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mencement or rejoinder. So in 691.--In the original edition this speech is followed by the stage direction, “ Lucillius and Messala stand forth ;" and there is no other after 701.
704. As this very day. We are still familiar with this form of expression, at least in speaking. We may understand it to mean As is, or as falls, this
very day; or rather, perhaps, as if, or as it were, this very day.
704. On our former ensign.- Former is altered to forward, it seems, by Mr. Collier's MS. annotator; and the correction ought probably to be accepted. Former would hardly be the natural word unless it were intended to be implied that there were only two ensigns or standards.
704. Who to Philippi here consorted us.--Shakespeare's usual syntax is to consort with; but he has consort as an active verb in other passages as well as here.
704. This morning are they fled away, and gone.-Vid. 374.
704. As we were sickly prey. As if we were.-Vid. 57.
706. To meet all perils.—So in the First Folio. The other Folios have peril.
708. Lovers in peace.--Vid. 260.
708. But since the affairs of men rest still uncertain.--" Rests still incertaine" is the reading in the original edition.
708. Let's reason with the worst that may befall.The abbreviation let's had not formerly the vulgar or slovenly air which is conceived to unfit it now for dignified composition. We have had it twice in
Brutus's impressive address, 187. Shakespeare, however, does not frequently resort to it, -rather, one would say, avoids it.--To befall as a neuter or intransitive verb is nearly gone out both in prose and verse; as is also to fall in the same sense, as used by Brutus in the next speech.
709. Even by the rule, etc.—The pointing of this passage in the early editions is amusing :
“Even by the rule of that Philosophy,
But I do find it," etc. The construction plainly is, I know not how it is, but I do find it, by the rule of that philosophy, etc., cowardly and vile. The common pointing of the modern editors, which completely separates “I know not how," etc. from what precedes, leaves the “by the rule" without connexion or meaning. It is impossible to suppose that Brutus can mean I am determined to do by the rule of that philosophy,” etc.
709. The term of life. That is, the termination, the end, of life. The common reading is “the time of life,” which is simply nonsense ; term is the emendation of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, and is produced by Mr. Collier as new; but the same emendation had also been made conjecturally by Capel, though it failed to obtain the acquiescence of subsequent editors. For to prevent see 147 and 161. “To prevent the term of life,” says Mr. Collier (Notes and Emendations, 403), means, as Malone states, to anticipate the end of life; but still he strangely persevered in printing time for term." Did not Mr. Collier himself do the same thing ?
709. To stay the providence of those high powers.To stay is here to await, not, as the word more commonly means, to hinder or delay.—“Some high powers” is the common reading; those is the correction of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, and might almost have been assumed on conjecture to be the true word.
711. No, Cassius, no : etc.—There has been some controversy about the reasoning of Brutus in this dialogue. Both Steevens and Malone conceive that there is an inconsistency between what he here says and his previous declaration of his determination not to follow the example of Cato. But how did Cato act ? He slew himself that he might not witness and outlive the fall of Utica. This was, merely “for fear of what might fall," to anticipate the end of life. It did not follow that it would be wrong, in the opinion of Brutus, to commit suicide in order to escape any certain and otherwise inevitable calamity or degradation, such as being led in triumph through the streets of Rome by Octavius and Antony.
It is proper to remark, however, that Plutarch, upon whose narrative the conversation is founded, makes Brutus confess to a change of opinion. Here is the passage, in the life of Brutus, as translated by Sir Thomas North :-“Then Cassius began to speak first, and said: The gods grant us, O Brutus, that this day we may win the field, and ever after to live all the rest of our life quietly, one with another. But, sith the gods have so ordained it, that the greatest and chiefest [things] amongst men are most uncertain, and that, if the battle fall out otherwise to day than we wish or look for, we shall hardly meet again, what art thou then determined to do ? to fly? or die ? Brutus an
gwered him: Being yet but a young man, and not over greatly experienced in the world, I trust trusted] (I know not how) a certain rule of philosophy, by the which I did greatly blame and reprove Cato for killing of himself, as being no lawful nor godly act touching the gods, nor, concerning men, valiant; not to give place and yield to divine Providence, and not constantly and patiently to take whatsoever it pleaseth him to send us, but to draw back and fly. But, being now in the midst of the danger, I am of a contrary mind. For, if it be not the will of God that this battle fall out fortunate for us, I will look no more for hope, neither seek to make any new supply for war again, but will rid me of this miserable world, and content me with my fortune. For I gave up my life for my country in the Ides of March; for the which I shall live in another more glorious world.”
This compared with the scene in the Play affords s most interesting and instructive illustration of the manner in which the great dramatist worked in such cases, appropriating, rejecting, adding, as suited his purpose, but refining or elevating everything, though sometimes by the slightest touch, and so transmuting all into the gold of poetry.
711. Must end that work the ides of March begun.Begun is the word in the old editions. Mr. Collier has began. The three last Folios all have " that Ides of March begun."
714. Give these bills. These billets, as we should now say; but Shakespeare takes the word which he found in North's Plutarch:-"In the meantime Brutus, that led the right wing, sent little bills to the colonels and captains of private bands, in which he wrote the word of the battle."
As in all other cases throughout the Play, the notices of the locality of what are here called the Second and Third Scenes are modern additions to the old text, in which there is no division into scenes. directions in regard to alarums, entries, etc. are all in the First Folio.
714. But cold demeanour in Octavius' wing. The original text has “ Octavio's wing.” In 716, however, it is Octavius.
715. This ensign here of mine was turning back.Here the term ensign may almost be said to be used with the double meaning of both the standard and the standard-bearer.
716. Took it too eagerly.-Followed his advantage too eagerly.—The prosody of this line, with its two superfluous syllables, well expresses the hurry and impetuosity of the speaker.
717. Fly further off, etc.-This is the reading of the old editions. Mr. Collier, as usual, has farther. Further and farther correspond to forth and far, which, however, (Vid. 45) are only diverse forms of the same A. Saxon word, feor or forth. Accordingly here, in the next line but one, we have “ Cassius, fly far off.”
720. Whether yond troops.-Vid. 65.
This is the reading of the First Folio; all the others have "get hither."-The stage direction “ Exit Pindarus" is modern.
722. This day I breathed first.-Compare this expression with what we have in 704:-“As this very day Was Cassius born."
722. Time is come round. ... My life is run his compass.-Vid. 374.