41, 42. That will be thawed, etc. As will be softened or changed from its true nature by that sort of pleading which melts fools.
43. Low-crooked courtesies. Curtsies in which the knee is crouched or bent low.
46. I spurn thee, etc. Shylock in "The Merchant" says to Antonio, "You ... foot me as you spurn a stranger cur Over your threshold." Where did Brutus say, "I know no personal cause to spurn at him"?
47, 48. Know, Caesar doth not wrong, etc. To the student of
Shakespeare these are two of the most interesting lines in the
play, for they seem to be an alteration of the words as they stood
in the tragedy when it was acted in 1601, and the change may
be traced to a criticism by the poet's friend, Ben Jonson. In his
"Discoveries" Jonson says of Shakespeare, "Many times he fell into those things [that] could not escape laughter, as when he said ..., 'Caesar, thou dost me wrong,' Caesar replied, 'Caesar did never wrong but with just cause.'" If Jonson is quoting the lines as he actually heard them at the theatre, it may be that his ridicule of them in "Discoveries" resulted in their being altered to the form we find in the Folio, that is, as they stand here in
our text. Some of the editors have even gone so far as to print Jonson's quotation as being the words that Shakespeare really wrote.
51. repealing: recalling, -- and so "repeal" four lines further on.
57. enfranchisement: the rights of citizenship.
60. constant: fixed, firm, -- as in line 22 above.
61. resting: steadfast.
62. fellow: equal, -- as often in Shakespeare.
67. apprehensive: endowed with apprehension, -- hence, intelligent, quick of mind.
69, 70. holds on his rank, unshaked, etc.: "continues to 'hold
his place' (like the star), resisting every attempt to move him." (Rolfe.)
74. wilt thou lift up Olympus? That is, "Wilt thou attempt what is impossible?" It is significant, and in keeping with his style of speech here, that Caesar should compare himself with Olympus, the great mountain in Greece which was the abode of the gods.
75. bootless kneel: kneel in vain.
76. Speak, hands, for me! Brutus, Cassius, Cinna, and Decius have spoken in behalf of Metellus' brother with words. So far Casca has said nothing, but now he calls upon his hands to speak instead of his tongue. Remember it was agreed (line 30) that Casca should be the first to strike.
77. Et tu, Brute! "And thou, too, Brutus!" There seems to be no ancient authority for these famous words. They do not occur in Plutarch; but, as has been pointed out many times, this very exclamation is found in two different works which were printed shortly before Shakespeare wrote "Julius Caesar." Thus in "The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke," printed six or seven years before our play was acted, Edward cries to Clarence, "Et tu. Brute, wilt thou stab Caesar too?"
80. the common pulpits. The pulpits, or rostra, from which speakers addressed the people of Rome.
90. good cheer. Much as we say, "Cheer up!"
92. Nor to no Roman else. Another double negative construction like "Yet 'twas not a crown neither'" (I, 2, 236), and "No figures nor no fantasies" (II, i, 231).
95. abide: be held responsible for, suffer for.
99. As it were doomsday: as though it were the Day of Judgment.
100. 'tis but the time, etc. "How long we can draw out our life, is the only question we concern ourselves about." (Hudson.)
107. let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood. Remember Calpurnia's dream in which she saw "many lusty Romans" bathing their hands in Caesar's blood.
113. this our lofty scene: this scene of our great deed.
116. on Pompey's basis lies along: lying prostrate at the base
of Pompey's statue.
118. the knot of us: our band.
120. shall we forth? The verb "go" is omitted, as in "Caesar shall forth" (II, 2, 10).
122. most boldest. Another double superlative like this occurs later: "This was the most unkindest cut of all," and a similar double comparative often quoted is Shylock's "How much more elder art thou than thy looks!" ("The Merchant of Venice," IV, I, 240.)
123. Soft!: But wait! Stop! -- an exclamation common in
131. vouchsafed: grant, permit.
132. resolved: informed, satisfied.
137. Thorough. Shakespeare uses this spelling (pronounced in two syllables) and also through. In "The Merchant" he has "through fares" where we should use "thoroughfares." the hazards of this untrod state: the risks of this unexplored state of affairs.
141. so please him come. Expanded to its full form this would be, "If it so be that it please him to come."
143. presently: at once, immediately, -- as in line 28 above, and generally in Shakespeare.
