« AnteriorContinuar »
FLAVIUS. But wherefore art not in thy shop to-day? Why dost thou lead these men about the streets ?
COBLER. Truly, Sir, to wear out their shoes, to get myself into moro work. But indeed, Sir, we make holiday to see Cæsar, and rejoice in his triumph."
To this specimen of quaint low humor immediately follows that unexpected and animated burst of indignant eloquence, put into the mouth of one of the angry tribunes.
“MARULLUS. Wherefore rejoice ?-What conquest brings he home ?
The well-known dialogue between Brutus and Cassius, in which the latter breaks the design of the conspiracy to the former, and partly gains him over to it, is a noble piece of highminded declamation. Cassius's insisting on the pretended effeminacy of Cæsar's character, and his description of their swimming across the Tiber together, “ once upon a raw and gusty day," are among the finest strokes in it. But, perhaps the whole is sot equal to the short scene which follows when Cæsar enters with his train. Totta
" BRUTUS. The games are done, and Cæsar is returning.
CASSIUS. As they pass by, pluck Casca by the sleeve,
BRUTUS. I will do so; but look you, Cassius-
CASSIUs. Casca will tell us what the matter is.
CESAR. Let me have men about me that are fat,
ANTONY. Fear him not, Cæsar; he's not dangerous ;
Cman. Would he were fatter ; but I fear him not:
And tell me truly what thou think'st of him." We know hardly any passage more expressive of the genius of Shakspeare than this. It is as if he had been actually present, had known the different characters, and what they thought of one another, and had taken down what he heard and saw, their looks, words, and gestures, just as they happened.
The character of Mark Antony is farther speculated upon
where the conspirators deliberate whether he shall fall with Cæsar. Brutus is against it
And for Mark Antony, think not of him;
CASSIUS. Yet do I fear him:
BRUTUS. Alas, good Cassius, do not think of him;
TREBONIUS. There is no fear in him; let him not die :
They were in the wrong; and Cassius was right.
The honest manliness of Brutus is, however, sufficient to find out the unfitness of Cicero to be included in their enterprise, from his affected egotism and literary vanity.
“O, name him not; let us not break with him;
His scepticism as to prodigies, and his moralising on the weather -“This disturbed sky is not to walk in ”—are in the same spirit of refined imbecility.
Shakspeare has in this play and elsewhere shown the same penetration into political character and the springs of public events as into those of every-day life. For instance, the whole design to liberate their country fails from the generous temper and overweening confidence of Brutus in the goodness of their cause and the assistance of others. Thus it has always been. Those who mean well themselves, think well of others, and fall a prey to their security. That humanity and sincerity which dispose men to resist injustice and tyranny render them unfit to cope with the cunning and power of those who are opposed to
The friends of liberty trust to the professions of others, because they are themselves sincere, and endeavor to secure the public good with the least possible hurt to its enemies, who have
regard to anything but their own unprincipled ends, and stick
at nothing to accomplish them. Cassius was better cut out for a conspirator. His heart prompted his head. His habitual jealousy made him fear the worst that might happen, and his irritability of temper added to his inveteracy of purpose, and sharpened his patriotism. The mixed nature of his motives made him fitter to contend with bad men. The vices are never so well employed as in combating one another. Tyranny and servility are to be dealt with after their own fashion, or they will triumph over those who spare them.
The quarrel between Brutus and Cassius is managed in a masterly way. The dramatic fluctuation of passion, the calmness of Brutus, the heat of Cassius, are admirably described ; and the exclamation of Cassius on hearing of the death of Portia, which he does not learn till after their reconciliation, “ How 'scap'd I killing when I crost you so " gives double force to all that has gone before. The scene between Brutus and Portia, where she endeavors to extort the secret of the conspiracy from him, is conceived in the most heroical spirit, and the burst of tenderness in Brutus
“ You are my true and honorable wise ; As dear to me as are the ruddy drops That visit my sad heart," —
is justified by her whole behavior. Portia's breathless impatience to learn the event of the conspiracy, in the dialogue with Lucius, is full of passion. The interest which Portia takes in Brutus, and that which Calphurnia takes in the fate of Casar, are discriminated with the nicest precision. Mark Antony's speech over the dead body of Carsar has been justly admired for the mixture of pathos and artifice in it: that of Brutus cer. tainly is not so good.
The entrance of the conspirators to the house of Brutus at midnight is rendered very impressive. In the midst of this scene, we meet with one of those careless and natural digres. sions which occur so frequently and beautifully in Shakspeare. After Cassius has introduced his friends one by one, Brutus says,
“They are all welcome.
Cassius. Shall I entreat a word ? (They whisper.)
Cinna. O pardon, Sir, it doth; and yon grey lines,
Casca. You shall confess, that you are both deceiv'd:
We cannot help thinking this graceful familiarity better than all the formality in the world. The truth of history in Julius CESAR is very ably worked up with dramatic effect. The councils of generals, the doubtful turns of battles, are represented to the life. The death of Brutus is worthy of him—it has the dignity of the Roman senator with the firmness of the Stoic philosopher. But what is perhaps better than either, is the little incident of his boy, Lucius, falling asleep over his instrument, as he is playing to his master in his tent, the night before the battle. Nature had played him the same forgetful trick once before on the night of the conspiracy. The humanity of Brutus is the same on both occasions.
-“ It is no matter: