Front Page Titles (by Subject) I.: THE LEGEND OF CLEOPATRA. - The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 3 (House of Fame, Legend of Good Women, Treatise on Astrolabe, Sources of Canterbury Tales)
Return to Title Page for The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 3 (House of Fame, Legend of Good Women, Treatise on Astrolabe, Sources of Canterbury Tales)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
I.: THE LEGEND OF CLEOPATRA. - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 3 (House of Fame, Legend of Good Women, Treatise on Astrolabe, Sources of Canterbury Tales) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE LEGEND OF CLEOPATRA.
Incipit Legenda Cleopatrie, Martiris, Egipti regine.
N.B.—Readings not marked with any letter are from F. (Fairfax MS.)
Explicit Legenda Cleopatrie, martiris.
[587. ]worlde. C. vn-to; T. vnder; rest at.
[598. ]F. (only) this; rest his. gret.
[601. ]F. Alle; C. Tn. Al.
[602. ]worlde; noo.
[603. ]C. there nas to hym no thyng so dewe; rest there was no thing to him so due (all too long).
[604. ]F. Tn. B. Cleopataras; rest Cleopatras.
[607. ]ek. C. lovede; F. loved.
[608. ]Thurgh; decert.
[611. ]All but T. A. Add. insert of after and; I omit it.
[612. ]C. lyuyn; F. leven.
[614. ]F. (only) om. for.
[615. ]MSS. wax, wox; read wex.
[616. ]C. Tn. feste; F. fest.
[619. ]T. A. P. Add. long; rest longe. C. T. A. lest; F. lyst.
[622. ]A. Add. theffect; C. thefeect (sic); F. effect.
[627. ]Romaynes crewel. T. leoun; F. lyoun.
[631. ]eke; rede; booth.
[632. ]oost forthe went (C. wentyn).
[633. ]stent; C. stente.
[637. ]sovne; gooth.
[638. ]C. Tn. heterly; A. hatirly; F. hertely. hurtelen; attones.
[641. ]C. Among; F. Amonge.
[643. ]By-hynde; maste begyneth.
[647. ]F. A. Add. him; rest hem.
[651. ]C. Tn. laste; F. last.
[653. ]folke to-goo; goo myght.
[654. ]ek; queene; sayle.
[655. ]went; thik; hayle.
[657. ]C. saw; F. saugh.
[659. ]worshippe; lorne.
[665. ]herkeneth. T. speke; rest speken.
[666. ]C. Tn. oth; F. oothe.
[667. ]C. Tn. wroth; F. wroothe.
[669. ]C. Tn. Cleopatre; F. Cleopatrie. made.
[671. ]C. morwe; F. morowe.
[672. ]werknen (!).
[673. ]Tn. rubies; F. rubees.
[675. ]C. Tn. putte; F. put.
[676. ]Tn. leet; C. F. let. C. cors; F. corps (and in l. 677).
[678. ]C. pet; Tn. pyt; F. pitte. dooth.
[679. ]C. alle; F. al. C. myghte; F. myght.
[680. ]C. Tn. putte; F. put. sayde.
[688. ]couenaunt; thoo.
[689. ]T. A. Th. wele; C. F. Tn. wel.
[690. ]C. power; F. powere.
[692. ]life; deethe.
[693. ]couenaunt while.
[696. ]C. word; F. worde.
[700. ]C. receyuyth; F. receveth.
[704. ]F. (only) wolde.
[705. ]oure; neuere. F. take (!); rest ake.
[581.]Ptolemy XI., or Ptolemy Auletes, king of Egypt, died 51, leaving two sons, both called Ptolemy, and two daughters, Cleopatra and Arsinoe. Cleopatra was then 17 years of age, and was appointed queen of Egypt in conjunction with her brother, the elder Ptolemy, whom she was to marry; but she was expelled from the throne by Ptolemy’s guardians. In 47 she was replaced upon it by Julius Cæsar, but still in conjunction with her brother. This led to the Alexandrine war, in the course of which this elder Ptolemy perished. After this, she reigned, nominally, in conjunction with the younger Ptolemy, to whom also she was nominally married; but he was still quite a child, and was murdered by her orders in less than four years, after which she was sole queen, in name as well as in reality.