144. to friend: as a friend, -- an idiom we still use in the expression "to take, or have, to wife."
146, 147. my misgiving still, etc.: my suspicions always hit the mark; things always happen just about as I expect they will. Still usually means always in Shakespeare's English.
153. be let blood. That is, be bled, referring to the ancient custom of bleeding people for all kinds of ailments, whence the word "leech" for a doctor. Here, of course, Antony really means "bled to death" or killed. rank: too full of blood or life, and therefore needing to be "let blood." Johnson explains rank as "grown too high for public safety," as we speak of rank grass or rank weeds.
158. bear me hard: bear me any ill-will. Where did Cassius say that Caesar bore him hard?
159. reek: smoke, steam, -- with Caesar's hot blood.
160. Live: If I live, -- just as Portia says to Bassanio, "Live thou, I live," when he is about to make his choice of the caskets. ("The Merchant," III, 2, 61.)
161. so apt: so ready, so fit.
162. mean: means. Shakespeare uses both singular and plural forms.
163. by Caesar. That is, here near Caesar, referring to the place where he would wish to die. Antony then plays upon this meaning of "by" in his next few words.
168. we do. That is, "we do appear bloody and cruel."
170. pitiful. Not pathetic, but literally "full of pity or compassion."
172. As fire drives out fire. This was a familiar saying. It is
an allusion to the old custom of taking the pain out of a burn by
holding it up to the fire. Thus in "Romeo and Juliet" Benvolio says to Romeo:
Tut, man, one fire burns out another's burning,
One pain is lessened by another's anguish.
174. leaden points in contrast to sharp iron points. That is,
"our swords to you are harmless."
175. Our arms in strength of malice, etc. "Our arms, even in the intensity of their hatred for Caesar's tyranny, and our hearts in their brotherly love for all Romans, do receive you in." (White.) Or, as explained by Professor Neilson, "Our arms, though their strength has just been manifested in what seems malice, and our hearts in genuine brotherly affection, do receive you." The passage has been freely altered by the critics to get rid
of "malice," which seems to them to be a blunder. "Welcome" and "amity" are two of the words suggested in place of "malice." [Hudson: "Strong as they have shown themselves to be in malice towards tyranny. Though the Folio text may be corrupt, and at least twelve emendations have been suggested, the figure as it stands is intelligible, though elliptically obscure. In previous editions of Hudson's Shakespeare, Singer's conjecture of 'amity' for 'malice' was adopted. What makes this conjecture plausible is Shakespeare's frequent use of 'amity,' and "strength of their amity" occurs in "Antony and Cleopatra", II, vi, 137"]
182. deliver: declare, relate, tell.
193. conceit: conceive of, think of, judge. So earlier in the
play Cassius said to Casca, "You have right well conceited
197. dearer: more intensely. Shakespeare often uses "dear" in the older sense of "keen," "heartfelt," "coming home to one closely."
203. close: agree, make a compact, -- as in our expression "to close an agreement."
205. bayed: brought to bay, cornered. The picture is that of a deer, or hart, hemmed in by the hounds. Notice how Antony carries on this figure in the next few lines.
207. Signed in thy spoil: bearing the marks of thy destruction, i.e. covered with blood. Hunters sometimes dipped their hands in the blood of the slaughtered game. thy lethe: thy
slaughter. In Greek mythology Lethe was the river of Oblivion, or Forgetfulness, in the lower world. From it all souls drank before passing to Elysium, that they might forget the sorrows of this world. Thus the expression "crimsoned in thy lethe" may be rendered "crimsoned, in the stream that bears thee to oblivion, -- to Heaven." This interpretation, however, seems far fetched, and the word remains a puzzle to the critics.
209. the heart of thee. Notice the play on the words "heart" and "hart." The same pun occurs in "As You Like It":
Celia : He was furnished like a hunter.
Rosalind: O, ominous ! He comes to kill my heart.
210. strucken. We have already had the expressions "'Tis strucken eight," and "The clock hath stricken three." Can you find them?
214. cold modesty: moderation.
217. pricked: marked, -- as in IV, i: "Their names are pricked." A pin, or some other sharp point, was formerly used instead of a pencil or pen to mark off names on a list.
220. Swayed from the point: turned from the subject in
225. full of good regard: entitled to favorable consideration.
229. Produce: carry, bear forth, -- the literal meaning of the Latin produco. the market-place. By this Shakespeare of course means the Forum, in which there were several rostra, or pulpits, as the poet calls them, for addressing the people.
