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An honourable trial.
So Fulvia told me.
You 'll heat my blood; no more.
And target,—Still he mends;
I 'll leave you, lady.
5 -to Egypt:] To me, the Queen of Egypt. Johnson.
6 - Herculean Roman - ] Antony traced his descent from Anton, a son of Hercules. Steevens. 70, my oblivion is a very Antony,
And I am all forgotten.] Cleopatra has something to say, which seems to be suppressed by sorrow; and after many attempts to produce her meaning, she cries out: O, this oblivious memory of mine is as false and treacherous to me as Antony is, and
I forget every thing. Oblivion, I believe, is boldly used for a memory apt to be deceitful.
If too much latitude be taken in this explanation, we might with little violence read, as Mr. Edwards has proposed in his MS. notes:
Oh me! oblivion is a very Antony, &c. Steevens. Perhaps nothing more is necessary here than a change of punctuation ; 0 my! being still an exclamation frequently used in the West of England. Henley.
Oh my! in the provincial sense of it, is only an imperfect exclamation of-Oh my God? The decent exclainner always stops before the sacred name is pronounced. Could such an exclamation therefore have been uttered by the Pagan Cleopatra ?
But that your royalty
'Tis sweating labour,
The sense of the passage appears to me to be this: “0, my oblivion, as if it were another Antony, possesses me so entirely, that I quite forget myself.” M. Mason.
I have not the smallest doubt that Mr. Steevens's explanation of this passage is just. Dr. Johnson says, that “it was her me. mory, not her oblivion, that like Antony, was forgetting and deserting her.” It certainly was; it was her oblivious memory, as Mr. Steevens has well interpreted it; and the licence is much in our author's manner. Malone. 8 But that your royalty
Holds idleness your subject, I should take you
For idleness itself.] i. e. But that your charms hold me, who am the greatest fool on earth, in chains, I should have adjudged you to be the greatest. That this is the sense is shown by her answer:
'Tis sweating labour,
As Cleopatra this. Warburton. Dr. Warburton's explanation is a very coarse one. The sense may be:-But that your queenship chooses idleness for the subject of your conversation, I should take you for idleness itself. So Webster, (who was often a close imitator of Shakspeare) in his Vittoria Corombona, 1612:
“ how idle am I
“ To question my own idleness!” Or an antithesis may be designed between royalty and subject.—But that I know you to be a queen, and that your royalty holds idleness in subjection to you, exalting you far above its inAuence, I should suppose you to be the very genius of idleness itself. Steevens.
Mr. Steever's latter interpretation is, I think, nearer the truth. But perhaps, your subject rather means, whom being in subjection to you, you can command at pleasure, “ to do your bidding,” to assume the airs of coquetry, &c. Were not this coquet one of your attendants, I should suppose you yourself were this capricious being. Malone.
9 Since my becomings kill me,] There is somewhat of obscurity in this expression. In the first scene of the play Antony had called her
- wrangling queen,
Eye well to you: Your honour calls you hence;
Let us go. Come;
Cæs. You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know, It is not Cæsar's natural vice to hate One great competitor:3 From Alexandria This is the news; He fishes, drinks, and wastes The lamps of night in revel: is not more manlike Than Cleopatra; nor the queen of Ptolemy More womanly than he: hardly gave audience, or
It is to this, perhaps, that she alludes. Or, she may meanThat conduct which, in my own opinion, becomes me, as often as it appears ungraceful to you, is a shock to my sensibility. Steevens.
1 laureld victory!] Thus the second folio. The inaccurate predecessor of it-laurel victory. Steevens.
2 That thou, residing here, &c.] This conceit might have been suggested by the following passage in Sidney's Arcadia, Book I:
“ She went they staid ; or, rightly for to say,
“She staid with them, they went in thought with her.” Thus also, in The Mercator of Plautus: “Si domi sum, foris est animus; sin foris sum, animus domi est.” Steevens. 3 One great competitor :] Perhaps-Our great competitor..
Fohnson. Johnson is certainly right in his conjecture that we ought to read-“ Our great competitor," as this speech is addressed to Lepidus, his partner in the empire. Competitor means here, as it does wherever the word occurs in Shakspeare, associate or partner. So Menas says:
“ These three world-sharers, these competitors,
“ Are in thy vessel.”
“ That thou, my brother, my competitor,
Vouchsaf'd to think he had partners:4 You shall find there
I must not think, there are
or Vouchsaf'd to think he had partners:] The irregularity of metre in the first of these lines induces me to suppose the second originally and elliptically stood thus :
Or vouchsaf'd think he had partners &c. So, in Cymbeline, Act II, sc. ii :
“Will force him think I have pick'd the lock” &c. not to think. Steevens. 5 as the spots of heaven,
More fiery by night's blackness ;] If by spots are meant stars, as night has no other fiery spots, the comparison is forced and harsh, stars having been always supposed to beautify the night; nor do I comprehend what there is in the counterpart of this simile, which answers to night's blackness. Hanmer reads:
spots on ermine, Or fires, by night's blackness. Fohnson. The meaning seems to be-As the stars or spots of heaven are not obscured, but rather rendered more bright, by the blackness of the night, so neither is the goodness of Antony eclipsed by his evil qualities, but, on the contrary, his faults seem enlarged and aggravated by his virtues.
That which answers to the blackness of the night, in the counterpart of the simile, is Antony's goodness. His goodness is a ground which gives a relief to his faults, and makes them stand out more prominent and conspicuous.
It is objected, that stars rather beautify than deform the nighton But the poet considers them here only with respect to their prominence and splendour. It is sufficient for him that their scintillations appear stronger in consequence of darkness, as jewels are more resplendent on a black ground than on any other.—That the prominence and splendour of the stars were alone in Shakspeare's contemplation, appears from a passage in Hamlet, where a similar thought is less equivocally expressed:
" Your skill shall, like a star i' the darkest night,
“ Stick fiery off indeed.” A kindred thought occurs in King Henry V :
“— though the truth of it stands off as gross
" As black from white, my eye will scarcely see it." Again, in King Henry IV, P.I:
“ And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
Rather than purchas'd;“ what he cannot change,
Cæs. You are too indulgent: Let us grant, it is not
“Shall show more goodly, and attract more eyes,
" Than that which hath no foil to set it off.” Malone. See Hamlet, Act 1, sc. ii. Steevens. 6 — purchasd;] Procured by his own fault or endeavour.
Johnson. 7_ say, this becomes him,
(As his composure must be rare indeed,
Whom these things cannot blemish,)] This seems inconsequent. I read:
And his com posure &c. Grant that this becomes him, and if it cannot become him, he must have in him something very uncommon, yet, &c. Johnson.
Though the construction of this passage, as Dr. Johnson observes, appears harsh, there is, I believe, no corruption. In As you Like it we meet with the same kind of phraseology:
“ what though you have beauty,
“ Must you therefore be proud and pitiless?" See Vol. V, p. 101, n. 7. Malone.
8 No way excuse his soils,] The old copy has-foils. For the emendation now made I am answerable. In the MSS. of our au. thor's time ( and f are often undistinguishable, and no two letters are so often confounded at the press. Shakspeare has so regularly used this word in the sense required here, that there cannot, I imagine, be the smallest doubt of the justness of this emen. dation. So, in Hamlet :
“ - and no soil, nor cautel, doth besmirch
“ The virtue of his will." Again, in Love's Labour 's Lost:
The only soil of his fair virtue's gloss.” Again, in Measure for Measure :
" Who is as free from touch or soil with her,
“ As she from one ungot.” Again, ibid:
“ My unsoild name, the austereness of my life.” Again, in King Henry IV, P. II: