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Ant. Where is he?
Luc. Safe, Antony; Brutus is safe enough.
Ant. This is not Brutus, friend; but, I assure you,
Another Part of the Field.
Enter BRUTUS, DARDANIUS, Clitus, STRATO, and
Bru. Come, poor remains of friends, rest on this rock.
Cli. Statilius showed the torch-light; but, my lord, He came not back; he is or ta'en or slain.
1 A passage from Plutarch will illustrate this scene:—“Furthermore, Brutus thought that there was no great number of men slaine in battell, and to know the truth of it there was one called Statilius, that promised to goe through his enemies, (for otherwise it was impossible to goe see their campe,) and from thence, if all were well, that he would lift up a torchelight in the aire, and then returne againe with speed to him. The torchelight was lift up as he had promised, for Statilius went thither. Nowe Brutus seeing Statilius tarie long after, and that he came not againe, he sayd:-If Statilius be alive, he will come againe. But his evil fortune was suche that, as he came backe, he lighted in his enemies' hands, and was slaine. Now the night being farre spent, Brutus, as he sate, bowed towards Clitus, one of his men, and told him somewhat in his eare; the other aunswered him not, but fell a weeping. Thereupon he proved Dardanius, and sayd somewhat also to him: at length he came to Volumnius him selfe, and speaking to him in Greeke, prayed him for the studies sake which brought them acquainted together, that he would helpe him to put his hande to his sword, to thrust it in him to kill him. Volumnius denied his request, and so did many others: and amongest the rest one of them said there was no tarrying for them there, but that they must needes flie. Then Brutus rising up, We must fie in deede, sayd he; but it must be with our hands, not with our feete. Then taking every man by the hand, he sayd these words unto them with a cheerful countenance :-It rejoyceth my hart that no one of my friends hath failed me at my neede, and I do not complayne of my fortune, but only for my countries sake:—for as for me, I thinke myselfe happier than they that have overcome, considering that I leave a perpetual fame of our corage and manhoode, the which our enemies the conquerors shall never attaine unto by force nor money, neither can let their posteritie to say, that they have beene naughtie and unjust men, have slaine good men to usurpe tyrannical power not pertaining to them. Having sayd so, he prayd every man to shift for themselves, and then he went a little aside, &c.
Bru. Sit thee down, Clitus. Slaying is the word; It is a deed in fashion. Hark thee, Clitus.
[Whispering. Cli. What, I, my lord ?
my lord ? No, not for all the world. Bru. Peace, then, no words. Cli.
I'll rather kill myself. Bru. Hark thee, Dardanius! [Whispers him. Dar.
Shall I do such a deed ? Cli. O Dardanius! Dar. O Clitus! Cli. What ill request did Brutus make to thee? Dar. To kill him, Clitus. Look, he meditates.
Cli. Now is that noble vessel full of grief,
Bru. Come hither, good Volumnius; list a word.
Why, this, Volumnius:
Not so, my lord. Bru. Nay, I am sure it is, Volumnius. Thou seest the world, Volumnius, how it goes ; Our enemies have beat us to the pit. It is more worthy to leap in ourselves, Than tarry till they push us. Good Volumnius, Thou know'st that we two went to school together; Even for that our love of old, I pray thee, Hold thou my sword-hilts," whilst I run on it. Vol. That's not an office for a friend, my lord.
[Alarum still. Cli. Fly, fly, my lord; there is no tarrying here. Bru. Farewell to you ;—and you ;—and you,
1 Hilts is frequently used where only one weapon is spoken of.
Volumnius.Strato, thou hast been all this while asleep; Farewell to thee, too, Strato.-Countrymen, My heart doth joy, that yet, in all my life, , I found no man, but he was true to me. I shall have glory by this losing day, More than Octavius, and Mark Antony, By this vile conquest shall attain unto. So, fare you well at once: for Brutus’ tongue Hath almost ended his life's history. Night hangs upon mine eyes; my bones would rest, That have but labored to attain this hour.
[Alarum. Cry within ; Fly, fly, fly. Cli. Fly, my lord, fly. Bru.
Hence; I will follow. [Exeunt Clitus, DARDANIUS, and
VOLUMNIUS. I pr’ythee, Strato, stay thou by thy lord. Thou art a fellow of a good respect; Thy life hath had some smatch of honor in it. Hold then my sword, and turn away thy face, While I do run upon it. Wilt thou, Strato ? Stra. Give me your hand first. Fare you well, my
lord. Bru. Farewell, good Strato.-Cæsar, now be still : I killed not thee with half so good a will.
[He runs on his sword and dies.
Alarum. Retreat. Enter OctaviUS, ANTONY, MES
SALA, Lucilius, and their army. Oct. What man is that? Mes. My master's man.-Strato, where is thy mas
Stra. Free from the bondage you are in, Messala; The conquerors can but make a fire of him; For Brutus only overcame himself, And no man else hath honor by his death.
Luc. So Brutus should be found.-I thank thee,
Oct. All that served Brutus, I will entertain them. Fellow, wilt thou bestow thy time with me?
Stra. Ay, if Messala will prefer? me to you.
How died my master, Strato? Strat. I held the sword, and he did run on it.
Mes. Octavius, then take him to follow thee,
Ant. This was the noblest Roman of them all.
Oct. According to his virtue let us use him,
1 To prefer seems to have been the general term for recommending a servant.
Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it; and I think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakspeare's plays: his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigor of his genius.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
AFTER a perusal of this play, the reader will, I doubt not, be surprised when he sees what Johnson has asserted—that “its power of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the scene;”—and that “ no character is very strongly discriminated.” If our great Poet has one supereminent dramatic quality in perfection, it is that of being able " to go out of himself at pleasure, to inform and animate other existences.” It is true, that, in the number of characters, many persons of historical importance are merely introduced as passing shadows in the scene; but ( the principal personages are most emphatically distinguished by lineament and coloring, and powerfully arrest the imagination." The character of Cleopatra is indeed a masterpiece; though Johnson pronounces that she is “ only distinguished by feminine arts, some of which are too low.” It is true that her seductive arts are in no respect veiled over; but she is still the gorgeous Eastern queen, remarkable for the fascination of her manner, if not for the beauty of her person; and though she is vain, ostentatious, fickle, and luxurious, there is that heroic, regal dignity about her, which makes us, like Antony, forget her defects :
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Where most she satisfies." The mutual passion of herself and Antony is without moral dignity, yet it excites our sympathy :—they seem formed for each other. Cleopatra is no less remarkable for her seductive charms, than Antony for the splendor of his martial achievements. Her death, too, redeems one part of her character, and obliterates all faults.
Warburton has observed that Antony was Shakspeare's hero; and the defects of his character, a lavish and luxurious spirit, seem almost virtues when opposed to the heartless and narrow-minded littleness of Octavius Cæsar. But the ancient historians, his flatterers, had delivered the latter down ready cut and dried for a hero; and Shakspeare has extricated himself with great address from the dilemma. He has admitted all those great strokes of his character as he found them, and yet has made him a very unamiable character, deceitful, inean-spirited, proud, and revengeful.
Schlegel attributes this to the penetration of Shakspeare, who was not to be led astray by the false glitter of historic fame, but saw through the disguise thrown around him by his successful fortunes, and distinguished in Augustus a man of little mind.
Malone places the composition of this play in 1608. No previous edition to that of the folio of 1623 has been hitherto discovered; but there is an entry of " A Booke called Antony and Cleopatra,” to Edward Blount, in 1608, on the Stationers' books.