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“0, Julius Cæsar, thou art mighty yet !
In our own proper entrails." Finally, the little effort of the aristocrat republicans sinks to the ground, foiled and crushed by the force which they had hoped to abolish with one violent blow. Brutus dies:
6. Cæsar, now be still ; I killed thee not with half so good a will."
Brutus dies; and Octavius lives to reap the fruit whose seed had been sown by his great predecessor. With strict propriety, therefore, the play bears the name of Julius Caesar.
Read by this light, everything is plain and consistent. Moreover, it is to be noticed that Shakespeare had authority from Plutarch and Suetonius for the change which came over Cæsar's character in his later days; and to a consciousness of physical weakness and waning powers of mind we may no doubt ascribe those failings which have already been noticed. Shakespeare has but added color to the picture as drawn by historians, in order to heighten the contrast between the man who is to die and the spirit of that man which is to be more potent than any living personage could be.
TIME OF THE ACTION
The historical events included in the drama extend over a period of a little more than two and a half years, from February, 44 B.C., when the feast of Lupercal was celebrated, to the battle of Philippi, in September, 42 b.c. For the purposes of dramatic representation, however, Shakespeare departed from historical accuracy, as follows:1
(1) Cæsar's triumph is made coincident with the Lupercalia (historically it was celebrated six months before); (2) the combination of the two battles of Philippi (the interval of twenty days being ignored); (3) the murder, the funeral orations, and the arrival of Octavius are made to take place on the same day (not so actually).
Again, Shakespeare departs from Plutarch in making the Capitol the scene of the murder, instead of the Curia Pompeiana. In this point, however, he follows a literary tradition, which is already found in Chaucer's Monk's Tale :
“ In the Capitol anon him hente (i.e. seized)
This falsë Brutus, and his other foon,
1 Temple Edition of Julius Cæsar, edited by Israel Gollanoz.
The school that is so situated as to command ready access to a good public library is fortunate. In any case, however, it is desirable to have at hand a few volumes, historical and critical, which will contribute to a better understanding of Shakespeare. There are several excellent aids to the study of the life of the poet as a man and as a literary artist. A Life of William Shakespeare, by Sidney Lee, is the result of careful sifting of all the biographical material accessible, and may be accepted as reliable; William Shakespeare, by Georg Brandes, is a scholarly review of the Man and his Works; Shakespeare the Boy, by William Rolfe, gives a vivid picture of the Warwickshire manners and customs which formed the environment of Shakespeare's boyhood; on a larger scale is an illustrated True Life of Shakespeare, by James Walter; The Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, by HalliwellPhillips, is the most extended record of the life, and contains reprints of most of the original entries of the facts of record.
In interpretative criticism, Shakespeare's Life, Art, and Characters, by Rev. H. N. Hudson; Shakespeare Commentaries, by Gervinus; Shakspere — His Mind and Art, by Edward Dowden; Shakespeare's Dramatic Art, by Ulrici; William Shakspere, by Bernard Ten Brink; Coleridge's Lectures on Shakespeare; Studies in Shakespeare, by Richard Grant White; and Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist, by R. G. Moulton, will be found useful.
The development of the drama in England is well presented by Hudson and Ulrici; also by A. W. Ward in his History of English Dramatic Literature, and by J. A. Symonds in his Shakspere's Predecessors. Early London Theatres, by T. F. Ordish, and Fleay's History of the London Stage give a clear picture of the theatre in the Elizabethan Age.
For the historical background, it is well to have a brief History of Rome, such as Leighton's, or Merivale's one-volume edition ; Froude's Cæsar: a Sketch; and North’s Plutarch's Lives (Skeat's edition).