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Pardon me, lords, 't is the first time that ever
I was forc'd to scold. Your judgments, my grave
lords, Must give this cur the lie: and his own notion (Who wears my stripes impress'd on him that must bear My beating to his grave), shall join to thrust The lie unto him.
Cut me to pieces, Volces : men and lads,
Stain all your edges on me.-Boy! False hound !
If you have writ your annals true, 'tis there,
That like an eagle in a dove-cote, I
Flutter'd your Volcians in Corioli:
Alone I did it.—Boy !
Contrition of Aufidius after the Assassination of
My rage is gone,
And I am struck with sorrow.—Take him up :-
Help, three o' the chiefest soldiers ; I'll be one. —
Beat thou the drum, that it speak mournfully :
Trail your steel pikes.—Though in this city he
Hath widowed and unchilded many a one,
Which to this hour bewail the injury,
Yet he shall have a noble memory.
Mark Antòny, joined in the Roman triumvirate with Octavius Cæsar and Lepidus, is passing his time in luxurious indolence in Egypt, when intelligence is brought to him of the death of his wife Fulvia, on which he repairs to Rome, where an altercation
takes place between him and Cæsar ; Lepidus interposes between the disputants, and their wranglings are healed by the marriage of Antony with Octavia, Cæsar's sister. The amity between the rival triumvirs is, however, but of brief duration, and war being declared between them, Antony is defeated at the battle of Actium. After this fatal engagement, through his ambassador Euphronius, he sues to Cæsar to be permitted to remain in Egypt, or, this not being granted, that he may reside as a private man at Athens. The conqueror refuses both petitions, and the strife is renewed. In a battle by land Antony is victorious, but his forces in a sea-fight are completely vanquished, and he ends his life by falling on his own sword. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, at whose court Antony has been residing, is taken prisoner by Cæsar ; whilst a captive she obtains possession of an asp, a small venomous serpent, the bite of which, when applied to her breast, kills her, and the play concludes with an eloquent harangue from Cæsar. Speaking of this play, Dr. Johnson says it “keeps curiosity always busy and the passions always interested. The continual hurry of the action, the variety of incidents, and the quick succession of one passage to another, call the mind forwards without intermission, from the first act to the last.”
Act I. Antony's luxurious mode of Living. You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know, It is not Cæsar's natural vice to hate One great competitor. From Alexandria This is the news : he fishes, drinks, and wastes The lamps of night in revel ; is not more manlike Than Cleopatra ; nor the queen of Ptolemy More womanly than he: hardly gave audience, or Vouchsaf'd to think he had partners. You shall find
there A man, who is the abstract of all faults That all men follow.
Antony's Vices and Virtues.
I must not think, there are
Evils enough to darken all his goodness :
His faults, in him, seem as the spots of heaven,
More fiery by night's blackness ; hereditary,
Rather than purchased; what he cannot change,
Than what he chooses.
Cleopatra's Love for Antony.
Where think'st thou he is now ? Stands he or sits he ?
Or does he walk? or is he on his horse ?
O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony,
Do bravely, horse! for wot'st thou whom thou mov'st?
The demi-Atlas of this earth, the arm
And burgonet of men. -He's speaking now,
Or murmuring ; “Where's my serpent of old Nile?”
For so he calls me.
Description of Cleopatra sailing down the Cydnus.
The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water : the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
The winds were love-sick with them : the oars were
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description; she did lie
In her pavilion (cloth of gold, of tissue),
O’er picturing that Venus, where we see,
The fancy outwork nature : on each side her,
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With diverse colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid, did. *
* * * * *
Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
So many mermaids, tended her i' the eyes,
And made their bends adornings ; at the helm
A seeming mermaid steers : the silken tackle
Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands,
That rarely frame the office. From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthroned in the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air ; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
And make a gap in nature.
A Messenger with bad news unwelcome.
Though it be honest, it is never good
To bring bad news ; give to a gracious message
A host of tongues ; but let ill tidings tell
Themselves, when they be felt.
Act III. The manner in which Octavia should have entered Rome.
Why have you stolen upon us thus ? you come not Like Cæsar's sister : the wife of Antony Should have an army for an usher, and The neighs of horse to tell of her approach,
* Increased the heat they were meant to cool.
Long ere she did appear ; the trees by the way,
Should have borne men ; and expectation fainted,
Longing for what it had not : nay, the dust
Should have ascended to the roof of heaven,
Rais’d by your populous troops : but you are come
A market-maid to Rome; and have prevented
The ostent* of our love, which left unshown
Is often left unlov’d: we should have met you
By sea and land ; supplying every stage
With an augmented greeting.
Antony to his Attendants after his defeat.
Hark, the land bids me tread no more upon't,
It is asham'd to bear me! Friends, come hither,
I'm so lated in the world, that I
Have lost my way for ever : I have a ship
Laden with gold ; take that, divide it ; fly
And make your peace with Cæsar.
I have fled myself; and have instructed cowards
To run, and show their shoulders. Friends, be-gone ;
I have myself resolved upon a course,
Which has no need of you ; be-gone :
My treasure's in the harbour, take it.-0,
I follow'd that I blush to look upon :
My very hairs do mutiny ; for the white
Reprove the brown for rashness, and they them
For fear and doting. Friends, be-gone; you shall
Have letters from me to some friends, that will
Sweep your way for you. Pray you, look not sad,
Nor make replies of loathness : take the hint
Which my despair proclaims ; let that be left
Which leaves itself: to the sea-side straightway :