Изображения страниц


Julius CÆSAR was one of three principal plays by different authors, pitched upon by the celebrated Earl of Hallifax to be brought out in a splendid manner by subscription, in the year 1707. The other two were the King and No King of Fletcher, and Dryden's Maiden Queen. There perhaps might be political reasons for this selection, as far as regards our author. Otherwise, Shakespear's Julius CÆSAR is not equal as a whole, to either of his other plays taken from the Roman history. It is inferior in interest to Coriolanus, and both in interest and power to Antony and Cleopatra. It however abounds in admirable and affecting passages, and is remarkable for the profound knowledge of character, in which Shakespear could scarcely fail. If there is any exception to this remark, it is in

admire the representation here given of Julius Cæsar, nor do we think it answers to the portrait given of him in his Commentaries. He makes several vapouring and rather pedantic speeches, and does nothing. Indeed, he has nothing to do. So far, the fault of the character is the fault of the plot.

The spirit with which the poet has entered at once into the manners of the common people, and the jealousies and heart-burnings of the different factions, is shewn in the first scene, where Flavius and Marullus, tribunes of the people, and some citizens of Rome, appear upon the stage.

Flavius. Thou art a cobler, art thou ?

Cobler. Truly, Sir, all that I live by, is the awl: I meddle with no tradesman’s matters, nor woman's matters, but with-al, I am indeed, Sir, a surgeon to old shoes; when they are in great danger, I recover them.

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 more work. But indeed, Sir, we make holiday to see Cæsar, and rejoice in his triumph.”

To this specimen of quaint low humour 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

What tributaries follow him to Rome, .' .
To grace in captive-bonds his chariot-wheels ?
Oh you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome !
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops, is
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat,'";
The live-long day with patient expectation,',
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome :
And when you saw his chariot but appear, is it i s
Have you not made an universal shout, si
That Tyber trembled underneath his banks
To hear the replication of your sounds,
Made in his concave shores? 3 side
And do you now put on your best attire ? :.
And do you now cull out an holiday?
And do you now strew flowers in his way
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood ?
Begone- --sip oggettiriss,

F its...
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees, -!!!
Pray to the Gods to intermit the plague, '
That needs must light on this ingratitude.”......

! :) but .i151152 jest jj 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 high-minded 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 per

[ocr errors]




which follows, when Cæsar enters with his train :

Brutus. The games are done, and Cæsar is returning.

Cassius. As they pass by, pluck Casca by the sleeve,
And he will, after his sour fashion, tell you
What has proceeded worthy note to day.

Brutus. I will do so ; but look you, Cassius—
The angry spot doth glow on Cæsar's brow,
And all the rest look like a chidden train.
Calphurnia's cheek is pale ; and Cicero
Looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes,
As we have seen him in the Capitol,
Being crost in conference by some senators.

Cassius. Casca will tell us what the matter is.
Cæsar. Antonius
Antony. Cæsar ?

Cæsar. Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights :
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much ; such men are dangerous.

Antony. Fear him not, Cæsar, he's not dangerous :
He is a noble Roman, and well given.

Cæsar. Would he were fatter; but I fear him not : Yet if my name were liable to fear, I do not know the man I should avoid So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much; He is a great observer; and he looks Quite through the deeds of men. He loves no plays, As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music · Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort, As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit, That could be mov'd to smile at any thing. Such men as he be never at heart's ease,

And therefore are they very dangerous.
I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd
Than what I fear; for always I am Cæsar.
Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,
And tell me truly what thou think'st of him.”

tomas Wooden rollingsins We know hardly any passage more expressive of the genius of Shakespear 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

invested page is still

[ocr errors]

And for Mark Antony, think not of bim : For he can do no more than Cæsar's arm" When Cæsar's head is off. . ..!!} :." . !!

Cassius. Yet I do fear him: Finn For in th’ ingrafted love he bears to Cæsar ...75 }

Brutus. Alas, good Cassius, do not think of him : If he love Cæsar, all that he can do mirisnis Is to himself, take thought, and die for Cæsar : props And that were much, he should; for he is giv'n fizice To sports, to wildness, and much company.

Trebonius. There is no fear in him ; let him not die : For he will live, and laugh at this hereafter."


They were in the wrong; and Cassius was right.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »