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passionately desiring the title of king. Piu- No, Cæsar shall not: Danger knows full well tarch says—“The chiefest cause that made That Cæsar is more dangerous than he. him mortally hated was the covetous desire We were two lions litter'd in one day, he had to be called king.” This is the pivot

And I the elder and more terrible; upon which the whole action of Shakspere's

And Cæsar shall go forth.” tragedy turns. There might have been But to whom does he utter this, the “boastanother mode of treating the subject. The ful language,” which so offends Boswell ? death of Julius Cæsar might have been the To the servant who has brought the message catastrophe. The republican and the mon- from the augurers; before him he could archical principles might have been ex- show no fear. But the very inflation of his hibited in conflict. The republican prin- language shows that he did fear; and an ciple would have triumphed in the fall of instant after, when the servant no doubt is Cæsar ; and the poet would have previously intended to have left the scene, he says to held the balance between the two principles, his wife or have claimed, indeed, our largest sympa- “Mark Antony shall say I am not well, thies for the principles of Cæsar and his

And, for thy humour, I will stay at home." friends, by a true exhibition of Cæsar's

Read Pluturch's account of the scene begreatness and Cæsar's virtues. The poet

tween Decius and Cæsar, when Decius prechose another course. And are we, then, to

vails against Calphurnia, and Cæsar decides talk, with ready flippancy, of ignorance and carelessness—that he wanted classical know- of the splendid characterization of Cæsar

to go. In the historian we have not a hint ledge—that he gave himself no trouble ? “The fault of the character is the fault of struggling between his fear and his pride.

Wherever Shakspere found a minute touch the plot,” says Hazlitt. It would have been

in the historian that could harmonise with nearer the truth had he said the character his general plan, he embodied it in his chais determined by the plot. While Cæsar is racter of Cæsar. Who does not remember upon the scene, it was for the poet, largely interpreting the historian, to show the in- into the mouth of Cæsar ?

the magnificent lines which the poet puts ward workings of “the covetous desire he had to be called king:" and most admirably,

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once. according to our notions of characterization,

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, has he shown them. Cæsar is “in all but

It seems to me most strange that men should name a king.” He is surrounded by all the external attributes of power ; yet he is not

Seeing that death, a necessary end, satisfied :

Will come when it will come." “The angry spot doth glow on Cæsar's brow."

A very slight passage in Plutarch, with He is suspicious-he fears. But he has reference to other circumstances of Cæsar's acquired the policy of greatness—to seem life, suggested this :-“When some of his what it is not. To his intimate friend he is friends did counsel him to have a guard for an actor :

the safety of his person, and some also did

offer themselves to serve him, he would never “I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd Than what I fear; for always I am Cæsar.”

consent to it, but said it was better to die

once than always to be afraid of death." · When Calphurnia has recounted the terrible We have already noticed the skill with which portents of the night-when the augurers Shakspere, upon a very bald narrative, has would not that Cæsar should stir forth-he dramatised the last sad scene in which Cæsar exclaims :

was an actor. The tone of his last speech “The gods do this in shame of cowardice:

is indeed boastful :Cæsar should be a beast without a heart,

“I do know but one If he should stay at home to-day for fear.

That unassailable holds on his rank,


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The him say

Unshaked of motion : and, that I am he, show his wonderful penetration into the Let me a little show it.”

depths of character :That Cæsar knew his power, and made others You shall not in your funeral speech blame us, know it, who can doubt ? He was not one But speak all good you can devise of Cæsar; who, in his desire to be king, would put on And say you do't by our permission; the robe of humility. Altogether, then, we Else shall you not have any hand at all profess to receive Shakspere's characteriza

About his funeral : And you shall speak, tion of Cæsar with a perfect confidence that

In the same pulpit whereto I am going, he produced that character upon fixed prin

After my speech is ended.” ciples of art. It is not the prominent cha- The opportunity is not lost by Antony. racter of the play ; and it was not meant to Hazlitt, acute enough in general, appears to It is true to the narrative upon

us singularly superficial in his remarks on which Shakspere founded it; but, what is of this play :-“ Mark Antony's speech over the more importance, it is true to every natural dead body of Cæsar has been justly admired conception of what Cæsar must have been for the mixture of pathos and art in it: that at the exact moment of his fall.

