Julius Caesar (1919) Yale/Notes
I. i. S. d. Marullus. The Folios spell this name incorrectly, 'Murellus.' The emendation, based on Plutarch and other conclusive ancient authorities, is Theobald's. On similar grounds, certain other orthographical vagaries have been corrected in most of the modern editions: e.g., the Folios print 'Calphurnia,' 'Antonio,' 'Claudio,' 'Varrus,' etc. On the other hand, 'Decius Brutus' for 'Decimus' is a genuine confusion of identity which Shakespeare took over from North's Plutarch (see Appendix A).
I. i. 25. with awl. The original Folio pointing and spelling of the text will serve to suggest a further pun not obvious in the modern texts: 'I meddle with no Tradesmans matters, nor womens matters; but withal I am indeed Sir, a Surgeon to old shooes.'
I. i. 35. triumph. This triumph celebrated Cæsar's defeat of the sons of Pompey at the battle of Munda, in Spain, March 17, B. C. 45, and was the first such recognition of a Roman's victory over any but a foreign foe.—Shakespeare throughout has compressed the historical duration of the play's action considerably, in the interests of dramatic effectiveness: so here he has this triumph coincide with the festival of the Lupercalia, February 15, B. C. 44; in Act III he places the murder, the funeral orations, and the arrival of Octavius all on the same day, whereas in reality some two months elapsed between the earliest and the latest of these events; and in Act V he combines in a single action the two battles of Philippi, whicn really were separated by a three-week interval. See further, for the use of 'Double Time' in this play, the note on II. i. 61, 62.
I. i. 49. her. 'Father Tiber' would seem to command a masculine pronoun, and Rowe accordingly, followed by several other editors, changed 'her' to 'his' in this line and line 51; but Elizabethan usage was less strict than classical, and Shakespeare's laxity was not a special peculiarity of his own.
I. i. 71. Lupercal. Ancient Roman festival of purification and expiation, celebrated February 15, and believed to give new life and fruitfulness to fields, flocks, and human beings. After due sacrifices had been offered, the chosen young men, called 'Luperci,' ran around the Palatine hill and struck with their thongs of goatskin those who stood in their way, thus warding off barrenness. These thongs were called 'februa,' from 'februare, to purify' ; the day, 'dies februatus' ; and the whole month, 'februarius.'
I. ii. 154. walks. The famous and spacious paved Roman Ways, such as the 'Via Appia,' 'Via Sacra,' 'Via Flaminia,' etc., are here put for the city itself, by synecdoche. Or, another sound explanation is based on III. ii. 252; 'walks' thus would signify the parks and promenades forming the outlying suburbs of the city. Rowe's emendation, 'walls,' though widely accepted, is unnecessary and prosaic.
I. ii. 165. The punctuation in this line is that of Pope's second edition, and has been generally adopted; but the Folio gives a perfectly plausible reading without emendation: 'I would not so (with love I might entreat you) Be any further moved.'
I. ii. 198. my name. A Latin idiom, meaning 'I myself, Cæsar.' For parallels from Virgil, Milton, and the Bible, cf. R. C. Browne's note on Paradise Lost, II, 964, in the Clarendon Press edition of English Poems by John Milton, 1906.
I. ii. 203. he hears no music. Cf. Merchant of Venice, V. i. 83-88.
I. ii. 320. He should not humour me. 'He,' as is shown by the 'he' in the preceding line and the 'his' in the following, refers to Brutus, not to Caesar. Cassius then says: 'If I had Brutus' standing with Cæsar and Brutus only mine, Brutus should not (as easily as I mean to beguile him into doing so) talk me into forgoing the advantages afforded by Caesar's favor.'
I. iii. 60. cast yourself in wonder. 'Plunge head-long into, abjectly abandon yourself to, unreasoning wonder.' Cf. 'cast down,' and the etymology of 'abject.' There is no need for emendation, though 'case' has been widely accepted.
