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107. Like a thing unfirm. We have now lost the adjective unfirm, and we have appropriated infirm almost exclusively to the human body and mind, and their states and movements. For infirm generally we can only say not firm.
107. Have rived. - We have nearly lost this form, which is the one Shakespeare uses in the only two passages in which (if we may trust to Mrs. Clarke) the past participle passive of the verb to rive is found in his works. The other is also in this Play: “ Brutus hath rived my heart,” in 553. Milton, again, has our modern riven in the only passage of his poetry in which any part of the verb to rive occurs, (P. L. vi. 449) : “ His riven arms to havoc hewn.”
107. To be exalted with. That is, in order, or in the effort, to be raised to the same height with.
107. A tempest dropping fire. - In the original text these three words are joined together by hyphens.
107. A civil strife in heaven. — A strife in which one part of heaven wars with another.
108. Any thing more wonderful. - That is, anything more that was wonderful. So in Coriolanus, iv. 6:
The slave's report is seconded, and more,
More fearful, is delivered.
Some reasons of this double coronation I have possessed you with, and think them strong; And more, more strong, I shall endue you with. 109. You know him well by sight. - Is it to be supposed that Casca really means to say that the common slave whom he chanced to meet was a particular individual well known to Cicero? Of what importance could that circumstance be? Or for what purpose should Casca notice it, even supposing him to have been acquainted with the fact that Cicero knew the man well, and yet knew him only by sight? It is impossible not to suspect some interpolation or corruption. Perhaps the true reading may be, “You knew him well by sight," meaning that any one would have known him at once to be but a common slave (notwithstanding the preternatural appearance, as if almost of something godlike, which his uplifted hand exhibited, burning but unhurt). [The incident is taken from North’s Plutarch. 66 There was a slave of the souldiers that did cast a marvellous burning flame out of his hands, insomuch as they that saw it thought he had been burnt; but when the fire was out, it was found that he had no hurt.” — Life of Julius Cæsar. “You know him well by sight” seems to me a less singular expression than the one which Craik suggests as an emendation. It is nothing strange that both Cicero and Casca should happen to know a particular slave by sight, and it is natural enough that Casca in relating this prodigy to his friend should say, And you yourself know the man.]
109. Besides (I have not since, etc. - In the Folios, “ I ha' not since.”
109. Against the Capitol. - Over against, opposite to.
109. Who glared upon me. In all the Folios the word is glazed. Pope first changed it to glared. Malone afterwards substituted gazed, partly on the strength of a passage in Stowe's Chronicle, which gave Steevens an opportunity of maliciously rejoining, after quoting other instances of Shakespeare's use of glare, “I therefore continue to repair the poet with his own animated phraseology, rather than with the cold expression suggested by the narrative of Stowe; who, having been a tailor, was undoubtedly equal to the task of mending Shakespeare's hose, but, on poetical emergencies, must not be allowed to patch his dialogue.” Glared is also the correction of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator.
109. Drawn upon a heap. - Gathered together in a heap, or crowd. “ Among this princely heap," says Gloster in Richard III. ii. 1. Heap was in common use in this sense throughout the seventeenth century. [Compare Chaucer, Prioresses Tale:
A litel scole of Cristen folk ther stood
Children an hepe comen of Cristen blood.] 109. The bird of night. — The owl; as the “bird of dawning" (the cock) in Hamlet, i. 1.
109. Hooting and shrieking: – Howting is the word in the first three Folios, houting in the Fourth.
109. Even at noonday, etc. — There may be a question as to the prosody of this line; whether we are to count even a monosyllable and throw the accent upon day, or making even a dissyllable and accenting noon, to reckon day supernumerary.
109. These are their reasons, etc. — That such and such are their reasons. It is the same form of expression that we have afterwards in 147: 6. Would run to these and these extremities.” But the present line has no claim to either a distinctive type or inverted
It is not as if it were “ These are our reasons.” [Collier in his “Regulated Text” adopts the emendation, seasons, of his MS. annotator, but in his second edition he returns to the old reading.] 109. Unto the climate.
The region of the earth, according to the old geographical division of the
globe into so many Climates, which had no reference, or only an accidental one, to differences of temperature.
110. A strange-disposed time. - We should now have to use the adverb in this kind of combination. If we still say strange-shaped, it is because there we seem to have a substantive for the adjective to qualify; just as we have in high-mind-ed, strong-minded, able-bodi-ed, and other similar forms. In other cases, again, it is the adjective, and not the adverb, that enters into the composition of the verb; thus we say strange-looking, mad-looking, heavy-looking, etc., because the verb is to look strange, etc., not to look strangely (which has quite another meaning). Foreign-built may be regarded as an irregular formation, occasioned probably by our having no such adverb as foreignly. Even in home-built, homebaked, home-brewed, home-grown, home-made, etc., the adverb home has a meaning (at home) which it never has when standing alone.
110. Clean from the purpose. — A use of clean (for completely) now come to be accounted inelegant, though common in the translation of the Bible. [See Ps. lxxvii. 8; Isa. xxiv. 19, etc.] “From the purpose" is away from the purpose.
112. The metre of this speech stands, or rather stumbles, thus in the original edition :
Good night then, Caska :
This disturbed Skie is not to walke in. 117. Your ear is good, etc. - The old copies have “What night is this?” But, notwithstanding the supernumerary short syllable, the only possible reading seems to be the one which I have given : “Cassius, what a night is this !” The a is plainly indispensable; for surely Casca cannot be supposed to ask what day of the month it is. What he says can only be understood as an exclamation, similar to that of Cinna, in 135: “What a fearful night is this !' As for the slight irregularity in the prosody, it is of perpetual occurrence. [“ What night is this !” is equivalent to “What a night,” etc. In such exclamations it was not unusual to omit “a”. Compare in Two Gent. of Verona, i. 2,
What fool is she, that knows I am a maid,
And would not force the letter to my view! and in Twelfth Night, ii. 5,
Fab. What dish o' poison has she dressed him!
120. So full of faults. - The word fault, formerly, though often signifying no more than it now does, carried sometimes (as here) a much greater weight of meaning than we now attach to it. Compare 143
120. The thunder-stone. - The thunder-stone is the imaginary product of the thunder, which the ancients called Brontia, mentioned by Pliny (N. H. xxxvii. 10) as a species of gem, and as that which, falling with the lightning, does the mischief. It is the fossil commonly called the Belemnite, or Fingerstone, and now known to be a shell. We still talk of the thunder-bolt, which, however, is commonly confounded with the lightning. The thunder-stone was held to be quite distinct from the lightning, as may be seen from the song of Guiderius and Arviragus in Cymbeline, iv. 2:
Guid. Fear no more the lightning-flash.
Aru. Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone.
Are there no stones in heaven,