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character. In his reception of the conspirators, when they come to his house, he manifests the courtesy and urbanity for which he was famous. On the way to the Senate, he postpones the reading of the paper presented by Artemidorus, remarking,
What touches us ourself shall be last serv'd,
and his noble spirit of self-denial costs him his life. It is not a tyrant, but a ruler anxious to follow the principles of justice and benevolence, who opens the meeting of the Senate by inviting appeals for redress of anything that has been done amiss (III. i. 3 I). Even Brutus admits that Caesar, as a ruler, has been guided by reason. Finally, after his death, we hear little of the defects of Caesar, and see only the nobler side of his character. Not only in his funeral speech, but also before that in his conference with the conspirators, Mark Antony gives a splendid picture of the military glory, public spirit, and benevolence of his dead friend and leader, whom he describes as “the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times” (III. i. 257). Nevertheless, though the nobler side of Caesar's character is not entirely ignored, the general impression produced by Shakespeare's representation of him falls far below the real greatness of the founder of the Roman Empire, and we have to account for this discrepancy on historical or dramatic grounds. In the first place, it must be noticed that it did not suit Shakespeare's design to represent Caesar in all the grandeur of his historic position and greatness of character, enhanced, as it might have been, to the highest pitch by poetic art and dramatic power. Had he done so, the figures of the conspirators would have been completely dwarfed, and their great deed would have appeared to be a brutal and entirely inexcusable murder. The poet's aim was to produce in the first part of the play an even balance in our sympathies, so that they should waver to and fro, inclining alternately to Caesar and the conspirators. This design is clearly manifested by the skilful management of the scenes in which we are induced at one time to share the anxiety of Calpurnia for her husband, and at another to listen with agonised suspense to the rumours that the air conveys or seems to convey to Portia from the Capitol. But although considerations of dramatic effect required that Caesar's greatness should not be represented in all its dazzling brightness, it was not lawful for Shakespeare in a historical play to be guilty of any material misrepresentation of the great facts of history. Nor has Shakespeare done so. His representation of Caesar may be described as rather one-sided or inadequate than untrue. Every one of the defects attributed to Julius Caesar by Shakespeare is mentioned or implied in Plutarch. We must remember that Shakespeare is concerned with the last phase of Caesar's life and character. It is evident from Plutarch's account, and still more from the pages of Suetonius, that Caesar at the end of his life showed signs of deterioration in mind and body, as Napoleon did at a somewhat earlier age during the Waterloo campaign. It seems strange to hear the author of the Commentaries, one of the simplest and most unpretending narratives of great deeds that can be found in the autobiographical literature of ancient and modern times, speaking of himself in high-flown language as if he were conscious of being exalted far above human nature. But this will cease to surprise us if we may believe Suetonius' information, that he declared that his “words ought to be regarded as laws,” and still more that he had a golden chair in the Senate, that his statue was carried through the Circus with the same pomp as the statues of the gods, and that he had temples, altars, and priests. If he is represented by Shakespeare as treating the Senate, “his Senate” as he calls it (III. i. 32), with impolitic haughtiness and disdain, we read in Plutarch that once when the Consuls, Praetors, and the whole Senate came to confer new honours upon him, he remained “sitting still in his majesty, disdaining to rise up unto them when they came in,” which “did not only offend the Senate but the common people also, to see that he should so lightly esteem the magistrates of the commonwealth.” Afterwards, when he reached his house, he bared his neck and “cried aloud to his friends that his throat was ready to offer to any man that would come and cut it.” Plutarch relates that he made a similar theatrical exhibition of himself a second time at the Lupercalia, which is reproduced in Casca's account of what happened at the feast. Plutarch is not responsible for Caesar's expressed belief in the efficacy of the leather thongs to avert the “sterile curse” (I. ii. 9), but it is evident that he had “superstitious grown of late” (II. i. 195), for he who had fought and won the battle of Munda in spite of adverse omens, is said by Plutarch to have determined to adjourn the fatal meeting of the Senate on the ides of March because the sacrifices were unfavourable, and by Dion to have propitiated Nemesis by crawling up the steps of the Capitol on the occasion of one of his triumphs. The case of Louis XI. of France illustrates the compatibility of free-thinking with superstition, so that Shakespeare was perfectly justified in following his authorities and ascribing this combination to Julius Caesar. The same may be said of the physical defects of Caesar, to which such prominence is given in the conspirators' conversations. Plutarch relates that he was often “subject to headache and otherwhile to the falling sickness.” The deafness which Shakespeare adds to the list of his physical defects, may be regarded as due to the epileptic attacks from which he suffered. It may, however, be urged that a one-sided account, even though all that it asserts is true, is to all intents and purposes false, because it conveys a false impression. A biographer who, in giving an account of Nelson's character, dwelt too exclusively on the weak points in his character, his peevishness, his impatience of control, his “thrasonical brags,” his infatuation for Lady Hamilton, and his readiness to receive the incense of flattery that she poured so profusely upon him, would be condemned as untrue, even though he could prove by indubitable testimony all that he asserted. The fact, however, that Julius Caesar is a dramatic work prevents its author from being subject to such a condemnation. We have to bear in mind that from the conditions of the drama our impressions of the characters are based upon what they say themselves and what is said of them by the other characters. With regard to the latter kind of evidence, it is plain that the defects of Julius Caesar are with dramatic propriety given undue prominence in the speeches of the conspirators, Cassius, Casca, and Decius Brutus, who could not well be expected to express admiration of his greater characteristics. So far as Caesar himself reveals his weakness by his own acts and words, we must consider the circumstances under which this self-revelation takes place, namely, in the privacy of his home, when he is in conference with his wife and with one whom he considered to be his devoted friend. Towards the end of the scene he calls for his toga, throws off with his undress “night-gown" all appearance of vacillation and weakness, and henceforward acts and speaks in a manner not unworthy of his high place in history. Indeed, the whole catalogue of defects objected against Caesar by the conspirators, or revealed by himself in the privacy of his home, does not amount to very much. They are not incompatible with true greatness, and only illustrate the truth conveyed in the proverb, that no man is a hero to his valet. If this is the case, it is, as Carlyle remarks, discreditable rather to the valet than to the hero. The greatest hero that ever lived cannot hope to be exempt from human weaknesses, and in Caesar's case the superficial defects in his character became more prominent towards the end of his life. Shakespeare is constrained by the conditions of the dramatic art, and by the exigencies of the plan of this particular drama, to dwell upon these defects in the beginning of the play. He shows, however, by the magnificent eulogy pronounced upon Caesar by Mark Antony, and by the references to Caesar in his other plays, that, although he recognised his human frailty, he was by no means inclined to underrate the greatness of his intellect, character, and achievements.