I. iii. 65. Why old men, fools, and children calculate. This line has occasioned much discussion. Many editors emend it thus: 'Why old men fool, and children calculate,' i.e., 'Why the wise are foolish and the foolish wise.' But against this emendation may be urged the facts that 'old men' are not always 'wise,' in Shakespeare or elsewhere, and that the unaltered text affords an acceptable meaning: 'Why dotards, idiots, and infants so far depart from their ordinary characteristics as to utter the profound truths of divination.'
I. iii. 107-111. 'The idea seems to be that, as men start a huge fire with worthless straws or shavings, so Cæsar is using the degenerate Romans of the time, to set the whole world ablaze with his own glory.' (Hudson.)
I. iii. 126. Pompey's porch. A magnificent colonnade or portico surrounding an open area which contained avenues of sycamore trees, fountains, and statues; it was attached to Pompey's theatre (line 152), in the Campus Martins, the first stone theatre to be erected in Rome.
II. i. 15. Crown him that. 'Once make him that—i.e., once let him become the full-grown adder—by crowning him, and then I realize that we shall be rendering actual a peril (sting) which now is only potential and latent.' Emendations seem unnecessary, though many have been proposed and few editors retain the Folio and Quarto punctuation given in the present text.
II. i. 59. fourteen. This is Theobald's generally accepted emendation of the Folio and Quarto reading, 'fifteen.' To Brutus (line 40) it is still the night of the fourteenth. If 'fifteen' days were indeed 'wasted' i.e., gone, then the ides too would be gone,—which is just what the Soothsayer points out that they are not (III. i. 2).
II. i. 61, 62. Literally interpreted, this statement is incredible, if we stop to reflect that a month has passed since I. ii; Brutus then can mean merely 'I have not slept well.' But as a rule we do not stop to reflect thus mathematically, and so we have the impression that 'Cassius first did whet' Brutus 'against Cæsar' only a night or two before and that Brutus' sleeplessness has not been superhumanly protracted; for seemingly 'Brought you Cæsar home?' (I. iii. 1) means home from the Lupercal (I. ii), and Casca himself in I. iii is returning from his dinner engagement on the night of the Lupercal (I. ii. 294), so that I. iii apparently follows I. ii without any interval; while II. i apparently follows I. iii with almost equal immediacy, for in their last conversation (on stage: I. ii. 308-312) Brutus and Cassius arranged to meet again at Brutus' home 'to-morrow,' and hence (II. i. 70 ff.) we have their first meeting (on stage) since that time. This device, whereby Shakespeare secures an impression of rapid, uninterruptedly continuous action while unobtrusively supplying to reflection all needed data for the determination of the actual historical intervals involved, is known as the phenomenon of 'Double Time,' and is well shown further in Acts IV and V of this play. The Short or Dramatic Time-scheme maintains the tension of the passion, while the Long or Historic Time-scheme satisfies the requirements of the analytical reason; but, needless to say, this curious phenomenon is noticeable only in the study, never in the theatre. (Cf. 'Shakespeare's Legerdemain with Time in J'ulius Cæsar,' Poet Lore, XI, 1899.)
II. i. 250. humour. There were supposed to be four fundamental 'humours' or fluids (from the Latin 'humor,' liquid) in the human body, viz., blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile; and an over-proportion of one of these elements in the system made the disposition predominantly sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholy, respectively. So, to the mediæval and renaissance mind, 'humour' might mean literally 'moisture,' as in line 262; or it might account for mental or physical disorder, as in the present line; or it might refer to the more trivial temperamental eccentricity resulting from the fundamental derangement, as in II. ii. 56.
II. ii. 89. For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognisance. The generally accepted interpretation explains these terms in the very spirit of Calpurnia's dream, i.e., as the appropriate concomitants of martyrdom; but surely nothing could be further from Cæsar's desire or Decius' intention. Consequently, the gloss attempts to give meanings more in keeping with the manifest purpose of Decius as shown in the rest of his speech, and with the obvious requirements of the situation: i.e., Cæsar's blood is to provide metaphorical living blessings, rather than literal physical souvenirs of death.
