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the reading of all the old copies, which Mr Knight has restored, after their had been turned into our by the last century editors (Malone included), not only unnecessarily and unwarrantably, but also without notice.
337. With the most boldest.-In the old version of the Psalms we are familiar with the form the most Highest; and even in the authorized translation of the Bible we have, in Acts xxvi. 5, "the most straitest sect of our religion." Nor is there anything intrinsically absurd in such a mode of expression. If we are not satisfied to consider it as merely an intensified superlative, we may say that the most boldest should mean those who are boldest among the boldest. So again in 426; "This was the most unkindest cut of all." In most cases, however, the double superlative must be regarded as intended merely to express the extreme degree more emphatically. Double comparatives are very common in Shakespeare.
339. Say, I love Brutus.-Mr Knight has, apparently by a typographical error, "I lov'd."
339. May safely come to him, and be resolved.—That is, have his perplexity or uncertainty removed. We might still say, have his doubts resolved. But we have lost the more terse form of expression, by which the doubt was formerly identified with the doubter. So again, in 426, Cæsar's blood is described by Antony as
"-rushing out of doors, to be resolved
If Brutus so unkindly knocked or no;"
and in 506 Brutus, referring to Cassius, asks of Lucilius, "How he received you, let me be resolved."—Mr Collier's MS. annotator appends the stage direction "Kneeling" to the first line of this speech, and "Rising" to the last. 340. Tell him, so please him come unto this place.-For the meaning of so here, see the note on "So with love I might entreat you," in 57. There is an ellipsis of the usual nominative (it) before the impersonal verb (please);
and the infinitive come also wants the customary prefix to. "So please him come" is equivalent to If it please (or may please) him to come.
342. I know that we shall have him well to friend.-So in Cymbeline, i. 5, Iachimo says, "Had I admittance and opportunity to friend." So Macbeth (iii. 3), "What I can redress, As I shall find the time to friend, I will." Even in Clarendon we have, "For the King had no port to friend by which he could bring ammunition to Oxford," etc.-Hist., Book vii. To friend is equivalent to for friend. So we say To take to wife. The German form of to (zu) is used in a somewhat similar manner: Das wird mich zu eurem Freunde machen (That will make me your friend). In the Winter's Tale, v. 1, We have "All greetings that a King at friend Can send his brother."
343. Falls shrewdly to the purpose.-The purpose is the intention; to the purpose is according to the intention, as away from the purpose, or beside the purpose, is without any such coincidence or conformity; and to fall shrewdly to the purpose may be explained as being to fall upon that which it is sought to hit with mischievous sharpness and felicity of aim. Vid. 186.
344. The original heading is "Enter Antony."
345. O mighty Cesar! dost thou lie so low?-Mr Collier states, in his Notes and Emendations, p. 400, that a stage direction of his MS. annotator requires Antony, on his entrance with this line, to kneel over the body, and to rise when he comes to "I know not, gentlemen, what you intend," etc.
345. Who else is rank.-Is of too luxuriant growth, too fast-spreading power in the commonwealth.
345. As Cæsar's death's hour.-This is the reading of all the old copies. Mr Collier prints "death hour."
345. Nor no instrument. Here the double negative, while it occasions no ambiguity, is palpably much more forcible than either and no or nor any would have been.
345. Of half that worth as.-Vid. 44.
345. I do beseech ye, if you bear me hard.—See note on Bear me hard in 105.-The present line affords a remarkable illustration of how completely the old declension of the personal pronoun of the second person has become obliterated in our modern English. Milton too almost always has ye in the accusative. Thus (Par. Lost, x. 402):-"I call ye, and declare ye now, returned Successful beyond hope, to lead ye forth,” etc. In the original form of the language ye (ge) is always nominative, and you (eów) accusative; being the very reverse of what we have here.
345. Live a thousand years.-Suppose I live; If I live; Should I live. But, although the suppression of the conditional conjunction is common and legitimate enough, that of the pronoun, or nominative to the verb, is hardly so defensible. The feeling probably was that the I in the next line might serve for both verbs.
