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305. Know, Cæsar doth not wrong, etc.-- This is the reading of all the old printed copies, and Mr Collier expressly states that it is left untouched by his MS. rector. We must take it as meaning, “ Cæsar never does what is wrong, or unjust; nor will he be appeased (when he has determined to punish) without sufficient reason being shown.” At the same time, it must be confessed both that these two propositions, or affirmations, do not hang very well together, and also that such meaning as
have is not very clearly or effectively expressed by the words. “Nor without cause will he be satisfied” has an especially suspicious look. That “without cause" should mean without sufficient reason being shown why he should be satisfied or induced to relent is only an interpretation to which we are driven for want of a better. Now, all this being so, it is remarkable that there is good evidence that the passage did not originally stand as we now have it. Ben Jonson, in his Discoveries, speaking of Shakespeare, says, “Many times he fell into those things could not escape laughter; as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him, Cæsar, thou dost me wrong,' he replied, ' Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause.'” And he ridicules the expression again in his Staple of News : Cry you mercy; you never did
wrong but with just cause." We must believe that the words stood originally as Jonson has given them; and he had evidently heard of no alteration of them. Whoever may have attempted to mend them might perhaps have as well let thein alone. After all, Cæsar's declaring that he never did
wrong but with just cause would differ little from what Bassanio
says in The Merchant of Venice, iv. 1 :-:
66 I beseech you,
To do a great right do a little wrong.” Shakespeare, however, may have retouched the passage himself on being told of Jonson's ridicule of it, though
perhaps somewhat hastily and with less painstaking than
306. For the repealing, etc.—To repeal (from the French rappeler) is literally to recall, though no longer used in that sense, --in which, however, it repeatedly occurs in Shakespeare. Thus in Coriolanus, iv. 1, after the banishment of Marcius, his friend Cominius says to him,
“If the time thrust forth A cause for thy repeal, we shall not send,” etc. For the probable pronunciation of banished in this and in the preceding speech, see the note on 246.
307. Desiring thee.- We should now say in this sense desiring of thee.” To desire, from the Latin desiderium (through the French désir) is the same as to desiderate ; but, like other similar terms, it has in different constructions, or has had in different stages of the language, various meanings according to the measure or degree of intensity in which that which it expresses is conceived to be presented. It may be found in every sense, from such wishing or longing as is the gentlest and quietest of all things (the soft desire of the common herd of our amatory versemongers) to that kind which gives utterance to itself in the most imperative style of command.
307. An immediate freedom of repeal.--A free unconditional recall. This application of the term freedom is a little peculiar. It is apparently imitated from the expression freedom of a city. As that is otherwise called the municipal franchise, so this is called enfranchisement in the next speech but one.
309. As low as to thy foot. - The Second Folio has “As love."
310. I could be well moved. I could fitly or properly be moved. 310. If I could pray to move, prayers
The meaning seems to be, "If I could employ prayers (as you can do) to move (others), then I should be moved by prayers (as you might be).” But it is somewhat dark. The commentators see no difficulty, or at least give us no help. 6 The oracles are dumb."
310. But I am constant as the northern star.–Vid. 263. Both in this line and in the two last lines of the present speech, the term firm would more nearly express the notion in our modern English.
310. Resting quality.—Quality or property of remaining at rest or immovable.
310. But there's but one in all doth hold his place.That is, its place, as we should now say. Vid. 54.
310. Apprehensive.--Possessed of the power of apprehension, or intelligence. The word is now confined to another meaning
310. That unassailable, etc.-Holds on his rank probably means continues to hold his place; and unshaked of motion, perhaps, unshaken by any motion, or solicitation, that may be addressed to him. Or, possibly, it may be, Holds on his course unshaken in his motion, or with perfectly steady movement.
312. Wilt thou lift up Olympus ?—Wilt thou attempt an impossibility ? Think you, with your clamour, to upset what is immovable as the everlasting seat of the Gods ?
314. Doth not Brutus bootless kneel ?—Has not Brutus been refused, and shall any other be listened to ? It is surprising that Dr Johnson should have missed seeing this, and proposed to read "Do not, Brutus, bootless kneel.” That, however (which Johnson does not appear to have known), is also the reading of the Second Folio, --except, indeed, that the point of interrogation withstanding, still preserved. Mr Collier in his regulated text adheres to the reading of the First Folio; but it does not
appear that he has the sanction of any restoration of
that reading, or correction of that of the Second Folio, by his MS. annotator.
315.-The only stage direction after this speech in the original edition is, “ They stab Cæsar."
316. Et tu, Brute.-There is no ancient Latin authority, I believe, for this famous exclamation, although in Suetonius, I. 82, Cæsar is made to address Brutus Kai où, TÉKVOv; (And thou too, my son ?). It may
have occurred as it stands here in the Latin play on the same subject which is recorded to have been acted at Oxford in 1582; and it is found in The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York, first printed in 1595, on which the Third Part of King Henry the Sixth is founded, as also in a poem by S. Nicholson, entitled Acolastus his Afterwit, printed in 1600, in both of which nearly contemporary productions we have the same line :-_“ Et tu, Brute ? Wilt thou stab Cæsar too?” It may just be noticed, as the historical fact, that the meeting of the Senate at which Cæsar was assassinated was held, not, as is here assumed, in the Capitol, but in the Curia in which the statue of Pompey stood, being, as Plutarch tells us, one of the edifices which Pompey had built, and had given, along with his famous Theatre, to the public. It adjoined the Theatre, which is spoken of (with the Portico surrounding it) in 130, 138, and 140. The mistake which we have here is found also in Hamlet, where (iii. 2) Hamlet questions Polonius about his histrionic performances when at the University: "I did enact Julius Cæsar,” says Polonius; “I was killed i’ the Capitol ; Brutus killed me;" to which the Prince replies, “It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there." So also, in Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 6:
To drench the Capitol ?”
The False One, in defending themselves from the imputation of having taken up the same subject which had been already brought on the stage in the present Play, say :
" Sure to tell
' the Capitol, can never be the same
To the judicious.” In the old copies the only stage direction at the end of this speech is the word “ Dies.”
319. Ambition's debt is paid.-Its debt to the country and to justice. Unless, as a friend suggests, the meaning may be-Ambition has now received its reward, its due.
325. Nor to no Roman else.- Where, as here, the sense cannot be mistaken, the reduplication of the negative is a very natural way of strengthening the expression. Steevens remarks that, according to Hickes, we have in the English of the times before the Conquest sometimes so many as four negatives employed in combination for this end.
327. And let no man abide this deed.-Let no man be held responsible for, or be required to stand any consequences that may follow upon any penalty that may have to be paid on account of, this deed. Another form of the verb to abide is to aby ; as in A Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 2:
" If thou dost intend Never so little shew of love to her,
Thou shalt aby it;”. and in the same scene, a little before, “ Lest to thy peril thou aby it dear;” and, a little after, “Thou shalt ’by this dear." So in the Old Version of the Psalms, iii. 26, “Thou shalt dear aby this blow.” It may be questioned whether abide in this sense has any connexion with the common word. To aby has been supposed by some to be the same with buy. The original stage direction is Enter Trebonius.