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“ A fairer fortune” is differently understood by the different speakers : the soothsayer uses it for a more prosperous one; Charmian takes it to mean a more reputable one.
LORD CHEDWORTH. 21. “ Against my brother Lucius ?"
" Ay.' The messenger's breeding would have taught him not to leave the line thus defective; he would have said
“ Ay, my lord.” 22.“ (This is stiff news.”)
“ Stiff” is stubborn, inflexible; as we still say stubborn facts. 23. “ Have power to utter. O, then we bring
forth weeds, “When our quick winds lie still; and our
ills told us, “ Is as our earing.” “ Then” might be omitted, as it is implied in the corresponding adverb. By“ our quick winds,” I understood, our active energies, which, when neglected, or suffered to lie torpid, permit the growth of weeds; and then to be told of our omissions, and the ill consequence of them, like the plowing up a rank soil, bestirs and rouses us to wholesome exertions. I cannot exclude a suspicion that part of the obscurity here is occasioned by that unhappy propensity to “palter with us in a double sense :) " our earing,” besides its agricultural meaning, appears to signify, giving ear-to, listening, hearing.
" Fare thee well a while.” But Antony had just this moment expressed a desire to hear all that the messenger had to say. 27. There's a great spirit gone! Thus did I
desire it." The excess of this line might be removed by reading :
“ There's a great spirit gone! I it desir’d," Or
" I this desir’d.”
“ The opposite of itself." The general sense of revolution, I believe, is, as Mr, Steevens explains, change of circumstances; with reference, however, to the motion of a wheel, and half of its rotatory progress. 28. “We cannot call her winds and waters,
sighs and tears.” Upon this passage Mr, Malone remarks, that he once supposed Shakspeare had written-We cannot call her sighs and tears, winds and waters; which (he adds) is certainly the phraseology we should now use. Surely Mr. Malone has mistaken the ground of comparison : the difference of expression noted here, is not that which is made by the change of time in our language, but what is, and must be, at all times, and in all languages, the difference between poetry and prose: a plain man, in Shakspeare's time, just as in our own, speaking of a woman's grief, would say that she sighed and shed tears; but a poet of any age, would call the sighs winds, and the tears waters or rivers: in short, the only difference resulting from the suggested transposition of Enobarhus's words, is, that, instead of poetry, it would make him speak plain, unfigurative prose. 32. “
High in name and power, “ Higher than both in blood and life.” By blood and life, I understand nobility and spirit.
SCENE III. 34. " The sides of nature
“Will not sustain it.” Thus in King Lear: “O, sides, ye are too tough: will ye yet hold.” 35. “ Mouth-made vows,
" Which break themselves in swearing .!" Which the protestor, even while he is making them, resolves to violate. 36. " Quietness, grown sick of rest,
would purge “ By any desperate change.” What is the difference between quietness and rest? I am persuaded a letter has been carelessly changed, and that we should read, instead of “ rest,” rust; for the use of which, examples are not wanting Falstaff says, “I were better to be eaten to death with the rust, than to be scoured to nothing with perpetual motion.”
Second Part of King Henry IV. And in Troilus and Cressida, it is said of Hector, that he, " in this dull and long-continued truce,"
“ Is rusty grown.”
othing with pcond Part of it is said of Heca
Can Fulvia die ?" Cleopatra alludes, not to the natural life of Fulvia (for so, her question would be absurd), but to her existence in the affection of Antony; it is there the queen would, now, in her jealous mood, insinuate that Fulvia could not die. b
C an Fulvia die?" I believe it means, this is so opportune an assertion that it is evident mockery ; can it be that she dies just when it suits the purpose ?
CAPEL LOFFT. 39. “ How this Herculean Roman does become
“The carriage of his chafe.” How well this Roman descendant of Hercules adapts his deportment to the expression of his anger. 40. “O, my oblivion is a very Antony,
“ And I am all forgotten.” Oblivion appears to mean, as Mr. Steevens supposes, deceitful memory, which, like Antony, has now deserted her, and left her, on all sides, forgotten. 41. “ Becomings.” Behaviours, manners, as I conceive it. 66 U pon your sword
“ Sit laureld victory!” The editor of the first folio, who gives laurel victory, is charged, perhaps too hastily, by Mr. Steevens with inaccuracy. Victory is personified; and victory in the laurel, i. e. laurel victory, was that with which Cleopatra wished to adorn the sword of Antony.
SCENE IV. 42. “ One great competitor.” Dr. Johnson proposed,
“Our great competitor.” But I am rather inclined to think the word in the text was deliberately adopted. Octavius observes a stately reserve, speaking of Anthony. “One great competitor” appears to me somewhat equivalent to our modern expression, a certain personage, our partner; but it may only mean, one of the great Triumviri. 43. “ — Nor the queen Ptolemy."
The omission of the preposition of, before Ptolemy, here, must doubtless have been an inaccuracy of the printer's; but there is great disorder in the lines following. We might, perhaps, regulate them in this manner : “ Nor the queen of Ptolemy “ More womanly than he; he scarce gave audi
ence, “ Or vouchsaf'd think he hăd partners : you
. shall find “In him, a man the abstract of all faults “ That all men follow. “More fiery by night's blackness; hereditary.”
I believe the poet wrote, preserving the metre, "More fiery by night's black; hereditary. 44. “Than what he chooses.”
I suppose some words'are lost from this hemise tic; perhaps these : “ Cæsar, think it so.