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SCENE III. Cleopatra's Dream and Defcription of Antony.
Cleo. I dreamt, there was an emperor Antony;
Dol. If it might please ye
Cleo. His face was as the heav'ns, and therein ftuck A fun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted The little O o'th'earth.
Dol. Moft fovereign creature
Cleo. His legs bestrid the ocean, his rear'd arm
rally refolve it into its first principles: thus, man is duft and afhes, and the food we eat, the dung, by which first our vegetable, and from thence our animal food is nourish'd. This fentiment has in Shakespear's Antony and Cleopatra, efcaped the obfervation of two that defervedly bear the first names in criticifm, Sir Thomas Hanmer and Mr. Warburton. Cleopatra finding the can no longer riot in the pleasures of life, with the usual workings of a difappointed pride, pretends difguft to them, and thus fpeaks in praife of fuicide-And it is great, c. (as in the text.)
From the obfervation above, nothing can be clearer than this paffage Both the beggar and Cefar are fed and nurfed by the dung of the earth: and in this fenfe it always appeared to me before the following demonftration of it occur'd. In the first scene of the fame play, Antonio says,
Kingdoms are clay, our dungy earth alike
Though I am perfuaded, with Mr. Seward, this is the true fenfe of the paffage; yet we inuft nicely obferve the fenfe of flaps and palates, which are quite peculiar, and may be reckoned amongst the anomalies of Shakespear. "Suicide," fays he" "hackles accidents and bolts up change, fleeps, [i. e, caules us to fleep] and never palaks," [never more to palate, &c.]
Were dolphin-like; they fhew'd his back above
SCENE V. Firm Refolution.
How poor an instrument
May do a noble deed! He brings me liberty.
SCENE VI. Cleopatra's Speech on applying the Asp.
-Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
To praife my noble act. (33) I hear him mock
(33) I hear, &c.] It has been obferved, this poffibly might have been fhadowed out from Claudian;
-Jam non ad culmina rerum
In Rufinum L
To fairest heights that wicked men attain,
Farewel, kind Charmian; Iras, long farewel.
[Applying the Afp. [To Iras.
Have I the afpic in my lips? Do'st fall?"
He'll make demand of her, and spend that kifs
With thy fharp teeth this knot intrinficate (34)
Char. Oh, eastern star!
Cleo. Peace, peace!
Doft thou not fee my baby at my breaft,
Char. O, break! O, break!
Cleo. As fweet as balm, as foft as air, as gentle,
O Antony! Nay, I will take thee too,
(35) What should I stay.
[Applying another Afp.
(34) Intrinficate] i. e. Intricate, intangled, or tied in hard knots; fo, in King Lear,
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords in twain,
(35) What Should I flay, &c.] Shakespear excels prodigiously in thefe breaks; fo, Percy, in Henry IV. first part, just departing; fays,
Char. In this wild world? fo, fare thee well;
-No, Percy, thou art dust,
And food for
THIS play (fays Johnfon) keeps curiofity always bufy, and the paffions always interested. The continual hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and the quick fucceffion of one perfonage to another, call the mind forward without intermiffion from the first act to the laft. But the power of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the fcene; for, except the feminine arts, fome of which are too low, which diftinguish Cleopatra, no character is very strongly difcriminated. Upton, who did not eafily miss what he defired to find, has difcovered that the language of Antony is, with great fkill and learning, made pompous and fuperb, according to his real practice. But I think his diction not distinguishable from that of others: the moft tumid fpeech in the play is that which Cafar makes to Oclavia.
The events, of which the principal are defcribed according to hiftory, are produced without any art of connexion or care of difpofition.
HAT (1) would you have, ye curs,
The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,
(1) What, &c.] Shakespear has many paffages on the uncertainty of popular favour, and the fickleness of the vulgar: the reader will find one in the 2d part of Henry IV. v. 2. p. 17. where I have referred to this: Milton, in his 3d book of Paradife Regained, has a paffage remarkably fimilar to this. Satan fays to Chrift,
These god-like virtues wherefore doft thou hide,
To whom our Saviour calmly thus reply'd:
Things vulgar, and well-weigh'd fcarce worth the praife?
And know not whom, but as one leads the other.