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Is not to-morrow, boy, the ides of March ?4
BRU. Look in the calendar, and bring me word. Luc. I will, sir. [Exit. BRU. The exhalations, whizzing in the air, Give so much light, that I may read by them.
[Opens the Letter, and reads.
Such instigations have been often dropp'd
Shall Rome &c. Thus must I piece it out;
Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What! Rome?
My ancestors did from the streets of Rome The Tarquin drive, when he was call'd a king. Speak, strike, redress!-Am I entreated then
Is not to-morrow, boy, the ides of March?] [Old copythe first of March.] We should read ides: for we can never suppose the speaker to have lost fourteen days in his account. He is here plainly ruminating on what the Soothsayer told Cæsar [Act I. sc. ii.] in his presence. [-Beware the ides of March.] The boy comes back and says, Sir, March is wasted fourteen days. So that the morrow was the ides of March, as he supposed. For March, May, July, and October, had six nones each, so that the fifteenth of March was the ides of that month. WARBURTON,
The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. The error must have been that of a transcriber or printer; for our author without any minute calculation might have found the ides, nones, and kalends, opposite the respective days of the month, in the Almanacks of the time. In Hopton's Concordancie of Yeares, 1616, now before me, opposite to the fifteenth of March is printed Idus. MALONE.
Am I entreated then-] The adverb then, which enforces the question, and is necessary to the metre, was judiciously supplied by Sir Thomas Hanmer. So, in King Richard III: wilt thou then "Spurn at his edict?"
To speak, and strike? O Rome! I make thee
If the redress will follow, thou receivest
Luc. Sir, March is wasted fourteen days.
[Knock within. BRU. 'Tis good. Go to the gate; somebody
[Exit LUCIUS. Since Cassius first did whet me against Cæsar,
I have not slept.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
March is wasted fourteen days.] In former editions: Sir, March is wasted fifteen days.
The editors are slightly mistaken: it was wasted but fourteen days: this was the dawn of the 15th, when the boy makes his report. THEObald.
7 Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, &c.] That nice critick, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, complains, that of all kind of beauties, those great strokes which he calls the terrible graces, and which are so frequent in Homer, are the rarest to be found in the following writers. Amongst our countrymen, it seems to be as much confined to the British Homer. This description of the condition of conspirators, before the execution of their design, has a pomp and terror in it that perfectly astonishes. The excellent Mr. Addison, whose modesty made him sometimes diffident of his own genius, but whose true judgment always led him to the safest guides, (as we may see by those fine strokes in his Cato borrowed from the Philippics of Cicero,) has paraphrased this fine description; but we are no longer to expect those terrible graces which animate his original :
"O think, what anxious moments pass between
"Fill'd up with horror all, and big with death."
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The first is,
I shall make two remarks on this fine imitation. that the subjects of the two conspiracies being so very different (the fortunes of Cæsar and the Roman empire being concerned in the one; and that of a few auxiliary troops only in the other,) Mr. Addison could not, with propriety, bring in that magnificent circumstance which gives one of the terrible graces of Shakspeare's description:
"The genius and the mortal instruments
"Are then in council;
For kingdoms, in the Pagan Theology, besides their good, had their evil genius's, likewise; represented here, with the most daring stretch of fancy, as sitting in consultation with the conspirators, whom he calls their mortal instruments. But this, as we say, would have been too pompous an apparatus to the rape and desertion of Syphax and Sempronius. The other thing ob servable is, that Mr. Addison was so struck and affected with these terrible graces in his original, that instead of imitating his author's sentiments, he hath, before he was aware, given us only the copy of his own impressions made by them. For"Oh, 'tis a dreadful interval of time,
with horror all, and big with death." are but the affections raised by such forcible images as these: All the interim is
"Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream.
"Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
Comparing the troubled mind of a conspirator to a state of anarchy, is just and beautiful; but the interim or interval, to an hideous vision, or a frightful dream, holds something so wonderfully of truth, and lays the soul so open, that one can hardly think it possible for any man, who had not some time or other been engaged in a conspiracy, to give such force of colouring to nature. WARBURTON.
