« 上一頁繼續 »
a giant power in its strength and vigour of maturity, a formidable rival of 'Macbeth,' 'Lear,' 'Hamlet,' and 'Othello.” ”* epithet "wonderful" is unquestionably the right one to apply to this drama. It is too vast, too gorgeous, to be approached without some prostration of the understanding. It pours such a flood of noonday splendour upon our senses, that we cannot gaze upon it steadily. We have read it again and again; and the impression which it leaves again and again is that of wonder. We can comprehend it, reduce its power to some standard, only by the analysis of a part. Mrs. Jameson has adopted this course in one of her most brilliant 'Characteristics of Women.' Treading in her steps timidly, we may venture to attempt a companion sketch to her portrait of Cleopatra. It is in the spirit of the play itself, as the last of the Roman series, that we shall endeavour to follow it, by confining ourselves as much as may be to an individual. We use the word in the sense in which Mr. Hare uses it, after some good-natured ridicule of the newspaper "individuals:"-a man "is an individual, so far as he is an integral whole, different and distinct from other men; and that which makes him what he is, that in which he differs and is distinguished from other men, is his individuality, and individualizes him.”+ The ANTONY of this play is of course the Antony of Julius Cæsar;'-not merely the historical Antony, but the dramatic Antony drawn by the same hand. He is the orator that showed dead Cæsar's mantle to the Roman people; he is the soldier that after his triumph over Brutus said, "This was a man." We have seen something of his
character; we have learnt a little of his voluptuousness; we have heard of the "masker and the reveller;" we have beheld the unscrupulous politician. But we cannot think meanly of him. He is one great either for good or for evil. Since he fought at Philippi he has passed through various fortunes: Cæsar thus apostrophizes him :
"When thou once
* Literary Remains,' vol. ii. p. 142.
Did Famine follow; whom thou fought'st against,
Though daintily brought up, with patience
Than savages could suffer."
There came an after-time when, at Alexandria, "Our courteous Antony,
Whom ne'er the word of 'No' woman heard speak,
Being barber'd ten times o'er, goes to the feast, And, for his ordinary, pays his heart."
This is the Antony that Shakspere, in the play before us, brings upon the scene. Rome is to him nothing. He will not hear its ambassadors:
"There's not a minute of our lives should stretch
Without some pleasure now."
But " a Roman thought hath struck him." He does hear the messenger. Labienus has overrun Asia. He winces at the thought of his own inertness, but he will know the
We learn why he did desire it, in the scene with Cleopatra, in which he announces his departure. Often has he heard, from the same lips, the bitter irony of
"What says the married woman?” He has been bound to Cleopatra not only by her "infinite variety," but by her caprice and her force of ridicule. His moral power is as weak as his physical courage is strong. Cleopatra paints the magnificent soldier and the infatuated lover in a few words :"The demi-Atlas of this earth, the arm
And burgonet of men. He's speaking now,
Say thou, shall call her mistress."
In this temper he meets Cæsar, and he marries Octavia.
The interview between Antony and Cæsar is most masterly. The constrained courtesy on each side-the coldness of Cæsar-the frank apologies of Antony-the suggestion of Agrippa, so opportune, and yet apparently so unpremeditated the ready assent of Antony all this matter for rhetorical flourishes of at least five hundred lines in the hands of an ordinary dramatist-may be read without a start or an elevation of the voice. It is solid business throughout. Antony, we might think, was a changed man. Enobarbus, who knows him, is of a different opinion. Wonderfully has he described Cleopatra; and when Mecænas says,
"Now Antony must leave her utterly," the answer is prophetic :
"Never; he will not:
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Against this power Enobarbus knows that the "beauty, wisdom, modesty," of Octavia will be a fragile bond. And Antony knows this himself. He knows this while he protests,
"I have not kept my square; but that to come Shall all be done by the rule."
And yet he is not wholly a dissembler. Shakspere has most skilfully introduced the soothsayer, at the moment when Antony's moral weakness appears to have put on some show of strength. He found the incident in Plutarch; but he has made his own application of it:
"Be it art, or hap, He hath spoken true: The very dice obey him;
And in our sports my better cunning faints Under his chance: if we draw lots, he speeds:
"I will to Egypt."
To establish an independent throne?-to intrench himself against the power of Augustus in an Asiatic empire? No.
"And though I make this marriage for my
I' the east my pleasure lies."
The reckless short-sighted voluptuary was never drawn more truly. His entire policy is shaped by his passion. The wonderful scene in which his marriage with Octavia is made known to Cleopatra assures us that in the extremest intemperance of self-will he will have his equal. Cleopatra would have Antony unmarried,
"So half my Egypt were submerged, and made A cistern for scaled snakes."
