From Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.
SCENE III. Rowe added "with his sword drawn" to the
Folio stage direction, basing the note on l. 19.
A month has passed since the machinery of the conspiracy was
set in motion. The action in the preceding scene took place on
the day of the Lupercalia; the action in this is on the eve of
the Ides of March.
1.brought: accompanied. Cf. Richard II, I, iv, 2.
3-4.sway of earth: established order. "The balanced
swing of earth."--Craik. "The whole weight or momentum of this
globe."--Johnson. In such a raging of the elements, it seems
as if the whole world were going to pieces, or as if the
earth's steadfastness were growing 'unfirm.' "'Unfirm' is not
firm; while 'infirm' is weak."--Clar.
11-13: Either the gods are fighting among themselves, or
else they are making war on the world for being overbearing in
its attitude towards them. For Shakespeare's use of 'saucy,'
13.destruction: Must be pronounced as a
14.any thing more wonderful: This may be interpreted
as 'anything that was more wonderful,' or 'anything more that
was wonderful.' The former seems the true interpretation. For
the 'wonderful' things that Casca describes, Shakespeare was
indebted to the following passage from Plutarch's Julius
Cęsar, which North in the margin entitles "Predictions and
foreshews of Cęsar's death": "Certainly destiny may easier be
foreseen than avoided, considering the strange and wonderful
signs that were said to be seen before Cęsar's death. For,
touching the fires in the element, and spirits running up and
down in the night, and also the solitary birds to be seen at
noondays sitting in the great market-place, are not all these
signs perhaps worth the noting, in such a wonderful chance as
happened? But Strabo the philosopher writeth, that divers men
were seen going up and down in fire, and furthermore, that
there was a slave of the soldiers that did cast a marvellous
burning flame out of his hand, insomuch as they that saw it
thought he had been burnt; but when the fire was out, it was
found he had no hurt. Cęsar self also, doing sacrifice unto
the gods, found that one of the beasts which was sacrificed
had no heart: and that was a strange thing in nature, how a
beast could live without a heart." This passage is worth
special attention, as Shakespeare uses many of the details
again in II, ii, 17-24, 39-40. Cf. Hamlet, I, i, 113-125.
21.Who: See Abbott, § 264.--glaz'd. Rowe's change
to 'glar'd' is usually adopted as the reading here, but
'glaze' is used intransitively in Middle English in the sense
of 'shine brilliantly,' and Dr. Wright (Clar) says: "I am
informed by a correspondent that the word 'glaze' in the sense
of 'stare' is common in some parts of Devonshire, and that
'glazing like a conger' is a familiar expression in Cornwall."
See Murray for additional examples.
23.Upon a heap: together in a crowd. 'Heap' is often
used in this sense in Middle English as it is colloquially
to-day. The Anglo-Saxon héap almost always refers to
persons. In Richard III, II, i, 53, occurs "princely heap."
So "Let us on heaps go offer up our lives" in Henry V, IV,
26.the bird of night: The old Roman horror of the owl
is well shown in this passage (spelling modernized) of
Holland's Pliny, quoted by Dr. Wright (Clar): "The screech-owl
betokeneth always some heavy news, and is most execrable ...
in the presages of public affairs.... In sum, he is the very
monster of the night.... There fortuned one of them to enter
the very sanctuary of the Capitol, in that year when Sextus
Papellio Ister and Lucius Pedanius were Consuls; whereupon, at
the Nones of March, the city of Rome that year made general
processions, to appease the wrath of the gods, and was
solemnly purged by sacrifices."
30.These: such and such. Cf. "these and these" in II,
i, 31. Casca refers to the doctrine of the Epicureans, who
were slow to believe that such pranks of the elements had any
moral significance in them, or that moral causes had anything
to do with them, and held that the explanation of them was to
be sought for in the simple working of natural laws and
forces. Shakespeare deals humorously with these views in
All's Well that Ends Well, II, iii, 1-6.
32.climate: region, country. So Richard II, IV, i,
130. Cf. Hamlet, I, i, 125: "Unto our climatures and
35.Clean: quite, completely. From the fourteenth
century to the seventeenth 'clean' was often used in this
sense, usually with verbs of removal and the like, and so it
is still used colloquially. For 'from' without a verb of
motion, see Abbott, § 158.
42.what: what a. For the omission of the indefinite
article, common in Shakespeare, see Abbott, § 86. In the
Folios the interrogation mark and the exclamation mark are
49.thunder-stone: thunder-bolt. It is still a common
belief in Scotland and Ireland that a stone or bolt falls with
lightning. Cf. Cymbeline, IV, ii, 271: "Nor the all-dreaded
50.cross: zigzag. So in King Lear, IV, vii, 33-35:
To stand against the deep, dread-bolted thunder?
In the most terrible and nimble stroke
Of quick, cross lightning?
60.cast yourself in: throw yourself into a state of.
In previous editions of Hudson's Shakespeare Jervis's
conjecture 'case' for 'cast' was adopted. The change is
unnecessary. Cf. Cymbeline, III, ii, 38: "Though forfeiters
you cast in prison."
63-68. The construction here is involved, and the
grammar confused, but the meaning is clear enough. The general
idea is that of elements and animals, and even human beings,
acting in a manner out of or against their nature, or changing
their natures and original faculties from the course in which
they were ordained to move, to monstrous or unnatural modes of
64.from quality and kind: turn from their disposition
and nature. Emerson and Browning use 'quality' (cf. l. 68) in
this old sense of 'disposition.' 'Kind,' meaning 'nature,' is
common in Shakespeare.