231. in the order of: in the course of the funeral ceremonies.
236. By your pardon: Excuse me, let me explain.
243. advantage more than do us wrong. That is, letting
Antony speak will help us more than harm us.
244. fall: happen, befall.
258. in the tide of times. That is, in the ebb and flow, -- in the ever changing course, -- of the times.
259. costly: precious, rare.
263. the limbs of men. We should be more likely to say "the heads of men." Many substitutes for "limbs" have been suggested by doubting editors, such as, "sons," "lives," "times," "tombs," "minds," etc. Do you think any change is necessary?
265. cumber: burden, oppress, -- more common today in the form encumber.
266. so in use: so usual, so common.
269. quartered with: torn to pieces by the hands of war.
270. All pity choked, etc.: All sense of pity being choked by the frequency of cruel deeds.
271. ranging: wandering over the earth.
272. Ate. In Greek mythology the goddess of discord and
273. these confines: these regions; within the confines of
274. "Havoc." It is said that in battles of ancient times this
cry was the signal that no quarter was to be given to prisoners,
let slip the dogs of war. Here Antony comes back once more to the language of hunting. (See lines 205-211 above.) To "let slip" a dog was to release it from the leash when it was time to begin the pursuit. It has been suggested that "the dogs of war" are fire, sword, and famine, for in "Henry V" the poet says of the warlike king,
and, at his heels,
Leashed in like hounds, should Famine, Sword, and Fire
Crouch for employment.
275. That: so that, -- as often in Shakespeare.
276. With carrion men: with the decaying bodies of men.
284. Passion, I see, is catching: Emotion, sorrow, I see, is contagious.
290. No Rome of safety. Possibly we have here again the pun that Cassius made in I, 2, 156: "Now is it Rome indeed and room enough.
295. issue: deed, or "result of the action" of these bloody men.
296. According to the which: according to which way they take my oration.
298. Lend me your hand. As there was no curtain at the front of the stage in Shakespeare's theatre, the body of Caesar must be removed by some of the actors before the scene closes.
How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 26 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_3_1.html >.
Scene Questions for Review
1. What is the effect of the reference again (line 1) to the "ides of March"?
2. Explain the crisis when Artemidorus tries to present his schedule. How would you manage the scene between Decius
3. Why do you think Shakespeare has Popilius say, "I wish your enterprise to-day may thrive"? What do these words
4. How would an audience naturally be influenced by the uncertainty of the conspiracy during the first lines of the scene?
5. Are your sympathies at this point with Caesar or with the conspirators? How does the dramatist wish the audience to feel?
6. Point out how skilfully the poet gathers the conspirators about Caesar for the fatal blow. Do you feel that this scene is natural and convincing?
7. What effect upon our feelings for Caesar does his last speech have? (Lines 58-73.) Is it in keeping with his words in II, 2?
8. What is the signal to strike? Are the words significant? Can you suggest any reason for having Casca rather than Brutus or Cassius speak them?
9. What do you believe are Brutus' thoughts as he uses his dagger? How would you have him look at this moment and
10. Why is it that none of the senators rush to Caesar's aid? Explain the situation in detail as you imagine it.
11. What was Antony's purpose, in your judgment, when he sent the messenger to the conspirators? Why did he not go to them himself?
12. What do you think of Antony's action in pretending to join the conspirators? Was it justifiable?
13. Does Shakespeare mean to have Antony win the sympathy of the audience? Does he succeed?
14. What is your opinion of Antony's speech when left alone with Caesar's body? (Lines 255-277.)
Thoughts on Antony ... "Antony's speeches require particularly close attention throughout. They abound in 'irony' in the sense that their superficial
meaning, intended for the conspirators, is different from what the same words would convey to one who knew what Antony's designs were: a meaning which a slight intonation would at once convey even to the unsuspecting Brutus. There is nothing for the most suspicious to catch hold of, and yet there is no phrase inconsistent with his subsequent action. Here, he is feeling his way -- not as to his ultimate course, which is decided, but to see how far he can make the conspirators unconscious instruments in his own hands. Cassius, who alone knows that the man they are dealing with is "a shrewd contriver", is not deceived, but is completely baffled in the attempt to make Brutus see with his own acuteness." -- (Arthur D. Innes. The Warwick Shakespeare.)