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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 beardless and crack-voiced boys.
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 ont 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 “
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 1628.
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 T. North in 1579. The minuteness 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. Shakespeare's use of history in " Antony and Cleopatra” may be contrasted with Ben Jonson's subjection to it in “ Sejanus."
“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 angelio strength so much-perhaps 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.)
Friends of Antony.
Friends to Cæsar.
Friends to Pompey.
Attendants on Cleopatra. A Soothsayer. A
CLEOPATRA, Queen of Egypt.
CARMIAN, } Attendants on Cleopatra.
Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE, in several Parts of the Roman Empire.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
SCENE I.-Alexandria. A Room in CLEOPATRA'S
Palace. Enter DEMETRIUS and Philo. Phi. Nay, but this dotage of our general's O’erflows the measure: those his goodly eyes, That o'er the files and musters of the war Have glow'd like plated Mars, now bend, now turn The office and devotion of their view Upon a tawny front: his captain's heart, Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst The buckles on his breast, reneges' all temper, And is become the bellows, and the fan, To cool a gipsy's lust. Look, where they come. Flourish. Enter Antony and CLEOPATRA, with their
Trains ; Eunuchs fanning her.
Cleo. If it be love indeed, tell me how much.
reckon'd. Cleo. I'll set a bourn how far to be belov'd. Ant. Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth.
Enter an Attendant.
Grates me :—the sum.
His powerful mandate to you, “Do this, or this;
How, my love!
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 pays shame, When shrill-tongu'd Fulvia scolds.—The messengers !
Ant. Let Rome in Tyber melt, and the wide arch
Excellent falsehood !
But stirr'd by Cleopatra.-
Cleo. Hear the ambassadors.
Fie, wrangling queen!
(Exeunt Ant. and CLEOP, with their Train. Dem. Is Cæsar with Antonius priz'd so slight ?
Phi. Sir, sometimes, when he is not Antony, He comes too short of that great property
i damn: in f. e. 2 Know. 3 fully : in f. e.
Which still should go with Antony.
I am full sorry,
SCENE II.-The Same. Another Room. Enter CHARMIAN, IRAS, ALEXAs, and a Soothsayer.
Char: Lord Alexas, most sweet Alexas, most any thing Alexas, almost most absolute Alexas, where's the soothsayer that you praised so to the queen? O! that I knew this husband, which, you say, must charge his horns with garlands !
Alex. Soothsayer !
Show him your hand.
Char. Good sir, give me good fortune.
Char. Good now, some excellent fortune. Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all: let me have a child at fifty, to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage: find me to marry me with Octavius Cæsar, and companion me with my mistress.
Sooth. You shall outlive the lady whom you serve. Char. O excellent ! I love long life better than figs.
I change : in folios.