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Plutarch patiently chronicles the undecisive movements and counter-movements which for a while held destiny in suspense: the negotiations between the conspirators and the Senate, its vote of thanks to Brutus and Antonius, the feud between Antony and Octavius, and Brutus' voluntary withdrawal from Italy — not for his own safety, but foreseeing the overthrow of Rome; his sojourn at Athens, where he went daily to hear philosophic lectures'; his quixotic humanities in the field and reiterated dissensions with Cassius; finally the two battles at Philippi, three weeks apart, in which Cassius and Brutus were separately vanquished. All this Shakespeare compresses into three critical moments : Cæsar's funeral, and the final ruin of Brutus and Cassius in Italy; the camp at Sardis, and their quarrel; Philippi, and their overthrow. The quarrel (iv. 3.) is a wonderful example of concentration. Plutarch reports very briefly how on their first meeting they went into a little chamber together and bade every man avoid, and did shut the doors to them. Then they began to pour out their complaints one to the other, and grew hot and loud, earnestly accusing one another, and at length fell both a weeping. In the height of their strife they are interrupted by the counterfeit Cynic,' Phaonius (the Poet of the play). On the following day they again meet and exchange grave reproaches : Brutus has condemned and noted Lucius Pella ; Cassius remonstrates; Brutus bids him remember the Ides of March; but neither now passes the limits of debate. Finally, on the closing page of the Life, Plutarch records the death of Portia. All these four strands are interwoven in Shakespeare's wonderful scene.
The 'hot and loud complaints' and weeping' of their first meeting are made
articulate with the arguments of their second. The intrusion of the Cynic, instead of 'breaking off their strife for that time,' throws a gleam of relieving burlesque upon their restored harmony; and the tidings of Portia's death, undermining the sources of Brutus' Stoic self-control, give the clue to the uncontrolled outburst, as anger, of the passion so sternly suppressed as grief. 'I did not think you could have been so angry,' says Cassius, and his anger is as amazing to the reader as it is to Cassius, until this subtle trait renders it natural and pathetic.
Plutarch's character-drawing, like his narrative, suffers from his twofold rôle of historian and moralist. His Brutus is a compromise between the humane idealist whom he wished to portray and the grasping doctrinaire whom he was too honest wholly to efface. His lofty Stoic condescends to a vulgar rivalry with Cassius for the election to the prætor's chair ; nay, at Pharsalia, the general whose humanity amazed friend and foe promises his soldiers the sack of two cities if they fought like men,'—an embarrassing inconsistency for which his biographer rather awkwardly apologises as the 'only fault to be found in all Brutus' life, and that is not to be gainsaid.' The faults of Shakespeare's Brutus are exposed with a far surer hand; he is nevertheless a loftier character: no soil of meanness, cruelty, or vulgar rivalry complicates the tragedy of his fate. The personal relation to Cæsar which he violates for the general' (good) is a more intimate one. Rome calls him ‘Cæsar's angel.' In Plutarch, Cæsar did not trust him overmuch,' and included him with Cassius in his dislike of 'lean and whitely-faced' men. Brutus on his part was 'incensed' by Cassius against the tyrant. The monologue which Shakespeare puts in his mouth is a marvel of fanatical self-deception. It is not any actual tyranny' that moves him, for he owns that 'the quarrel will bear no colour for the thing’ Cæsar 'is'; it is not even the abstract name of king which moves him, but a 'change of nature' which that might induce. "Then lest it may, prevent.' Brutus, like Hamlet, is set in action by the bidding of a ghost; but his ghost is not the discloser of a crying wrong which he groans to be summoned to set right, but a true phantom which drives him headlong to the redress of wrongs which even his biassed reason can only discover in a hypothetical futurity.