II. ii. 128. That every 'like' is not 'the same.' The heart of Brutus grieves to realize that specious resemblance is not genuine identity; that appearances (of friendship, as in the amicable ceremony of taking wine together) are deceptive; that the conspirators, who seem 'like friends' (line 127), are so far from being truly Cæsar's friends that they are on the very point of putting him to death.
III. i. S. d. Before the Capitol. In the original texts there is no stage direction in this scene before 'They stab Cæsar,' at line 76, other than the opening direction: 'Flourish. Enter Cæsar, Brutus,' and the rest. Yet lines 11, 12 show that the action takes place outdoors; while lines 31, 79, 115, 119, etc., as well as the familiar tradition and all pictorial representations, show that the murder takes place indoors. Of course, there was no difficulty here on the Elizabethan stage: the action of the first 12 lines would take place on the fore-stage, and then Cæsar would withdraw and seat himself on the dais or inner stage at the rear, with the Senators grouped about him and the approaching conspirators between him and the audience. Except for the standardization of the text established by the almost unbroken succession of editors who have left this dilemma unamended, there would seem to be no reason why the procedure followed in the precisely similar dilemma in IV. ii and iii should not be adopted here: there the action outside Brutus' tent is assigned to a brief Scene Two, while the action inside the tent is very properly assigned to a long separate scene. Scene Three. It must be remembered that all the Scene-divisions in this play have had to be determined by modern editors, there being nothing but Act-divisions in the Folios after the initial 'Scaena Prima.'
Capitol. Shakespeare placed the killing of Cæsar in the Capitol on account of the established popular and literary tradition to that effect; cf., e.g., Chaucer, The Monkes Tale, 713-718, and Hamlet, III. ii. 109-112. In reality Cæsar was assassinated in the Curia Pompeiana, a great hall adjoining the portico of Pompey's theatre (cf. note on I. iii. 126). This Curia was used for meetings of the Senate and was destroyed in the grief and rage over Cæsar's death, but the colossal statue of Pompey which it had contained (cf. line 115) was saved.
III. i. 47, 48. Know, Cæsar doth not wrong. Ben Jonson quoted in his Discoveries, first printed in 1641, an alternative version of this line: 'Caesar did never wrong but with just cause.' Jonson ridiculed this sentence as an 'Irish bull'—unjustly: for 'wrong' means not only 'error, mistake,' but also 'harm, injury' (as in line 242 in this very scene). Some few editors have incorporated Jonson's version of this line in the text, following it up with 'Nor without cause will he be satisfied,' on the hypothesis that Jonson was quoting either an early Quarto version which has since disappeared, or at least the acting version current in Shakespeare's lifetime which was unwarrantably changed by the editors of the First Folio.
III. i. 59. If I could pray to move, prayers would move me. 'If I were as weak as you are, and in the position of looking up to someone more powerful than myself and entreating him to change his mind, why then I should perhaps be weak enough likewise to change my own mind on account of mere empty entreaties; but happily I am as far above one alternative as the other, for,' etc.
III. i. 174. This line has given the commentators much trouble, and many emendations have been proposed for the puzzling phrase 'in strength of malice'—such as 'exempt from malice,' 'in strength of amity,' etc. If the Folio reading is to be preserved unchanged, the word 'malice' must clearly be emptied of all its usual meaning, for Brutus could never have applied such a term to any action by the conspirators after his overwhelming repudiation of 'envy' and similar emotions in II. i. 162–183; and the word 'malice,' free from its usual sinister implications, apparently does occur elsewhere in Shakespeare (e.g., Macbeth, III. ii. 14, 25, and perhaps John, II. i. 251), and is recognized by the Oxford Dictionary, in the sense of 'power, capacity.' Cf. the note, in this edition, on Macbeth, III. ii. 14. But even so, that interpretation gives a very inferior meaning to the phrase now under discussion, little better than tautology and not very appropriate to the spirit of the context. The present editor therefore ventures to suggest as an emendation here 'instranged' (of the use of which N. E. D. gives an example dated 1586), a variant of 'enstranged' (N. E. D.: Caxton, 1483), meaning 'estranged, far removed, deprived,' etc. This rare word, 'instranged,' unfamiliar to the compositor's eye or ear, would be very naturally sophisticated into 'in strength,' while it supplies exactly the sense needed in the passage; viz., 'Our arms free from malice, and our hearts of brothers' temper, do receive you in,' etc.
