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57. Chew upon this.—We have lost the native word in this application; but we retain the metaphor, only translating chew into the Latin equivalent, ruminate.
57. Brutus had rather be . . . than to repute.-The sense of the verb Have in the phrase Had rather is peculiar. Johnson calls it barbarous. Webster asks, “Is not this phrase a corruption of would rather?" It has the same sense, as we have seen (54), in Had as lief, and in the older Had liefer, or lever. This verb (one very variously applied in some other languages,-witness the il y a of the French, the vi ha or havvi of the Italian, the ha or hay of the Spanish, as well as certain constructions of the Greek exɛiv) may have been employed by us formerly with more latitude of signification than now. We still say Have at him, and, with a somewhat different sense, Have at you. Even Shakespeare has, in Rich. II., iii. 3, "Me rather had my heart might feel your love Than my unpleased eye see your courtesy."
There is also the phrase, Had like, not yet quite gone out, of which all that Dr Webster has to say is, that it seems to be a corruption,-unless, he adds, like be here a noun, and used for resemblance or probability (which it may be safely affirmed that it is not). The to before. repute is, apparently, to be defended, if at all, upon the ground that had rather is equivalent in import to would prefer, and that, although it is only an auxiliary before be a villager, it is to be taken as a common verb before to repute. It is true that, as we have seen (1), the to was in a certain stage of the language sometimes inserted, sometimes omitted, both after auxiliaries and after other verbs; but that was hardly the style of Shakespeare's age. We certainly could not now say "I had rather to repute;" and I do not suppose that any one would have directly so written or spoken then. The irregularity is softened or disguised in the passage before us by the intervening words.
57. Under these hard conditions as.-This is the reading in all the old copies; these—as where we should now say such as, or those that. If such, so, as, that (or this) be all etymologically of the same or nearly the same signification, they would naturally, till custom regulated their use, and assigned a distinct function to each, be interchangeable one with another. Thus in 129 we have. "To such a man That is no fleering tell-tale." Although those-as, or that—as, is common, however, these—as is certainly at any rate unusual. Mr Collier prints, upon the authority of his MS. corrector, "under such hard conditions." I should suspect the true reading to be "under those hard conditions." Vid. 44.
57. Is like.-This form of expression is not quite, but nearly, gone out. We now commonly say is likely.
58. I am glad that my weak words.—In this first line of the speech of Cassius and the last of the preceding speech of Brutus we have two hemistichs, having no prosodical connexion. It was never intended that they should form one line, and no torturing can make them do so.
Re-enter Cæsar.—In the original text it is Enter.
60. What hath proceeded.―That is, simply, happened, -a sense which the verb has now lost.
61. I will do so, etc.-Throughout the Play, the ius of Cassius (as also of Lucilius) makes sometimes only one syllable, sometimes two, as here.
62. Being crossed in conference, etc.-If the being and conference be fully enunciated, as they will be in any but the most slovenly reading, we have two supernumerary syllables in this line, but both so short that neither the mechanism nor the melody of the verse is at all impaired by them.
65. Let me have men about me, etc.-Some of the expressions in this speech are evidently suggested by those of North in his translation of Plutarch's Life of Cæsar:
"When Cæsar's friends complained unto him of Antonius and Dolabella, that they pretended [i. e. intended] some mischief towards him, he answered; As for those fat men and smooth-combed heads (quoth he), I never reckon of them; but these pale-visaged and carrion-lean people, I fear them most; meaning Brutus and Cassius."
65. Such as sleep o' nights.-That is, on nights; as o'clock is on clock, and also as aboard is on board, aside on side, aloft on loft, alive in life, etc. In the older stages of the language the meanings that we now discriminate by on and in are confused, and are both expressed by an, on, un, in, or in composition by the contractions a or o. The form here in the original text is a-nights.
65. Yond Cassius.-Though yond is no longer in use, we still have both yon and yonder. The d is probably no proper part of the word, but has been added to strengthen the sound, as in the word sound itself (from the French son), and in many other cases. See, upon the origin of Yonder, Dr Latham's Eng. Lang. 375.
66. Well given.—Although we no longer say absolutely well or ill given (for well or ill disposed), we still say given to study, given to drinking, etc.
67. Yet, if my name.-A poetic idiom for "Yet, if I, bearing the name I do." In the case of Cæsar the name was even more than the representative and most precise expression of the person; it was that in which his power chiefly resided, his renown. Every reader of Milton will remember the magnificent passage (P. L. ii. 964) :—
"Behold the throne
Of Chaos, and his dark pavilion spread
Wide on the wasteful deep; with him enthroned
Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of things,
The consort of his reign; and by them stood
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
67. Liable to fear.—The word liable has been somewhat restricted in its application since Shakespeare's time.
We should scarcely now speak of a person as liable to fear. And see 249 for another application of it still farther away from our present usage.
67. Such men as he, etc.-In this and the following line we have no fewer than three archaisms, words or forms which would not and could not be used by a writer of the present day :-be (for are), at heart's ease (for in ease of mind), whiles (for while). It would be difficult to show that the language has not in each of these instances lost something which it would have been the better for retaining. But it seems to be a law of every language which has become thoroughly subdued under the dominion of grammar, that perfectly synonymous terms cannot live in it. If varied forms are not saved by having distinct senses or functions assigned to each, they are thrown off as superfluities and encumbrances. One is selected for use, and the others are reprobated, or left to perish from mere neglect. The logic of this no doubt is, that verbal expression will only be a correct representation of thought if there should never be any the slightest variation of the one without a corresponding variation of the other. But the principle is not necessarily inconsistent with the existence of various forms which should be recognized as differing in no other respect whatever except only in vocal character; and the language would be at least musically richer with more of this kind of variety. It is what it regards as the irregularity or lawlessness, however, of such logically unnecessary variation that the grammatical spirit hates. It would be argued that with two or more words of precisely the same signification we should have really something like a confusion of two or more languages.
67. For the present stage direction at the end of this speech, we have in the original text "Sennit. Exeunt Cæsar and his Traine."
69. What hath chanced to-day.-So in 71; where, also,
most of the modern editions have "what hath chanced," Mr Collier's one-volume edition included, although had is the word in all the Folios. Instead of to chance in this sense we now usually say to happen. Chance is a French word (from the cas- of the Latin casus strengthened by the common expedient of inserting an n); happen, hap, and also happy, appear to be derivatives from a Welsh word, hap or hab, luck, fortune. The Original English verb was befeallan, from which also we have still to befall.
78. Ay, marry, was't.—This term of asseveration, marry, which Johnson seems to speak of as still in common use in his day, is found in Chaucer in the form Mary, and appears to be merely a mode of swearing by the Holy Virgin.
78. Every time gentler than other.—I do not know that this use of other will be admitted to be of the same nature with that which we have in Macbeth, i. 7, where the reading of the First Folio is "Vaulting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself, And falls on the other." The other in both passages ought perhaps to be considered as a substantive, as it still is in other cases, though it is no longer used exactly in this way. So in Meas. for Meas. iv. 4;—“ Every letter he hath writ hath disvouched other."
82. The rabblement shouted. The first three Folios have howted, the Fourth houted. The common reading is hooted. But this is entirely inconsistent with the context. The people applauded when Cæsar refused the crown, and only hissed or hooted when they thought he was about to accept it. Shouted was substituted on conjecture by Hanmer, and almost indicates itself; but it has also the support of Mr Collier's MS. annotator.
82. Their chopped hands. In the old copies chopt. Mr Collier, however, has chapped.
82. For he swooned.-Swoonded is the word in all the Folios.