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We often hear of grand old picture-galleries, tragedy. Sophocles, master of the heathen art, through which the gothic windows the mellow plunges his Edipus Tyrannus into the blackest light of an Italian sun comes streaming in gulf of torment and despair, because, in obedi. upon many an ancient picture, wrought ence to the inevitable decree of the gods, he hy the skilful hands of the great masters. unwittingly kills his father, and dishonours bis Thither throng the art-pilgrims from every bed. But Shakspeare, the great creator, as land; and as they wanderthrough the well as the unrivalled master of the Christian silent corridors, within the soul-entrancing art, makes his "noble Brutus,” endowed with presence of an ideal humanity, and study with an almost perfect wanhood, bring upon himself
, reverential zeal each creation of the painter's by his own moral and intellectual weakness, the imainatgion, they forget the many weary miles awful punishment of outraged justice. of their pilgrimage; and, drinking full draughts The development of the central character of of inspiration from the very fountain of art, a play must of necessity be the development of yield themselves to the absorbing pleasures of the plot. So it was that Shakspeare wrote. an art-student's life. Thus would we enter One grand central thought expressed in the plot, through the majestic portals into the grand and every other thought and feeling centering temple of Shakspeare's genius, wherein are in that. One character, the incarnation of his gathered all those wondrous portraits which the grand idea, and every other character tributary great master painted in living, burning words and subservient to its development. Thus it of “ English undefiled.” Here, in the sparkling was that he reared those mighty monuments sunlight, we see the laughing, loving Juliet; to the lasting glory of his name, and the inthere, in the gloomy shadow, the incarnate fiend creasing wonder of humanity: not a part superLady Macbeth; here the "jolly lun of flesh,” fluous, not a stone wanting; stupendous as the that mocking riddle, Sir John Falstaff, with his Pyramids, beautiful as the palace of the “Faerie capon and his quart of sack; there the noble- Queen." His genius was the architect. His hearted Brutus, soul-sick and weary, surely characters are the outgrowth of his scul. And working out his mournful destiny.
if it were permitted us to deify genius, most Christian, Pagan, Greek, and Roman, kings aptly would Emerson's exquisite lines develope and jesters, knaves and nobles, “ queenlie our meaning: soules” of noble women, mobs of “the sweaty “These temples grew as grows the grass ; night-cap," airy sprites and "tricksy faeries,
Art might obey, but not surpass. witches, ghosts, and sea-nymphs lovely—all
The passive master lent his hand humanity, and the spirits to boot, find we in To the vast soul that o'er him planned. this magic world of Shakspeare,
And out of thought's interior sphere,
And granted them an equal date
With Andes and with Ararat, claims our notice, and that a Christian tragedy;
The hand that rounded Peter's dome, for Shakspeare is by pre-eminecne the Christian
And groined the isles of Christian Rome, poet. His tragic idea is not that of heathenish
Wrought in a sad sincerity ;
Himself from God he could not free; fatalism, that represents the strong man relent
He builded better than he knew, lessly pursued by inexorable fate, and struggling The conscious stone to beauty grew.” with all the energy of despair against its invincible decrees; for with him, in the words of When we speak, then, of Shakspeare's art Ulrici, “the tragic element consists in the suf- we speak of it so far as he himself is concerned, ferings and final ruin of the humanly great, objectively. As we follow in his giant strides, noble, and beautiful which have fallen a prey to there is revealed to us at every step an unconhuman weakness.” The simple story of the scious skill, of which, as he strode onward to "young man whom Jesus loved,” around whose his one grand thought, he knew not. When we unspoken fate hangs such an air of ineffable look at the consummate art of Antony's oration sadness, contains the essence of the Christian 10 the people, it is Antony's skill that commends itself to us, not Shakspeare's, for when he wrote might enjoy its blessings : and that peculiar that speech he was Antony. We hold it then reflective temperament that led him to seek en. to be treason against the high prerogative of joyment and occupation in his own inner life genius, which is to play and not to work, to rather than in the outward world ; that fitted represent Shakspeare, as a writer in a well- him to be the quiet student absorbed in the known magazine has done, as working out the earnest pursuit of truth and in philosophical acts of his plays : artfully striving " to catch investigation, rather than the active, energetic the fancy," " to beguile and attract” his audi- public man ; that made of him, in a word," the ence: thus making him write at the people, thoughtful, earnest philosopher, rather than the rather than from himself. It is the mirrored scheming, far-sighted, sharp-witted politician image of his own littleness which this writer and conspirator. To these we might add a sees, when he brings the great master-builder fourth, though it would seem to follow as a down to the level of a skilful joiner. And his direct inference from the third, the lack of that heresy is all the more heretical by reason of his powerful, energetic, persevering will, so indisconstant lapses into orthodoxy, and the force pensable to the public man, who would guide and beauty of thought and style with which he successfully the ship of state over the surging places truth and error side by side. But of billows of revolution. this more, perhaps, hereafter.
