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We have a distinct exhibition of little else beyond his vanity and arrogance, relieved and set off by his goodnature 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 persone-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 the 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.* The Calphurnia of all the old copies of the Play, adopted by all the modern editors, may be nothing better than an invention of the printers. I have not, how
* Mr Senior, in his late reprint of Bacon's Essays, at p. 99, gives the name Calfurnia ; but that form is not to be found, I apprehend, in any of the old copies.
ever, 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 will be 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 favourite of Cæsar, not Marcus Junius Brutus the conspirator, as represented in the Play. In his misconception upon his point our English dramatist has been followed by Toltaire in his tragedy of La Mort de César, which is written avowedly in imitation of the Julius Cæsar of Shakespeare.
The wholly new readings in the Play of Julius Cæsar which Mr Collier appears to have obtained from his manuscript annotator are the following, twenty-three in number:
* Εν δε τούτω Δέκιος Βρούτος επίκλησιν 'Αλβίνος. l'it. Ces.
ACT I. 102. He was quick mettled when he went to school. But this, although given in the Regulated Text of the Plays, is not noticed either in the Notes and Emendations or in the List. 109. These are their seasons,—they are natural.
303. Casca. Are we all ready?--Cæs. What is now amiss, &c But this is not noticed in the List. 305. These crouchings, and these lowly courtesies.
Low-crouched courtesies, and base spaniel fawning.
542. I said, an older soldier, not a better.
559. A flatterer's would not, though they did appear.
690. While damned Casca, like a cur, behind. But this is only given in the Regulated Text.
692. Have added slaughter to the word of traitor.
711. Must end that work the ides of March began. But this is only given in the Regulated Text. 794. He only, in a generous honest thought
Of common good to all, made one of them.
And the emendations in the MS. also include the following eleven readings which had been conjecturally proposed before its discovery:
ACT V. 709. The term of life ; arming myself with patience. Finally, the reading of the First Folio, which had been altered in the Second, is restored by the MS. annotator in the following ten instances :