It is Dr. Brandes' idea and not Shakespeare's that Brutus is a man of uncompromising character and principle.” That is the Brutus of Plutarch, who finds in his stern republican love of the common good an ethical motive for killing the ambitious Caesar. But Shakespeare had no understanding of the republican ideal, and no sympathy with the public; accordingly, his Brutus has no adequate reason for contriving Caesar's death. Shakespeare followed Plutarch in freeing Brutus from the suspicion of personal or interested motive, but he didn't see that by doing this he made his Brutus a conspirator without a cause, a murderer without a motive. The truth is our gentle poet could never find a convincing ground for coldblooded murder. It will be remembered that Macbeth only murders, as the deer murders, out of fear, and the fact that his Brutus can find no justification of any sort for killing Caesar, confirms our view of Shakespeare's gentle kindness. The “uncompromising character and principle” of the severe republican we find in Plutarch, sit uneasily on Shakespeare's Brutus; it is apparent that the poet had no conception of what we call a fanatic. His difficulties arise from this limitation of insight. He begins to write the play by making Brutus an idealized portrait of himself; he, therefore, dwells on Brutus' perfect nobility, sincerity, and unselfishness, but does not realize that the more perfect he makes Brutus, the more clear and cogent Brutus' motive must be for undertaking Caesar's assassination.

In this confusion Shakespeare's usually fine instinct is at fault, and he blunders from mistake to mistake. His idealizing tendency makes him present Brutus as perfect, and at the same time he

uses the historical incident of the anonymous letters, which goes to show Brutus as conceited and vain. If these letters influenced Brutus—and they must be taken to have done so, or else why were they introduced?—we have a noble and unselfish man murdering out of paltry vanity. In Plutarch, where Brutus is depicted as an austerei republican, the incident of the letters only throws a natural shade of doubt on the rigid principles by which alone he is supposed to be guided. We all feel that rigid principles rest on pride, and may best be led astray through pride. But Shakespeare's Brutus is pure human sweetness, and the letters are worse than out of place when addressed to him. Shakespeare should never have used this incident; it is a blot on his conception.

All through the first acts of the play Brutus is incredible, for he is in an impossible position. Shakespeare simply could not find any valid reason why his alter ego, Brutus, should kill Caesar. But from the moment the murder is committed to the end of the play Brutus-Shakespeare is at peace with himself. And as soon as the dramatist lets himself go and paints Brutus with entire freedom and frankness, he rises to the height of tragic pathos, and we can all recognize the original of the portrait. At first Brutus is merely ideal; his perfect unsuspiciousness—he trusts even Antony; his transparent honesty-he will have no other oath among the conspirators

Than honesty to honesty engaged "; his hatred of bloodshed—he opposes Cassius, who proposes to murder Antony; all these noble qualities may be contrasted with the subtler short-comings which make of Hamlet so vital a creation. Hamlet is suspicious even of Ophelia ; Hamlet is only “indifferent honest”; Hamlet makes his friends swear to keep the ghost's appearance a profound secret; Hamlet lives from the beginning, while Brutus at first is a mere bundle of perfections individualized only by that personal intimate confession which I have already quoted, which, however, has nothing to do with the play. But later in the drama Shakespeare begins to lend Brutus his own weaknesses, and forthwith Brutus lives. His insomnia is pure Shakespeare:

“ Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar,

I have not slept.”

The character of Brutus is superbly portrayed in that wonderful scene with Cassius in the fourth act. With all the superiority of conscious genius he treats his confederate as a child or madman, much as Hamlet treats Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:

Shall I be frighted when a madman stares?”

Cassius is mean, too, whereas Brutus is kindly and generous to a degree:

For I can raise no money by vile means:
By heaven, I had rather coin my heart,
And drop my blood for drachmas, than to wring
From the hard hands of peasants their vile trash
By any indirection.

When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous,
To lock such rascal counters from his friends,
Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts,
Dash him to pieces."

And, above all, as soon as Cassius appeals to his affection, Brutus is disarmed:

'O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
That carries anger, as the fint bears fire;
Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark,

And straight is cold again.”
This is the best expression of Shakespeare's tem-

the “hasty spark” is Hamlet's temper, as we have seen, and Macbeth's, and Romeo's.

And now everything that Brutus does or says is Shakespeare's best. In a bowl of wine he buries “all unkindness." His affection for Cassius is not a virtue to one in especial. The scene in the fourth act, in which he begs the pardon of his boy Lucius, should be learned by heart by those who wish to understand our loving and lovable Shakespeare. This scene, be it remarked, is not in Plutarch, but is Shakespeare's own invention. His care for the lad's comfort, at a time when his own life is striking the supreme hour, is exquisitely pathetic. Then come his farewell to Cassius and his lament over Cassius' body; then the second fight and the nobly generous words that hold in them, as flowers their perfume, all Shakespeare's sweetness of nature: “My heart doth joy, that yet in all my life

I found no man, but he was true to me.” And then night hangs upon the weary, sleepless eyes, and we are all ready to echo Antony's marvellous valediction :

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* This was the noblest Roman of them all;

His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'"

But this Brutus was no murderer, no conspirator, no narrow republican fanatic, but simply gentle Shakespeare discovering to us his own sad heart and the sweetness which suffering had called forth in him.


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