Brutus was upright, honest, and conscienTo every careful reader, the tragedy of tious: a devoted patriot, a reflecting philoso"Julius Cæsar” reveals itself as the triumphant pher; much given to brooding meditation ; vindicator and expositor of the Divine principle, totally unfitted by his temperament and life to Retributive Justice. Accordingly the grand take a comprehensive and searching view of thought or idea expressed is : Assassination political affairs; not much versed in human and conspiracy are self-destructive. So the nature, and consequently easily imposed on; plot or story is : Brutus and his associates and not at all the inan to be the head and front conspire against Cæsar, assassinate him, and of a band of conspirators, whose avowed reap the reward of their acts in violent deaths; purpose was to overthrow the existing tyranny, while the tragic movement, as before enunciated, and establish the freedom of the people. demands that our interest should be excited in Such is a rough sketch of our conception of Brutus as the possessor of high intellectual and Brutus, as Shakspeare represents him True, it moral endowments, yet fallen into sin.
is softened down and filled out in detail by a This then is the problem which the creative thousand delicate touches from the master's genius of Shakspeare so grandly solves; to hand; but these three or four general characobtain for Brutus our deepest love and sym
teristics we hold to have been the ruling powers pathy, as a high-souled and honourable man, at of his life. We shall now attempt to prove this, the very moment when he plunges his thirsty in a comprehensive view of the action of the dagger into the bosom of his friend, his “ best play, by showing that such a man lover," who had not only given him life at the ceive Brutus to have been must of necessity battle of Pharsalia, but had crowned it with have thought and acted as Shakspeare makes honour and distinction. Clothed in the en- him think and act. chanting drapery of Shakspeare's genius, the But while we make this our principal object, midnight conspirator and poon-day assassin, let us also note the wonderful skill" by the destroyer of his own God-given life, wins a which we are forced to love and sympathize high place in our interest and esteem. Let us with the erring Brutus, while we abhor and detest inark how it comes about.
his crimes, and assent to the mournful fate that So far we have found Brutus only what every outraged justice metes out to him. other hero of the Christian tragedy must needs The play begins by introducing to us the be, one claiming interest and sympathy on the Roman populace, but yesterday so zealous in ground of certain qualities of mental and moral the cause of Pompey that Tiber trembled excellence; yet, trusting only in his own underneath her banks," at their universal strength, fallen into grievous sin. But that shout” of loyalty and admiration; now eager in does not make him Brutus ; 80 we proceed to a their new-found zeal to more particular deve ent of his character by portraying those traits that excite our interest,
“Strew flowers in his way as well as those failings that led to his downfall. That came in triumph over Pompey's blood.” And if our ideal be the true one, there belong to him three distinguishing characteristics that The mob is evidently no favourite with Shakgive tone and colour to his whole character; speare, and for two reasons it is expedient that and which, under the circumstances in which he it should be represented in an unfavourable was placed, inevitably made him the man he light. First, because Cæsar's great ambition to was ; caused him to live the life that he lived, win the fickle favour of such a people tends to and to die the death that he died. These we lower him in our estimation, thus lessening the conceive to be: an honest desire to do right, odium of his assassination; and again, because with a conscience susceptible even to morbid- being totally devoid of all true appreciation or ness : a deep and burning love of liberty, with love of liberty, they do not second the conspithe earnest longing that once again his country rators in their vain attempt to throw off the
as we CON
yoke, and thus ensure the final ruin of the him not " that gentleness and show of lore as cause, so imperatively demanded by the whole he was wont;" Cassius, type of the serpent design of the play.
