« VorigeDoorgaan »
ULIUS CÆSAR, like CorioLANUS, belongs to that class of dramas which represent action and character, and stands conspicuously prominent amongst the many similar productions of Shakspere's wondrous mind. What an elevated tone of thought, feeling, and expression, pervades the whole of this play: how admirably suited to the scene of action, and to the great men
who were the actors: how fitly does all seem to belong to the stern, the awful glories of old Rome !-We can almost fancy that we stand upon the Capitoline Hill, and behold the splendours of the eternal city spreading far and wide beneath us: that we see the procession of Cæsar to the Lupercalian games, and the toged senators mounting the steps of the senatehouse: that we hear the uproarious shoutings of the mighty mob of Rome :
" That Tyber trembles underneath her banks,
To hear the replication of their sounds
But superior even to the reality of the general effect,- to the power of carrying back the imagination to remote ages and events,- is the remarkable individuality of character exhibited in this great tragedy: one of the most distinguished characteristics of the mighty master's mind, but never more powerfully and subtly displayed. Observe all the principal characters : and, without any violent contrasts (the easy and too common trick of dramatic writing), see how completely distinctive in their natures, how delicately and skilfully discriminated, each from the others, they are, in thought, sentiment, and diction! How soon do we perceive the striking difference of nature and disposition between Brutus and Cassius, and the immense superiority of Brutus! Cassius is evidently actuated, in his hostility to Cæsar, quite as much by envy of the man, as by a patriotic dread of the consequences of his overgrown power. The mere existence of that power he evidently thinks less dangerous to the commonweal, than that it should be vested in one man ; he appears to have a lurking wish to be a sharer in it. Brutus is the living personification of all that is noble, elevated, kindly, and generous in human nature; never appearing to think of self but in connexion with his kind: but Cassius, with all his high qualities, is well described by Cæsar as one of those who are “never at heart's ease, while they behold a greater than themselves.” Brutus, perceiving no stains on the bright surface of his own clear mind, suspects them not in that of his fellows: but Cassius, conscious that much of the world's craft enters into his composition, is quick to detect craft in others.
With the same masterly skill are drawn the characters of Julius Cæsar and Marc Antony, as far as the plan of the play allowed: the scene in which Antony delivers his oration over Cæsar's body has ever been regarded as one of the poet's master-pieces in dramatic effect, vigour, and subtlety. The intense reality of this scene is truly marvellous. It is as though the author had been on the actual spot, heard the actual words, and beheld the actual effects he has so vividly recorded. We can see the influence of Antony's most artful harangue gradually diffuse itself over the rude multitude. With what consummate tact and address does he at first command their attention, and conciliate their regards, by eulogising “ Brutus and the rest'—the very men against whom he wishes to raise that "flood of mutiny" he so artfully affects to deprecate! How admirably, too, he times the reproduction of Cæsar's will, when they, in their excited rage, have forgotten it;—in order that no one motive should be wanting to incite them against the conspirators : so managing, as to make it the uppermost idea in their minds, that they were hastening to avenge the death of their especial benefactor.
Amidst all our admiration of this entire play, Brutus must, however, always rank as its greatest and most interesting character. Farewell to thee, noble, gentle Brutus ! deeply, bitterly, must all true lovers of thy humane philosophy regret, that thy great and kindly mind should ever have become engaged in the violent and turbulent scenes of the times in which thou hadst the misfortune to live ; scenes so unsuited to thy good and gracious nature: and heartily must all join in the poet's estimate of thy character
“ This was the noblest Roman of them all!” Plutarch's Lives of Brutus, Antony, and Cæsar, furnished the incidents of this surpassing drama: the period of time comprised in the action is about two years. “Julius CÆSAR” was first published in the original folio, and is obviously a production of the Poet's intellect in its maturer years.
Triumvirs after the death of MARCUS ANTONCS,
Conspirators against JOIIC
CSAR. DECILS HRCTIS, METELLLS CIMBER, CINTA FLAVIUS and MARELIUS Tribunes AKTFMI ONUS, a Soplist of Cnidus" A Slothsayir. CINNA, Fiet Another Pett. LUCIIT", TITINIUS, MESSSALA, Young CATO, and
VOLANICS, Friends to BROICs and CA 9105 VARRO, CITIUS, CLAUDII'S SIRATO, LUCIS, DAR
DANIC8, Servants to BROIC8. PINDARLS, Servant to CASSICS.
CAT PHURNIA, Wife to CESAR.
Senators, Ciuzens Guards, Attendants, &c.
SCENE. During a great part of the Play, at Rome, after
wards at SAKLIS, und near I FILIPI.
Scene I.--Rome. A Street.
Mar. Where is thy leather apron and thy rule?
What dost thou with thy best apparel on ?Enter Flavius, Marullus, and a Rabble of
You, sir; what trade are you?
2nd Cit. Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workFlav. Hence : home, you idle creatures; get
man, you home.
I am but, as you would say, a cobbler. Is this a holiday? What! know you not,
Mar. But what trade art thou? Answer me Being mechanical, you ought not walk
directly. Upon a labouring day without the sign
2nd Cit. A trade, sir, that I hope I may use with Of your profession ?-Speak, what trade art thou? a safe conscience : which is indeed, sir, a mender 1st Cit. Why, sir, a carpenter.
I of bad soles.