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SCENE II. The same. Another Room. Enter CHARMIAN, IRAS, ALEXAS, and a Sooth
sayer. Char. Lord Alexas, sweet Alexas, most any thing Alexas, almost most absolute Alexas, where's the soothsayer that you praised so to the queen? 0, that I knew this husband, which, you say, must charge his horns with garlands 1!
Char. Good sir, give me good fortune.
shall paint when Char. Wrinkles forbid ! Alex. Vex not his prescience; be attentive. Char. Hush! Sooth. You shall be more beloving, than beloved. Char. I had rather heat my liver with drinking 1 The old copy reads, change his horns,' &c. A similar error of change for charge is also found in Coriolanus.
? The liver being considered the seat of love, Charmian says she would rather heat her liver with drinking than with love's fire. A heated liver was supposed to make a pimpled face.
you are old.
Alex. Nay, hear him.
Char. Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all: let me have a child at fifty, to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage3: find me to marry me with Octavius Cæsar, and companion me with
mistress. Sooth. You shall outlive the lady whom you serve, Char. O excellent! I love long life better than figs. Sooth. You have seen and proved a fairer former
fortune Than that which is to approach.
Char. Then, belike, my children shall have no names 4: Pr’ythee, how many boys and wenches must I have ? Sooth. If
wishes had a womb, And fertile 5
ery wish, a million. Char. Out, fool; I forgive thee for a witch 6. Alex. You think, none but your
sheets are privy to your wishes.
3 “This (says Johnson) is one of Shakspeare's natural touches, Few circumstances are more flattering to the fair sex, than breeding at an advanced period of life. Charmian wishes for a son too who may arrive at such power and dominion that the proudest and fiercest monarchs of the earth may be brought under his yoke. It should be remembered that Herod of Jewry was a favourite character in the mysteries of the old stage, and that he was always represented a fierce, haughty, blustering tyrant. 4 That is, prove bastards. Thus in the Rape of Lucrece:
• Thy issue blurr'd with nameless bastardy.' And Launce, in the third act of The Two Gentlemen of Verona:• That's as much as to say bastard yirtues, that indeed know not their fathers, and therefore have no names.' A fairer fortune means a more serene or more prosperous fortune.
5 The old copy reads, foretel. Warburton has the merit of the emendation.
6 This has allusion to the common proverbial saying, “ You'll never be burnt for a witch, spoken to a silly person, who is indeed no conjuror.
Char. Nay, come, tell Iras hers.
Eno. Mine, and most of our fortunes, to-night, shall be-drunk to bed.
Iras. There's a palm presages chastity, if nothing else.
Char. Even as the o'erflowing Nilus presageth famine.
Iras. Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.
Char. Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful prognostication?, I cannot scratch mine ear.Prythee, tell her but a worky-day fortune.
Sooth. Your fortunes are alike.
Char. Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than I, where would you choose it?
Iras. Not in my husband's nose.
Char. Our worser thoughts heavens mend ! Alexas,-come, his fortune, his fortune.-0, let him marry a woman that cannot go, sweet Isis, I beseech thee! And let her die too, and give him a worse! and let worse follow worse, till the worst of all follow him laughing to his grave, fifty-fold a cuckold! Good Isis, hear me this prayer, though thou deny me a matter of more weight; good Isis, I beseech thee!
Iras. Amen. Dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people! for, as it is a heart-breaking to see a handsome man loose-wived, so it is a deadly sorrow to behold a foul knave uncuckolded; Therefore,
* This prognostic is alluded to in Othello :
This hand is moist, my lady:-
dear Isis, keep decorum, and fortune him accordingly!
Alex. Lo, now! if it lay in their hands to make me a cuckold, they would make themselves whores, but they'd do't.
Eno. Hush! here comes Antony.
Not he, the queen.
No, lady. Cleo.
Was he not here? Char. No, madam.
Cleo. He was dispos’d to mirth; but on the sudden A Roman thought hath struck him.- Enobarbus,
approaches. Enter ANTONY, with a Messenger and Attendants. Cleo. We will not look upon him: Go with us. [Eceunt CLEOPATRA, ENOBARBUS, ALEXAS,
IRAS, CHARMIAN, Soothsayer, and At
tendants. Mess. Fulvia thy wife first came into the field. Ant. Against my brother Lucius ?
8 Drave is the ancient preterite of the verb to drive, and frequently occurs in the Bible.
Well, What worst?
Mess. The nature of bad news infects the teller.
Ant. When it concerns the fool or coward.—On: Things, that are past, are done, with me.—'Tis thus ; Who tells me true, though in his tale lie death, I hear him as he flatter'd. Mess.
Ant. Antony, thou would'st say,—
0, my lord! Ant. Speak to me home, mince not the general
9 Stiff news' is hard news.' As in Shakspeare's Rape of Lucrece:
Fearing some hard news from the warlike band.'
• Extended Asia from Euphrătes.' To extend is a law term for to seize. Thus in Selimus, Emperor of the Turks, 1594:
Ay, though on all the world we make extent
From the south pole unto the northern bear.' So Massinger in A New Way to Pay Old Debts :
* This manor is extended to my use.' The poet has used the word in its legal signification more than once. Thus in As You Like It:-
. And let my officers of such a nature
Make an extent upon his house and lands.' And in Twelfth Night :
• This uncivil and unjust extent
Against thy peace.' Plutarch tells us that Labienus was by the Parthian king made general of his troops, and had overrun Asia from Euphrates, and Syria to Lydia and Iona.
Our ancient writers generally give us Euphrates instead of Euphrātes. Thus Drayton, Polyolb. Song 21 :
• That gliding go in state, like swelling Euphrătes,' VOL. VIII.