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REMARKS OF VARIOUS AUTHORS

OY

SHAKSPEARE'S 'ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.'

'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 connected 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 intɔ 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.

“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.'-COLERIDGE.

PASSAGES

ILLUSTRATIVE OF

SHAKSPEARE'S 'ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.'

SELECTED FROM SIR THOMAS NORTH'S TRANSLATION

OF PLUTARCH.

'He (Antony] had a noble presence, and showed a coun- 1 tenance of one of a noble house; he had a goodly thick beard, a broad forehead; crooked nosed; and there appeared such a manly look in his countenance as is commonly seen in Hercules' pictures, stamped or graved in metal. Now it had been a speech of old time, that the family of the Antonii were descended from one Anton, the son of Hercules, whereof the family took name. This opinion did Antonius seek to confirm in all his doings.'

* Things that seem intolerable in other men, as to boast com- 2 monly, to jest with one or other, to drink like a good fellow with everybody, to sit with the soldiers when they dine, and to eat and drink with them soldierlike, it is incredible what wonderful love it won him amongst them.'

" The noblemen did not only mislike him [Antony], but also 3 hate him for his naughty life: for they did abhor his banquets and drunken feasts he made at unseasonable times, and his extreme wasteful expenses upon vain light huswives.'

4 "When Pompey's house was put to open sale, Antonius

bought it; but when they asked him money for it, he made it very strange, and was offended with them; and writeth himself that he would not go with Cæsar into the wars of Africk, because he was not well recompensed for the service he had

done him before.' 5 "Yet Cæsar did somewhat bridle his madness and insolency,

not suffering him to pass his faults so lightly away. And therefore he left his dissolute manner of life, and married Fulvia, that was Clodius' widow, a woman not so basely minded to spend her time in spinning and huswifery; and was not contented to master her husband at home, but would also rule him in his office abroad, and commanded him that com

manded legions and great armies.' 6 Antonius ruled absolutely also in all other matters, because ne

was consul, and Caius, one of his brethren, prætor, and Lucius, the other, tribune. Now things remaining in this state at Rome, Octavius Cæsar, the younger, came to Rome, who was the son of Julius Cæsar's niece, and was left his lawful heir by will. This young Cæsar seeing his doings, went unto Cicero and others, which were Antonius' enemies, and by them crept

into favour with the senate.' 7 Cicero being at that time 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 serjeants to carry axes before him, and such other signs as were incident to the dignity of a consul or prætor; and, inoreover, 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 8 the consuls were slain there. Antonius, flying upon this over

throw, fell into great nisery all at once : but the chiefest want of all other, and that 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 showed he himself. Every man that feeleth

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