페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

the person of his heir and successor, the other Caesar, who is not doomed to add slaughter to the sword of traitors. This posthumous prolongation of Caesar's power is, it may be remarked, not a fiction of the poet's. It is in accordance with historical fact and with Plutarch's account of the consequences of Caesar's death. What was said by Macaulay of the execution of Charles I. may be asserted with even greater truth of the assassination of Caesar. It was not only a crime but also a blunder. The degenerate Roman world could not do without a master. This historical truth is amusingly manifested by one of the spokesmen of the Roman crowd, who expresses his admiration of Brutus by proposing that Brutus should be Caesar! The spirit of Caesarism was rather strengthened than weakened by Caesar's death. Soon afterwards Cicero had bitter reason to exclaim, “We have taken away the tyrant; the tyranny survives.” As to the fruits that the individual conspirators reaped from their action, Plutarch relates that Caesar’s “great prosperity and good fortune that favoured him all his lifetime, did continue afterwards in the revenge of his death, pursuing the murderers both by sea and land, till they had not left a man more to be executed, of all them that were actors or counsellors in the conspiracy of his death.” Plutarch is also the authority for the story of the spirit that twice appeared to Brutus. He does not, however, declare the spirit that appeared at Sardis and Philippi to have been the ghost of Caesar. It is Shakespeare who identifies the dim phantom of Plutarch with the spirit of the dead dictator, and thus, by an impressive use of the supernatural machinery supplied by Plutarch,

manifests in a visible form the survival and powerful working of Caesar's personality after death, so that Brutus exclaims over the dead body of Cassius: O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet ! Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords In our own proper entrails; and, when his hour has come and he prepares to run on his own sword, his last words are,

Caesar, now be still :
I killed not thee with half so good a will.

On the grounds that the personality of Julius Caesar is thus continued to the final act with no diminution of power, and that the play bears his name, some commentators maintain that he is intended by the poet to be the hero of the drama. The case of Cymbeline, however, shows clearly that the title of a Shakespearian play does not determine who is the hero. No one can be regarded as the hero of a drama unless his personality or his fortune is the principal subject on which our interests are centred from the beginning to the end. This cannot be said of Caesar. In the first two acts of the drama our interest is about equally divided between him and the conspirators, and in the last two acts, although we are not allowed to forget Caesar, our sympathy is almost entirely concentrated on the declining fortunes of Brutus and Cassius. Can we then accept the view of Dr. Immanuel Schmidt and other commentators, who maintain that Brutus is the hero of the play 2 This opinion cannot be rejected on account of the defects that will be found in the character of Brutus. The weak points in Hamlet and Othello are generally recognised, but no one has ventured to dispute their claim to be the heroes of the two great tragedies which are named after them. The claim of Brutus to the first position in Julius Caesar has to be rejected, but on other grounds, namely, on the subordinate position he occupies in large and important portions of the drama. In the first half of the play, as we have seen, our interests and sympathies are almost equally balanced between Caesar and the conspirators. But Brutus is only one of the conspirators, a band including not only Cassius, but also Casca, who plays a very conspicuous part up to the moment of the death of Caesar. If up to the great catastrophe we compare Brutus alone with Caesar, we shall be conscious that the historical greatness of the name and the fame of the latter entirely casts the former into the shade. In the latter half of the third act, after the assassination of Caesar, the funeral speech of Antony, by exalting the glory of Caesar and rousing the passions of the mob, reduces Brutus with the other conspirators for the time to obscurity and insignificance. & Even in the last two acts of the play it is on Brutus and Cassius rather than on Brutus alone that our attention is fixed, until the concluding speeches of Antony and Octavius exalt Brutus above his friend and brother. From these considerations it will be seen that Shakespeare never intended that Brutus should be the hero of the play, and this conclusion is supported by the title. Although we cannot infer that Julius Caesar was meant to be the hero, because his name is given to the play, we may be pretty certain that, if Brutus had been intended to be the hero, the play would have been called Brutus and not Julius Caesar,

It is an unjustifiable insult to our great poet to suppose that he intended Brutus to be the hero, but refused to give the play the name of Brutus, because he thought that the great name of Julius Caesar would prove more attractive to the playgoing public of his time. We may rather suppose that, as the drama had no one hero, in the sense in which Hamlet and Othello are the heroes of the two great tragedies of which they are the subject, he followed the practice he had followed in his English historical plays, and gave his first Roman play the name of him who was to all intents and purposes the monarch of Rome at the time when he fell beneath the daggers of the conspirators. Julius Caesar may then be described as a play without a hero, inasmuch as it does not chain our attention to any one principal figure. But if it has no hero in this sense of the word, it is far from being destitute of heroic characters, whose greatness and weaknesses must now be subjected to detailed examination. Shakespeare's treatment of Julius Caesar is at first sight extremely disappointing. A noble and full representation of one of the greatest characters in the history of the world is naturally expected from the greatest of dramatic poets. This expectation is certainly not fulfilled. The representation that Shakespeare has given us of the living Julius Caesar in the first half of the play is so one-sided and unappreciative, that at first sight it painfully reminds us of the cynical travesties of the Homeric heroes in Troilus and Cressida. Shakespeare's Caesar is pompous, theatrical, subject to epileptic fits, fond of flattery, superstitious, and servile in his attitude to the rabble of Rome. His vanity makes him eager for the empty honour of a kingly diadem, but he is so weak that the disapproval of the mob makes him reject the proffered honour. The same vacillating disposition is manifested in the second scene of the second act. He first haughtily rejects Calpurnia's advice that he should stay at home, then yields to her solicitations, and finally is persuaded by Decius Brutus to change his mind again and go to the senate-house. We are even led to doubt his courage. Decius Brutus says:

But when I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does, being then most flattered ; \

and his cynical account of the great man is justified by the success of his persuasions. So, when Caesar expresses in bombastic language his contempt of danger (II. ii. 44–48), he is naturally suspected of being really timid, especially as he immediately afterwards consents to yield to his wife's fears, and determines to send an excuse to the senators. No reference is made to all that he had done for Rome and the human race, nor to the great schemes that were left unaccomplished at his death. Instead of the real historical Caesar's lively energetic personality, full of impetuosity and audacity, never at a loss for the word and action required in any emergency, we are presented with a heavy figure that moves slowly over the stage, uttering grandiloquent sentences and affecting extreme firmness and superiority to all feelings of danger, but really full of anxiety and wavering to and fro under the influence of the wills of others. On the other hand, Julius Caesar is far from being represented throughout the play as an entirely ignoble

« 이전계속 »