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O, that that earth which kept the world in awe Should patch a wall to expel the winter's flaw! Many notices of Cæsar occur, as might be expected, in Cymbeline. Such are the boast of Posthumus to his friend Philario (ii. 4) of the valor of the Brit
Worthy his frowning at;
When Julius Cæsar (whose remembrance yet
There be many Cæsars,
A kind of conquest
And Britons strut with courage; Our kingdom is stronger than it was at that time; and, as I said, there is no more such Cæsars; other of them may have crooked noses; but to owe such straight arms, none;
Becomes a warlike people, whom we reckon
Ourselves to be. Lastly, we have a few references in Antony and Cleopatra; such as,
What was it
Your fine Egyptian cookery
Thyreus. — Give me grace to lay
Cleopatra. — Your Cæsar's father oft, When he hath mused of taking kingdoms in, Bestowed his lips on that unworthy place As it rained kisses (iii. 11). These passages, taken all together, and some of them more particularly, will probably be thought to afford a considerably more comprehensive representation of “the mighty Julius” than the Play which bears his name. We cannot be sure that that Play
was so entitled by Shakespeare. “The Tragedy : of Julius Cæsar,” or “ The Life and Death of Julius
Cæsar,” would describe no more than the half of it. Cæsar's part in it terminates with the opening of the 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.
* 'Εν δε τούτω Δέκιος Βρούτος επίκλησιν 'Αλβίνος. Vit. Ces. p. 1354.