Page images

Dr. Johnson's general remarks upon these plays are at once so forcible and elegant, that it is alike dangerous and irksome to controvert any of them ; but when he says, of this tragedy, that he thinks it somewhat cold and unaffecting, I cannot subscribe to his opinion. The character of Brutus, throughout, I have always felt powerfully affecting; and, besides the scene which the Doctor excepts for applause, I believe most people will consider the speeches of Antony over the dead body of Cæsar, and the artful eloquence with which he captivates the multitude, as classing among the happiest effusions of the poet; and there are few instances, perhaps, to be found of more tender and delicate interest than is excited in the scene between Brutus and Portia; in that between Brutus and Lucius, in the fourth act; and, at last, in the catastrophe of that great man's death. VOL II.

: D


ACT I. SCENE I. 5. “ This dotage of our general's.

This, says Mr. Malone, “ of our general's,” (and Mr. Steevens brings his authority to enforce the imputed censure) was the common phraseology of Shakspeare's time ; and that gentleman might have added, of all the interniediate times down to our own, inclusive.-A tenant of my lord's, a servant of the duke's, that tongue of his, that trick of hers, are phrases which have been current alike in the days of Shakspeare, Swift, and this of Mr. Malone himself: they are not ungrammatical, but elliptic; by this dotage of our general's, is implied this vice or habit of dotage among the vices or habits of our general. A tenant of my lord's, a servant of the duke's, that tongue of his, that trick of hers, denote a tenant among the tenants of my lord, a servant among the servants of the duke, that faculty or talent of speaking among his talents or faculties, that trick among her tricks, &c. it is not a useless duplication of the genitive case, but two efficient and necessary genitives. See Note on K. Henry VIII. Act 1, Scene 2, Page of these Remarks 394, Vol. I. 7. The triple pillar.

As “ triple,” here, for “ third,” so, in As You Like It, we find “ thrice,” for “triple :"

“ Thou thrice-crowned queen of night,” &c.

8. “Nay, hear them, Antony.

When a hemistic like this occurs, there is generally reason to suspect corruption. If Cleopatra uttered only these words, she might as well have been silent; for Antony had just expressed his willingness to hear the messenger's news, or the sum of it, though it did “ grate him.” The addition of an obvious word or two would reconcile the sense, and supply the deficient metre: Ant. “ The sum.” Cleop. “Nay, hear them all, I prythee, An

tony." His powerful mandate to you, Do this, or

this.” This line, I think, has suffered injury in the transcription. I suppose it should be: “ His powerful mandate, Do you this, or this.”

Perchance,” &c. Here again the measure falls into disorder. I would read : “Perchance,-nay, and most like, you must not

now “Stay longer here ; for your dismissión “From Cæsar comes ; so hear it, Antony :"

Take in that kingdom,&c. i. e. Bring it within the pale of the Roman government. "

Both ?" This word, which impairs the force of the sarcasm, and loads the metre, is, I am persuaded, interpolation.

9. Is Cæsar's homager : else so thy cheele , pays shame."

The particle "so" is not necessary here, and overloads the verse.

The wide arch
Of the rangd empire full !"-

The arch (or superb dome, figurative of Roman grandeur,) was wide in proportion to the range or excursive scope of the Roman dominion : but “ rang'd” may refer to the order and distribution of the empire, as settled among the Triumviri ; and, indeed, this sense seems to be confirmed by the words immediately following: “here is my space;" i. e. this little plot, Egypt, I prefer to all my share besides of the wide world... "

Such a mutual pair, And such a twain." • I lament that none of the commentators has deigned to instruct us as to the difference between “ pair” and “twain,” here. Is this the ineaning ?-Two such lovers, with reference to their distinct reciprocal ardours, and to those ardours in union. We stand up peerless."

Excellent falshood !* This, with the established accentuation of “ falshood," will not give the metre: we might, only changing the adjective to the participle, and adding the natural apostrophe, read, Ant. “We stand up peerless." Cleop. “ ( excelling falshood !"

10. Let's not confound the time with confer

ence harsh.Confound,” I believe, has a stronger meaning than Mr. Malone allots to it, (consume) and implies to throw-into perplexity and distraction. The word occurs, I think, in the same sense, in King Henry IV. First Part; where Hotspur, speaking of Mortimer's contest with Glendower, says,

5. He did confound the best part of an hour,

“ In changing hardiment,” &c. Consume,” here, would seem a very feeble interpretation of " confound ; yet such, I find, is the explanation of it by Mr. Malone.


13. « O, that I knero this husband, which, you

say, must change his horns with gar

lands !" I am inclined to think Charmian means to exclaim-" (), that I had such a husband as you speak of! one who, instead of repining at his dishonours, would construe every one of them into a triumph.” This interpretation, indeed, would seem to require " for," instead of " with ;" but the prepositions were commonly confounded.I perceive that Mr. Steevens is, substantially, of my opinion, but with this difference: I do not think that Charmian meant that the husband should know he was a cuckold, but only, by mistake, should interpret his disgraces into compliments. 17. “ O A fairer former fortune,” &c.

« PreviousContinue »