III. i. 273. dogs of war. Most editors explain the 'dogs' literally and specifically as 'fire, sword, and famine,' on the strength of Henry V, I. Prologue 8. But why should not the phrase be merely a general poetic metaphor—on the analogy of 'dove of peace'—designed to suggest all the nameless horrors that result when the destructive energies of ruthless warfare are unpent?
III. ii. 178. That day he overcame the Nervii. It was in the summer of 57 B. C. that this most warlike of Belgic tribes was defeated, in the battle of the Sambre. The Nervii made a successful surprise attack, and only Caesar's personal bravery saved the day. Cf. De Bella Gallico, II. 15-28. This victory is prominently featured in North's Plutarch (see Appendix A), and was celebrated at Rome with unprecedented thanksgivings and rejoicings.
III. ii. 247. drachmas. These were Greek silver coins, of a value impossible to compute accurately in terms of modern currency. In purchasing power the bequest would perhaps be equivalent to-day to something over $100 per citizen.
III. ii. 254. On this side Tiber. The gardens lay across the Tiber from the Forum in which Antony was speaking, but 'on this side' from the French and English standpoint of Amyot and North—whom Shakespeare too literally follows.
IV. i. 37. one that feeds On objects, arts, and imitations Which, out of use and stal'd by other men. Begin his fashion. The Folio text here is at least as satisfactory as any emendation, if the punctuation makes it evident that the disputed 'objects, arts, and imitations' are immediately defined by the restrictive relative clause that follows. Despite his unbridled passions, Antony is eminently a practical politician,—as witness the form of Cassius' bribe offered to him after Brutus' futile expression of idealism (III. i. 177, 178); and witness also his masterly manipulation of the conspirators and the mob, in III. i and III. ii. He scorns Lepidus then for so lacking personality, initiative, shrewdness, and judgment that he takes even the superficial embellishments of life at second hand, unable to distinguish between the true values and the sham. (Staunton's emendation would substitute 'abjects,' meaning 'discarded scraps,' and 'orts,' meaning 'leavings.')
IV. i. 48, 49. we are at the stake. And bay'd about with many enemies. This refers to the very popular but very brutal Elizabethan amusement of bearbaiting, wherein the bear was chained to a stake in the center of the 'bear-garden' or arena (the best-known one was situated close by the Globe Theatre) and attacked by a number of dogs.
IV. iii. S. d. For the 'Enter' of modern editions the Folios and Quartos have 'Manet' or 'Manent.' I.e., as explained in the note on III. i. S. d., no new scene was necessary here on the Elizabethan stage: the armies marched off and Brutus and Cassius simply 'remained' in conference, but the locality none the less was supposed to shift to the inside of Brutus' tent.
IV. iii. 20, 21. What villain touch' d his body, that did stab. And not for justice? 'What one of the conspirators was such a villain that he stabbed Cæsar from any other motive than for justice's sake?' Brutus means, of course, to imply that there was none such then, and they must be doubly careful to avoid giving ground for any such imputation now.
IV. iii. 25, 26. The infinite spiritual extent of true honor is contrasted with the petty material extent of a handful of money.
IV. iii. 28. Brutus, bay not me. 'Bay' (Theobald's widely accepted emendation of the Folio reading 'bait') is a savage and threatening quibble on Cassius' part: 'Don't bark at me, Brutus, and don't bring me to bay either (cf. note on IV. i. 48, 49), hedging me in with snarling accusations and goading me on with taunts, or I'll turn on you and then it will be the worse for you.' 'Bait' can be given almost the same interpretation, with reference to bear-baiting, but misses the neat repartee in the repeated 'bay.'
