Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. William Shakespeare. 1564-1616 Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional career in London, then returned to Stratford, where he is buried. He would have learned Latin and Greek in school and probably read many works of classical literature.
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ANTONY: Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space,
Kingdoms are clay. Our dungy earth alike
Feeds beast as man.
(Antony and Cleopatra 1.1.38-41)
LEPIDUS: What manner o' thing is your crocodile?
ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as
it hath breadth. It is just so high as it is, and moves
with its own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth
it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
LEPIDUS: Of what color is it?
ANTONY: Of it own color too.
LEPIDUS: 'Tis a strange serpent.
ANTONY: 'Tis so, and the tears of it are wet.
(Antony and Cleopatra 2.7.42-52)
CLEOPATRA: This is my treasurer. Let him speak, my lord,
Upon his peril, that I have reserved
To myself nothing.—Speak the truth, Seleucus.
SELEUCUS: Madam, I had rather seel my lips
Than to my peril speak that which is not.
CLEOPATRA: What have I kept back?
SELEUCUS: Enough to purchase what you have made known.
(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.172-178
CLEOPATRA: Now, Iras, what think'st thou?
Thou an Egyptian puppet shall be shown
In Rome as well as I. Mechanic slaves
With greasy aprons, rules, and hammers
Shall uplift us to the view. In their thick breaths,
Rank of gross diet, shall we be enclouded
And forced to drink their vapor.
IRAS: The gods forbid!
CLEOPATRA: Nay, 'tis most certain, Iras. Saucy Lictors
Will catch at us like strumpets, and scald rhymers
Ballad us out o' tune. The quick comedians
Extemporally will stage us and present
Our Alexandrian revels. Antony
Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see
Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness
I' th' posture of a whore.
(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.253-267)
CLEOPATRA: Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have
Immortal longings in me. Now no more
The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip.
Yare, yare, good Iras, quick. Methinks I hear
Antony call. I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act. I hear him mock
The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men
To excuse their after wrath.—Husband, I come!
Now to that name my courage proves my title.
I am fire and air; my other elements
I give to baser life.—So, have you done?
Come then, and take the last warmth of my lips.
Farewell, kind Charmian.—Iras, long farewell.
Have I the aspic in my lips? Dost fall?
If thou and nature can so gently part,
The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch,
Which hurts and is desired. Dost thou lie still?
If thus thou vanishest, thou tell'st the world
It is not worth leave-taking.
(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.335-353)
CLEOPATRA: I dreamt there was an emperor Antony.
O, such another sleep, that I might see
But such another man...
His face was as the heavens, and therein stuck
A sun and moon, which kept their course and lighted
The little O, the earth...
His legs bestrid the ocean, his reared arm
Crested the world. His voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;
But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty,
There was no winter in 't; an autumn 'twas
That grew the more by reaping. His delights
Were dolphin-like; they showed his back above
The element they lived in. In his livery
Walked crowns and crownets; realms and islands were
As plates dropped from his pocket.
(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.93-112)
CLEOPATRA: As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle—
O Antony!—Nay, I will take thee too.
What should I stay—
CHARMIAN: In this wild world? So, fare thee well.
(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.371-374)
Obelisk, Piazza del Popolo, 10 AD
Obelisk near Santa Maria sopra Minerva (elephant by Bernini 1666-7). This church was near the site of a major ancient temple of Isis (Isaeum campense).
Obelisk in front of Pantheon
Cleopatra’s Needle, London
Cleopatra’s Needle, Central Park, New York
Magic Flute stage set, 1816
O Isis and Osiris, bestow
The spirit of wisdom on this young pair!
You who guide the wanderer's steps,
Strengthen them with patience in danger.
Strengthen them with patience in danger.
Let them see the fruits of trial;
Yet if they should go to their deaths,
Then reward the bold course of virtue;
Receive them into your abode!
Later the priests sing, after the success of the young initiates, who have triumphed over the power of evil, represented by the Queen of the Night
O Isis and Osiris, what bliss!
Dark night is banished by the sunlight.
Description of Egypt, frontispiece
Egyptianizing settee and chair
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.