fiend, watches his victim as he hastens away, Then we see Brutus watching in the bitter- and exclaims : ness of his heart the mad procession of the
Smiling in such a sort, Lupercalians, with Cæsar at their head, and the As if he mocked himself." servile mob with fickle zeal following at his heels. The wily, fox-like Cassius takes advant- “Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet I see age of his mood, and stealthily inflames his Thy honourable metal may be wrought mind, already excited against Cæsar. Note
From that it is disposed." now the exquisite skill and tact of Cassius in this interview. He pretends to feel aggrieved at
And so the plot goes on. Brutus is easily what he chooses to consider Brutus' late persuaded that he is the chosen instrument of estrangement from him, which in a noble, the gods to free his country from her chains ; generous mind like Brutus' would naturally create and after many an hour of soul-anguish the one the desire of disproving the insinuation by more absorbing idea of his life sweeps all before it, than usual kindness, and would remove any the good of Rome.”
and he determines to "slay his best lover for suspicion he might have entertained against the good of Rome.” Cassius, and convince him of the latter's devo
But there is no rest for him ; the 'still small tion and friendship. Cassius then assaults his voice of his better nature is never silent; and love of popular favour by assuring him that this subjective conflict of right and wrong is in
itself far more fearfully tragic than the most “Many of the best respect in Rome,
desperate struggle with objective fate. Most Groaning underneath this age's yoke,
masterly does Shakspeare describe this conflict Have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes.”
when he makes him say: The shout of the populace at Cæsar's refusal "Since Cassius first did whet me against Cæsar to accept the crown, is improved by Cassius to
I have not slept ; obtain from Brutus an expression of his senti- Between the acting of a dreadful thing ments and purposes.
And how marked the And the first motion, all the interim contrast between the two men as exhibited in Is like to a phantasma or a hideous dream. heir uses of the same word “honour !” Brutus, The genius and the mortal instruments using it to denote that nobleness of mind Are then in council, and the state of man, springing from inward principle, "loves the
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.” name of honour more than he fears death." While Cassius, in the spirit of the modern duellist, exclaims :
Then comes the midnight meeting of the con
spirators, at which the plan of action is "I had as lief not be, as live to be
arranged, and the time for the deed appointed. In awe of such a thing as I myself."
And a fitting night it was. They came with
faces buried in their cloaks, "through a tempest To the one it is a subjective quality, to the dropping fire, and the cross-blue lightning." other an objective appearance.
The lion glared upon them in the Capitol, and After throwing contempt on Cæsar by the re- gliding ghosts" and "men all in Are” walked cital of his want of physical endurance and with them up and down the streets. Even firmness of spirit, Cassius finally appeals to the complexion of the elements was favoured Brutus's ancestral pride in these suggestive like to the work they had in hand : most lines :
bloody, fiery, and most terrible.” As they “Oh! you and I have heard our fathers say,
came, so they went into the “cold raw mornThere was a Brutus once that would have brooked ing," their reeking hearts as black as the night The eternal Devil to keep his state in Rome,
from which they came. As easily as a King.”
Scarce had their retreating footsteps died
upon the ear, when as an angel of light after The blunt Casca then, whose "rudeness is a spirits of darkness, the “gentle Portia” stood
to his gond wit,” still farther brings beside her lord. The introduction of Portia Cæsar into disrepute, by his characteristic ac- here is most exquisitely timed. Brutus has count of his triple refusal of the crown, and the just identified himself with the faction, and abject and loathsome applause of the people. assumed their leadership,
The odium of Brutus leaves them, engaging to meet and treachery, ingratitude, and imurder is clinging to speak with Cassius on the morrow, So the his-skirts; and this garden scene with Portia first wrong step is taken, and Brutus's doom is is needed to restore him to our good "appresealed: he listens and falls. From this his hension.” The very fact of his being so loved course is downward, and the tragic shadows by such an one as she, as well as his own noble thicken over him till they are lost in the gloom language to her, excite our deepest esteem and of black and endless night.
sympathy. Cassius, the author of all his
of Portia's character we cannot speak as whose soul just now over-flowed with tender- fully as we would. Beautiful and pure, she ness and wounded feeling because Brutus gave 'stands before her humbled husband with the
true dignity of wounded love, an ideal Roman ruling powers. He stands before the people woman, “ Cato's daughter," "well reputed,” for whose liberty he has shed the life-blood of and worthy of her lord. But her eulogy is best his best friend, and is now ready to shed his pronounced by Brutus himself:
own; and they despise the heavenly boon he
proffers. His defence is calm, deliberate, and "You are my true and honourable wife, weighty, as becomes a Roman senator; but As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
withal, it has the resistless energy of an honest, That visit my sad heart.
life-absorbing purpose. It is a great speech, Gods!
for it is the concentrated utterance of a great Render me worthy of this noble wife.”