Shakespeare's Cassius is, to a far greater degree Cassius. than his Brutus, Plutarch made eloquent. The contrast between the philosophic and the self-seeking politician appealed strongly to the Greek's academic intellect, and he brings it out with incisive sharpness. He admits that Brutus' tactics were disastrous to the conspirators and to the republican cause. But he has no eye for the pathos of Cassius' devotion to the friend whose errors he recognised and suffered by. This trait Shakespeare has sympathetically seized in the famous 'quarrel scene’; Cassius' hot temper blazes rashly out; but Brutus' answering passion overwhelms him with grief and despair
Come, Antony, and young Octavius, come,
For Cassius is aweary of the world. But the brilliant figure of Antony owes far more Antony. to Shakespeare. Plutarch's Antony is a scheming soldier, who carries his way by practical sagacity and ruthless cruelty. Shakespeare's is in addition to all this a consummate artist, and an artist by temperament as well as by his technical mastery of effect. Shakespeare has deliberately charged his eloquence with the task of inflaming the people which Plutarch's Antony achieves mainly by strategic skill. He even
aggravates the difficulty of the task to throw into relief the intellectual brilliance of the achievement. The Roman multitude, in Plutarch, need little incitement to rise upon the slayers of Cæsar. The first act of the conspirators is to take refuge in the Capitol; when Brutus at last ventures down, and addresses the people, they showed, immediately after, that they were not at all contented with the murder.' The next day, by Antony's arrangement, Cæsar's will is read to them, and they are 'marvellously sorry for him. The funeral oration which Antony then delivers has but to fire a train, not to turn a tide.
If Shakespeare idealises Brutus, Cassius, Antony, he has notoriously depressed Cæsar. Plutarch's own Cæsar is far from being the Cæsar of Mommsen; and Shakespeare has touched the slightly disparaging portrait into something like caricature. He dwells with curious persistence on the physical infirmities of the ageing dictator, and swells their number with others of his own devising,-a falling sickness, a deafness in one ear. He accentuates every trait of superstition,—the touching at the Lupercal, the consultation of the sacrificers, the senile vacillation on the morning of the fatal Ides. Above all, he puts in the mouth of the man whose will has just responded so sensitively to the beck of dreams and omens, the most magnificent and sincere professions of immovable constancy. All critics of the play have felt that this caustic treatment of Cæsar needed explanation. The early commentators found one, readily enough, in Shakespeare's limited classical knowledge ; and one of his recent biographers has reinforced it, late in the day, with a splendid but irrelevant picture of the real Cæsar. But it is certain that Shakespeare did not think meanly of the foremost man in all the 1 Brandes, Shakespeare (E.T.) i. 361 f.
Others have suggested more plausibly that Cæsar is presented as he appeared to the conspirators. Certainly he at times seems to justify Cassius' jaundiced vision of him in his weaker moments. 1 But what may hold of Cassius certainly does not hold of Brutus. His Cæsar has no personal faults, and he has never known when his affections sway'd more than his reason’; his Cæsar is doomed for what he might become, not for what he is. Brutus alone distinguishes between the man Cæsar and what he stood for. At the outset he would gladly spare the man if he could annihilate the spirit. 'O, that we then could come by Cæsar's spirit, and not dismember Cæsar!' It is his fatal illusion to believe that Cæsar's spirit will perish when Cæsar is dismembered. But Cæsar is no sooner dead than the tokens accumulate that Cæsarism is still alive; and they seem to be specially addressed to Brutus. Let Brutus be Cæsar !' cry the mob when he has spoken, confuting him by their very applause. When he looks on the dead body of Cassius his eyes are opened, and the thrilling cry that breaks from him
O Julius Cæsar, thou art mighty yet !
In our own proper entrails— is the final confession of failure. The apparition of Cæsar's spirit is a visible embodiment of the invisible forces which are controlling the issues of the plot. Shakespeare here finely modified tradition to his own purpose.
In the drama, as in Plutarch, the ghost replies to his question, 'I am thy evil spirit.' Shakespeare draws this trivial episode into touch with the very heart of the tragedy by identifying Brutus' evil
i Cassius' story of the swim- me, Cassius, or I sink' (i. 2. 111), ming - match in Tiber, when is Shakespeare's. Cæsar succumbed with a 'Help