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“ The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra” occupies twentynine pages in the folio of 1623; viz. from p. 340 to p. 368 inclusive, in the division of " Tragedies." Although at the beginning it has Actus Primus. Scæna Prima, it is not divided into acts and scenes, nor is the defect cured in any of the subsequent folio impressions of 1632, 1664, and 1685.
We are without any record that “Antony and Cleopatra” was ever performed, and when in Act v. sc. 2, the heroine anticipates that "some squeaking Cleopatra” will “boy her greatness" on the stage, Shakespeare seems to hint that no young male performer would be able to sustain the part without exciting ridicule. However, the same remark will, more or less, apply to many of his other female characters; and the wonder, of course, is how so much delicacy, tenderness, and beauty could be infused into parts, which the poet knew must be represented by cracked-voiced boys with budding beards.
The period of the year at which “Antony and Cleopatra” was entered on the Stationers' Registers might lead to the inference that, having been written late in 1607, it was brought out at the Globe in the spring of 1608, and that Edward Blunt (one of the publishers of the folio of 1623) thus put in his claim to the publication of the tragedy, if he could procure a manuscript of it. The memorandum bears date on the 20th May, 1608, and the piece is stated to be “a book” called “ Anthony and Cleopatra.” Perhaps Blunt was unable to obtain a copy of it; and, as far as we now know, it was printed for the first time in the folio of 1623.
It does not appear that there was any preceding drama on the story, with the exception of the “ Cleopatra ” of Samuel Daniel ", originally published in 1594, to which Shakespeare was clearly under no obligation. Any slight resemblance between the two is to be accounted for by the fact, that both poets resorted to the same authority for their materials—Plutarch-whose “Lives" had been translated by Sir Thomas North in 1579. The exactness with which Shakespeare adhered to history is more remarkable in this drama than in any other; and sometimes the most trifling circumstances are artfully, but still most naturally, interwoven.
“Of all Shakespeare's historical plays (says Coleridge) ' Antony and Cleopatra' is by far the most wonderful. There is not one in which he has followed history so minutely, and yet there are few in which he impresses the notion of angelic strength so muchperhaps none in which he impresses it more strongly. This is greatly owing to the manner in which the fiery force is sustained throughout, and to the numerous momentary flashes of nature, counteracting the historic abstraction.” (Lit. Rem. Vol. ii. p. 143.) DRAMATIS PERSONÆ'.
1 Of course we exclude from our view “ The Tragedy of Antony,” translated from the French by Lady Pembroke, which was in existence in 1590, and was printed for the second time in 1595. It first came out in 1592.
Friends to Antony.
Friends to Cæsar.
tendants on Cleopatra. A Soothsayer. A Clown.
Attendants on Cleopatra.
Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE, in several Parts of the Roman Empire.
i First made out and prefixed by Rowe.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Alexandria. A Room in CLEOPATRA's Palace.
Enter DEMETRIUS and Philo.
Phi. Nay, but this dotage of our general's
Flourish. Enter ANTONY and CLEOPATRA, with their Trains ;
Eunuchs fanning her. Take but good note, and you shall see in him
Cleo. If it be love indeed, tell me how much.
1- RENEGES all temper,] i. e. Denies or refuses all temper: see Vol. v. p. 654. Coleridge would spell it reneayues (Lit. Rem. Vol. ii. p. 144), and so it is spelt in the line misquoted by Steevens (and therefore misquoted by Mr. Singer and others) from Stanyhurst's “Virgil,” B. ii., where however' reneaged” is necessarily a trisyllable. In Shakespeare “ reneges” is a dissyllable.
Ant. Then thou must needs find out new heaven, new
Enter an Attendant.
Att. News, my good lord, from Rome.
Grates me :—the sum ?
How, my love! Cleo. Perchance,-nay, and most like, You must not stay here longer; your dismission Is come from Cæsar; therefore hear it, Antony.Where's Fulvia's process? Cæsar's, I would say ?-Both ? Call in the messengers.—As I am Egypt's queen, Thou blushest, Antony, and that blood of thine Is Cæsar's homager; else so thy cheek When shrill-tongu'd Fulvia scolds. The messengers !
Ant. Let Rome in Tyber melt, and the wide arch Of the rang'd empire fall!! Here is my space. Kingdoms are clay: our dungy earth alike Feeds beast as man: the nobleness of life Is to do thus; when such a mutual pair, [Embracing. And such a twain can do't, in which I bind, On pain of punishment, the world to weet', We stand up peerless. Cleo.
Excellent falsehood ! Why did he marry Fulvia, and not love her
Perform't, or else we DAMN thee.] The corr, fo. 1632 alters “ damn doom ; and although "damn" certainly sounds rather coarsely in the mouth of Cleopatra, and would have done so even in the time of Shakespeare, yet we make no change, recollecting that the heroine, in other places, sometimes errs on the score of delicacy, and that “damn” is the more expressive word, which the poet, on that very account, may have preferred. Still “ damn” and doom would be spelt with the same letters in short hand, and the transcriber may have misread his note. To “take in,” in the previous line, is to subdue or conquer : see also A. iii. sc. 7, "and take in Toryne."
3 Of the rang’D empire fall!] The folio, 1623, prints the word raing'd, and so it stands in the three other folios; though Johnson would lead us to suppose that “the later editions" altered the word to rais'd: it did not become rais'd until Rowe's time. “Rang'd empire” means well ordered or arranged.
the world to weet,] i.e. To wit or to know, from the A. S. witan.