Like most tragedies, Dryden’s “All for Love,”〖H. C., xviii, 23.〗 shows the pitiable outcome of a struggle between good and evil. Among the innumerable manifestations of this eternal strife there are some which attract by their singularity, but these were not of interest to Dryden. To him the really important tragic conflicts were those which are frequent in human life, such as that between duty and passion. He chose the theme of Antony and Cleopatra, not because it was new or extraordinary, but because it was a noble illustration of a normal dilemma of human existence. He knew of course that the defeat in the decisive battle of Actium of the last kingdom of the Grecian empire by triumphant Rome was epoch making,〖“Lectures on Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of Books,” History, p. 7.〗 and offered superb opportunities for historical and scenic contrasts; but he did not wish to write a “world drama.” When he raises the curtain, Actium has already been fought and the destiny of nations decided; what remains is the personal fate of Antony and of Cleopatra, the former vainly though nobly endeavoring to reanimate his former manhood and loyalty, the latter trying amid the wreck to save her domination over him, and each tortured by lack of true faith in the other. Their emotions in the brief final crisis of their lives Dryden sought to trace with clearness and truth to nature, and to express with majestic simplicity.

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