IV. iii. 101. Pluto's. As god of the infernal regions, Pluto might well be supposed to command great wealth. As Milton says, 'Let none admire That riches grow in Hell; that soil may best Deserve the precious bane.' Many editors, however, prefer to follow Pope in reading 'Plutus',' the god of riches. Confusion between the two occurred in classical times as well as in Elizabethan.
IV. iii. 109–112. This badly mixed metaphor can be straightened out if we punctuate 'lamb,—' and interpret 'That' as 'With one that, with a man who,' thus: 'O Cassius, you are associated with a mere lamb,—with a man whose anger is as negative and latent as the fire in a flint, which needs a hard blow before showing any flame at all and even then yields only a momentary spark.'
IV. iii. 152. grief. The grammatical construction breaks down here (though the sense is clear enough), unless we (1) construe 'grief with 'impatient of in the preceding line, thus: 'Unable to endure my absence and her own sorrow over Antony's success'; or (2) read 'grieved' for 'grief,' thus: 'Impatient and grieved, in this situation she fell distract,' etc.
IV. iii. 183. Nothing, Messala. Various more or less plausible attempts have been made to defend Brutus from this most unpleasant appearance of deceiving Messala in order to win applause for his fortitude under affliction, but the best way out of the difficulty lies in accepting the suggestion of J. Resch that tvo alternative versions of Brutus' stoical conduct have been accidentally taken over into the Folio text from the MS. or prompt-book copy.
V. i. 53. three-and-thirty. According to North's Plutarch the number of Caesar's wounds was three-and-twenty, and several editors have followed Theobald in making the somewhat meticulous correction.
V. i. 111–115. In these lines Brutus has been charged by many critics with flatly contradicting his declaration against suicide in lines 101-108; but the inconsistency disappears if the significance of lines 113, 114 be grasped (by a proper interpretation of 'Must') as merely restating the stoical fatalism of lines 106-108, for Brutus really says simply this: 'No, Cassius, you are an Epicurean and do not understand, and I cannot take the time now to explain things to you. No, I bear too great a mind ever to go bound to Rome: but (my mere human mind does not have to settle this point, for) this same day Must (i.e., will certainly) end that work the ides of March begun.' I.e., 'I do not have to alter my resolution against suicide for Fate will decide, and to-day either we shall kill Cæsar's usurping successors as we killed Cæsar himself, or we shall ourselves die fighting and thus even the score, pay the reckoning, for Cæsar's death.' This, as Hunter points out, is Brutus' expression of mere speculative theory: if, like Hamlet, he does not live up to his professed principles and abstract resolution when the actual test comes, that is but part of his tragic failure.
V. iii. 109, 110. The 'second fight' really took place twenty days later. Cf. note on I. i. 35.
V. iv. 7. No speaker's name precedes this speech in the Folios, and it is accordingly assigned to Brutus on the strength of modern editorial authority only. Some editors, however, would assign it to Lucilius, in order to prepare the audience for his assumption of the role of Brutus in lines 12-14 below.
V. iv. 13, 14. Many editors supply a stage direction [Offering money] to explain 'There is so much'; but surely there would be little sense in offering to give part, where all would naturally fall to his slayer. So Lucilius presumably meant simply this: 'I yield only to ensure dying at once: and there is so much reason for my death and so much advantage in it for you that you will doubtless kill me immediately; for you have only to kill me, i.e., Brutus, in order to win great honor and rewards.'
V. v. 2, 3. This passage is somewhat obscure without its original context in North's Plutarch: 'Brutus thought that there was no great number of men slain in battle: and to know the truth of it, there was one called Statilius, that promised to go through his enemies, for otherwise it was impossible to go see their camp: and from thence, if all were well, that he would lift up a torch-light in the air, and then return again with speed to him.'—Life of Brutus.
V. v. 71, 72. 'He consented to join them only on impersonal principles of honor and in the hope of promoting the welfare of all.'