee how many boys and wenches
must I have ? SCENE II. — The same. Another Room. Sooth. If every of your wishes had a womb,
And fertile every wish, a million. Enter CHARMIAN, IRAs, Alexas, and a Sooth
Char. Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch. sayer.
Alex. You think none but your sheets are privy Char. Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, most any- to your wishes. thing Alexas, almost most absolute Alexas, where's Char. Nay, come, tell Iras hers. the soothsayer that you praised so to the queen ? ! Aler. We'll know all our fortunes.
–0 that I knew this husband which you say must Eno. Mine and most of our fortunes, to-night, change his horns with garlands !
shall be drunk to bed. Alex. Soothsayer.
Iras. There 's a palm presages chastity, if nothSooth. Your will ?
ing else. Char. Is this the man? - Is 't you, sir, that Char. Even as the overflowing Nilus presageth know things ?
famine. Sooth. In nature's infinite book of secrecy Iras. Go, you wild bedfellow; you cannot A little I can read.
soothsay. Alex. Shew him your hand.
Char. Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful
prognostication, I cannot scratch mine ear. — Pr'y Enter ENOBARBUS.
thee tell her but a worky-day fortune. Eno. Bring in the banquet quickly: wine | Sooth. Your fortunes are alike. enough,
Iras. But how, but how? give me particulars. Cleopatra's health to drink.
Sooth. I have said. Ohar. Good sir, give me good fortune.
Iras. Am I not an inch of fortune better than Sooth. I make not, but foresee.
| she ?