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"ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA' may, in some measure, be considered as a continuation of 'Julius Cæsar :' the two principal characters of Antony and Augustus are equally sustained in both pieces. Antony and Cleopatra' is a play of great extent; the progress is less simple than in 'Julius Cæsar.' The fulness and variety of political and warlike events, to which the union of the three divisions of the Roman world under one master necessarily gave rise, were perhaps too great to admit of being clearly exhibited in one dramatic picture. In this consists the great difficulty of the historical drama :-it must be a crowded extract, and a living development of history ;-the difficulty, however, has generally been successfully overcome by Shakspeare. But now many things, which are transacted in the background, are here merely alluded to, in a manner which supposes an intimate acquaintance with the history; but a work of art should contain, within itself, everything necessary for its being fully understood. Many persons of historical importance are merely introduced in passing; the preparatory and concurring circumstances are not sufficiently collected into masses to avoid distracting our attention. The principal personages, however, are most emphatically distinguished by lineament and colouring, and powerfully arrest the imagination. In Antony we observe a mixture of great qualities, weaknesses, and vices; violent ambition and ebullitions of magnanimity; we see him now sinking into luxurious enjoyment, and then nobly ashamed of his own aberrations,-manning himself to resolutions not unworthy of himself, which are always shipwrecked against the seductions of an artful woman. It is Hercules in the chains of Omphale, drawn from the fabulous heroic ages into history, and invested with the Roman costume. The seductive arts of Cleopatra are in no respect veiled over; she is an ambiguous being made up of royal pride, female vanity, luxury, inconstancy, and true attachment. Although the mutual passion of herself and Antony is without moral dignity, it still excites our sympathy as an insurmountable fascination :-they seem formed for each other, and Cleopatra is as remarkable for her seductive charms, as Antony for the splendour of his deeds. As they die for each other, we forgive them for having lived for each other. The open and lavish character of Antony is admirably contrasted with the heartless littleness of Octavius, whom Shakspeare seems to have completely seen through, without allowing himself to be led astray by the fortune and the fame of Augustus."-SCHLEGEL.
"The highest praise, or rather form of praise, of this play which I can offer in my own mind, is the doubt which the perusal always occasions in me, whether the 'Antony and Cleopatra' is not, in ail exhibitions of a giant power in its strength and vigour of maturity, a formidable rival of 'Macbeth,' 'Lear,' 'Hamlet,' and 'Othello.' Feliciter audax is the motto for its style, comparatively with that of Shakspeare's other works, even as it is the general motto of all his works compared with those of other poets. Be it remembered, too, that this happy valiancy of style is but the representative and result of all the material excellencies so expressed.
"This play should be perused in mental contrast with Romeo and Juliet,'-as the love of passion and appetite opposed to the love of affection and instinct. But the art displayed in the character of Cleopatra is profound; in this, especially, that the sense of criminality in her passion is lessened by our insight into its depth and energy, at the very moment that we cannot but perceive that the passion itself springs out of the habitual craving of a licentious nature, and that it is supported and reinforced by voluntary stimulus and sought-for associations, instead of blossoming out of spontaneous
"Of all Shakspeare's historical plays, 'Antony and Cleopatra' is by far the most wonderful. There is not one in which he has followed history so minutely, and yet there are few in which he impresses the notion of angelic strength so much,—perhaps none in which he impresses it more strongly. This is greatly owing to the manner in which the fiery force is sustained throughout, and to the numerous momentary flashes of nature counteracting the historic abstraction. As a wonderful specimen of the way in which Shakspeare lives up to the very end of this play, read the last part of the concluding scene; and if you would feel the judgment as well as the genius of Shakspeare in your heart's core, compare this astonishing drama with Dryden's 'All for Love.""
THAT Shakespeare had some share in the composition of this revolting tragedy, the fact of its appearance in the list of pieces ascribed to him by Meres, and its insertion by Heminge and Condell in the folio collection of 1623, forbids us to doubt. He may, in the dawning of his dramatic career, have written a few of the speeches, and have imparted vigour and more rhythmical freedom to others; he may have been instrumental also in putting the piece upon the stage of the company to which he then belonged; but that he had any hand in the story, or in its barbarous characters and incidents, we look upon as in the highest degree improbable. Upon this point, indeed, all his editors, from Rowe to Dyce, with the exception of Capell, Collier, and Knight, appear to be of one mind.
"On what principle the editors of the first complete edition of our poet's plays admitted this [Titus Andronicus] into their volume cannot now be ascertained. The most probable reason that can be assigned, is, that he wrote a few lines in it, or gave some assistance to the author in revising it, or in some other way aided him in bringing it forward on the stage. The tradition mentioned by Ravenscroft in the time of King James II. warrants us in making one or other of these suppositions. I have been told' (says he in his preface to an alteration of this play published in 1687) by some anciently conversant with the stage, that it was not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters.'
"To enter into a long disquisition to prove this piece not to have been written by Shakspeare, would be an idle waste of time. To those who are not conversant with his writings, if particular passages were examined, more words would be necessary than the subject is worth; those who are well acquainted with his works, cannot entertain a doubt on the question. I will, however, mention one mode by which it may be easily ascertained. Let the reader only peruse a few lines of Appius and Virginia, Tancred and Gismund, The Battle of Alcazar, Jeronimo, Selimus Emperor of the Turks, The Wounds of Civil War, The Wars of Cyrus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, King Edward I., The Spanish Tragedy, Solyman and Perseda, King Leir, the old King John, or any other of the pieces that were exhibited before the time of Shakspeare, and he will at once perceive that Titus Andronicus was coined in the same mint."-MALONE.
Langbaine, in his Account of English Dramatic Poets, 1691, says this tragedy "was first printed, 4to. Lond. 1594;" and as the Stationers' Registers show an entry made by John Danter, Feb. 6th, 1593-4, of "A booke entitled a noble Roman Historye of Tytus Andronicus," he
is probably correct, though the only quarto editions at present known are of 1600 and 1611. Of its origin and date of production we know but little. When registering his claim to the Historye of Tytus Andronicus," Danter coupled with it "the ballad thereof," and this ballad, which will be found among the Comments at the end of the piece, was at one time supposed to be the basis of the drama. It is now a moot point whether the play was founded on the ballad, or the ballad on the play. The story of Titus, however, must have been popular. It is mentioned in Painter's Palace of Pleasure; and there is an allusion to it in the comedy called, "A Knack to know a Knave," 1594. Moreover, from a memorandum in Henslowe's Diary, which records the acting of a drama, entitled "Titus and Ondronicus," Jan. 23, 1593-4, there appears to have been another play on the subject. Is it to this piece, or to the "Titus Andronicus" attributed to Shakespeare, that Ben Jonson refers in the Induction to his " Bartholomew Fair "?" He that will swear, JERONIMO or ANDRONICUS, are the best plays yet, shall pass unexcepted at here, as a man whose judgment shows it is constant, and hath stood still these five-and-twenty or thirty years. Though it be an ignorance, it is a virtuous and staid ignor ance; and nect to truth, a confirmed error does well."