According to Enobarbus, the unmarrying will scarcely be necessary for her gratification:
"Eno. Octavia is of a holy, cold, and still conversation.
Men. Who would not have his wife so? Eno. Not he, that himself is not so; which is Mark Antony."
Who can doubt that Antony bears “the holding" the loudest of all?—
As his strong sides can volley." These are not the lords of the world of the French tragedy. Grimm, who, upon the whole, has a leaning to Shakspere, says "11 est assez ridicule sans doute de faire parler les valets comme les héros; mais il est beaucoup plus ridicule encore de faire parler aux héros le langage du peuple.' To make them drunk is worse even than the worst of the ridiculous. It is impossible to define such a sin. We think, with Dogberry, it is "flat burglary as ever was committed." Upton has a curious theory, which would partly make Shakspere belong to the French school. The hero of this play, according to this theory, does not speak "the language of the people." Upton says " Mark Antony, as 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 dramaticallya 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 these the showers to bring it on." And, higher still :—
"Her tongue will not obey her heart, nor can Her heart inform her tongue: the swan's down feather,
* ' Correspondance Littéraire, Troisième Partie,' tome i. p 129. Critical Observations,' p. 100.
That stands upon the swell at the full of tide, And neither way inclines."
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
Your heart has mind to."
Rapid is his meeting with Cleopatra. She "hath nodded him to her." The voluptuary has put on his Eastern magnificence :— "I' the market-place, on a tribunal silver'd, Cleopatra and himself in chairs of gold Were publicly enthroned."
He rejects all counsel :-"I'll fight at sea." And so
"The greater cantle of the world is lost
With very ignorance."
Now comes the generosity of his character— of the same growth as his magnificence and recklessness. He exhorts 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 them rates
All that is won and lost: Give me a kiss;
He then becomes a braggart; he will challenge Cæsar, "sword against sword." Profound is the comment of Enobarbus :
"I see, men's judgments are
A parcel of their fortunes; and things outward
Cæsar's ambassador comes to Cleopatra. He
Whip him." This is partly jealousy; partly the assertion of small power by one accustomed to unlimited command. Truly Enobarbus says
""T is better playing with a lion's whelp,
Shakspere makes this man the interpreter of | tainty of what is left behind, are just like his own wisdom :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 :→
"I see still,
A diminution in our captain's brain
In the Address to the Reader prefixed to the first edition, published in 1612, of 'The White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona,' of JOHN WEBSTER, is the following passage :"Detraction is the sworn friend to ignorance: for mine own part, I have ever truly cherished my good opinions of other men's worthy labours, especially of that full and heightened style of Master Chapman; the laboured and understanding works of Master Jonson; the no less worthy composures of the both worthily excellent Master Beaumont and Master Fletcher; and lastly (without wrong last to be named), the right happy and copious industry of Master Shakespeare, Master Dekker, and Master Heywood, wishing what I write may be read by their light; protesting that, in the strength of mine own judgment, I know them so worthy, that though I rest silent in my own work, yet to most of theirs I dare (without flattery) fix that of Martial :
'Non norunt hæc monumenta mori.'" Webster was formed upon Shakspere. He had no pretensions to the inexhaustible wit, the all-penetrating humour of his master; but he had the power of approaching the terrible energy of his passion, and the profoundness of his pathos, in characters which he took out of the great muster-roll of humanity,
and placed in fearful situations, and sometimes with revolting imaginings almost beyond humanity. Those who talk of the carelessness of Shakspere may be surprised to find that his praise is that of a right happy and copious industry." It is clear what dramatic writers were the objects of Webster's love. He did not aspire to the "full and heightened style of Master Chapman," nor would his genius be shackled by the examples of "the laboured and understanding works of Master Jonson." belonged to the school of the romantic dramatists. Master Beaumont and Master Fletcher are "worthily excellent;" but his aspiration was to imitate "the right happy and copious industry of Master Shakespeare, Master Dekker, and Master Heywood, wishing what I write may be read by their light." There were critics at that time who regarded the romantic drama as a diversion for the multitude only; and Webster thinks it necessary to apologize for this deliberate choice "Willingly, and not ignorantly, in this kind have I faulted." He says "If it be objected this is no true dramatic poem, I shall easily confess it, non potes in nugas dicere plura meas, ipse ego quam dixi; willingly, and not ignorantly, in this kind have I faulted: for should a man present, to such an auditory, the most sententious