65. There seems no necessity for changing the reading of
the Folios. This conjunction of old men, fools, and children
is found in country sayings in England to-day. So in a
Scottish proverb: "Auld fowks, fules, and bairns should never
see wark half dune," White's reading was first suggested by
67.preformed: originally created for some special
71.monstrous state: abnormal condition of things.
'Enormous state' occurs with probably the same general meaning
in King Lear, II, ii, 176. As Cassius is an avowed
Epicurean, it may seem out of character to make him speak
thus. But he is here talking for effect, his aim being to
kindle and instigate Casca into the conspiracy; and to this
end he does not hesitate to say what he does not himself
75. This reads as if a lion were kept in the Capitol.
But the meaning probably is that Cęsar roars in the Capitol,
like a lion. Perhaps Cassius has the idea of Cęsar's claiming
or aspiring to be among men what the lion is among beasts. Dr.
Wright suggests that Shakespeare had in mind the lions kept in
the Tower of London, "which there is reason to believe from
indications in the play represented the Capitol to
Shakespeare's mind." It is possible, too, that we have here a
reference to the lion described by Casca in ll. 20-22.
77.prodigious: portentous. As in A Midsummer Night's
Dream, V, i, 419: "Never mole, hare lip, nor scar, Nor mark
81.thews: muscles. So in Hamlet, I, iii, 12, and 2
Henry IV, III, ii, 276. In Chaucer and Middle English the
word means 'manners,' though in Layamon's Brut (l. 6361), in
the singular, it seems to mean 'sinew' or 'strength.' See
Skeat for a suggestive discussion.
83.with: by. So in III, ii, 196. See Abbott, § 193.
107-108. The idea seems to be that, as men start a huge
fire with worthless straws or shavings, so Cęsar is using the
degenerate Romans of the time to set the whole world a-blaze
with his own glory. Cassius's enthusiastic hatred of "the
mightiest Julius" is irresistibly delightful. For a good hater
is the next best thing to a true friend; and Cassius's honest
gushing malice is surely better than Brutus's stabbing
112-115. The meaning is, Perhaps you will go and tell
Cęsar all I have said about him, and then he will call me to
account for it. Very well; go tell him; and let him do his
worst. I care not.
117.Fleering: This word of Scandinavian origin seems
to unite the senses of 'grinning,' 'flattering' (see Love's
Labour's Lost, V, ii, 109, and Ben Jonson's "fawn and fleer"
in Volpone, III, i, 20), and 'sneering,' and so is just the
right epithet for a telltale, who flatters you into saying
that of another which you ought not to say, and then mocks you
by going to that other and telling what you have said.--Hold,
my hand: stay! here is my hand. As men clasp hands in sealing
a bargain. In Rowe's text the comma is omitted.
118.Be factious: be active. Or it may mean, 'form a
party,' 'join a conspiracy.'--griefs: grievances. The effect
put for the cause. A common Shakespearian metonymy. Cf. III,
ii, 211; IV, ii, 42, 46.
123.undergo: undertake. So in 2 Henry IV, I, iii,
54; The Winter's Tale, II, iii, 164; IV, iv, 554.
125.by this: by this time. So in King Lear, IV, vi,
126.Pompey's porch: This was a spacious adjunct to
the huge theater that Pompey had built in the Campus Martius,
outside of the city proper; and there, as Plutarch says in
Marcus Brutus, "was set up the image of Pompey, which the
city had made and consecrated in honour of him, when he did
beautify that part of the city with the theatre he built, with
divers porches about it." Here it was that Cęsar was stabbed
to death; and though Shakespeare transfers the assassination
to the Capitol, he makes Cęsar's blood stain the statue of
Pompey. See III, ii, 187, 188.
128.element: sky. Twice Shakespeare seems to poke fun
at the way in which the Elizabethans overdid the use of
'element' in this sense, in Twelfth Night, III, i, 65, and
in 2 Henry IV, IV, iii, 58.
129.favour: appearance. So in I, ii, 91. Johnson's
emendation, though pleonastic, makes least change upon the
text of the Folios.
135.incorporate: closely united. Shakespeare uses
this word nine times,--four times as an adjective and five
times as a verb. With regard to the omission of -ed in
participial forms, see Abbott, § 342.
143.in the prętor's chair: "But for Brutus, his
friends and countrymen, both by divers procurements and sundry
rumours of the city, and by many bills[A] also, did openly
call and procure him to do that he did. For under the image of
his ancestor Junius Brutus, (that drave the kings out of Rome)
they wrote: 'O, that it pleased the gods thou wert now alive,
Brutus!' and again, 'that thou wert here among us now!' His
tribunal or chair, where he gave audience during the time he
was Prętor, was full of such bills: 'Brutus, thou art asleep,
and art not Brutus indeed.'"--Plutarch, Marcus Brutus.
144.Brutus may but find it: only Brutus may find it.
148. For a discussion of singular verbs with plural
subjects, see Abbott, § 333. Cf. l. 138, l. 155; III, ii,
26.--Decius Brutus. As indicated in the notes to the
Dramatis Personę, this should be 'Decimus Brutus.'
Shakespeare found the form 'Decius' in North's Plutarch, who
translated from Amyot, in whose French version the blunder was
originally made. Decimus Brutus is said to have been cousin to
the other Brutus of the play. He had been one of Cęsar's
ablest, most favored, and most trusted lieutenants, and had
particularly distinguished himself in his naval service at
Venetia and Massilia. After the murder of Cęsar, he was found
to be written down in his will as second heir.
159.countenance: support.--alchemy: the old ideal
art of turning base metals into gold. So in Sonnets, XXXIII,
4: "Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy." Cf. King
John, III, i, 78.
162.conceited: formed an idea of, conceived, judged.
'Conceit' as a verb occurs again in III, i, 193, and in
Othello, III, iii, 149.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2009. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_1_3.html >.