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ACT I. SCENE 1.
LINE 27. I meddle with no tradesman's matters, nor woman's matters, but with awl.] The allusion contained in the second clause of this sentence, is again repeated in Coriolanus, Act IV. sc. v :—“ 3 Serv. How, sir, do you meddle with my master? Cor. Ay, 'tis an honester service than to meddle with thy mistress.” MALONE.
Line 53. her banks,] Drayton, in his Polyolbion, frequently describes the rivers of England as females, even when he speaks of the presiding power of the stream. Spenser, on the other hand, represents them, more classically, as males. MALONE. Line 74. deck'd with ceremonies.] Ceremonies, for religious ornaments. Thus afterwards he explains them by Cæsar's trophies; i. e. such as he had dedicated to the gods. WARB.
Ceremonies are honorary ornaments; tokens of respect.
Line 78. Be hung with Caesar's trophies.] Cæsar's trophies are, I believe, the crowns which were placed on his statues. So, in sir Thomas North's translation: "There were set up images of Cæsar in the city with diadems on their heads, like kings. Those the two tribunes went and pulled down." STEEVENS.
ACT I. SCENE II.
DECIUS.] This person was not Decius, but Decimus Brutus. The poet (as Voltaire, has done since) confounds the characters of Marcus and Decimus. Decimus Brutus was the most cherished by Cæsar of all his friends, while Marcus kept aloof, and declined so large a share of his favours and honours, as the other had constantly accepted.
Line 116. Sennet.] I have been informed that sennet is derived from senneste, an antiquated French tune formerly used in the army; but the Dictionaries which I have consulted exhibit no such word. STEEVENS. Line 126. strange a hand-] Strange, is alien, unfamiliar, such as might become a stranger. JOHNSON. Line 132. -passions of some difference,] With a fluctuation of discordant opinions and desires.
Line 167. To stale with ordinary oaths my love &c.] To invite every new protester to my affection by the stale or allurement of customary oaths. JOHNSON.
Line 183. And I will look on both indifferently:] When Brutus first names honour and death, he calmly declares them indifferent ; but as the image kindles in his mind, he sets honour above life. JOHNSON.
-Dar'st thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood,] Shakspeare probably recollected the story which Suetonius has told of Cæsar's leaping into the sea, when he was in danger by a boat's be ing overladen, and swimming to the next ship with his Commentaries in his left hand. MALONE.
get the start of the majestic world, &c.] This image is extremely noble: it is taken from the Olympick games. The majestick world is a fine periphrasis for the Roman empire: their citizens set themselves on a footing with kings, and they called their dominion Orbis Romanus. But the particular allusion seems to be to the known story of Caesar's great pattern, Alexander, who being asked, Whether he would run the course at the Olympick games, replied, Yes, if the racers were kings.
There was a Brutus once,] i. e. Lucius Junius
ferret-] A ferret has red eyes.
-he hears no musick:] Our author considered the having no delight in musick as so certain a mark of an austere disposition, that in The Merchant of Venice he has pronounced, that
Line 268. minate on this. Line 283.
"The man that hath no musick in himself,
"Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." MALONE. Line 372. —a man of any occupation,] Had I been a mecha→ nick, one of the Plebeians to whom he offered his throat. JOHNS. Line 417. Thy honourable metal may be wrought
From that it is dispos'd:] The best metal or temper may be worked into qualities contrary to its original constitution. JOHNSON. MALONE.
From that it is dispos'd, i. e. dispos'd to.
Line 422. If I were Brutus now, and he were Cassius, He should not humour me.] The meaning, I think, is this: Caesar loves Brutus, but if Brutus and I were to change should not take hold of my places, his love should not humour me, affection, so as to make me forget my principles.
ACT I. SCENE III.
-Brought you Cæsar home?] Did you attend JOHNSON. Line 434. -sway of earth-] The whole weight or moJOHNSON. mentum of this globe. Line 454. Who glar'd upon me,] To gaze, as Dr. Johnson would read, is only to look stedfastly, or with admiration. Glar'd has a singular propriety, as it expresses the furious scintillation of STEEVENS. a lion's eye.
