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Alarum. Retreat. Enter OCTAVIUS, ANTONY,
MESSALA, LUCILIUS, and their Army. Oct. What man is that? Mes. My master's man.-Strato, where is thy
master? Stra. Free from the bondage you are in, Messala; The
conquerors can but make a fire of him;
Oct. All that serv'd Brutus, I will entertain them 3. Fellow, wilt thou bestow thy time with me?
Stra. Ay, if Messala will prefer* me to you.
Strato ? Strat. I held the sword, and he did run on it.
Mes. Octavius, then take him to follow thee, That did the latest service to
3 i.e. receive them into my service.
4 To prefer seems to have been the general term for recommending a servant. Thus in the Merchant of Venice, Act iii. Sc.2:
Shylock thy master, spoke with me this day,
And hath preferr'd thee.'
Drayton, in his Barons' Wars, has a similar passage, thus given by Steevens:
• He was a man (then boldly dare to say)
In whose rich soal the virtues well did suit; VOL. VIII.
Oct. According to his virtue let us use him,
In whom so mix'd the elements all lay,
She meant to show all that might be in man.' He afterwards revised the poem, which was, I believe, first published, under the title of the Barons' Wars, in 1603; and the stanza is thus exhibited in that edition :
• Such one he was (of him we boldly say),
In him it show'd perfection in a man.' The poem originally appeared under the title of “Mortimeriados' in 1596 ; but Malone says, there is no trace of the stanza in the poem in that form. He is wrong in asserting that the Barons' Wars were first published in 1608, as the following title-page of my copy will show : The Barons' Wars, in the raigne of Edward the Second, with England's Heroicall Epistles, by Michaell Drayton. At London, printed by J. R. for N. Ling, 1603.' So that if Malone be right in placing the date of the composition of Julius Cæsar in 1607, Shakspeare imitated Drayton.
Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutas and Cassius is universally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it; and I think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakspeare's plays: his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seem to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius.-JOHNSON.
Gildon has justly observed that this tragedy ought to have been called MARCUS Brutus, Cæsar being a very inconsiderable personage in the scene, and being killed in the third act.
Antony and Cleopatra.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS, After a perasal of this play, the reader will, I doubt not, be surprised when he sees what Johnson has asserted :-That its power of delighting is derived principally from the frequent changes of the scene;'-and that' no character is very strongly discriminated.' If our great poet has one supereminent dramatic quality in perfection, it is that of being able to go out of himself at pleasure to inform and animate ot ber existences.' It is true that in the number of characters many persons of historical importance are merely introduced as passing shadows in the scene; but the principal personages are most emphatically distingạished by lineament and colouring, and powerfully arrest the imagination. The character of Cleopatra is indeed a masterpiece : thoagh Johnson pronounces that she is only distinguisbed by feminine arts, some of which are too low. It is true that her seductive arts are in no respect veiled over; but she is still the gorgeous Eastern Queen, remarkable for the fascination of her manner, if not for the beauty of her person; and though she is vain, ostentatious, fickle, and luxurious, there is that heroic regal dignity about her, whicb makes us, like Antony, forget her defects :
• Age cannot witber her, nor custom stale
Where most she satisfies.' The mutual passion of herself and Antony is without moral dignity, yet it excites our sympathy :-they seem formed for each other. Cleopatra is no less remarkable for her seductive charms, than Antony for the splendour of bis martial achievements. Her death too redeems one part of her character, and obliterates all faults.
Warburton has observed that Antony was Shakspeare's hero; and the defects of his character, a lavish and laxurious spirit, seem almost virtues when opposed to the heartless and narrow-minded littleness of Octavius Cæsar. But the ancient historians, bis flatterers, had delivered the latter down ready cut and dried for a hero; and Shakspeare has extricated himself with great address from the dilemma. He has admitted all those great strokes of his character as he found them, and yet bas made him a very upamiable character, deceitful, mean-spirited, proud, and revengeful.
Schlegel attributes this to the penetration of Sbakspeare, wbo was not to be led astray by the false glitter of historic fame, but saw through the disguise thrown around him by his successful fortunes, and distinguished in Augustus a man of little mind.