From John Dryden, All For Love or, The World Well Lost (1677/78)

Arguably Dryden's greatest play, All for Love was first performed in 1677 and seems to have displaced its model, Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, throughout the eighteenth century.  Whatever its merits as drama, the language of Dryden's "classical" tragedy presents a useful set of forms for comparision with those of the earlier play.

The passage following, the opening of All for Love, has been taken directly from the First Quarto of the text, published by Henry Herringman in 1678.  A useful modern edition, though in modern spelling, is by D.M.Vieth (London: Arnold, 1972).  The three characters are Serapion and Myris, priests of Isis, and Alexas the Eunuch, Cleopatra's servant.

Link to recording

Act I, Scene [1], The Temple of Isis.

Enter Serapion, Myris, Priests of Isis.

Serap.  Portents and Prodigies are grown so frequent,
That they have lost their Name.  Our fruitful Nile

Flow'd e're the wonted Season, with a Torrent

So unexpected, and so wondrous fierce,

That the wild Deluge overtook the haste,

Ev'n of the Hinds that watch'd it: Men and Beasts

Were born above the tops of Trees, that grew

On th'utmost Margin of the Water-mark.

Then, with so swift an Ebb, the Floud drove backward

It slipt from underneath the Scaly Herd:                           10

Here monstrous Phocae panted on the Shore;

Forsaken Dolphins there, with their broad Tails,

Lay lashing the departing Waves: Hard by 'em,

Sea-Horses floundring in the slimy Mud,

Toss'd up their heads, and dash'd the ooze about 'em.

Enter Alexas behind them.

Myr.  Avert these Omens, Heav'n.

Serap.  Last night, between the hours of Twelve and One,
In a lone Isle o'th'Temple, while I walk'd,

A Whirl-wind rose, that, with a violent blast,

Shook all the Dome: the Doors around me clap,            20

The Iron Wicket that defends the Vault,

Where the Long Race of Ptolemies is lay'd,

Burst open, and disclos'd the mighty dead.

From out each Monument, in order plac'd,

An Armed Ghost start up: the Boy-King last

Rear'd his inglorious head.  A peal of groans

Then follow'd, and a Lamentable Voice

Cry'd, Egypt is no more.  My blood ran back,

My shaking Knees against each other knock'd;

On the cold Pavement, down I fell intranc'd,                     30

And so unfinish'd left the horrid Scene.

Alexas shewing himself.  And, Dream'd you of this?  or, Did invent the Story?

To frighten our Egyptian Boys withal,

And train 'em up betimes in fear of Priesthood.

Serap.  My Lord, I saw you not,
Nor meant my words should reach your Ears; but what

I utter'd was most true.

Alex.   A foolish Dream,
Bred from the fumes of indigested Feasts,                      40

And holy Luxury.

Serap.  I know my duty: This goes no farther.

Alex.  'Tis not fit it should.
Nor would the times now bear it, were it true.

All Southern, from yon Hills, the Roman Camp

Hangs o'er us black and threatning, like a Storm

Just breaking on our Heads.

Serap.  Our faint Ægyptians pray for Antony;
But in their Servile Hearts they own Octavius.                 50


(11) Phocae - SEALS

(14) Sea-horses - HIPPOPOTAMI  

(21) Wicket - GATE
(41) Luxury - WANTONNESS


Link to Early Modern menu

Link back to main menu