The populace, in their reception of his speech, Great and all-absorbing indeed must have are evidently more influenced by their goodbeen the struggle that could have made him will to Brutus and respect for his character, fail in his wonted courtesy to such a wise. But than by its exalted sentiments; for in total disher wisely bosom will take no repulse, and soon she wins him to his former self by the touch regard of its whole spirit, 'they cry out to ing earnestness with which she pleads to share
“Let him be Cæsar,” his burden
Antony finds them strongly prejudiced in "And upon my bended knees,
favour of the conspirators by the speech, but I charge you, by my once commended beauty,
more by the character of Brutus, and conseBy all your vows of love, and that great vow Which did incorporate and make us one,
quently extremely jealous of any attempt to That you unfold to me yourself
, your half,
disparage him. But as clay is moulded in the Why you are so heavy.”
bands of the skilful potter, so he moulds their
minds to the pattern of his own choosing. The Ides of March, the mysterious time
Soon those who before were ready to “ bring
appointed by the soothsayer at the feast of the Brutus with triumph home unto his own house;" Luperca), has come. The great Cæsar, soldier
to give him a statue with his ancestors," and and philosopher though he be, is deterred from
make him Cæsar,” now join their willing
“We will be revenged ! going to the Capitol by the portentous dream voices to raise the cry: of his anxious wife. But when Decius tells Revenge! about! seek! burn! fire! killi him that
slay! let not a traitor live !" “The Senate have concluded
Admirably fitted was Antony to move the To give this day a crown to mighty Cæsar,”
popular mind. A man of the world, a soldier
of fortune; accustomed to deal with the lower bis love of power and fear of ridicule induce order of mind; engaging in his address; a him to change his mind.
polished, speaker of consummate art; wonThe conspirators met him there, and with derful in his knowledge of human nature; the words of arrogance and pride upon his having, doubtless, much affection for Cæsar, lips, pierced by friendly daggers,
but knowing well how to turn it to the best ac
count to give zest and life to the part he was “Even at the base of Pompey's statue,
acting. As an exquisite work of art, his speech Which all the while ran blood, great Cæsar fell !" is without an equal, and it is probably the finest
example of rhetorical climax known. To enter So was Pompey's fate avenged, and so
here upon a full analysis of it, were foreign to
the scope of this article. No more profitable “ Ambition's debt was paid.”
study for the English scholar could be found.
Every sentence is replete with interest, every And now, when Brutus is called to the word has its hidden store of wealth and beauty, management of affairs, his unfitness becomes revealed only to him who labours in the love of
, it. such men as Antony and the fickle mob. In and mournful end. The fatal deed is done, and the kindness of his soul be lets Antony "speak Cæsar's blood cries from the ground for venin Cæsar's funeral,” and as a consequence, the geance. conspirators are forced to flee for their lives. Now new actors are needed on the stage, and
of the speeches of Brutus and Antony, Octavius, Lepidus and Antony the soldier, with volumes almost might be written. Considered their followers, the avengers of Cæsar's fate, in themselves as representative ideals of elo- come forward to act their parts. quence and oratory, or in their perfect contrast Brutus, the chief conspirator, for whose with each other, they claim our most exalted development all the others have their dramatic admiration, as well as our patient and scrutini- life. Cassius, his fellow.conspirator, bringing zing study. The speech of Brutus, written in out in bold relief the sterling worth of Brutus's prose-a most noteworthy fact, by the way, character, playing the part of tempter and false for Shakepeare evidently wrote with greater friend. Cæsar, the noble victim, by his own ease and Auency in blank verse-is the out- tragic fate enforcing, in episode, the grand moral gushing of bis inmost life, the expression of its of the play. Antony, the "golden-mouthed
consequently too trustful in others, to deal with But we turn to follow Brutus to his speedy
orator" and revelling soldier ; with Octavius, and there some lingering lineaments of their the clever, weak, and unprincipled demagogue; God. In all we are reminded of one common all proclaim, though they know it not, the grand humanity, fallen, yet magnificent in its ruins! law of retributive justice : “All they that take This view of the scene is abundantly borne the sword shall perish by the sword.” Where out by the language of Cassius. It is evidently is the lack of unity, or which of these, the lead-heart-felt; and, when compared with that of his ing characters, is superfluous or overdrawn? first interview with Brutus, shows an unmis
