« 上一頁繼續 »
"Fresh embassies, and suits,
words with the minutest traits of the man's At the moment that Coriolanus has declared character which had preceded them. The to Aufidius answer of Aufidius is not in Plutarch; and here Shakspere invests the rival of Coriolanus with a majesty of language which has for its main object to call us back to the real greatness of the banished man:
"Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man Sigh'd truer breath; but that I see thee here, Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart Than when I first my wedded mistress saw Bestride my threshold."
Brief and rapid is their agreement to make war upon Rome. In the great city herself "Coriolanus is not much missed but with his friends," according to the Tribune; no harm can come to Rome; the popular authority will whip the slave that speaks of evil news. Shakspere again "baits the rabble," according to Hazlitt; though he reluctantly adds, "what he says of them is very true:"
"Cit. 'Faith, we hear fearful news. 1 Cit. For mine own part, When I said banish him, I said 't was pity.
2 Cit. And so did I.
3 Cit. And so did I; and, to say the truth, so did very many of us: That we did we did for the best; and though we willingly consented to his banishment, yet it was against our will."
When Shakspere made Coriolanus ask the freedom of the poor man that had used him kindly, he showed the tenderness that was at the bottom of that proud heart. When Rome is beleaguered, Cominius reports thus of his unsuccessful mission to her banished son:
"Com. I offer'd to awaken his regard For his private friends: His answer to me was, He could not stay to pick them in a pile Of noisome musty chaff: He said, 't was folly For one poor grain or two to leave unburnt, And still to nose the offence."
His old general and companion in arms touched nothing but his pride. Menenius, his "beloved in Rome," undertakes a similar mission. The answer of Coriolanus is
"Wife, mother, child, I know not. My affairs Are servanted to others."
Nor from the state, nor private friends, hereafter
Will I lend ear to,"
his mother, his wife, his child appear. But he will stand
"As if a man were author of himself, And knew no other kin."
What a scene follows! The warrior is externally calm, as if he were a god, above all passions and affections. The wondrous poetry in which he speaks seems in its full harmony as if it held the man's inmost soul in a profound consistency. But the passion is coming. "I have sat too long" is the prelude to
"O mother, mother! What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope,
The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
Volumnia speaks no other word. The mother and the son, the wife and the husband, the child and the father, have parted for ever. The death of Coriolanus in the "goodly city" of Antium is inevitable:
"Cor. Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and lads,
Stain all your edges on me.-Boy! False hound!
If you have writ your annals true, 't is there,
conquered. He had presented his throat to Tullus Aufidius,
"Which not to cut would show thee but a fool."
'Julius Caesar,' has marked very distinctly the difference between the citizens of this
period and the former period of 'Coriolanus.' In the first play they are a turbulent body, without regular occupation. They are in some respects a military body. They would
But Aufidius would first use him who said he would fight "Against my canker'd country with the spleen revenge with their pikes: the wars would
Of all the under fiends."
The retribution is a fearful one. Hazlitt observes, "What Shakspere says of them [the rabble] is very true; what he says of their betters is also very true, though he dwells less upon it." Shakspere teaches by action as well as by words. The silly rabble escape with a terrible fright: Coriolanus loses his home, his glory, his life, for his pride and his revenge.
Years, perhaps centuries, had rolled on. Rome had seen a constitution which had reconciled the differences of the patricians and the plebeians. The two orders had built a temple to Concord. Her power had increased; her territory had extended. In compounding their differences the patricians and the plebeians had appropriated to themselves all the wealth and honours of the state. There was a neglected class that the social system appeared to reject as well as to despise. The aristocratic party was again brought into a more terrible conflict with the impoverished and the destitute. Civil war
was the natural result. Sulla established a short-lived constitution. The dissolution of the Republic was at hand: the struggle was henceforth to be, not between classes, but individuals. The death of Julius Cæsar was soon followed by the final termination of the contest between the republican and the monarchical principle. Shakspere saw the grandeur of the crisis; and he seized upon it for one of his lofty expositions of political philosophy. He has treated it as no other poet would have treated it, because he saw the exact relations of the contending principle to the future great history of mankind. The death of Cæsar was not his catastrophe: it was the death of the Roman Republic at Philippi.
