Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 4
From Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
2. What bastard doth not? Who is such a base-born coward as not to do so?"
7, 8. And I am Brutus, etc. In the Folio no name is given to the speaker of these two lines, so that we may give them to Lucilius instead of Brutus. This is possibly the better arrangement, in view of what takes place immediately following.
12. Only I yield to die. I yield only in order to die.
13. There is so much, etc. "Here, I give thee so much money on condition that thou wilt kill me at once." Considering the fact that the stage-direction, offering money, is not in the Folios, Lucilius may mean that so much can be laid to his charge that the soldier is certain to kill him at once. Remember that Lucilius is pretending to be Brutus in order to lead the soldiers of Antony and Octavius away from his general.
16. Brutus is ta'en, etc. This incident of Lucilius' pretending to be Brutus is taken from Plutarch.
24. or alive or dead. This use or...or for either ... or is still common in poetry.
32. is chanced: has befallen, has turned out.
Important excerpt from Plutarch: "There was one of Brutus' friends called Lucilius,
who seeing a troop of barbarous men making no reckoning of all
men else they met in their way, but going all together right
against Brutus, he determined to stay them with the hazard of
his life; and being left behind, told them that he was Brutus:
and because they should believe him, he prayed them to bring
him to Antonius, for he said he was afraid of Cæsar, and that
he did trust Antonius better. These barbarous men, being very
glad of this good hap, and thinking themselves happy men, they
carried him in the night, and sent some before unto Antonius,
to tell him of their coming. He was marvellous glad of it and
went out to meet them that brought him.... When they came near
together, Antonius stayed awhile bethinking himself how he
should use Brutus. In the meantime Lucilius was brought to
him, who stoutly with a bold countenance said: 'Antonius, I
dare assure thee, that no enemy hath taken or shall take
Marcus Brutus alive, and I beseech God keep him from that
fortune: for wheresoever ever he be found, alive or dead, he
will be found like himself. And now for myself, I am come unto
thee, having deceived these men of arms here, bearing them
down that I was Brutus, and do not refuse to suffer any
torment thou wilt put me to.'... Antonius on the other side,
looking upon all them that had brought him, said unto them:
'My companions, I think ye are sorry you have failed of your
purpose, and that you think this man hath done you great
wrong: but I assure you, you have taken a better booty than
that you followed. For instead of an enemy you have brought me
a friend: and for my part, if you had brought me Brutus alive,
truly I cannot tell what I should have done to him. For I had
rather have such men my friends, as this man here, than mine
enemies.' Then he embraced Lucilius, and at that time
delivered him to one of his friends in custody; and Lucilius
ever after served him faithfully, even to his
death."-- Plutarch, Marcus Brutus.
How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 15 May. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_5_4.html >.
Furnivall, F. J. The Leopold Shakespeare. London: Cassell, 1896.
"It is the world's throne that has to be struggled for, the fate of nations that has to be settled; and yet, still, over the strife, comes to us the pained cry of the betrayed friend "Et tu Brute," and Caesar's heart bursts. The same cry is to reach us
from almost every one of Shakespeare's future plays with more or less intensity -- from Hamlet's father and Hamlet himself; from Othello and Roderigo; from Duncan and Banquo; from Lear and Edgar and Gloster (in Lear); from Antony and Octavius; from Coriolanus, Timon; from Palamon (if Shakespeare wrote part of Two Noble Kinsmen) and Prospero; from Posthumus and Belarius (in Cymbeline). While beside the false friends stand the true ones. Antony to Caesar; Horatio to Hamlet; Cassio to Othello; Macduff to Malcolm; Kent and the Fool to Lear; the Steward to Timon; Paulina to Hermione. Friendship was much in Shakespeare's thoughts. The lesson of Julius Caesar is, that vengeance, death, shall follow rebellion for insufficient cause, for misjudging the political state of one's country, and misjudging the means taking unlawful ones to attain your ends: Do not evil that good may come." -- (F. J. Furnivall. The Leopold Shakespeare. p. lxvii)