Feb 15: The regrettable consequences of Valentine's Day

Today is Dryden's version of Antony and Cleopatra (no, I didn't know there was one either) -- "All For Love," act III; from Volume 18 "Modern English Drama". Modern English Drama? Let's let it pass. For we have a tale of love and dynastic politics -- Dryden's version of "The Tudors," if you will, but written at a time where people might still remember the Tudors. (Or "Rome," I realize, but I haven't seen "Rome".)

When Antony says this to Cleopatra, in the opening:

There’s no satiety of love in thee:
Enjoyed, thou still art new; perpetual spring
Is in thy arms; the ripened fruit but falls,
And blossoms rise to fill its empty place;
And I grow rich by giving.

I thought, shouldn't we have been reading this yesterday? But complications ensue. First Antony's old buddy Dolabella comes from Caesar's camp. Old buddy...or something:

Ant. ’Tis he himself! himself, by holy friendship! [Runs to embrace him.
Art thou returned at last, my better half?
Come, give me all myself!
Let me not live,
If the young bridegroom, longing for his night,
Was ever half so fond.

Whoa. Those Italians, so demonstrative. Did the Harvard people know this was in here? Anyway, Dolabella gives Antony, who is up against it, a way out -- get back together with your wife (Caesar's sister Octavia) And he produces her! (Music sting.)

Then, there's something I really like, which is that Antony and Octavia get into a "Mr. and Mrs." (a phrase I got from a Parisian friend of mine), which is summed up by one of the bystanders: "Was ever such a strife of sullen honor!/Both scorn to be obliged." I've had that fight. Here's theirs:

Ant. Then I must be obliged 365
To one who loves me not; who, to herself,
May call me thankless and ungrateful man:—
I’ll not endure it; no.
Vent. I am glad it pinches there. [Aside.
Octav. Would you triumph o’er poor Octavia’s virtue?
That pride was all I had to bear me up;
That you might think you owed me for your life,
And owed it to my duty, not my love.
I have been injured, and my haughty soul
Could brook but ill the man who slights my bed.

I'm sure marriage counselors hear stuff like this all the time. Then Dryden brings Antony's kids in to turn him around -- using kids so shamelessly being the mark of the master. And then, to end the act, Octavia and Cleopatra meet, and it's a surprise not to see a stage direction like [She slaps her.

It's super-pulpy, if you can get past the language:

Cleo. Oh, you do well to search; for had you known
But half these charms, you had not lost his heart.
Octav. Far be their knowledge from a Roman lady, 510
Far from a modest wife! Shame of our sex,
Dost thou not blush to own those black endearments,
That make sin pleasing?
Cleo. You may blush, who want them.

Kitty has claws! One thing I've definitely learned from this project is that subtlety in the dramatic art is overrated; the masters prove it so.

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