Shakspere, in the opening scene of his
eat them up. In 'Julius Caesar,' on the contrary, they are "mechanical"-the carpenter or the cobbler. They "make holiday to see Cæsar, and to rejoice in his triumph." The speech of Marullus, the Tribune, brings the Rome of the hour vividly before us. It is the Rome of mighty conquests and terrible factions. Pompey has had his triumphs, and now the men of Rome
"Strew flowers in his way, That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood." But the triumphant man himself appears. When he speaks, the music and the shouts are silent. When he speaks not, the air is again filled with sounds of greeting. There is a voice in the crowd, "shriller than the music." The Soothsayer cries, "Beware the Ides of March;" but "he is a dreamer." The procession passes on; two men remain who are to make the dream a reality. Of all Shakespere's characters none require to be studied with more patient attention than those of Brutus and Cassius, that we may understand the resemblances and the differences of each. The leading distinctions between these two remarkable men, as drawn by Shakspere, appear to us to be these: Brutus acts wholly upon principle; Cassius. partly upon impulse. Brutus acts only when he has reconciled the contemplation of action with his speculative opinions; Cassius allows the necessity of some action to run before and govern his opinions. Brutus is a philosopher; Cassius is a partisan. Brutus therefore deliberates and spares; Cassius precipitates and denounces. Brutus is the nobler instructor; Cassius the better politician. Shakspere, in the first great scene between them, brings out these distinctions of character upon which future events so mainly depend. Cassius does not, like a merely crafty man, use only the arguments to conspiracy which will most touch Brutus;
but he mixes with them, in his zeal and vehemence, those which have presented themselves most strongly to his own mind. He had a personal dislike of Cæsar, as Cæsar had of him. Cassius begins artfully: he would first move Brutus through his affection, and next through his self-love. He is opening a set discourse on his own sincerity, when the shouting of the people makes Brutus express his fear that they "choose Cæsar for their king." Cassius at once leaves his prepared speeches, and assumes that because Brutus fears it he would not have it
strikes in with the thought that is uppermost in his mind. Brutus says that Cæsar "hath the falling sickness:" the reply of Cassius is most characteristic :—
"No, Cæsar hath it not; but you, and I,
And honest Casca, we have the falling sickness."
Brutus goes home to meditate. The energy of Cassius is never weary. In the storm he is still the conspirator. The "impatience of the heavens" furnishes him an argument against the man
And fearful, as these strange eruptions are." The plot is maturing. Brutus especially is to be won.
Coleridge, who, when he doubts of a meaning in Shakspere-or, what is rarer, suggests that there is some inconsistency in the conduct of the scene, or the development of character-has the highest claim upon our deferential regard, gives the soliloquy of Brutus in the beginning of the second act with the following observations :-"This
"Brutus and Cæsar: What should be in that speech is singular ;—at least I do not at pre
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?"
At last Cassius hits upon a principle :— "Oh! you and I have heard our fathers say, There was a Brutus once that would have brook'd
The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome, As easily as a king."
The Stoic is at last moved :
"Brutus had rather be a villager,
Than to repute himself a son of Rome
In the next scene, when Cæsar is returning from the games, the dictator describes Cassius-the Cassius with "a lean and hungry look," the "great observer,”—as one whom he could fear if he could fear anything. In the subsequent dialogue with Casca, where the narrative of what passed at the games is conducted with a truth that puts the very scene before us, Cassius again
sent see into Shakspere's motive, his rationale, or in what point of view he meant Brutus' character to appear. For surely (this I mean is what I say to myself, with my present quantum of insight, only modified by my experience in how many instances I had ripened into a perception of beauties, where I had before descried faults)-surely, nothing can seem more discordant with our historical preconceptions of Brutus, or more lowering the intellect of the Stoico-Platonic tyrannicide, than the tenets here attributed to him— to him, the stern Roman republican; namely, —that he would have no objection to a king, or to Cæsar, a monarch in Rome, would Cæsar but be as good a monarch as he now seems disposed to be! How, too, could Brutus say that he found no personal cause-none-in Caesar's past conduct as a man? Had he not passed the Rubicon? Had he not entered Rome as a conqueror? Had he not placed his Gauls in the Senate ?-Shakspeare, it may be said, has not brought these things forward.-True ;--and this is just the ground
I know no personal cause to spurn at him." He then adds
"But for the general—he would be crown'd; How that might change his nature, there's the question."