of Brutus certainly is not so good.” In what We have seen the stoic Brutus—in reality way is it not so good ? As a specimen of a man of strong passions and deep feelings- eloquence. put by the side of Antony's, who gradually warm up to the great enterprise can doubt that it is tame, passionless, severe, of asserting his principles by one terrible and therefore ineffective ? But, as an example blow, for triumph or for extinction. The of Shakspere's wonderful power of chablow is given. The excitement which racterization, it is beyond all praise. It was succeeds is wondrously painted by the poet, the consummate artifice of Antony that made without a hint from the historian. calm of the gentle Brutus is lifted up, for

“I am no orator, as Brutus is." the moment, into an attitude of terrible sublimity. It is he who says

Brutus was not

an orator.

Under great excitement he is twice betrayed into oratory : “Stoop, Romans, stoop,

when he addresses the conspirators—“No, And let us bathe our hands in Cæsar's blood

not an oath ;” and after the assassinationUp to the elbows, and besmear our swords : Then walk we forth, even to the market-place; “Stoop, Romans, stoop.” He is a man of And, waving our red weapons o'er our heads, just intentions, of calm understanding, of Let's all cry, Peace, Freedom, and Liberty!"

settled purpose, when his principles are to

become actions. But his notion of oratory From that moment the character flags; the is this :calmness returns; something also of the

“I will myself into the pulpit first, irresolution comes back. Brutus is too

And show the reason of our Cæsar's death." high-minded for his position. Another comes upon the scene; another of different tem- And he does show the reason. The critics perament, of different powers. He is not have made amusing work with this speech. one that, like Brutus, will change “offence Warburton says, “ This speech of Brutus is to “virtue and to worthiness” by the force wrote in imitation of his famed laconic of character. He is one that "revels long brevity, and is very fine in its kind; but no o' nights.” But he possesses courage, elo- more like that brevity than his times were quence, high talent, and, what renders him like Brutus”.” To this Mr. Monk Mason most dangerous, he is sufficiently un- rejoins,—" I cannot agree with Warburton principled. Cassius knew him, and would that this speech is very fine in its kind. I have killed him. Brutus does not know him, can see no degree of excellence in it, but and he suffers him “to bury Cæsar.” The think it a very paltry speech, for so great a conditions

upon which Brutus permits Antony man, on so great an occasion.” The comto speak are Shakspere's own; and they mentators have not a word of approbation


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for the speech of Antony to counterbalance Dropp'd manna, and could make the worse this. There was a man, however, of their appear times, Martin Sherlock, who wrote 'A Frag- The better reason, to perplex and dash ment on Shakspere,' in a stylo sufficiently

Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low; hyperbolical, but who nevertheless

To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds amongst the few who then ventured to think

Timorous and slothful: yet he pleased the ear.” that “the barbarian,” Shakspere, possessed The end of Antony's oratory is perfect art and judgment. Of Antony's speech he thus expresses his opinion :-“Every line of

“ Now let it work! Mischief, thou art afoot, this speech deserves an eulogium; and, when

Take thou what course thou wilt!" you have examined it attentively, you will allow it, and will say with me that neither

The rhetoric has done its work: the conflict Demosthenes, nor Cicero, nor their glorious of principles is coming to a close; the rival, the immortal Chatham, ever made a conflict of individuals is about to begin ; it better." There may be exaggerations in is no longer a question of republican Rome, both styles of criticism: the speech of Antony

or monarchical Rome. The question is may not be equal to Demosthenes, and the whether it shall be the Rome of Antony, or speech of Brutus may not be a very paltry the Rome of Octavius; for Lepidus there is speech. But, each being written by the

no chance :same man, we have a right to accept each “This is a slight unmeritable man.” with a conviction that the writer was capable But even he is ready to do his work. He of making a good speech for Brutus as well as for Antony; and that, if he did not do so,

can proscribe ; he can even consent to the

death of his brother, he had very abundant reasons. It requires

upon conditions." He no great refinement to understand his requires that “Publius shall not live." The excitement of the great

Antony has no scruples to save his “sister's

son :"assertion of republican principles, which was to be acted over,

“He shall not live: look, with a spot I damn

him." “In states unborn, and accents yet unknown," had been succeeded by a momentary calm.

