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in Brutus's impressive address, 187. Shakespeare, however, does not frequently resort to it, - rather, one would say, avoids it. To befall as a neuter or intransitive verb is nearly gone out both in prose
and verse; as is also to fall in the same sense, as used by Brutus in the next speech.
708. Even by the rule, etc. — The construction plainly is, I know not how it is, but I do find it, by the rule of that philosophy, etc., cowardly and vile. The common pointing of the modern editors, which completely separates “ I know not how,” etc., from what precedes, leaves the “ by the rule
without connection or meaning. It is impossible to suppose that Brutus can mean “ I am determined to do by the rule
that philosophy," etc. [This meaning, which Craik considers “impossible” (I am determined to do by, i. e. act in accordance with, govern myself by, the rule of that philosophy, etc.), seems, on the whole, the best possible. So Dyce and Hudson appear to understand the passage, pointing it as follows, making “ I know not how ... The time of life" parenthetical:
Even by the rule of that philosophy,
The time of life; — arming myself with patience, etc. Collier and White put a period after “himself;" but how the latter part of the passage is to be interpreted with that pointing, is beyond my comprehension.]
708. The term of life. — That is, the termination, the end, of life. The common reading is “the time of life,” which is simply nonsense; term is the emendation of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, and the same
emendation had also been made conjecturally by Capell, though it failed to obtain the acquiescence of subsequent editors. [I cannot but think, with Dyce, that the alteration is a most unnecessary one. As Hudson says, “ by time is meant the full time, the natural period.” Staunton compares “ the time of life is short,” i Henry IV. v. 2, but it is not exactly parallel to the expression here.] For to prevent, see 147 and 161.
708. To stay the providence of those high powers.
To stay is here to await, not, as the word more commonly means, to hinder or delay. — “ Some high powers” is the common reading; those is the correction of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, and might almost have been assumed on conjecture to be the true word. [It is not adopted by Dyce, Hudson, Staunton, or White.]
709. [Thorough the streets. -See 338.]
710. No, Cassius, no: etc. There has been some controversy about the reasoning of Brutus in this dialogue. Both Steevens and Malone conceive that there is an inconsistency between what he here says and his previous declaration of his determination not to follow the example of Cato. But how did Cato act? He slew himself that he might not witness and outlive the fall of Utica. This was, merely “ for fear of what might fall,” to anticipate the end of life. It did not follow that it would be wrong, in the opinion of Brutus, to commit suicide in order to escape any certain and otherwise inevitable calamity or degradation, such as being led in triumph through the streets of Rome by Octavius and Antony.
It is proper to remark, however, that Plutarch, upon whose narrative the conversation is founded, makes Brutus confess to a change of opinion. Here
is the passage, in the Life of Brutus, as translated by Sir Thomas North : 66 Then Cassius began to speak first, and said : The gods grant us, O Brutus, that this day we may win the field, and ever after to live all the rest of our life quietly, one with another. But, sith the gods have so ordained it, that the greatest and chiefest [things] amongst men are most uncertain, and that, if the battle fall out otherwise to-day than we wish or look for, we shall hardly meet again, what art thou then determined to do? to fly? or die? Brutus answered him: Being yet but a young man, and not over greatly experienced in the world, I trust (trusted] (I know not how) a certain rule of philosophy, by the which I did greatly blame and reprove Cato for killing of himself, as being no lawful nor godly act touching the gods, nor, concerning men, valiant; not to give place and yield to divine Providence, and not constantly and patiently to take whatsoever it pleaseth him to send us, but to draw back and fly. But, being now in the midst of the danger, I am of a contrary mind. For, if it be not the will of God that this battle fall out fortunate for us, I will look no more for hope, neither seek to make any new supply for war again, but will rid me of this miserable world, and content me with my fortune. For I gave up my life for my country in the Ides of March ; for the which I shall live in another more glorious world.”
This compared with the scene in the Play affords a most interesting and instructive illustration of the manner in which the great dramatist worked in such cases, appropriating, rejecting, adding, as suited his purpose, but refining or elevating everything, though sometimes by the slightest touch, and so transmuting all into the gold of poetry.
710. Must end that work the ides of March begun. - Begun is the word in the old editions. Mr. Collier has began. The three last Folios all have "that Ides of March begun."
SCENE II. 713. Give these bills. — These billets, as we should now say; but Shakespeare takes the word which he found in North’s Plutarch: the mean time Brutus, that led the right wing, sent little bills to the colonels and captains of private bands, in which he wrote the word of the battle.”
As in all other cases throughout the Play, the notices of the locality of what are here called the Şecond and Third Scenes are modern additions to the old text, in which there is no division into scenes. The stage directions in regard to alarums, entries, etc., are all in the First Folio.
713. But cold demeanour in Octavius' wing. The original text has “Octavio's wing.” In 715, however, it is Octavius.
SCENE III. 714. This ensign here of mine was turning back. - Here the term ensign may almost be said to be used with the double meaning of both the standard and the standard-bearer.
715. Took it too eagerly. Followed his advantage too eagerly. The prosody of this line, with its two superfluous syllables, well expresses the hurry and impetuosity of the speaker.
719. [ Whether yond troops. - See 65. Hudson and White in both passages give yond', as if yond were not a good English word. So in 724 they print 'light for light.]
721. Go, Pindarus, get higher on that hill. This is the reading of the First Folio; all the others
have “get hither.” The stage direction “Exit Pindarus" is modern.
721. This day I breathed first. — Compare this expression with what we have in 703 : “As this very day Was Cassius born."
721. Time is come round. My life is run his compass. -See 373.
721. Sirrah, what news? - The expressive effect of the break in the even flow of the rhythm produced by the superfluous syllable here, and the vividness with which it brings before us the sudden awakening of Cassius from his reverie, startled, we may suppose, by some sign of agitation on the part of Pindarus, will be felt if we will try how the line would read with “Sir, what news?”
724. With horsemen that make to him on the spur.- One of the applications of the verb to make which we have now lost. See 680.
724. Now, Titinius! Now some light: etc. - It may be doubted whether the verb to light or alight have any connection with either the substantive or the adjective light. There evidently was, however, in that marvellous array in which the whole world of words was marshalled in the mind of Milton :
Par. Lost, x. 741. In the original text, “ He's ta’en” stands in a line by itself, as frequently happens in that edition with words that really belong to the preceding verse, and possibly, notwithstanding their detached position, were intended to be represented as belonging to it.
725. Take thou the hilts. — Formerly the hilts