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Rome. A Room in the House of Lepidus.
Enter ENOBARBUS and Lepidus.
LEP. Good Enobarbus, 'tis a worthy deed, And shall become you well, to entreat your captain To soft and gentle speech.
ENO. I shall entreat him To answer like himself: if Cæsar move him, Let Antony look over Cæsar's head, And speak as loud as Mars. By Jupiter, Were I the wearer of Antonius' beard, I would not shave to-day."
'Tis not a time
For private stomaching.
Every time Serves for the matter that is then born in it. LEP. But small to greater matters must give way. ENO. Not if the small come first.
LEP. Your speech is passion: But, pray you, stir no embers up. Here comes The noble Antony.
9 Were I the wearer of Antonius' beard,
I would not shave to-day.] I believe he means, I would meet him undressed, without show of respect. JOHNSON.
Plutarch mentions that Antony, "after the overthrow he had at Modena, suffered his beard to grow at length, and never clipt it, that it was marvelous long." Perhaps this circumstance was in Shakspeare's thoughts. MALONE.
Enter ANTONY and VENTIDIUS.
And yonder, Cæsar.
Enter CESAR, MECENAS, and AGRIPPA.
ANT. If we compose well here,' to Parthia: Hark you, Ventidius.
I do not know,
That which combin'd us was most great, and let
A leaner action rend us. What's amiss,
Touch you the sourest points with sweetest terms,
'Tis spoken well : Were we before our armies, and to fight, I should do thus.
CES. Welcome to Rome.
If we compose well here,] i. e. if we come to a lucky composition, agreement. So, afterwards:
"I crave our composition may be written-,"
i. e. the terms on which our differences are settled.
Nor curstness grow to the matter.] Let not ill-humour be added to the real subject of our difference. JOHNSON.
ANT. I learn, you take things ill, which are not
Or, being, concern you not.
I must be laugh'd at,
CES. If, or for nothing, or a little, I Should say myself offended; and with you Chiefly i' the world: more laugh'd at, that I should
3 Cæs. Sit.
Ant. Sit, sir!] Antony appears to be jealous of a circumstance which seemed to indicate a consciousness of superiority in his too successful partner in power; and accordingly resents the invitation of Cæsar to be seated: Cæsar answers, Nay, then; i. e. if you are so ready to resent what I meant as an act of civility, there can be no reason to suppose you have temper enough for the business on which at present we are met. The former editors leave a full point at the end of this, as well as the preceding speech. STEEVENS.
The following circumstance may serve to strengthen Mr. Steevens's opinion: When the fictitious Sebastian made his appearance in Europe, he came to a conference with the Conde de Lemos; to whom, after the first exchange of civilities, he said, Conde de Lemos, be covered. And being asked, by that nobleman, by what pretences he laid claim to the superiority expressed by such permission, he replied, I do it by right of my birth; I am Sebastian. JOHNSON.
I believe, the author meant no more than that Cæsar should desire Antony to be seated: "Sit." To this Antony replies, Be you, sir, seated first: "Sit, sir." "Nay, then" rejoins Cæsar, if you stand on ceremony, to put an end to farther talk on a matter of so little moment, I will take my seat.-However, I have too much respect for the two preceding editors, to set my judgment above their concurring opinions, and therefore have left the note of admiration placed by Mr. Steevens at the end of Antony's speech, undisturbed. MALONE.
Once name you derogately, when to sound your
It not concern'd me.
My being in Egypt, Cæsar,
CES. No more than my residing here at Rome
How intend you, practis'd?
CES. You may be pleas'd to catch at mine intent, By what did here befal me. Your wife, and bro
Made wars upon me; and their contestation
Did practise on my state,] To practise means to employ unwarrantable arts or stratagems. So, in The Tragedie of Antonie, done into English by the Countess of Pembroke, 1595: nothing kills me so
"As that I do my Cleopatra see
See Vol. VI. p. 390, n. 2.
-question.] i. e. My theme or subject of conversation. So again in this scene:
"Out of our question wipe him."
See Vol. IX. p. 317, n. 7. MALONE.
Was theme for you, you were the word of war.] The only meaning of this can be, that the war, which Antony's wife and brother made upon Cæsar, was theme for Antony too to make war; or was the occasion why he did make war. But this is directly contrary to the context, which shows, Antony did neither encourage them to it, nor second them in it. We cannot doubt then, but the poet wrote:
- and their contestation
Was them'd for you,
i. e. The pretence of the war was on your account, they took
ANT. You do mistake your business; my brother
up arms in your name, and you were made the theme and subject of their insurrection. WARBURTON.
I am neither satisfied with the reading nor the emendation: them'd is, I think, a word unauthorised, and very harsh. Perhaps we may read:
Had theme from you, you were the word of war.
The dispute derived its subject from you. It may be corrected by mere transposition:
You were theme for, you were the word. JOHNSON.
Was theme for you, I believe, means only, was proposed as an example for you to follow on a yet more extensive plan; as themes are given for a writer to dilate upon. Shakspeare, however, may prove the best commentator on himself. Thus, in Coriolanus, Act I. sc. i:
throw forth greater themes "For insurrection's arguing."
Sicinius calls Coriolanus, " the theme of our assembly."
So, in Macbeth:
66 - Two truths are told
"As happy prologues to the swelling act
And, in Cymbeline:
66 When a soldier was the theme, my name
Mr. Steevens's interpretation is certainly a just one, as the words now stand; but the sense of the words thus interpreted, being directly repugnant to the remaining words, which are evidently put in apposition with what has preceded, shows that there must be some corruption. If their contestation was a theme for Antony to dilate upon, an example for him to follow, what congruity is there between these words and the conclusion of the passage-"you were the word of war: i. e. your name was employed by them to draw troops to their standard?" On the other hand," their contestation derived its theme or subject from you; you were their word of war," affords a clear and consistDr. Warburton's emendation, however, does not go far enough. To obtain the sense desired, we should read— Was them'd from you,