[583.]On a tyme; viz. not long after the battle of Philippi, which took place in 42. ‘Antonius, going to make war with the Parthians, sent to command Cleopatra to appear personally before him when he came into Cilicia, to answer unto such accusations as were laid against her, being this: that she had aided Cassius and Brutus in their war against him . . . Cleopatra on the other side . . . guessing by the former access and credit she had with Julius Cæsar and C. Pompey (the son of Pompey the Great) only for her beauty, she began to have good hope that she might more easily win Antonius. For Cæsar and Pompey knew her when she was but a young thing, and knew not then what the world meant; but now she went to Antonius at the age when a woman’s beauty is at the prime, and she also of best judgment.’—Sh. Plut. p. 174. Almost immediately after this passage follows the celebrated description of Cleopatra in her barge upon the Cydnus, familiar to all in the words of Shakespeare; Ant. and Cleop. ii. 2. 196.
[591.]‘Octavius Cæsar reporting all these things unto the Senate, and oftentimes accusing him to the whole people and assembly in Rome, he thereby stirred up all the Romans against him.’—Sh. Plut. p. 202.
[592.]After the death of his first wife, Fulvia, Antony had married Octavia, sister of Octavianus (better known to us as Augustus). But in a few years he deserted her, and surrendered himself wholly to the charms of Cleopatra. Cf. Ant. and Cleop. iii. 6.
[597.]Cf. Sh. Plut. p. 192; Ant. and Cleop. i. 4. 55.
[605.]Sterve, to die. See Starve, in Trench, Sel. Glossary.
[624.]Octovian, Octavianus. ‘Now for Cæsar, he had 250 ships of war, 80,000 footmen, and well near as many horsemen as his enemy Antonius’; Sh. Plut. p. 207.
[634.]See the account of the battle of Actium, 31; in Sh. Plut. p. 210. The vivid description here given by Chaucer resembles the parallel passage in the Kn. Tale, A 2600-20, which should be compared. ‘The soldiers fought with their pikes, halbards and darts, and threw halbards and darts with fire. Antonius’ ships, on the other side, bestowed among them, with their crossbows and engines of battery, great store of shot from their high towers of wood that were set upon their ships.’—Sh. Plut. p. 211. There is some description of the hostile fleets and of the battle in Florus (see note to l. 655), who tells us that, whilst Octavius had 400 ships against the 200 ships of Antony, the latter were nearly double the size of the former; so that the fleets were thus of equal strength.
[637.]Bell says this is ‘a ludicrous anachronism’; but it is nothing of the kind. The word gonne is here used in the sense of ‘shot’ or ‘missile’; and the line means—‘with terrible sound out rushes the huge missile,’ being hurled from one of the ‘engines of battery’ mentioned in the last note. It is the missile, not the engine, that ‘out goth’; as a moment’s reflection would have informed the commentator, whose remark was needless. The use of gonne in the sense of ‘missile’ is curious, but not unexampled; for, in the Avowynge of Arthur, st. 65, we read that ‘there come fliand a gunne,’ i. e. there came flying along a missile. I believe it is also used in the sense of missile in Sir Ferumbras, 5176, though the passage is not decisive.
[638.]Hurtlen, push, dash, ram one against the other; cf. Kn. Ta., A 2616. ‘Somtyme they hurtled to-gyder that they felle grovelyng on the ground’; Morte Arthure; by Sir T. Malory, bk. vii. c. 12. Heterly, vehemently, fiercely, occurs frequently in the Wars of Alexander, ed. Skeat (E. E. T. S.) Compare Vergil’s description of the battle, in Æn. viii. 689, &c.: ‘Una omnes ruere.’
[640.]In goth, in there go. Goth is singular in form, because of its position in the sentence; but it has two nominatives, viz. ‘grapnel’ and ‘shearing-hooks.’ The former was a contrivance for clutching the ropes, and the latter for severing them.
