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Shakespeare's Characters: Octavia (Antony and Cleopatra)

From The Works of William Shakespeare. Vol. 7. Ed. Evangeline Maria O'Connor. J.D. Morris and Co. (1901), Public Domain

Octavia has furnishings enough for the heroine of a great tragedy; but she is not fitted to shine in the same sphere with Cleopatra, as her mild, steady, serene light would needs be paralyzed by the meteoric showers of the Egyptian enchantress. The Poet has not done justice to her sweet and solid qualities, and indeed, from the nature of the case, the more justice they had received, the more had they suffered by contrast with the perilous brilliancy of her rival. Yet he shows that he fully knew and felt her beauty and elevation of character, by the impression others take of her. Her behaviour is always most dignified, discreet, and womanly; while her "holy, cold, and still conversation," the dreaded chastisements of her sober eye, her patience, modesty, and silent austerity of reproof, as these are reflected from the thoughts of those who have given themselves most cause to wish her other than she is, gain her something better than our admiration. The Poet's good judgement in never bringing her and Cleopatra together is deservedly celebrated.
Hudson: The Works of Shakespeare.


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