The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

the emphasis was helped

Menas: These three world-sharers, these competitors,
Are in thy vessel: let me cut the cable;
And, when we are put off, fall to their throats:
All there is thine.

Pompey: Ah, this thou shouldst have done,
And not have spoke on’t! In me ’tis villany;
In thee’t had been good service. Thou must know,
’Tis not my profit that does lead mine honour;
Mine honour, it. Repent that e’er thy tongue
Hath so betray’d thine act: being done unknown,
I should have found it afterwards well done;
But must condemn it now. Desist, and drink.

Antony and Cleopatra, 2.7

Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Antony and Cleopatra appealed to me the least, with Romeo and Juliet coming in a close second; that, however, is not my theme. Rather, I would like to observe that until I read the play after reading more about the second triumvirate,1 I never understood why modern scholars emphasized the failure of Sextus Pompeius to take advantage of this meeting on his galley—nor why this tidbit of information was offered with a smirk and a flourish.2 Leaving out the usual self-deprecation at this junction, I will merely note that though poetry cannot necessarily alter the course of history, it can at least change the emphasis.3

  1. ‘Oh, look,’ said the lecturer, ‘it’s the gang-of-three.’ []
  2. Yes, thank you, I did get the sly use of Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra’s barge (2.2 — stolen, I must add, from Plutarch) in Stoppard’s Arcadia—I’m not a complete idiot, you know. []
  3. One could write many and learned things about the reading-plans of historians and their impact on our understanding or perception of history, but I would rather not do so just yet. []


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