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Third Act; after that, on to the end, we have nothing more of him but his dead body, his ghost, and his memory. The Play might more fitly be called after Brutus than after Cæsar. And still more remarkable is the partial delineation that we have of the man. We have a distinct exhibition of little else beyond his vanity and arrogance, relieved and set off by his good-nature or affability. He is brought before us only as “ the spoilt child of victory.” All the grandeur and predominance of his character is kept in the background, or in the shade — to be inferred, at most, from what is said by the other dramatis personæ — by Cassius on the one hand and by Antony on the other in the expression of their own diametrically opposite natures and aims, and in a very few words by the calmer, milder, and
juster Brutus — nowhere manifested by himself. It might almost be suspected that the complete and full-length Cæsar had been carefully reserved for another drama. Even Antony is only half delineated here, to be brought forward again on another scene: Cæsar needed such reproduction much more, and was as well entitled to a stage which he should tread without an equal. He is only a subordinate character in the present Play; his death is but an incident in the progress of the plot. The first figures, standing conspicuously out from all the rest, are Brutus and Cassius.
Some of the passages that have been collected are further curious and interesting as being other renderings of conceptions that are also found in the present Play, and as consequently furnishing data both for the problem of the chronological arrangement of the Plays, and for the general history of the mind and artistic genius of the writer. After all the commentatorship and criticism of which the works of Shakespeare have been the subject, they still remain to be studied in their totality with a special reference to himself. The man Shakespeare, as read in his works — Shakespeare as there revealed, not only in his genius and intellectual powers, but in his character, disposition, temper, opinions, tastes, prejudices, - is a book yet to be written.
It is remarkable, that not only in the present Play, but also in Hamlet, and in Antony and Cleopatra, the assassination of Cæsar should be represented as having taken place in the Capitol. From the Prologue, quoted above, to Beaumont and Fletcher's tragedy of The False One, too, it would appear as if this had become the established popular belief; but the notion may, very probably, be older than Shakespeare.
Another deviation from the literalities of history which we find in the Play, is making the Triumvirs, in the opening scene of the Fourth Act, hold their meeting in Rome. But this may have been done deliberately, and neither from ignorance nor forgetfulness.
I have had no hesitation in discarding, with all the modern editors, such absurd perversions as Antonio, Flavio, Lucio, which never can have proceeded from Shakespeare, wherever they occur in the old copies; and in adopting Theobald's rectification of Murellus for Marullus, which also cannot be supposed to be anything else than a mistake made in the printing or transcription. But it seems hardly worth while to change our familiar Portia into Porcia (although Johnson, without being followed, has adopted that perhaps more correct spelling in his edition).
The peculiarity of the form given to the name of
Cæsar's wife in this Play does not seem to have been noticed. The only form of the name known to antiquity is Calpurnia. And that is also the name even in North’s English translation of Plutarch, Shakespeare's great authority. [This is an error, into which White also, who changes the name to Calpurnia, has fallen. In the first (1579) edition of North’s Plutarch — the edition which Shakespeare must have used -- the name is Calphurnia (see p. 769); but in some of the later editions that of 1676, for instance — I find it changed to Calpurnia.] I have not, however, ventured to rectify it, in the possibility that, although a corrupt form, it may be one which Shakespeare found established in the language, and in possession of the public ear. In that case, it is to be classed with Anthony, Protheus, and Bosphorus, the common modern corruption of the classic Bosporus, which even Gibbon does not hesitate to use.
The name of the person called Decius Brutus throughout the play was Decimus Brutus. Decius is not, like Decimus, a prænomen, but a gentilitial name. The error, however, is as old as the edition of Plutarch's Greek text produced by Henry Stephens in 1572 ; * and it occurs likewise in the accompanying Latin translation, and both in Amyot's and Dacier's French, as well as in North’s English. It is also found in Philemon Holland's translation of Suetonius, published in 1606. Lord Stirling, in his Julius Cæsar, probably misled in like manner by North, has fallen into the same mistake with Shakespeare. That Decius is no error of the press is shown by its occurrence sometimes in the verse in places where Decimus could not stand.
Finally, it may be noticed that it was really this Decimus Brutus who had been the special friend and favorite of Cæsar, not Marcus Junius Brutus the conspirator, as represented in the Play. In his misconception upon this point our English dramatist has been followed by Voltaire in his tragedy of La Mort de César, which is written avowedly in imitation of the Julius Cæsar of Shakespeare.
At the end of the Prolegomena, in Craik's third edition, is the following note:
“I have not thought it necessary, in the present revision, to make the numerous typographical rectifications which would have been required in the margin of every page, and also in many of the references, to remove the traces of an unimportant error of one in the numbering of the speeches from 249, which ought to be 248, onwards to the end of the play.”
In this American edition I determined to make these “numerous typographical rectifications,” and did not happen to notice, until the book was almost ready to go to press, that Craik's error was not where he supposed it to be (from 249 onwards), but merely in numbering 246 and 247, which he makes, as I have done, 245 and 246.
It is rather provoking to find that I have thus been at considerable trouble to correct (more Hibernico) the imaginary error, while I have retained the real one; but it cannot now be helped, and luckily both errors are “unimportant." I shall be pardoned, of course, for not distrusting the author's statement in regard to his own mistakes. W. J. R.
JA SOOTHSAYER. OCTAVIUS CÆSAR, Triumvirs, CINNA, a Poet. - Another POET. MARCUS ANTONIUS, after the death LUCILIUS, TITINIUS, MESSALA, M. ÆMIL. LEPIDUS, J of Julius Cæsar. Young CATO, and VOLUMNIUS; CICERO, PUBLIUS, POPILIUS LENA; Friends to Brutus and Cassius. Senators.
VARRO, CLITUS, CLAUDIUS, STRAMARCUS BRUTUS,
TO, LUCIUS, DARDANIUS; Servants CASSIUS,
to Brutus. CASCA,
PINDARUS, Servant to Cassius. TREBONIUS,
against Julius LIGARIUS,
Cæsar. DECIUS BRUTUS,
CALPHURNIA, Wife to Cæsar. METELLUS CIMBER,
PORTIA, Wife to Brutus. CINNA, FLAVIUS and MARULLUS, Tribunes. SENATORS, CITIZENS, GUARDS, ATTENDARTEMIDORUS, a Sophist of Cnidos. ANTS, ETC.
SCENE, during a great part of the Play, at Rome; after
wards at Sardis; and near Philippi.
ACT I. SCENE 1. - Rome. A Street. Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS, and a Rabble of CITIZENS. 1. Flav. Hence! home, you idle creatures, get you home. Is this a holiday? What! know you not, Being mechanical, you ought not walk, Upon a labouring day, without the sign Of your profession? - Speak, what trade art thou?
i Cit. Why, Sir, a carpenter.
Mar. Where is thy leather apron, and thy rule?