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This is without doubt one of the finest pieces of poet*** in Shakspere. The splendour of the imagery, the semblance of reality, the lofty range of picturesque objects hanging over the world, their evanescent nature, the total uncertainty of what is left behind,--are just like the mouldering schemes of human greatness.-Hazlitt.
“ The miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at."-Act IV., Scene 13. As for himself, she should not lament nor sorrow for the miserable change of his fortune at the end of his days; but rather that she should think him the more fortunate for the former triumphs and honours he had received; considering that while he lived he was the noblest and greatest prince of the world, and that now he was overcome not cowardly, bu valiantly; a Roman by another Roman.-PLUTARCH.
Wherefore is that? and what art thou that dar'st
Appear thus to us ?"-Act V., Scene 1. After Antonius had thrust his sword into himsell, as they carried him into the tombs and monuments of Cleopatra, one of his guard, called Dercetæus, took his sword with which he had stricken himself, and hid it: then he secretly stole away, and brought Octavius Cæsar the first news of his death, and shewed him his sword that was bloodied.
Cæsar, hearing these news, straight withdrew himself into a secret place of his tent, and there burst out with tears, lamenting his hard and miserable fortune that had been his friend and brother-in-law, his equal in the empire, and companion with him in sundry great exploits and battles. Then he called for all his friends, and shewed them the letters Antonius had written to him, and his answers also sent him again, during the quarrel and strife, and how fiercely and proudly the other answered him, to all just and reasonable matters he wrote unto him.
After this, he sent Proculeius, and commanded him to do what he could possible to get Cleopatra alive, fearing lest otherwise all the treasure would be lost: and furthermore, he thought that if he could take Cleopatra, and bring her alive to Rome, she would marvellously beautify and set out his triumph.-PLUTARCH.
"Alexandria. A Room in the Monument."
Act V., Scene 2. In this scene, as in one of “ KING HENRY VIII.," the outside and inside of a building are exhibited at the same time. The old dramatists were enabled to cope with a difficulty of this kind by the aid of the inner or secondary stage, which was also used in "HAMLET," "OTHELLO," &c., and was a constant accompaniment to the principal one.
“Realms and islands tere As plates dropped from his pocket."-Act V., Scene 2.
The term "plates” was applied to some kind of silver money. As in Marlowe's “JEW OF MALTA:"
“ Ratest thou this Moor but at two hundred plates?" They are supposed to have been round pieces without stamp or impress, and were probably of fluctuating value.
"He at Philippi kept His sword even like a dancer."-Act III., Scene 9. That is,' he kept his weapon in the scabbard, like one who dances with a sword, which appears from various passages to have been the custom in Shakspere's time.
"'T was I That the mad Brulus ended."-Act III., Scene 9. Nothing can be more in character, than for an infamous debauched tyrant to call the heroic love of one's country and public liberty, "madness."—WARBURTON.
“ I was of late as pelty to his ends
To his grand sea."-Act III., Scene 10. The term “his grand sea" has been supposed by Steevens to be the sea from which the dew-drop was thought to be exhaled.--"The grand sea" and "this grand sea" have both been plausibly proposed as substitutes for the received text, in which there is probably some corruption.
" 1st Sol. Peace, I say. What should this mean?
2nd Sol. 'T is the god Hercules, whom Antony loved, Now leaves him."-Act IV., Scene 3.
Furthermore, the self-same night, within a little of midnight, when all the city was quiet, full of fear and sorrow, thinking what would be the end and issue of this war, it is said that suddenly they heard a marvellous sweet harmony of sundry sorts of instruments of music, with the cry of a multitude of people, as they had been dancing, and had sung as they had been used in Bacchus' feasts, with movings and turnings, after the manner of the satyrs : and it seemed that this dance went through the city unto the gate that opened to the enemies, and that all the troop that made this noise they heard went out of the city at that gate. Now, such as in reason sought the depth of the interpretation of this wonder, thought that it was the god unto whom Antonius bare singular devotion, to counterfeit and resemble him, that did forsake them.-PLUTARCH.
"How wouldst thou have paid My beller service, when my turpitude Thou dost so crown with gold! This blows my heart."
Act IV., Scene 6. The word "blows" is here used in the sense of "swells." As in the last scene of this play
" On her breast There is a vent of blood, and something blown." And in “ KING LEAR:"
“No blown ambition doth our arms excite."
" To this great fairy I'll commend thy acts ;
Make her thanks bless thee."--Act IV., Scene 8. The term fairy in former times was applied not only to imaginary diminutive beings, but also occasionally to witches and enchanters; in which last sense it is used in the text.
“0, he is more mad
That is, than Ajax Telamon for the armour of Achilles, the most valuable part of which was the shield.
--" Thou hast seen these signs ?
The beauty both of the expression and the allusion is lost, unless we recollect the frequency and the nature of these shows in Shakspere's age.-WARTON.
Of all Shakspere's historical plays, "ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA” is by far the most wonderful.—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."-COLERIDGE.