Alchemical Reference in 'Antony and Cleopatra'

Lyndall Abraham


Lepidus: Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the operation of your sun: so is your crocodile. (II.vii.26-7)

The phrase "the operation of your sun" is a distinctly alchemical term. It refers to the opus alchymicum as a whole and is first known to occur in one of the oldest and most famous alchemical documents, the Emerald Table: "What I have said concerning the operation of the Sun is finished."

The Tabula Smaragdina or Emerald Table, ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus or the Egyptian Thoth, was not only one of the most important sources of medieval alchemy, but continued to be considered as the basis of alI alchemical law by alchemists right through to the seventeenth century.

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