« PreviousContinue »
Plutarch informs us, affected the Asiatic manner of speaking, which much resembled his own temper, being ambitious, unequal, and very rhodomontade.
This style our poet has very artfully and learnedly interspersed in Antony's speeches."* Unquestionably the language of Antony is more elevated than that of Enobarbus, for example. Antony was of the poetical temperament - a man of high genius --- an orator, who could move the passions dramatically - a lover, that knew no limits to his devotion, because he loved imaginatively. When sorrow falls upon him, the poetical parts of his character are more and more developed ; we forget the sensualist. But even before the touch of grief has somewhat exalted his nature, he takes the poetical view of poetical things. What can be more exquisite than his mention of Octavia's weeping at the parting with her brother ?
"The April's in her eyes : it is love's spring,
And, higher still: —
Her tongue will not obey her heart, nor can
This, we think, is not "the Asiatic manner of speaking."
Cold is Antony's parting with Octavia :
“Choose your own company, and command what cost
Rapid is his meeting with Cleopatra. She “hath nodded
* Critical Observations, p. 100.
The voluptuary has put on his eastern
him to her." magnificence :
“I' the market-place, on a tribunal silvered,
He rejects all counsel : "I'll fight at sea."
“The greater cantle of the world is lost
of the same Now comes the generosity of his character
He exgrowth as his magnificence and his recklessness. horts his friends to take his treasure and fly to Cæsar. His self-abasement is most profound :
“I have offended reputation."
But he has not yet learnt wisdom. Cleopatra is present, and then,
“ Fall not a tear, I say; one of vilem rates
He then becomes a braggart ; he will challenge Cæsar, , "sword against sword.” Profound is the comment of Enobarbus:
" I see, men's judgments are
Cæsar's ambassador comes to Cleopatra. He tempts her;and it almost looks as if she yielded to the temptation. He kisses her hand, at the instant Antony enters :
“ Moon and stars !
This is partly jealousy; partly the last assertion of small power by one accustomed to unlimited command. Truly Enobarbus says, –
“ 'Tis better playing with a lion's whelp,
Shakspeare makes this man the interpreter of his own wisdom:
“I see still
Enobarbus does leave him. But he first witnesses
« One of those odd tricks which sorrow shoots Out of the mind."
Antony puts forth the poetry of his nature in his touching words to his followers, ending in
" Let's to supper, come, And drown consideration."
When he hears of the treachery of Enobarbus, he again tasks the generosity of his spirit to the utmost :
“Go, Eros, send his treasure after; do it :
Detain no jot, I charge thee.”
He has driven Cæsar "to his camp.” All Cleopatra's trespass is forgotten in one burst of enthusiasm :
“ My nightingale,
Another day comes, and it brings another note :
6 All is lost; This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me.”
Cleopatra says truly, —
" He is more mad Than Telamon for his shield.”
The scene which terminates with Antony falling on his sword is in the highest style of Shakspeare --- and that is to give the highest praise. Hazlitt has eloquently said of its magnificent opening, “This is, without doubt, one of the finest pieces of poetry in Shakspeare. The splendor of the imagery, the semblance of reality, the lofty range of picturesque objects hanging over the world, their evanescent nature, the total uncertainty of what is left behind, are just like the mouldering schemes of human greatness." But, be it observed, the poetry is all in keeping with the character of the man. Let us once more repeat it:
“ Ant. Eros, thou yet behold'st me.
Ay, noble lord.
Ay, my lord.
SUPPLEMENTARY NOTICE TO THE ROMAN PLAYS.
It does, my lord.
The images describe the Antony, melting into nothingness; but the splendor of the imagery is the reflection of Antony's mind, which, thus enshrined in poetry, can never become “indistinct," -- will always “hold this visible shape." Dryden has also tried to produce a poetical Antony, precisely under the same circumstances. We transcribe a passage :
All for Love, Act V.
We hasten to the end. The magnificence of Antony's character breathes out of his parting spirit :
The miserable change now at my end,