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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.
Arv. Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone.
Are there no stones in heaven,
122. You are dull, etc. — The commencement of this speech is a brilliant specimen of the blank verse of the original edition:
You are dull, Caska : And those sparkes of Life, that should be in a Roman, You doe want, or else you use not. You looke pale, and gaze, and put on feare, And cast yourselfe in wonder, To see, .::
122. Cast yourself in wonder. — Does this mean throw yourself into a paroxysm of wonder? Or may cast yourself mean cast your self, or your mind, about, as in idle conjecture? The commentators are mute. Shakespeare sometimes has in where we should now use into. In an earlier stage of the language, the distinction now established between in and into was constantly disregarded; and in some idiomatic expressions, the radical fibres of a national speech, we still have in used to express what is commonly and regularly expressed by into. To fall in love is a familiar example. Perhaps we continue to say in love as marking more forcibly the opposition to what Julia in the concluding line of Act IV. of The
Two Gentlemen of Verona calls out of love. The expression cast yourself in wonder seems to be most closely paralleled by another in Richard III. i. 3: “ Clarence, whom I, indeed, have cast in darkness,” as it stands in the First Folio, although the preceding Quartos (of which there were five, 1597, 1598, 1602, 1612 or 1613, 1622) have all“ laid in darkness.” We have another instance of Shakespeare's use of in where we should now say into in the familiar lines in The Merchant of Venice, v. I:
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
[Collier, Dyce, Hudson, and Staunton have cast. White substitutes case, and quotes Much Ado, iv. I : “I am so attired in wonder.” Other instances of in for into are, Dost thou come here to whine? To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Hamlet, v. I.
Richard III. i. 2. See also Deuteron. xxiv. 1; 2 Kings ix. 25.]
122. Why old men, etc.— Blackstone's novel pointing of this passage is ingenious: “Why old men fools” (i. e. why we have all these fires, etc., why we have old men fools). [So Collier, Dyce, and Staunton. White has “ Why old men fool,” etc; Hudson, “ Why old men, fools, and children,” etc. I prefer White's reading:] But the amendment is hardly required; or, at any rate, it would not go far to give us a perfectly satisfactory text. Nor does there seem to be any necessity for assigning to calculate the singular sense of prophesy (which the expression adduced by Johnson, to calculate a nativity, is altogether insufficient to authorize). There is probably some corruption; but the present line may be very well understood as meaning merely, why not only old men, but even fools and children, speculate upon the future; or, still more simply, why all persons, old and young, and the foolish as well as the wise, take part in such speculating and prognosticating. Shakespeare may have been so far from thinking, with Blackstone, that it was something unnatural and prodigious for old men ever to be fools, that he has even designed to classify them with foolish persons generally, and with children, as specially disqualified for looking with any very deep insight into the future. And so doubtless they are apt to be, when very old.
122. Unto some monstrous state. — That is, I suppose, some monstrous or unnatural state of things (not some overgrown commonwealth).
122. And roars, etc. – That is, roars in the Capitol as doth the lion. Many readers, I believe, infer from this passage that Cæsar is compared by Cassius to some live lion that was kept in the Capitol. Or perhaps it may be sometimes imagined that he alludes to the same lion which Casca (though not in his hearing) has just been telling Cicero that he had met “ against the Capitol.” The Second and two following Folios have tears for roars.
122. No mightier than thyself, or me. — Of course, in strict grammar it should be than 1. But the personal pronouns must be held to be, in some measure, emancipated from the dominion or tyranny of syntax. Who would rectify even Shelley's bold
lest there be No solace left for thou and me? [And who would venture to imitate it?] The grammatical law has so slight a hold that a mere point of euphony is deemed sufficient to justify the neglect of it.
As we have me for I in the present passage, we have I for me in Antonio's “ All debts are cleared between you and I” (Merchant of Venice, iii. 2).
122. [Prodigious grown. — That is, portentous; as in the other cases in which Shakespeare uses the word, except where Launce (Two Gent. of Ver. ii. 3) speaks of " the prodigious son.”]
124. Let it be who it is. — Not who it may be; Cassius, in his present mood, is above that subterfuge. While he abstains from pronouncing the name, he will not allow it to be supposed that there is any doubt about the actual existence of the man he has been describing.
124. Thews and limbs. - [Thews here means muscular powers, as in the only other two instances in which Shakespeare uses the word. “ Care I,” says Falstaff, in the Second Part of King Henry IV. iii. 2," for the limb, the thews, the stature, bulk, and big assemblance of a man? Give me the spirit, Master Shallow.” So Laertes, in Hamlet, i. 3,
For nature, crescent, does not grow alone
Grows wide withal. The word is from the Saxon theow or theoh, whence also thigh, and must not be confounded with the obsolete thews= manners, or qualities of mind, which is from the Saxon theaw. This latter thews is common in Spenser, Chaucer, and earlier writers ; the former is found very rarely before Shakespeare's day. George Turbervile, in his translation of Ovid's Epistles, first printed in 1567, has " the thews of Helen's passing [that is, surpassing] form.” In the earlier version of Layamon's Brut, also, which belongs to the end of the twelfth cen. tury, we have in one place (verse 6361), “ Monnene strengest of maine and of theawe of alle thissere theode” (of men strongest of main, or strength, and of sinew, of all this land). But Sir Frederick Madden remarks (III. 471), “ This is the only instance in the poem of the word being applied to bodily qualities, nor has any other passage of an earlier date than the sixteenth century been found in which it is so used.”]