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“ Cleo. Nay, pray you, seek no colour for your going,
Ant. Quarrel no more, but be prepar'd to know
Cut my lace, Charmian, come; --
My precious Queen, forbear ;
So Fulvia told me.
You Öll heat my blood : no more.
And target. — Still he mends;
Ant. I'll leave you, lady.
Courteous lord, one word.
But that your royalty
'Tis sweating labour
To bear such idleness so near the heart
Be strew'd before your feet !”. The other instance is in the scene at the Monument, just as the hero has breathed his last :
“Cleo. Noblest of men, woo't die ?
Beneath the visiting Moon." Here she sinks down in a swoon; then, on reviving, and hearing her women call out, “ Royal Egypt! Empress ! ”
“No more but e'en a woman, and commanded
By such poor passion as the maid that milks,
This case of that huge spirit now is cold.” Between these two opposite poles, so to speak, of art and passion, there is indeed room for an “infinite variety” of transpiration. Yet the whole interspace is filled with the
most nimble and versatile play of witchery and expression. It may be strange that features so diverse and seeminglyoppugnant should be made to sit together smoothly and naturally in the same character, but so it is.
In the real greatness of Antony, united as it is with just the right kind and degree of weakness, Cleopatra's pride, passion, vanity, and ambition have an object that they can all meet and draw together upon, To her enthusiastic fancy, he is “the demi-Atlas of this Earth, the arm and burgonet of men": his heroism in his better hours, his eloquence of speech and person at all times, and his generous and magnificent dispositions, kindle whatsoever of womanhood there is in her nature: and for all these reasons she glories the more in knowing that “her beck might from the bidding of the gods command him”; and the dearest triumph of her life is, that, while her “man of men ”is in Rome and she in Egypt, she can still overtake him with her
his duty, his interest, his honour, and even, what is stronger than any or all of these, his ambition.
It is to be noted, however, that while Cleopatra has a deep and absorbing passion, yet she never, till all her regal hopes are clearly at an end, loses the queen in the lover. Her passion grows and lives partly in the faith that Antony is the man to uphold her state, and a piece her throne with opulent kingdoms.” And, whatever may be said of her as a woman, it cannot well be denied that as a queen her thoughts are high, and her bearing magnanimous. This
mistrusts her, as it is also the motive that puts her at last to trying her wiles upon Octavius, when she finds herself in his power. There she has a hard game to play: that most impenetrable of statesmen is indeed proof against her arts ; nevertheless he is fairly outcrafted by her; and so her last breath of exultation is in addressing the asp at her breast,
“0, could'st thou speak, That I might hear thee call great Cæsar ass Unpolicied 1 "
as Shakespeare found it. But I think he nowhere shows more fertility or more felicity of art and invention in so ordering the situations and accompaniments as to bring out the full sense of the characters. It scarce need be said, that the inexpressible fascinations with which he has clothed the heroine almost gain for her the same “full supremacy” over the reader which she wields over the hero; insomuch that at the close he is ready to exclaim with Octavius over her lifeless form, —
“She looks like sleep, As she would catch another Antony
In her strong toil of grace.” As to the moral effect of the delineation, I cannot do better than to leave it in the hands of the poet Campbell: “ Playfully interesting to our fancy as Shakespeare makes this enchantress, he keeps us far from a vicious sympathy. The asp at her bosom, that lulls its nurse asleep, has no poison for our morality. A single glance at the devoted and dignified Octavia recalls our homage to virtue; but with delicate skill he withholds the purer woman from
like Dryden, bring the two to a scolding match.”
Mark Antony is regarded by our best historians as one of the most mixed and at the same time one of the least artificial characters of antiquity. With the seeds both of great virtues and great vices in his nature, he was educated into habits of more-than-military frankness under the great Julius, in whose school of Epicurean free-thinkers his tastes and principles were mainly formed. While the master lived, his wild and boisterous impulses were measurably awed and restrained. But as he had nothing of the natural justness and harmony of that stupendous man, so, such external restraint being withdrawn, those tastes and principles were not long in working out to their legitimate results. Though, at a need, he could act the part of a most profound dissem
bler, yet his disposition was to be perfectly open, downright, and unreserved. Therewithal he had all the ambition of the first Cæsar, without any of his deep wisdom and policy to guide it, and all his recklessness of prescription too, but none of that native rectitude of genius which made it comparatively safe for him to be a law unto himself. Such, in brief, appears to be the character of the man as delivered in history.
Antony's leading traits, as Shakespeare renders them, have been to some extent involved in what I have said of the heroine. He is the same man here as in the play.of. Julius Cæsar, only in a further stage of development: brave and magnanimous to a fault, transported with ambition, and somewhat bloated with success; boldy strong, and reckless alike in the good and the bad parts of his composition; undergoing a long and hard struggle between the heroism and voluptuousness of his nature; the latter of which, with Cleopatra's unfathomable seductions to stimulate it, at last acquires the full sway and mastery of him. His powers are indeed great, but all unbalanced. Even when the spells of Egypt are woven thick and fast about him, the lingerings of his better spirit, together with the stinging sense of his present state, arouse him from time to time to high resolutions and deeds of noble daring : yet these appear rather as the spasms of a dying manhood than the natural and healthy beatings of its heart; the poison of a fevered ambition overmastering for a while the subtiler poison of a gorged , and pampered sensuality. “There's a great spirit gone,” he exclaims, on hearing of Fulvia's death ; and long afterwards, when disaster and self-reproach overtake him, and his faith in the Queen is shaken, then the image of Octavia with “her modest eyes and still conclusion " reclaims his thoughts, and she is to him “a gem of women.” But still he cannot unchain his soul from the “great fairy": however, in his fits of despondency, he may doubt her fidelity and resent her supposed treachery, yet she has but to play her forces upon him in person, and her empire is at once re