Line 504. Why birds, and beasts, from quality and kind; &c.] JOHNSON. That is, Why they deviate from quality and nature. Line 505. and children calculate; ] Shakspeare found the liberty established. To calculate the nativity, is a technical term.
Line 431. Cæsar home?
Line 521. Have thewes and limbs-] Thewes is an obsolete word implying nerves or muscular strength.
STEEVENS. Line 555. My answer must be made :] I shall be called to account, and must answer as for seditious words. JOHNSON. -Hold my hand:] Is the same as, Here's my JOHNSON. Line 559. Be factious for redress-] Factious seems here to mean active. JOHNSON. It means, I apprehend, embody a party or faction. MALONE.
ACT II. SCENE I.
Line 22. Remorse from power :] Remorse, for mercy. WARB. Remorse (says Mr. Heath) signifies the conscious uneasiness arising from a sense of having done wrong; to extinguish which feeling, nothing hath so great a tendency as absolute uncontrouled power.
I think Warburton right.
base degrees-] Low steps.
-as his kind,] According to his nature. JOHNS. Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, &c.] The genius is not the genius of a kingdom, nor are the instruments, conspirators. Shakspeare is describing what passes in a single bosom, the insurrection which a conspirator feels agitating the little kingdom of his own mind; when the genius, or power that watches for his protection, and the mortal instruments, the passions, which excite him to a deed of honour and danger, are in council and debate; when the desire of action, and the care of safety, keep the mind in continual fluctuation and disturbance. JOHNSON.
Line 73. Like a phantasma,]" A phantasme," says Bullokar, in his English Expositor, 1616, "is a vision, or imagined appearance." MALONE.
Line 78. -your brother Cassius-] Cassius married Junia,
-any mark of favour.] Any distinction of coun
Line 87. tenance.
JOHNSON. Line 96. For if thou path, thy native semblance on.] If thou walk in thy true form.
Line 133. No, not on oath: If not the face of men, &c.] The face of men is the countenance, the regard, the esteem of the publick; in other terms, honour and reputation; or the face of men may mean the dejected look of the people. JOHNSON.
Line 138. Till each man drop by lottery.] Perhaps the poet alluded to the custom of decimation, i. e. the selection by lot of every tenth soldier in a general mutiny for punishment. STEEV.
Line 148. -cautelous,] Bullokar, in his English Expositor, 1616, explains cautelous thus: "Warie, circumspect;" in which sense it is certainly used here. MALONE. Line 189. and envy afterwards :] Envy is here, as almost always in Shakspeare's plays, malice. MALONE.
take thought,] That is, turn melancholy. JOHNS. -232. That unicorns may be betray'd with trees,
And bears with glasses, elephants with holes.] Bears are reported to have been surprised by means of a mirror, which they would gaze on, affording their pursuers an opportunity of taking the surer aim. This circumstance, I think, is mentioned by Claudian. Elephants were seduced into pitfalls, lightly covered with hurdles and turf, on which a proper bait to tempt them was exposed. See Pliny's Natural History, B. VIII. STEEVENS. Line 255. Let not our looks put on-] Let not our faces put on, that is, wear or show our designs. JOHNSON.
ACT II. SCENE II.
Line 395. Cæsar, I never stood on ceremonies,] i. e. I never paid a ceremonious or superstitious regard to prodigies or omens.
Line 405. The noise of battle hurtled in the air,] To hurtle originally signified to push violently; and, as in such an action a loud noise was frequently made, it afterwards seems to have been used in the sense of to clash. MALONE.
Line 422. death, a necessary end, &c.] This is a sentence derived from the stoical doctrine of predestination, and is therefore improper in the mouth of Cæsar.
Line 429. in shame of cowardice:] The ancients did not place courage but wisdom in the heart. JOHNSON.
Line 480. —and that great men shall press