He goes from the personal cause to the general cause: "He would be crown'd." As a triumvir, a dictator, Brutus had no personal cause against Cæsar; but the name of king, which Cassius poured into his ear, rouses all his speculative republicanism. His experience of Cæsar calls from him the acknowledgment that Cæsar's affections sway not more than his reason; but crown him, and his nature might be changed. We must bear in mind that Brutus is not yet committed to the conspiracy. The character that Shakspere meant his Brutus to be is not yet fully developed. He is yet irresolute; and his reasonings are therefore, to a certain extent, inconsequential :
"Since Cassius first did whet me against Cæsar I have not slept.
*Literary Remains,' vol. ii. p. 139.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing And the first motion, all the interim is Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream." He is instigated from without; the principles associated with the name of Brutus stir him from within :
"My ancestors did from the streets of Rome The Tarquin drive, when he was call'd a king."
The "faction" come. Cassius and Brutus speak together apart. Let us turn aside for a moment to see how Shakspere fills up this terrible pause. Other poets would have made the inferior men exchange oaths, and cross swords, and whisper, and ejaculate. He makes everything depend upon the determination of Brutus and Cassius ; and the others, knowing it so depends, speak thus:"Dec. Here lies the east: Doth not the day break here?
Cin. Oh, pardon, sir, it doth; and yon gray lines
That fret the clouds are messengers of day.
Casca. You shall confess that you are both deceived.
Here, as I point my sword, the sun arises; Which is a great way growing on the south, Weighing the youthful season of the year. Some two months hence, up higher toward the north
He first presents his fire; and the high east Stands, as the Capitol, directly here."
Is this nature? The truest and most profound nature. The minds of all men thus disencumber themselves, in the moments of the most anxious suspense, from the pressure real relief, if some accidental circumstance, of an overwhelming thought. There is a
the gentleness of his nature even while he the suit in characteristic words. Hazlitt, is preparing for assassination :after noticing the profoun1 knowledge of "Oh, that we then could come by Cæsar's spirit, character displayed by Shakspere in this
"You are my true and honourable wife;
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
The pathos in some degree depends upon our knowledge of the situation of the speaker, which Portia does not know.
The scenes which we have now run over bring us to the end of the second act. Nothing can be more interesting, we think, than to follow Shakspere with Plutarch in hand. The poet adheres to the facts of history with a remarkable fidelity. A few hard figures are painted upon a canvas; the outlines are distinct, the colours are strong; but there is no art in the composition, no grouping, no light and shadow. This is the historian's picture. We turn to the poet. We recognise the same figures, but they appear to live; they are in harmony with the entire scene in which they move; we have at once the reality of nature, and the ideal of art, which is a higher nature. Compare the dialogue in the first act between Cassius and Brutus, and the same dialogue as reported by Plutarch, for an example of the power by which the poet elevates all he touches, without destroying its identity. When we arrive at the stirring scenes of the third act this power is still more manifest. The assassination scene is as literal as may be; but it offers an example apt enough of Shakspere's mode of dramatizing a fact. When Metellus Cimber makes suit for his brother, and the conspirators appear as intercessors, the historian says-"Cæsar at the first simply refused their kindness and entreaties; but afterwards, perceiving they still pressed on him, he violently thrust them from him." The poet enters into the mind of Cæsar, and clothes this rejection of
play, says "If there is any exception to this remark, it is in the hero of the piece himself. We do not much admire the representation here given of Julius Cæsar, nor do we think it answers 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 echoes of this opinion are many; and smaller critics wax bold upon the occasion. Boswell says
"There cannot be a stronger proof of Shakspere's deficiency in classical knowledge than the boastful language he has put in the mouth of the most accomplished man of all antiquity, who was not more admirable for his achievements than for the dignified simplicity with which he has recorded them.” Courtenay had hazarded, in his notice of 'Henry VIII.,' the somewhat bold assertion "that Shakspeare used very little artifice, and, in truth, had very little design, in the construction of the greater number of his historical characters." Upon the character of Julius Cæsar he says that Plutarch having been supposed to pass over this character somewhat slightly is "a corroboration of my remark upon the slight attention which Shakspere paid to his historical characters. The conversation with Antony about fat men, and with Calphurnia about her dreams, came conveniently into his plan; and some lofty expressions could hardly be avoided in portraying one who was known to the whole world as a great conqueror. Beyond this our poet gave himself no trouble." This is certainly an easy way of disposing of a complicated question. Did Shakspere give himself no trouble about the characterization of Brutus and Cassius? In them did he indicate no points of character but what he found in Plutarch? Is not his characterization of Cæsar himself a considerable expansion of what he found set down by the historian? At the exact period of the action of this drama, Caesar, possessing the reality of power, was haunted by the weakness of