Saturday, May 23, 2009

Samuel Daniel's Cleopatra--Part III

I noted that the incident with Cleopatra's hoarding of the jewels and Seleucus's revelation of this to Caesar was imitated in Shakespeare, but the scholarly materials note that the episode was taken straight out of Plutarch, which I had not remembered.

(III. ii, 781-7) Some good lines by the chorus:

"But is it Justice that all wee
The innocent poore multitude,
For great men's faults should punisht be,
And to destruction thus pursude?
O why should th'heavens us include,
Within the compasse of their fall,
Who of themselves procured all?"

The murder of Caesarion, Cleopatra's teenage son by Julius Caesar, by his nominal cousin Augustus, or his men, is often left out of these Cleopatra dramatizations, but it is included here, where it is claimed that the servants betrayed him.
I note again here that Daniel's (or 'this guy's, as I was still calling him) lines are pretty darn good. Self-contained, easy familiarity with and mastery over the language and so on. He was a real natural.

The speech of Caesarion related by Rodon (his tudor) in Act IV attempting to console Cleopatra, as well, doubtless, as himself, on the loss of their kingdom with a reasoned argument about the insignificance of human troubles and the indifference of both Gods and fates to all anxieties, I actually found affecting(. ll.1040-1):

The justice of the heavens revenging thus,
Doth onely satisfie it selfe, not us..."

Though the dialogue in this play consists primarily of characters alternating long speeches, it is still much shorter than anything Shakespeare has. I am listing this as a virtue, but apparently it interested me at the time.

(IV 1142-5) Though she is nearing her own end, Cleopatra has not softened her position regarding base men:

"Words are for them that can complaine and live,
Whose melting hearts composd of baser frame,
Can to their sorrowes, time and leasure give,
But Cleopatra may not do the same..."
This same soliloquoy I think is a bit overlong however. Wishing for death. Lamenting over the means to do it. We've all read it before. The point was made.

Not to dwell on negativity however, I like the chorus. It reminded me of my old school at the time, in a haunting sort of way that I guess I liked being reminded of, though the vision I have in my mind now is of night there, which is sometimes beautiful and reassuring but is just as frequently eery and even atonal. I thought it would be interesting if they would do this play outdoors on the quad, which they sometimes act plays there, either under the reassuring or the eery sky.

(V, i, 1350-4) DOLABELLA:

"And O, if now she could but bring a view
Of that fresh beauty she in youth possest,
(The argument wherewith she overthrew
The wit of Julius Caesar, and the rest,)
Then happily Augustus might relent..."

This isn't much of a post, but I am going to pull out the exhaustion excuse for the 3rd time this week. I am just jittery and I lack concentration. The computers and the whole modern system, I think, have finally broken down my mind completely. We're getting very close to Berlin in '45 territory now. My wits have been pretty much bombed flat, the walls of my cranium are about to be caved in by tanks and all that remains is for me to just submit the whole accumulated mess to the care of the invading armies and remake my entire being in their image.

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