345. So apt to die.-Apt is properly fit, or suited, generally, as here. So formerly they said to apt in the sense both of to adapt and of to agree. I apprehend, however, that such an expression as apt to die (for ready or prepared to die) would have been felt in any stage of the language to involve an unusual extension of the meaning of the word, sounding about as strange as aptus ad moriendum would do in Latin. We now, at all events, commonly understand the kind of suitableness or readiness implied in apt as being only that which consists in inclination, or addictedness, or mere liability. Indeed, we usually say disposed or inclined in cases in which apt was the customary word in the English of the last century; as in Smollett's Count Fathom, Vol. II. ch. 27, "I am apt to believe it is the voice of heaven." By the substantive aptitude, again, we mostly understand an active fitness. The word apte was wont to be not much used in French; some of the dictionaries do not notice it;
Richelet characterizes it as obsolete; adding, on the authority of Father Bouhours, that the noun aptitude is occasionally employed, although not considered to belong to the Court language. Like many other old-fashioned words, however, this has been revived by recent writers. Such expressions as "On est apte à juger," meaning "One has no difficulty in concluding," are common in modern books.
345. As here, by Cæsar and by you, cut off-We may resolve the ellipsis by saying "as to be," or as being cut off." And "by Cæsar " is, of course, beside Cæsar; "by you," through your act or instrumentality. A play of words, as it is called, was by no means held in Shakespeare's day to be appropriate only to sportive writing,any more than was any other species of verbal artifice or ornament, such, for instance, as alliteration, or rhyme, or verse itself. Whatever may be the etymology of by, its primary meaning seems to be alongside of (the same, apparently, with that of the Greek Tapá). It is only by inference that instrumentality is expressed either by it or by with (the radical notion involved in which appears to be that of joining or uniting). Vid. 620.
345. The choice and master spirits of this age.-Choice here may be understood either in the substantive sense as the élite, or, better perhaps, as an adjective in concord with spirits.
346. O Antony! beg not your death of us.―That is, If you prefer death, or if you are resolved upon death, let it not be of us that you ask it. The sequel of the speech seems decisive in regard to the us being the emphatic word.
346. And this the bleeding business.—Only a more vivid expression for the bloody business, the sanguinary act.
346. Our hearts you see not, they are pitiful.-Probably the primary sense of the Latin pius and pietas may have been nothing more than emotion, or affection, generally.
But the words had come to be confined to the expression of reverential affection towards a superior, such as the gods or a parent. From pietas the Italian language has received pietà (anciently pietade), which has the senses both of reverence and of compassion. The French have moulded the word into two forms, which (according to what frequently takes place in language) have been respectively appropriated to the two senses; and from their piété and pitié we have borrowed, and applied in the same manner, our piety and pity. To the former, moreover, we have assigned the adjective pious; to the latter, piteous. But pity, which meant at one time reverence, and afterwards compassion, has come in some of its uses to suffer still further degradation. By pitiful (or full of pity) Shakespeare, as we see here, means full of compassion; but the modern sense of pitiful is contemptible or despicable. 'Pity," it has been said, or sung, "melts the soul to love;" but this would seem to show that it is also near akin to a very different passion. And, instead of turning to love, it would seem more likely that it should sometimes pass on from contempt to aversion and hatred. In many cases, too, when we say that we pity an individual, we mean that we despise or loathe him.
346. As fire drives out fire, so pity pity.-In this line the first fire is a dissyllable (like hour in 256), the second a monosyllable. The illustration we have here is a favourite one with Shakespeare. "Tut, man," says Benvolio to his friend Romeo (Romeo and Juliet, i. 2),
"one fire burns out another's burning,
"One fire burns out one fire; one nail, one nail,"
exclaims Tullus Aufidius, in Coriolanus (iv. 7).
have the thought most fully expressed in the soliloquy of Proteus in the Fourth Scene of the Second Act of The Two Gentlemen of Verona :