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acters give an air of austerity to Julius Casar as compared with Shakespeare's other plays. In this drama Portia and Calpurnia are the only women among the dramatis persona. The latter answers to Pope's description of women in general as having no character at all. We can only say of her that she manifests a proper spirit of wifely solicitude for her husband's safety. Portia, on the contrary, is a woman of the noblest character. She is a heroic example of the Roman wife, corresponding to the example of Roman motherhood afterwards given in the character of Volumnia. So far as a good woman can resemble a bad one, she resembles Lady Macbeth. They are both of them women of high spirit and dauntless courage, who inspire their husbands with resolution to do and dare terrible deeds. In both of them at first the will-power seems entirely superior to the weakness inherent in their sex, but eventually their highly-strung nervous temperament breaks down under the tremendous strain to which it is subjected. At the great crisis when Duncan's fate is trembling in the balance, Lady Macbeth surpasses her husband in courage and resolution; but when the deed is done, and action is no longer required, she swoons, and ever afterwards in her sleep the horror of what she has gone through overpowers her till she dies. In like manner Portia has such strength of will, that she inflicts a severe wound on herself to prove her constancy; but the agony of suspense, when she is left at home, is too great for her. She then realises “how weak a thing the heart of woman is.” She who had declared that the wife of Brutus and the daughter of Cato might be expected to be stronger than
her sex, and that the voluntary wound she had given herself proved her possession of constancy enough to preserve her husband's secrets, utters an exclamation that might have led to the discovery of the whole plot. In the end she yields to despair, although before the battle of Philippi and the death of her husband there was no sufficient reason for despair, and commits suicide. It must further be remarked that she did not kill herself with calm resolution after the Roman manner exemplified by her father, her husband, and Cassius, but in a fit of temporary madness due to grief and impatience (IV. iii. I 5 I–I 55). There still remains for consideration the character of the mob, a collective personage that plays an important part in several of Shakespeare's historical plays. The mob in Shakespeare corresponds in some respects to the chorus in Greek plays. It holds an intermediate position between the actors and the audience. In Julius Caesar, the speeches of Marullus, Brutus, and Antony are heard by two audiences—the mob of Rome on the stage, and the spectators seated on the benches of the theatre. The remarks made by the Roman citizens help the spectators to enter into the spirit of the speeches, and to some extent guide their sentiments, although not to the same extent as the chorus in ancient tragedy was intended to lead the sentiments of Greek spectators in the right direction. For the chorus in Greek tragedy always expresses feelings that would naturally be produced in wellregulated human minds, whereas Shakespeare's mobs are sometimes stupid and wicked. Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and the Second Part of Henry VI. make it perfectly plain that Shakespeare heartily despised the multitude. If we want a direct expression of Shakespeare's opinion of the character of the many, we find it in the Induction to the Second Part of Henry IV., where Rumour speaks of
the blunt monster with uncounted heads, The still-discordant wavering multitude.
Their fickleness is illustrated in the first scene of the first act of Julius Caesar, and still more in the second scene of the third act. In the last scene of the third act we have a specimen of their brutal cruelty, and also of the curious fact, so abundantly illustrated by the French Revolution, that a large collection of men can be guilty of excesses that no single member of the collection would approve of if he stood alone. No one of the individuals composing the mob would have thought for a moment of killing a man simply because he happened to bear the name of a person whom they hated, and yet to do so seems a good joke to the murderers of Cinna. It is a significant fact that Shakespeare deliberately goes out of his way to add this touch of wanton injustice to the character of the Roman mob. In Plutarch's account the citizens kill Cinna because they really think him to be the conspirator of that name. Another characteristic that Shakespeare attributes to the crowd is fondness for logic of a sort. Though they are entirely led by their feelings, they like to imagine that they are eminently reasonable. One of his hearers eagerly takes in Antony's suggestion that Caesar could not be ambitious, as he had thrice refused a kingly crown. “Mark'd ye his words !” says the third citizen. “He would not take the crown; therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious.” The crowd no doubt found as much convincing force in the preceding syllogisms, depending on such extremely disputable assumptions, as that no men who fill the general coffers with the ransoms of their captives, or sympathise with the sorrows of the poor, can be ambitious. Many similar paralogisms are put into the mouths of Jack Cade and his followers in the Second Part of Henry VI. Shakespeare also expresses with unpitiful frankness the contempt for the external appearance and habits of the common people which has led to their being stigmatised as the great unwashed. He is never weary of putting into the mouths of his characters references to their greasy caps, stinking breath, and even their hands disfigured with honest toil. “The rabblement,” says Casca, “shouted and clapped their chopt hands, and threw up their sweaty night-caps, and uttered such a deal of stinking breath, because Caesar refused the crown, that it had almost choked Caesar; for he swounded, and fell down at it : and for mine own part, I durst not laugh, for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air.” Very different is the reference to the workman's hand in Carlyle's Sartor Resartus : “Two men I honour, and no third : First, the toilworn craftsman that with earth-made implement laboriously conquers the Earth and makes her man's. Venerable to me is the hard Hand; crooked, coarse; wherein notwithstanding lies a cunning virtue, indefeasibly royal, as of the Sceptre of this Planet.” The spirit of modern democracy has produced deeper sympathy with the lower classes, and a tendency to regard what is base and unlovely in their life and character and external
therefore deserving of pity rather than contempt. Such sympathy can hardly be found in early English poetry, except in the Vision of Piers Ploughman. Few traces of it are discernible in the works of Spenser, Shakespeare, and the other great writers of the Elizabethan age, who looked to the court for patronage, and most of whom, like their courtly patrons, were fine gentlemen, and looked down upon the labouring classes as “base dung-hill villains and mechanical.” In Shakespeare there is little of political sentiment in this contemptuous attitude towards the lower classes as a whole. Shakespeare was not very deeply interested in political questions, as is shown by the absence of political discussions in Julius Casar. Although this play is a record of a great struggle between the principles of monarchy and republicanism, arguments in favour of these two forms of government are not brought forward by either of the contending parties. Shakespeare's contempt for the masses is not political, but rather the caste feeling of social superiority, which may be even found coexisting with radical sentiments, as for instance in the case of Lord Byron. In order to shorten the duration of the action of the play, Shakespeare has in Julius Caesar brought together historical events that were really separated by considerable intervals of time. In the first scene of the play, when the crowd are preparing to celebrate Caesar's triumph over the sons of Pompey, “it is the feast of Lupercal”; but Caesar's triumph over Pompey's sons was celebrated in October, 45 B.C., and the feast of the Lupercalia, at which Caesar refused the crown, did not take place until February 15 in the following year. Historically