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there should be an interval of a month between the Lupercalia and the 15th of March, the date of the assassination. This interval also appears to be annihilated in Act I. Scene iii., which describes the terrible night that preceded the fatal day. In the first line of that scene, Cicero asks Casca whether he brought Caesar home, which, taken in connection with what goes before, is naturally understood to mean “home from the Lupercalia.” Further, in the preceding scene Casca had declared himself to be engaged for supper that night, and promised to sup on the morrow with Cassius, who, no doubt, intended to enlist him in the conspiracy during the supper. In the third scene, Cassius meets Casca and sounds him. There is no reference to their having met in the interval at supper or elsewhere, and the conversation makes it almost impossible that such a meeting could have taken place. Therefore it would appear that Casca, when he meets Cassius, is returning home from the supper at which he had promised to be present on the night of the Lupercalia. Shakespeare makes Antony deliver his funeral oration immediately after Caesar's death (III. i. 291), although there was an interval of four or five days between his death and his funeral. Directly after his funeral oration, Antony is informed that “Octavius is already come to Rome” (III. ii. 262), but in history Octavius did not reach Rome until May, about two months after Caesar's death and funeral. There was an interval of a year and a half between the arrival of Octavius in Rome and the proscriptions of the triumvirate recorded in Act Iv. Scene i. During this interval great events happened, of which Shakespeare makes no mention. Antony refused to give up to Octavius the money due to him as Caesar's heir. Octavius therefore united with the Senate, whose counsels were at the time entirely determined by Cicero. At the great orator's instigation, Antony was declared a public enemy, and the two consuls, with Octavius, led an army to attack him. Antony was defeated in battle, and fled across the Alps, where he won over the army of Lepidus. At this time, Octavius, finding that Cicero was trying to make a tool of him with a view to restoring the ancient republic, deserted the Senate, and, uniting himself with Antony and Lepidus, formed the triumvirate. This struggle between Antony and Octavius, and the predominance of Cicero at Rome during their difference, is omitted by Shakespeare, so as to preserve the dramatic unity of the play. He prefers to represent Antony and Octavius as uniting together immediately after Caesar's death to take vengeance on his murderers. In III. ii. 264, Antony arranges to meet Lepidus and Octavius at Caesar's house, and their meeting is described in IV. i. We may regard IV. i. 7, which implies that the meeting did not take place at Caesar's house, as a slight inconsistency due to an oversight. An interval of about a year must be supposed to separate the first and second scenes of Act IV. As Sardis is in the middle of Asia Minor, and Philippi is in the east of Macedonia, geography as well as history requires a considerable interval of time between the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth act. Spectators, however, and even careless readers of the play, would probably not be conscious of any gap, as they would suppose the unwise movement of the republican army, referred to in V. i. 1–6, to be the advance
from Sardis to Philippi, which the experienced Cassius opposes in iv. iii. 197-201. The last historical interval of time annihilated by the poet is the twenty days separating the two battles at Philippi, which Shakespeare represents as taking place in the same day.
We do not find in Julius Cæsar the elaborate system of double time which Professor Wilson has demonstrated to exist in Othello. Here, as in the other historical plays, the spectators' knowledge of history, however hazy it may be, supplies easily the background of longer time, whenever it is required to give probability to the events recorded. The only clear instance of long and short time side by side is in II. i. 61, which must naturally be understood to mean that Brutus had passed several sleepless nights since Cassius urged him to join the plot, although the distinct marks of time (see I. iii. 153, 154, and compare 1. ii. 320 and iii. 144, 145 with II. i. 36) show that Brutus made this remark on the morning after the day on which Cassius had first incited him to action. Discrepancy between long and short time appears also to be implied in III. ii. There are two passages indicating the lapse of several days between iv. iii. and v. i. In v. i. 84, the words “ this morning" seem to imply several other mornings on which the eagles were present. The appearance of the ghost of Cæsar two several times by night, once at Sardis and “this last night here in Philippi fields,” also requires several days for the march from Sardis to Philippi. But although, as we have seen, at first sight the comparison of v. i. 1-6 with iv. iii. 197-201 suggests immediate sequence, these passages are not necessarily inconsistent with the interval here required by both historical and geographical considerations.
Emerson remarks with reference to Shakespeare that “great men are more distinguished by range and extent than by originality,” and that “the greatest genius is the most indebted man.” That there is a considerable amount of truth in this paradox may be proved by the evidence afforded in the works not only of Shakespeare, but also of Homer, Virgil, Horace, Lucretius, Milton, and Tennyson. Some writers of the second class, who live in the fear of being accused of imitation, injure their work by abstaining too strictly from the use of suitable materials supplied by others. Shakespeare, elevated by his greatness far above any such fear, borrows freely the plots of his plays from Italian novelists, English chroniclers, and the biographies of Plutarch. He never alters an incident in the stories simply to show his inventive powers. If what he finds in his sources suits the purpose of his drama, he does not take the unnecessary trouble of altering it, and thus has more energy to devote in other directions to the perfecting of his compositions. In Plutarch he found a writer after his own heart, a biographer who, like himself, took the deepest interest in great characters, and made the persons whose lives he related reveal their strength and weakness by characteristic anecdotes. Therefore he found less to alter in his works than in those of other less artistic writers who supplied the materials of his dramas. He treated Plutarch almost with the same religious reverence as Milton shows to the Bible, often taking from his biographies not merely incidents but even the language in which North translated his stories into English. Many instances of such verbal borrowing will be found in the following notes on the play. At the same time, when the purposes of his drama required him to do so, he sometimes amplified, sometimes curtailed the accounts of facts given by Plutarch, and sometimes rearranged his materials in new and more effective combinations. He also, though seldom, took a liberty with Plutarch, that Milton never ventures to take with his biblical materials. Milton, however much he may amplify and give a new colour to the facts of the Bible, never dares to introduce in his poems anything in direct disagreement with the biblical narrative. Shakespeare, when he thinks it convenient, does occasionally relate what is inconsistent with his original. For instance, Plutarch relates that Caesar took the memorial from Artemidorus, but “could never read it, though he many times attempted it, for the number of people that did salute him.” Shakespeare prefers to represent Caesar as deliberately refusing to read the memorial, so that he may put into his mouth the fine expression of kingly self-effacement that we have already quoted (III. i. 8). The free use that Shakespeare makes of the facts and words of Plutarch reveals his admiration for the great Greek biographer. The cases in which he refuses to follow Plutarch's guidance are still more interesting, as they give us an insight into the design which Shakespeare had in his mind in the composition of his Roman dramas. As Shakespeare never wantonly departed from his original, it is incumbent on the critic not only to point out all such deviations, but also to account for them, as far as possible, by reference to the principles of dramatic art by which Shakespeare was guided.