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moves him, for he owns that 'the quarrel will bear no colour for the thing' Cæsar 'is'; it is not even the abstract name of king which moves him, but a 'change of nature' which that might induce. 'Then lest it may, prevent.' Brutus, like Hamlet, is set in action by the bidding of a ghost; but his ghost is not the discloser of a crying wrong which he groans to be summoned to set right, but a true phantom which drives him headlong to the redress of wrongs which even his biassed reason can only discover in a hypothetical futurity.

Shakespeare's Cassius is, to a far greater degree than his Brutus, Plutarch made eloquent. The contrast between the philosophic and the self-seeking politician appealed strongly to the Greek's academic intellect, and he brings it out with incisive sharpness. He admits that Brutus' tactics were disastrous to the conspirators and to the republican cause. But he has no eye for the pathos of Cassius' devotion to the friend whose errors he recognised and suffered by. This trait Shakespeare has sympathetically seized in the famous 'quarrel scene'; Cassius' hot temper blazes rashly out; but Brutus' answering passion overwhelms him with grief and despair

Come, Antony, and young Octavius, come,

For Cassius is aweary of the world.

But the brilliant figure of Antony owes far more to Shakespeare. Plutarch's Antony is a scheming soldier, who carries his way by practical sagacity and ruthless cruelty. Shakespeare's is in addition to all this a consummate artist, and an artist by temperament as well as by his technical mastery of effect. Shakespeare has deliberately charged his eloquence with the task of inflaming the people which Plutarch's Antony achieves mainly by strategic skill. He even

aggravates the difficulty of the task to throw into relief the intellectual brilliance of the achievement. The Roman multitude, in Plutarch, need little incitement to rise upon the slayers of Cæsar. The first act of the conspirators is to take refuge in the Capitol; when Brutus at last ventures down, and addresses the people, they showed, immediately after, that they were not at all contented with the murder.' The next day, by Antony's arrangement, Cæsar's will is read to them, and they are 'marvellously sorry for him.' The funeral oration which Antony then delivers has but to fire a train, not to turn a tide.

If Shakespeare idealises Brutus, Cassius, Antony, he has notoriously depressed Cæsar. Plutarch's own Cæsar is far from being the Cæsar of Mommsen; and Shakespeare has touched the slightly disparaging portrait into something like caricature. He dwells

with curious persistence on the physical infirmities of the ageing dictator, and swells their number with others of his own devising, -a falling sickness, a deafness in one ear. He accentuates every trait of superstition, the touching at the Lupercal, the consultation of the sacrificers, the senile vacillation on the morning of the fatal Ides. Above all, he puts in the mouth of the man whose will has just responded so sensitively to the beck of dreams and omens, the most magnificent and sincere professions of immovable constancy. All critics of the play have felt that this caustic treatment of Cæsar needed explanation. The early commentators found one, readily enough, in Shakespeare's limited classical knowledge; and one of his recent biographers has reinforced it, late in the day, with a splendid but irrelevant picture of the real Cæsar. But it is certain that Shakespeare did not think meanly of the 'foremost man in all the 1 Brandes, Shakespeare (E.T.) i. 361 f.

world.' Others have suggested more plausibly that Cæsar is presented as he appeared to the conspirators. Certainly he at times seems to justify Cassius' jaundiced vision of him in his weaker moments.1 But what may hold of Cassius certainly does not hold of Brutus. His Cæsar has no personal faults, and he has never known when his affections sway'd more than his reason'; his Cæsar is doomed for what he might become, not for what he is. Brutus alone distinguishes between the man Cæsar and what he stood for. At the outset he would gladly spare the man if he could annihilate the spirit. 'O, that we then could come by Cæsar's spirit, and not dismember Cæsar!' It is his fatal illusion to believe that Cæsar's spirit will perish when Cæsar is dismembered. But Cæsar is no sooner dead than the tokens accumulate that Cæsarism is still alive; and they seem to be specially addressed to Brutus. 'Let Brutus be Cæsar!' cry the mob when he has spoken, confuting him by their very applause. When he looks on the dead body of Cassius his eyes are opened, and the thrilling cry that breaks from him

O Julius Cæsar, thou art mighty yet!

Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords
In our own proper entrails-

is the final confession of failure. The apparition of Cæsar's spirit is a visible embodiment of the invisible forces which are controlling the issues of the plot. Shakespeare here finely modified tradition to his own. purpose. In the drama, as in Plutarch, the ghost replies to his question, 'I am thy evil spirit.' Shakespeare draws this trivial episode into touch with the very heart of the tragedy by identifying Brutus' evil

1 Cassius' story of the swimming-match in Tiber, when Cæsar succumbed with a 'Help

me, Cassius, or I sink' (i. 2. 111), is Shakespeare's.

spirit with the ghost of Cæsar.' Thus Julius Cæsar at the threshold of the tragic period already betrays that sense of mysterious persistences of spiritual energy which continually emerges in the tragedies and inspires some of their most haunting and thrilling moments;-energy which defies the accident of death

Brutus'

For it is, as the air, invulnerable,
And our vain blows malicious mockery

O Julius Cæsar, thou art mighty yet!

is the pathetic recognition of that which Macbeth divines with his horror-stricken

the time has been

That, when the brains were out, the man would die.

Undoubtedly, however, Shakespeare's wonderful intuition of the potency of Cæsarism was facilitated by positive political prepossessions. He interpreted the Rome of Cæsar by the England of Elizabeth, and the analogy was sufficiently close to supply in a measure the place of genuine historical insight. Elizabeth, like Plutarch's Cæsar, was old and infirm, capricious and vain; her death was imminent and the succession not absolutely sure. The failure of Essex's fatuous rebellion may or may not have occurred when Shakespeare wrote; but in any case the monarchy itself must have seemed to him utterly beyond assault. His picture of the Roman demos is notoriously coloured by the Elizabethan's genial contempt for the masses. Plutarch's People, as we have seen, were far from being a quantité négligeable to a clever orator.

JULIUS CESAR

ACT I.

SCENE I. Rome. A street.

Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS, and certain

Commoners.

Flav. Hence! home, you idle creatures, get you home :

Is this a holiday? what! know you not,
Being mechanical, you ought not walk
Upon a labouring day without the sign

Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?
First Com. Why, sir, a carpenter.

Mar. Where is thy leather apron and thy rule?
What dost thou with thy best apparel on?
You, sir, what trade are you?

Sec. Com. Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.

Mar. But what trade art thou? answer me directly.

Sec. Com. A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may

[blocks in formation]

ΤΟ

regulation borrowed from English trade-guilds.

12. directly, without evasion.

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