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Thou would'st have mercy on me.
Forbear, Seleucus. [Exit SELEUCUS.
CLEO. Be it known, that we, the greatest, are misthought
For things that others do; and, when we fall,
Are therefore to be pitied.3
Not what you have reserv'd, nor what acknowledg'd,
Be it known, that we, the greatest, are misthought
Are therefore to be pitied.] We suffer at our highest state of elevation in the thoughts of mankind for that which others do; and when we fall, those that contented themselves only to think ill before, call us to answer in our own names for the merits of others. We are therefore to be pitied. Merits is in this place taken in an ill sense, for actions meriting censure. JOHNSON.
The plain meaning is this: The greatest of us are aspersed for things which others do; and when, by the decline of our power, we become in a condition to be questioned, we are called to answer in our own names for the actions of other people.
Merit is here used, as the word desert frequently is, to express a certain degree of merit or demerit. A man may merit punishment as well as reward. M. MASON.
As demerit was often used, in Shakspeare's time, as synonymous to merit, so merit might have been used in the sense which we now affix to demerit; or the meaning may be only, we are called to account, and to answer in our own names for acts, with which others, rather than we, deserve to be charged.
For we intend so to dispose you, as
CLEO. My master, and my lord!
Not so: Adieu. [Exeunt CESAR, and his Train. CLEO. He words me, girls, he words me, that I should not
Be noble to myself: but hark thee, Charmian.
Madam, I will.
DOL. Where is the queen?
Behold, sir. [Exit CHARMIAN.
DOL. Madam, as thereto sworn by your command,
Which my love makes religion to obey,
* Make not your thoughts your prisons:] I once wished to read
Make not your thoughts your poison:—
Do not destroy yourself by musing on your misfortune. Yet I would change nothing, as the old reading presents a very proper sense. Be not a prisoner in imagination, when in reality you are free. JOHNSON.
Intends his journey; and, within three days,
your servant. Adieu, good queen; I must attend on Cæsar. CLEO. Farewell, and thanks. [Exit DoL.] Now, Iras, what think'st thou?
Thou, an Egyptian puppet, shalt be shown
I shall remain
The gods forbid! CLEO. Nay, 'tis most certain, Iras: Saucy lictors Will catch at us, like strumpets; and scald rhymers Ballad us out o'tune: the quick comedians
and scald rhymers
Ballad us out o'tune:] So, in The Rape of Lucrece:
"Shalt have thy trespass cited up in rhymes,
Scald was a word of contempt implying poverty, disease, and filth. JOHNSON.
So, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Evans calls the Host of the Garter "scald, scurvy companion;" and in King Henry V. Fluellen bestows the same epithet on Pistol. STEEVENS.
the quick comedians-] The gay inventive players. JOHNSON,
Quick means here, rather ready than gay. M. MASON. The lively, inventive, quick-witted comedians. So, (ut meos quoque attingam,) in an ancient tract, entitled A briefe Descrip
Extemporally will stage us, and present
Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see
O the good gods!
CLEO. Nay, that is certain.
IRAS. I'll never see it; for, I am sure, my nails Are stronger than mine eyes.
CLEO. Why, that's the way To fool their preparation, and to conquer Their most absurd intents.8-Now, Charmian?—
tion of Ireland, made in this Yeare, 1589, by Robert Payne, &c. 8vo. 1589: "They are quick-witted, and of good constitution of bodie." See p. 23, n. 3; and Vol. VII. p. 55, n. 1.
・boy my greatness-] The parts of women were acted on the stage by boys. HANMER.
Nash, in Pierce Pennylesse his Supplication, &c. 1595, says, "Our players are not as the players beyond sea, a sort of squirting bawdy comedians, that have whores and common courtesans to play women's parts," &c. To obviate the impropriety of men representing women, T. Goff, in his tragedy of The Raging Turk, or Bajazet II. 1631, has no female character.
Their most absurd intents.] Why should Cleopatra call Cæsar's designs absurd? She could not think his intent of carrying her in triumph, such, with regard to his own glory; and her finding an expedient to disappoint him, could not bring it under that predicament. I much rather think the poet wrote: Their most assur'd intents.
i. e. the purposes, which they make themselves most sure of accomplishing. THEOBALD.
I have preserved the old reading. The design certainly appeared absurd enough to Cleopatra, both as she thought it unreasonable in itself, and as she knew it would fail. JOHNSON.
Show me, my women, like a queen ;-Go fetch
To play till dooms-day.-Bring our crown and all. Wherefore's this noise?
[Exit IRAS. A Noise within.
Enter one of the Guard.
Here is a rural fellow, That will not be denied your highness' presence; He brings you figs.
CLEO. Let him come in. How poor1 an instru[Exit Guard. May do a noble deed! he brings me liberty. My resolution's plac'd, and I have nothing Of woman in me: Now from head to foot I am marble-constant: now the fleeting moon
Sirrah, Iras, go.] From hence it appears that Sirrah, an appellation generally addressed to males, was equally applicable to females.
Thus, in Arthur Hall's translation of the sixth Iliad:
"Unto the maides quoth Hector then, your mistresse where is she?
"What, is not she now gone abroade some sister hers to
"Or to my good sisters there hir griefe to put away,
How poor &c.] Thus the second folio. The first
nonsensically reads-What poor &c. STEEVEns.