Such an intense representation of selfishness

was never before given in dozen lines. In the very hour of the assassination Brutus had become its apologist to Antony :

What power have Brutus and Cassius to

oppose to this worldly wisdom? Is it the Our reasons are so full of good regard,

virtue of Brutus ? Of him who That were you, Antony, the son of Cæsar, You should be satisfied."

“ Condemn'd and noted Lucius Pella,

For taking bribes here of the Sardians." He is already preparing in mind for “the

Of him who pulpit." He will present, calmly and dis

” passionately, the " reason of our Cæsar's

Had rather be a dog, and bay the moon," death.” He expects that Antony will speak than with equal moderation—all good of Cæsar,

“ Contaminate his fingers." no blame of Cæsar's murderers; and he Of him who saysthinks it an advantage to speak before Antony. He knew not what oratory really is. But

“I had rather coin my heart, Shakspere knew, and he painted Antony.

And drop my blood for drachmas, than to

wring Another great poet made the portrait a

From the hard hands of peasants their vile description :

trash “ He seem'd

By any indirection.” For dignity composed and high exploit : But all was false and hollow; though his No; the man of principles must fall before tongue

the men of expediency. He can conquer



« Cass.

Cassius by his high-mindedness ; for Cassius, The shade of Cæsar has summoned Brutus though somewhat politic, has nobility enough to meet him at Philippi. The conversation in him to bow before the majesty of virtue. of the republican chiefs before the battle is Coleridge says—“I know no part of Shak- well to be noted :spere that more impresses on me the belief

Now, most noble Brutus, of his genius being superhuman than this

The gods to-day stand friendly; that we may, scene between Brutus and Cassius.” This

Lovers in peace, lead on our days to age ! language has been called idolatry: some

But, since the affairs of men rest still uncercritic, we believe, says “blasphemous ;" yet

tain, let any one with common human powers try Let's reason with the worst that may befall. to produce such a scene. The wonderful

If we do lose this battle, then is this thing in it, and that which-in a subsequent The very last time we shall speak together : sentence, which we scarcely dare quote- What are you then determined to do? Coleridge points out, is the complete preserv- Bru. Even by the rule of that philosophy ation of character. All dramatic poets have By which I did blame Cato for the death tried to imitate this scene. Dryden preferred Which he did give himself:-I know not how, his imitation, in the famous dialogue between

But I do find it cowardly and vile, Antony and Ventidius, to anything which

For fear of what might fall, so to prevent he had written in this kind.” It is full of

The time of life :-arming myself with pahigh rhetoric, no doubt; but its rhetoric is tience, that of generalizations. The plain rough

To stay the providence of some high powers,

That govern us below. soldier, the luxurious chief, reproach and

Cass. Then, if we lose this battle, weep, are angry and cool again, shake hands,

You are contented to be led in triumph and end in “ hugging," as the stage direction

Thorough the streets of Rome ? has it. They say all that people would say

Bru. No, Cassius, no: think not, thou noble under such circumstances, and they say it Roman, well. But the matchless art of Shakspere That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome; consists as much in what he holds back as

He bears too great a mind." in what he puts forward. Brutus subdues Cassius by the force of his moral strength,

The parallel passage in Plutarch is as

follows: without the slightest attempt to command the feelings of sensitive man.


Then Cassius began to speak first, and said Cassius is subdued, he owns that he has been - The gods grant us, O Brutus, that this day hasty. They are friends again, hand and we may win the field, and ever after to live all heart. Is not the knowledge of character the rest of our life quietly, one with another. something above the ordinary reach of But sith the gods have so ordained it that the human sagacity when the following words greatest and chiefest things amongst men are come in as if by accident ?

most uncertain, and that, if the battle fall out

otherwise to-day than we wish or look for, we Lucius, a bowl of wine.

shall hardly meet again, what art thou then de Cass. I did not think you could have been

termined to do—to fly, or die? Brutus answered 80 angry.

him, Being yet but a young man, and not overBru. O Cassius, I am sick of many griefs.

greatly experienced in the world, I trust (I know Cass. Of your philosophy you make no use,

not how) a certain rule of philosophy, by the If you give place to accidental evils.

which I did greatly blame and reprove Cato for Bru. No man bears sorrow better :-Portia

killing of himself, as being no lawful nor godly is dead.

act touching the gods, nor concerning men vaCass. Ha! Portia ?

liant, not to give place and yield to Divine Bru. She is dead.

