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To feed for aye her lamp and fame of love,
These passages may not seem very characteristic at first sight, though we think they are so. We will give two, that cannot be mistaker, Patroclus says to Achilles,
“ Rouse yourself; and the weak wanton Cupid
Troilus, addressing the god of day on the approach of the morning that parts him from Cressida, says with much scorn,
“What! proffer'st thou thy light here for to sell ?
If nobody but Shakspears could have written the former, Dobody but Chaucer would have thought of the latter. Chaucer was 'be most literal of poets, as Richardson wes of prose writers.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
This is a very noble play. Though not in the first order of Shakspeare's productions, it stands next to them, and is, we think, the finest of his historical plays, that is, of those in which he made poetry the organ of history, and assumed a certain tone of character and sentiment, in conformity to known facts, instead of trusting to his observations of general nature, or to the unlimited indulgence of his own fancy. What he has added to the history is upon an equality with it. His genius was, as it were, a match for history as well as nature, and could grapple at will with either. This play is full of that pervading comprehensive power by which the poet always seems to identify himself with tune and circunstances. It presents a fine picture of Roman prido and Eastern magnificence: and in the struggle between the two, the empire of the world seems suspended, " like the swan's down-feather,
** "That stands upon the swell at full of tide,
Anud neither way inclines ** The characters breathe, move, and live. Shakeprare dors not stand reasoning on what his characters would do or say, but at once becomes them, and speaks and acts for them. He does not present us with groups of stage puppats or poetical machines making set speeches on human life, and acting from a calculation of ostensible motives, but he brings living men and Women on the scene, who sprak and act from real feelings, ar. cording to the ebbs and fws of passion, without the leasi tine. ture of the pedantry of ligic or rhetoric. Withing is made out by inference and analogy, by climax and antithesis, but every. thing takes place just as it would have done in reality, according
to the occasion. The character of Cleopatra is a master-piece. What an extreme contrast it affords to Imogen! One would think it almost impossible for the same person to have drawn both. The Egyptian is voluptuous, ostentatious, conscious, boastful of her charms, haughty, tyrannical, fickle. Her luxu. rious pomp and gorgeous extravagance are displayed in all their force and lustre, as well as the irregular grandeur of the soul of Mark Antony. Take only the first four lines that they speak as an example of the regal style of love-making.
* CLEOPATRA. If it be love indeed, tell me how much?
“The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
The winds were love-sick”seems to prepare the way for, and almost to justify the subse. quent infatuation of Antony when, in the sea-fight at Actium, he leaves the battle, and “ like a doating mallard” follows her fly. ing sails.
Few things in Shakspeare (and we know of nothing in any other author like them) have more of that local truth of imagi. nation and character than the passage in which Cleopatra is represented conjecturing what were the employments of Antony in his absence. “He's speaking now, or murmuring-Where's my serpent of old Nile ?" Or again, when she says to Antony, after the defeat at Actium, and his summoning up resolution to risk another fight—“It is my birth-day ; I had thought to have held it poor; but since my lord is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra." Perhaps the finest burst of all is Antony's rage after his final defeat, when he comes in, and surprises the messenger of Cæsar kissing her hand
* To let a fellow that will take rewards,
My play-fellow, your hand; this kingly seal,
It is no wonder that he orders him to be whipped; but his low condition is not the true reason: there is another feeling which lies deeper, though Antony's pride would not let him show it, except by his rage; he suspects the fellow to be Casar's proxy.
Cleopatra's whole character is the triumph of the voluptuous, of the love of pleasure and the power of giving it, over every other consideration. Octavia is a dull foil to her, and Fulvia, a shrill-tongued shrew. What a picture do those lines give of her
"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Where most she satisfies." What a spirit and fire in her conversation with Antony's messenger, who brings her the unwelcome news of his marriage with Octavia ! How all the pride and beauty of high rank breaks out in ber promised reward to him
-" There's gold, and here My bluest veins to kiss :**
She had great and unpardonable faults, but the beauty of brr death almost redeems them. She learns from the depth of de spair the strength of her atleticas. She keeps her queen-like state in the last disgrace, and her sense of the pleasurable in the last moments of her life. She tastes a luxury in death. Aftre applying the asp, she says with foodness
"Dat thou not ke my baby at my breast,
Oh Antony" It is worth while to observe that Shaka xa re has contrasted the extreme magnificence of the descriptions in this play with pictures of extreme sullering and physical horror, not less strik. ing-partly, perhaps, to excuse the effeminacy of Mark Antony, to whom they are related as having happened, but more to preserve a certain balance of feeling in the mind. Cæsar says, hearing of his conduct at the court of Cleopatra,
The passage after Antony's defeat by Augustus, where he is made to say,
* Yes, yes; he at Philippi kept
is one of those fine retrospections which show us the winding and eventful march of human life. The jealous attention which has been paid to the unities both of time and place, has taken away the principle of perspective in the drama, and all the interest which objects derive from distance, from contrast, from privation, from change of fortune, from long-cherished passion ; and contracts our view of life from a strange and romantic dream, long, obscure, and infinite, into a smartly contested three hours' inaugural disputation on its merits by the different candidates for theatrical applause.
The latter scenes of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA are full of the