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But that your royalty Holds idleness your subject, I should take you For idleness itself.
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; O 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 exclaimer always stops before the sacred name is pronounced. Could such an exclamation therefore have been uttered by the Pagan Cleopatra? STEEVENS.
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 memory, 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,
"To bear such idleness so near the heart,
Dr. Warburton's explanation is a very coarse one. 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:
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
'Tis sweating labour,
To bear such idleness so near the heart,
Since my becomings kill me, when they do not
And all the gods go with you! upon your sword
Be strew'd before your feet!
Let us go. Come ; Our separation so abides, and flies, That thou, residing here, go'st yet with me, And I, hence fleeting, here remain with thee. Away.
idleness in subjection to you, exalting you far above its influence, I should suppose you to be the very genius of idleness itself. STEEVENS.
Mr. Steevens'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
"Whom every thing becomes."
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.
LAUREL'D victory!] Thus the second folio. The inaccurate predecessor of it-laurel victory. STEEVENS.
This was the language of Shakspeare's time. I have adhered to the old reading. MALONE.
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.
Rome. An Apartment in CÆSAR's House.
Enter OCTAVIUS CESAR, LEPIDUS, and Attendants. CES. You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
It is not Cæsar's natural vice to hate
One great competitor3: 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 Ptolemy
More womanly than he
hardly gave audience, or Vouchsaf'd* to think he had partners: You shall find there
A man, who is the abstract of all faults
That all men follow.
I must not think, there are
to darken all his goodness:
* First folio, Vouchsafe.
† First folio, enow.
3 ONE great competitor :] Perhaps-Our great competitor. JOHNSON.
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
And again, Cæsar, speaking of Antony, says―
"In top of all design, my mate in empire." M. MASON. One competitor is any one of his great competitors. BosWELL.
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.
His faults, in him, seem as the spots of heaven, More firy by night's blackness; hereditary, Rather than purchas'd; what he cannot change, Than what he chooses.
CES. You are too indulgent: Let us grant, it is
Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy;
5 as the spots of heaven,
More firy 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." JOHNSON.
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 night. 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,
A kindred thought occurs in King Henry V.:
though the truth of it stands off as gross
Again, in King Henry IV. Part I.:
"And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
"Shall show more goodly, and attract more eyes,
"Than that which hath no foil to set it off." MALONE.
— purchas'd;] Procured by his own fault or endeavour.
To give a kingdom for a mirth; to sit
And keep the turn of tippling with a slave;
To reel the streets at noon, and stand the buffet With knaves that smell of sweat: say, this becomes
(As his composure must be rare indeed,
Whom these things cannot blemish',) yet must
No way excuse his soils,
say, this becomes him,
when we do bear
(As his composure must be rare indeed,
Whom these things cannot blemish,)] This seems inconsequent. I read :
"And his composure," &c.
Grant that this becomes him, and if it can become him, he must have in him something very uncommon, yet, &c.
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,
(As by my faith I see no more in you
See vol. vi. p. 459, n. 6. 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 author's time and ƒ 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 emendation. 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,
Again, ibid. :
My unsoil'd name, the austereness of my
"For all the soil of the achievement goes