Providence, and not constantly and patiently Cass. How 'scaped I killing when I cross'd

to take whatsoever it pleaseth him to send us,

but to draw back and Ay: but, being now in the This is not in Plutarch.

midst of the danger, I am of a contrary mind;


you so ?”

for, if it be not the will of God that this battle consistency. It is when the mind of the fall out fortunate for us, I will look no more speculative man is not only utterly subdued for hope, neither seek to make any new supply by adverse circumstances, but howed down of war again, but will rid me of this miserable before the pressure of supernatural warnings, world, and content me with my fortune."

that he deliberately approaches his last fatal The critics say that Shakspere makes Brutus resolve. What is the work of an instant with express himself inconsistently. He will await Cassius is with Brutus a tentative process. the determination of Providence, but he will Clitus, Dardanius, Volumnius, Strato, are not go bound to Rome. Mr. Courtenay ex- each tried. The irresistible pressure upon plains how “the inconsistency arises from his mind, which leads him not to fly with Shakspere's misreading of the first speech; his friends, is the destiny which hovers over for Brutus, according to North, referred to him :his opinion against suicide as one that he

Bru. Come hither, good Volumnius : list a had entertained in his youth, but had now word. abandoned.” This writer in a note also ex- Vol. What says my lord ? plains that the perplexity consists in North Bru.

Why, this, Volumnius : saying I trust, instead of using the past tense. The ghost of Cæsar hath appear’d to me He then adds,—“Shakspere's adoption of a Two several times by night: at Sardis, once ; version contradicted not only by a passage

And, this last night, here in Philippi fields. immediately following, but by the event I know my hour is come." which he presently portrays, is a striking in. The exclamation of Brutus over the body of stance of his careless use of his authorities."*

Cassius isVery triumphant, no doubt. Most literal

“The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!" critics, why have you not rather confided in Shakspere than in yourselves? When he Brutus himself is the last assertor of the old deserts Plutarch, he is true to something Roman principles :higher than Plutarch. In Brutus he has “ This was the noblest Roman of them all: drawn a man of speculation ; one who is -All the conspirators, save only he, moved to kill the man he loves upon no Did that they did in envy of great Cæsar; personal motive, but upon a theory; one He only, in a general honest thought, who fights his last battle upon somewhat And common good to all, made one of them.” speculative principles; one, however, who, from his gentleness, his constancy, his for- The scene is changed. The boldest, pertitude, has subdued men of more active haps the noblest, of the Roman triumvirs minds to the admiration of his temper and has almost forgotten Rome, and governs the to the adoption of his opinions. Cassius Asiatic world with a magnificence equalled never reasons about suicide: it is his instant only by the voluptuousness into which he is remedy; a remedy which he rashly adopts, plunged. In Rome, Octavius Cæsar is almost and ruins therefore his own cause. Brutus supreme. It is upon the cards which shall reasons against it; and he does not revoke govern the entire world. The history of inhis speculative opinions even when the con- dividuals is henceforth the history of Rome. sequences to which they lead are pointed out “ Of all Shakspere's historical plays,” says to him. Is not this nature? and must we Coleridge, “ Antony and Cleopatra' is by be told that this nicety of characterization far the most wonderful.”

He again says, resulted from Shakspere carelessly using his assigning it a place even higher than that authorities; trusting to the false tense of a of being the most wonderful of the historical verb, regardless of the context ? “But he plays, “The highest praise, or rather form of contradicts himself,” says the critic, “by the praise, of this play, which I can offer in my event which he presently portrays.” Most own mind, is the doubt which the perusal wonderfully has Shakspere redeemed his own always occasions in me, whether the ‘Antony *Commentaries on the Historical Plays,' vol. ii. p. 256. and Cleopatra' is not, in all exhibitions of

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