[642.]This is wonderfully graphic. A boarder bursts in with a poleaxe; a sailor, on the defence, flees behind the mast, then dashes forward again, and drives the assailant overboard.
[646.]Rent, rendeth; the present tense.
[648.]By pouring hard peas upon the hatches, they became so slippery that the boarders could not stand.
[649.]Some carried pots full of quicklime, which they threw into the eyes of their enemies. See Notes and Queries, 5 S. x. 188. The English did this very thing, when attacking a French fleet, in the time of Henry III. Strutt (Manners and Customs, 1774, ii. 11) quotes from Matthew Paris to this effect:—‘Calcem quoque vivam et in pulverem subtilem reductam, in altum projicientes, vento illam ferente, Francorum oculos excaecaverunt.’ Cf. Æn. viii. 694.
[652.]Put, short for putteth, puts; pres. tense.
[653.]To-go, disperse themselves; pres. tense. The prefix to has the same force as the Lat. dis-, i. e. ‘in different directions.’ We even find to-ga used as a past tense in Barbour’s Bruce (viii. 351, ix. 263, 269, xvii. 104, 575), with the sense ‘fled in different directions,’ or ‘fled away.’ Cf. ‘the wlcne to-gað,’ the clouds part asunder; Morris, Spec. of Eng. pt. 1. p. 7, l. 169. And again, ‘thagh the fourme of brede to-go,’ though the form of bread disappear; Shoreham’s Poems, p. 29.
[655.]‘Suddenly they saw the threescore ships of Cleopatra busily about their yard-masts, and hoising sail to fly’; Sh. Plut. p. 212. Cf. Ant. and Cleop. iii. 10. 10; Vergil, Æn. viii. 707-8. The remark about Cleopatra’s ‘purple sails’ may remind us of Plutarch’s description of Cleopatra on the Cydnus, already referred to above (note to l. 583):—‘the poop [of her barge] was of gold, the sails of purple’; Sh. Plut. p. 174; Ant. and Cleop. ii. 2. 198.
[662.]Chaucer (following Florus) has hastened the catastrophe. Antony stabbed himself at Alexandria, in the following year, 30. See Sh. Plut. 221; Ant. and Cleop. iv. 14. 102.
[672.]Shryne; for ‘solio’ in Florus; cf. l. 675. Plutarch says only that Cleopatra ‘Hid sumptuously and royally bury him with her own hands’; Sh. Plut. p. 224. Afterwards, however, she ‘crowned the tomb with garlands and sundry nosegays, and marvellous lovingly embraced the same’; Sh. Plut. p. 227. But see the account by Florus, in the note to l. 655.
[677.]Dede cors, dead body; as in l. 876. Chaucer uses cors of the living body, as, e. g. in Sir Thopas, B 2098.
[678.]Chaucer seems to think that Florus meant, ‘in sepulcrum [suum] se recipit . . iuxta Antonium.’
[679.]Shakespeare follows closely the account in Plutarch, except that he makes mention of two asps, whereas Plutarch mentions but one, called by Sir Thos. North ‘an aspick’; Sh. Plut. p. 227. However, Florus uses the plural serpentibus. Cf. Gower, C. A., iii. 361.
[681.]Cf. Cleopatra’s lament in Sh. Plut. p. 226; Ant. and Cleop. iv. 15. 59; v. 2. 283.
[691.]Pronounce unreprovable, as unréprovábl’.
[694.]Sene, evident. Note that this is an adjective (A. S. gesýne), and not the past participle; cf. l. 2655, and note. See also ll. 340, 741, and my note to the Balade against Women Inconstaunt, l. 13.
[696.]Naked. It looks as if Chaucer took induta (note to l. 655) to mean ‘not clothed.’ Perhaps he read it as nudata.
[702.]Storial sooth, historical truth. The old editions actually put the comma after storial instead of after sooth; and modern editors have followed them. Surely the editors, in some passages, have never attempted to construe their own texts.