Графични страници
PDF файл

lone actually attempts an explanation of “ the lane of children;" he says it may mean “the narrow conceits of children, which must change as their minds grow more enlarged !” The prostration of the human understanding before what it has got to hold as authority can hardly be conceived to go beyond this. Johnson conjectured that lane might be a misprint for law; and Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, it appears, makes the same emendation. The new reading may still be thought not to be perfectly satisfactory; but at least it is not utter nonsense, like the other. In a passage which has evidently suffered some injury, we may perhaps be allowed to suspect that "first decree" should be "fixed decree.” The word would be spelled fixt, as it is immediately afterwards in 310.

305. Be not fond, etc.—The sense in which fond is used here (that of foolish) appears to be the original one; so that when tenderness of affection was first called fondness it must have been regarded as a kind of folly. In like manner what was thought of doting upon anything, or any person, may be inferred from the import of the word dotage. In Chaucer a fonne is a fool; and the word fondling can scarcely be said to have yet lost that meaning (though it is omitted by Dr. Webster). . 305. Such rebel blood That will be thawed.Vid. 44.

305. Low-crouched courtesies.--This is the correction of Mr. Collier’s MS. annotator: the Folios have “Low-crooked-curtsies" (with hyphens connecting all the three words). We say to crouch low, but not to crook low. Curt' sies, which we have here, is the same word which appears in the second line of the present speech as courtesies. It is akin to court and courteous, the immediate root being the French cour ; which, again, appears to be the Latin curia,or rather curiata (scil. comitia ?), as is indicated by our English court, and the old form of the French word, which was the same, and also by the Italian corte and the Spanish corte and cortes. Mr. Collier prints curtesies. It is curtsies in the Second Folio, as well as in the First.

305. Know Cæsar doth not wrong, etc.—This is the reading of all the old printed copies, and Mr. Collier expressly states that is left untouched by his MS. corrector. 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 they may have is not very clearly or effectually 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 them 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:

“I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority :

To do a great right to 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 Euripides when he mended or cut out, as he is said to have done in several instances, what had incurred the derisive criticism of Aristophanes.

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

senseerium (through like other similain different sta

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, properly be moved.

310. If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.-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. “ 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.

810. Apprehensive.-Possessed of the power of ap

prehension, 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 is, notwithstanding, still preserved. Mr. Collier in his one volume edition of the Plays adheres to the reading of the First Folio; but makes no mention in his Notes and Emendations 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.—The only ancient authority, I believe, for this famous exclamation is in Suetonius, I. 82, where 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

« ПредишнаНапред »