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15. Wherefore rejoice? etc.-- This was in the beginning of B. C. 44 (A. U. c. 709), when Cæsar, having returned from Spain in the preceding October, after defeating the sons of Pompey at the Battle of Munda (fought 17th March, B. C. 45), had been appointed Consul for the next ten years and Dictator for life. The festival of the Lupercalia, at which he was offered and declined the crown, was celebrated 13th February, B. C. 44; and he was assassinated 15th March following, being then in his fifty-sixth year.
15. Many a time and oft.-This old phrase, which is still familiar, may be held to be equivalent to many and many a time, that is, many times and yet again many more times. The old pointing of this line is, “ Knew you not Pompey many a time and oft?” It is like what all the Folios give us in Macbeth, i. 5 :
“Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters, to beguile the time." What follows, -"Have you climbed up,” etc.,-is, of course, made a second question.
15. To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome.In modern English to pass a street, or a bridge, is to abstain from walking along it. It would be satisfactory with respect to this line, if other instances could be produced of the usage of the language being different in Shakespeare's day.
15. That Tiber trembled underneath her banks. The proper antecedent of that (so, or in such wise) is left unexpressed, as sufficiently obvious.--Some of the modern editors have taken the unwarrantable liberty of changing her into his in this line and the next but one, because Tiber is one of those names of rivers which are always masculine in Latin. This is to give us both language and a conception different from Shakespeare's.
15. Made in her concave shores.-An imperfect line (or hemistich, as it is commonly called), but prosodically regular so far as it goes, which is all we have a right to look for. The occasional use of such shortened lines would seem to be, at least in dramatic poetry, one of the proper and natural prerogatives of blank verse, according well, as it does, with the variety of pause and cadence which inakes the distinctive charm of verse of that form. But, apparently, it need not be assumed, as is always done, that the fragment must necessarily be in all cases the beginning of a line. Why should not the poet be supposed sometimes, when he begins a new sentence or paragraph in this manner, to intend that it should be connected, in the prosody as well as in the meaning, with what follows, not with what precedes ? A few lines lower down, for instance, the words “ Be gone” might be either the first foot of the verse or the last.
16. Weep your tears. We should' scarcely now speak of weeping tears absolutely, though we might say “to weep tears of blood, or of agony, or of bitterness," or “to weep an ocean of tears, or our fill of tears.' This sense of the verb weep is quite distinct from the sense it commonly has when used transitively, which is to weep for, or to lament; as when in Cymbeline (i. 5) Iachimo speaks of “ those that weep this lamentable divorce.” It more resembles what we have in the phrases To sin the sin, To die the death, To sing a song :--expressive forms, to which the genius of our tongue has never been very prone, and to which it is now decidedly averse. They owe their effect, in part, indeed, to a certain naturalness, or disregard of strict propriety, which a full-grown and educated language is apt to feel ashamed of as something rustic or childish. Perhaps, however, a distinction should be drawn between such an expression as To weep tears and such as To sin the sin, To sing a song, in which the verb is merely a synonyme for to act, to perform, to execute.
16. Till the lowest stream, etc.—The hot-tempered tri
bune talks fast. It is evident that no augmentation of the water will ever make the lowest stream touch the highest shores. In the do kiss we have a common archaism, the retention of the auxiliary, now come to be regarded, when it is not emphatic, as a pleonasm enfeebling the expression, and consequently denied alike to the writer of prose and to the writer of verse. It is thus in even a worse predicament than the separate pronunciation of the final ed in the preterite indicative or past participle passive. It was only the first fervour of an acquaintance with and admiration of our old literature that could have led Keats to mar the fine poetry of many of his pieces by a recurrence to these extinct forms. But in the age of Shakespeare they were both, though beginning to be abandoned, still part and parcel of the living language, and there is therefore no affectation in his frequent use of them. Instances both of the unemphatic do and of the distinct syllabication of the final ed are numerous in the present Play. The modern forms probably were as yet completely established only in the spoken language, which commonly goes before that which is written and read in such economical innovations. For the modern stage direction Exeunt Citizens, the original text has here Exeunt all the Commoners,
16. See whe'r their basest metal.- Whe'r is whether. The contraction is common both in Shakespeare and in other writers of his age. Thus we have in his 59th Sonnet :
“Whether we are mended, or whe'r better they,
Or whether revolution be the same."
The er may be supposed to have been pronounced as the er is in her. In the old copies the word, when thus contracted, is usually printed exactly as the adverb of place always is, where. But if it were to be here spelled whether at full length, and pronounced as a dissyllable, we should have no more of prosodical irregularity than we have in many other lines. And it is occasionally in similar circumstances so presented in the old copies.
16. Deckt with ceremonies.—To deck (the same with the Latin teg-ere and the German deck-en) signifies properly no more than to cover. Hence the deck of a ship. Thatch (the German Dach) is another formation from the same root. To deck, therefore, has no connexion with to decorate, which is of the same stock with decent (from the Latin decus, or decor, and decet). The supposition that there was a connexion, however, has probably helped to acquire for deck its common acceptation, which now always involves the notion of decoration or adornment. And that was also its established sense when Shakespeare wrote. By ceremonies must here be meant what are afterwards in 18 called "Cæsar's trophies," and are described in 95 as “scarfs” which were hung on Cæsar's images. No other instance of this use of the word, however, is produced by the commentators; nor is such a sense of it given either by Johnson (though himself an editor of Shakespeare) or by Webster. The Latin ceremonia is of unknown or disputed origin, but its only meaning is a religious rite. In our common English the meaning of ceremony
has been extended so as to include also forms of civility and outward forms of state. We have it in that sense in 27. And we shall find lower down that Shakespeare uses it in still another sense, which is peculiar to himself, or which has now at least gone out. T'id. 194.
17. The feast of Lupercal.-The Roman festival of the Lupercalia (-ium or -iorum), whatever may be the etymology of the name, was in honour of the god Pan. It was celebrated annually on the Ides (or 13th) of February, in a place called the Lupercal, at the foot of Mount Aventine. A third company of Luperci, or priests of Pan, with Antony for its chief, was instituted in honour of Julius Cæsar.
18. It is no matter, etc.—The Second Folio goes, or stumbles, on
"let on Images Be hung with the Cæsars Trophees.” Mr Collier does not state that this is corrected by his MS. annotator.
18. Will make him fly.-A modern sentence constructed in this fashion would constitute the him the antecedent to the who, and give it the meaning of the person generally who in this instance) else would soar, etc., or whoever would. But it will be more accordant with the style of Shakespeare's day to leave the him unemphatic, and to regard Cæsar as being the antecedent to who. It was not then so unusual, or accounted so inelegant, as it would now be, in our more precise and straitened syntax, thus to separate the relative from its true antecedent by the interposition of another false or apparent one, or to tack on the relative clause to the completed statement as if it had been an afterthought. Thus, again in the present Play, we have, in 704,
“Coming from Sardis, on our former ensign
Who to Philippi here consorted us; and in 716,–
O Cassius, Brutus gave the word too early ;
Enter, in Procession with Music, CÆSAR; ANTONY, for the course ;
CALPHURNIA, PORTIA, DECIUS, CICERO, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, and
Cæs. Calphurnia -
[Music ceases. Cæs. Calphurnia -Cal. Here, my lord.