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PORTIA.

(FEMME DE BRUTUS.)

Brutus. Ne t'agenouille pas, mon aimable Portia.

Portia. Je n'en aurais pas besoin, si tu étais l'aimable Brutus. Dismoi, Brutus, est-ce que, dans notre contrat de mariage il a été stipulé que je ne dois connaître aucun de tes secrets ? Ne suis-je donc un autre toi-même que moyennant des limites et des restrictions, pour te tenir compagnie à table, pour partager ton lit, et te parler de temps à autre ? Dois-je être tenue à distance de ton bon plaisir ? Si je ne suis rien de plus, Portia n'est

pas la femme de Brutus, mais sa courtisane. Brutus. Tu es ma fidèle et honorable épouse; tu m'es aussi chère que les gouttes vermeilles qui portent la vie à mon caur affligé.

Portia. Si cela était, je connaîtrais tes secrets. Je ne suis, il est vrai, qu’une femme, mais une femme que Brutus a choisie pour épouse; je ne suis qu'une femme, mais une femme honorée, la fille de Caton. Pensestu qu'ayant un tel père et un tel époux, je ne sois pas supérieure à mon sexe ? Dis-moi tes secrets, je ne les divulguerai pas. Pour te donner une preuve de ma fermeté, vois, je me suis blessée volontairement à la cuisse; pourrais-je supporter cette douleur avec patience si je n'étais pas capable de garder les secrets de mon époux.

Brutus. O dieux ! rendez-moi digne d'une si noble épouse! (On entend frapper.) Ecoute, écoute! quelqu'un frappe. Portia, rentre un instant; tout à l'heure ton cæur partagera les secrets du mien; je te confierai tous mes engagements et toutes les causes de ma tristesse; hâte-toi de me quitter.

[PORTIA s'éloigne.

JULES CÉSAR.- Acte II. Scène I.

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CLEOPATRA.

“Methinks I hear
Antony call ; I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act; I hear him mock
The luck of Cæsar, which the gods give men

To excuse their after-wrath : husband, I come !" The lives of ANTONY and CLEOPATRA afford an interesting episode in Roman history, and are a fitting theme for dramatic representation. Shakspeare has availed himself of all the details which the events permitted; and thus has given us a touching and truthful illustration of human folly and passion.

The play opens at Alexandria, in the palace of CLEOPATRA, Queen of Egypt, presenting her and Antony talking over a letter just received from Fulvia, his wife. The character of the beautiful and unscrupulous queen, is exhibited in the way

she taunts Antony in respect to his wife, assured as she is that he is completely meshed in her own wiles. He would break “these strong Egyptian fetters” at the death of Fulvia, for the position of his affairs is hourly in danger, through the enmity of his Roman “contriving friends,” of whom OCTAVIUS CÆSAR is the chief.

CLEOPATRA exercises all her powers to retain ANTONY in her grasp; and, with great entreaty, alone does she permit him to leave for Rome. There he meets OCTAVIUS, who reproaches him because his wife, Fulvia, had made war in his absence. Their quarrel, however, is made up by Antony marrying Octavia, the sister of CÆSAR.

CLEOPATRA, on hearing of this, breaks out in passionate reproaches; and her jealousy is admirably depicted in her reception of the messenger who brings her the news, and scarcely escapes destruction at her hands.

Antony soon proves unfaithful to OCTAVIA, and again is found the victim of CLEOPATRA. OCTAVIUS, to punish him, wages war, and Antony is defeated, chiefly through the defection of CLEOPATRA. Forsaking his army, he flies after her, forgiving her even for that which ruined all his hopes.

CÆSAR now presses on to Alexandria, and CLEOPATRA prepares to use all her skill in winning him, as she had already done with Antony. A battle ensues under the walls of the city; and Antony, being defeated, chiefly through the treachery of CLEOPATRA, exclaims bitterly

“ All is lost;

This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me.” She vainly endeavours to sooth him; and finding her arts useless, resorts to stratagem

“Mardian, go tell him I have slain myself ;

Say, that the last I spoke was, Antony." Believing the report of her death to be true, he resolves to die; and after urging Eros to kill him, who refuses, but slays himself, Antony falls on his own sword, and dies.

CÆSAR seeks an interview with CLEOPATRA, and afterwards promises her that she shall be treated with all the respect due to her condition; but DOLABELLA, a confidant, informs her that it is intended to make her grace CÆSAR’s triumphal entry into Rome, and she resolves to defeat this by her death.

Arraying herself in her grandest robes of state, and reclining on her couch, she applies an asp, brought to her in a basket of fruit, to her breast, and dies ; in her death exhibiting that pride which had been her guiding passion through life.

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