The daivov of the Greek criticks does not, I think, mean sentiments which raise fear, more than wonder, or any other of the tumultuous passions; To devov is that which strikes, which astonishes with the idea either of some great subject, or of the author's abilities.
Dr. Warburton's pompous criticism might well have been shortened. The genius is not the genius of a kingdom, nor are
Are then in council; and the state of man,
the instruments, conspirators. Shakspeare is describing what passes in a single bosom, the insurrection which a conspirator feels agitating the little kingdom of his own mind; when the genius, or power that watches for his protection, and the mortal instruments, the passions, which excite him to a deed of honour and danger, are in council and debate; when the desire of action, and the care of safety, keep the mind in continual fluctuation and disturbance. JOHNSON.
The foregoing was perhaps among the earliest notes written by Dr. Warburton on Shakspeare. Though it was not inserted by him in Theobald's editions, 1732 and 1740, (but was reserved for his own in 1747,) yet he had previously communicated it, with little variation, in a letter to Matthew Concanen in the year 1726. See a note on Dr. Akenside's Ode to Mr. Edwards, at the end of this play. STEEVENS.
There is a passage in Troilus and Cressida, which bears some resemblance to this:
"Holds in his blood such swoln and hot discourse,
"And batters down himself."
Johnson is right in asserting that by the Genius is meant, not the Genius of a Kingdom, but the power that watches over an individual for his protection.-So, in the same play, Troilus says to Cressida:
"Hark! you are call'd. Some say, the Ge
"Cries, Come, to him that instantly must die."
Johnson's explanation of the word instruments is also confirmed by the following passage in Macbeth, whose mind was, at the time, in the very state which Brutus is here describing:
I am settled, and bend up
"Each corporal agent to this terrible feat."
The word genius, in our author's time, meant either "a good angel or a familiar evil spirit," and is so defined by Bullokar in his English Expositor, 1616. So, in Macbeth:
66 and, under him,
"My genius is rebuk'd; as, it is said,
"Mark Antony's was by Cæsar's."
Again, in Antony and Cleopatra:
"Thy dæmon, that thy spirit which keeps thee, is," &c.
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The more usual signification now affixed to this word was not known till several years afterwards. I have not found it in the common modern sense in any book earlier than the Dictionary published by Edward Phillips, in 1657.
Mortal is certainly used here, as in many other places, for deadly. So, in Othello;
"And you, ye mortal engines," &c.
The mortal instruments then are, the deadly passions, or as they are called in Macbeth, the "mortal thoughts," which excite each "corporal agent" to the performance of some arduous deed.
The little kingdom of man is a notion that Shakspeare seems to have been fond of. So, K. Richard II. speaking of himself; "And these same thoughts people this little world.” Again, in King Lear:
"Strives in his little world of man to outscorn
Again, in King John:
(6 in the body of this fleshly land,
I have adhered to the old copy, which reads the state of a man. Shakspeare is here speaking of the individual in whose mind the genius and the mortal instruments hold a council, not of man, or mankind, in general. The passage above, quoted from King Lear, does not militate against the old copy here. There the individual is marked out by the word his, and "the little world of man" is thus circumscribed, and appropriated to Lear. The editor of the second folio omitted the article, probably from a mistaken notion concerning the metre; and all the subsequent editors have adopted his alteration. Many words of two syllables are used by Shakspeare as taking up the time of only one; as whether, either, brother, lover, gentle, spirit, &c. and I suppose council is so used here.
The reading of the old authentick copy, to which I have adhered, is supported by a passage in Hamlet: "What a piece of work is a man."
As council is here used as a monosyllable, so is noble in Titus Andronicus;
"Lose not so noble a friend on vain suppose."
MALONE, Influenced by the conduct of our great predecessors, Rowe, Pope, Warburton, and Johnson; and for reasons similar to those