The same lisastrous results still follow the takable change of motive. In the first he course of Brutus, and mark him still more speaks the language of the head; in the last, plainly as unfitted for his part. To make the the kindly speech of a full heart. matter worse, his mind evidently becomes dis- After this exciting scene, Brutus seeks the eased by brooding, as was his wont, over his soothing influence of music to calm his troubled troubles ; and the raging conflict in his breast breast; and herein develops another engaging is fast corroding the energies of his soul. When trait, very prominent in Shakspeare's characwe add to this the distracting news of the ters. His treatment of the tired Lucius, who suicide of his wife, we cannot admire too highly from sheer fatigue drops asleep as he plays the his forbearance and forgiveness in that justly lute to him, most beautifully brings out bis noted tent-scene, in which he comes to words kind consideration for the feelings and comfort with Cassius. This link completes the chain of his inferiors, at a time when he himself is that binds our sympathies to his fate. He is bowed to the earth with his mighty load of shown possessed of so much manly indepen- sorrow. The music ceasing, he betakes himdence, and yet of so frank and generous a nature self to reading; when suddenly the ghost of -confessing his hasty spirit, even when his in- Cæsar, the phantom of his diseased brain, apmost soul is wrung with agony—that if aught pears before him. The memory of Cæsar, in was needed to finish his conquest of our hearts, very truth, is his "evil spirit,” never leaving tbis conipletes it.
him, and continually asserting its growing inThere is also now a peculiar significance in Auence over his fevered mind. He acknowthe conduct of Cassius. The two have become ledges this himself when, at the death of identified by a common sin and a common Titinius, he says: doom. Cassius, the instigator of the whole affair, has played his part, and failed of his
“O Julius Caesar! thou art mighty yet : object. There is no necessity, then, for the
Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords further development of the low cunning in his
In our own proper entrails." nature. On the other hand, it adds greatly to And again, the last utterance of his life is : the effect of the plot that his better traits are now shown us; our interest is excited to this
“Cæsar, now be still: heretofore bidden phase of his character, and
I killed not thee with half so good a will." 80 another element is added to the tragic end. This softening of the character of Cassius
It is observable that as the tragic end dravs is with Shakspeare a labour of love. So far in near, its retributive nature is constantly alluded the play, there is scarcely a word he has uttered, to by the avengers as well as their victim. In a trat he has developed, that claims in the the meeting of the hostile generals it forms least degree our sympathies. The cold, calcu- the burden of the burning reproaches which lating, deceitful conspirator; the embodiment Octavius and Antony heap upon Brutus and of perverted intellect, or rather of sly cunning, Cassius. Cassius, as he dies, proclaims it: he seems totally lacking in moral and social qualities. Such an one was demanded by the
Cæsar, thou art revenged
Even with the sword that killed thee." action of the play. But now his mission is fulfilled; and before he disappears from the stage, it seems as if Shakspeare hastens to throw the Thus the leading, ruling thought intensifies mantle of a kindly humanity over his cold, re
itself as it nears its perfect fulfilinent. pulsive character.
The manner of the death of Brutus, so apAnd this trait of Shakspeare is evident in all parently contradictory to our conception of his his creations. It was this that put the touching character and to his own express declaration, words "Et tu Brute ?” into the mouth of the claims our lingering notice. It will be rememdying tyrant; and that represents Antony as
bered that on the eve of that disastrous battle,
Cassius says: eulogizing Brutus over the dead body of
we do lose this battle, then is this Cæsar.
The very last time we shall speak together : He seems to see in every fallen brother and sister of his race only what he himself might Bru. : Even by the rule of that philosophy
What arc you then determined to do? have been; and while he holds up to our disap
By which I did blame Cato for the death probation sin and error, he engages our pity Which he did give himself! I know not hor, and compassion for the sinning and the erring. But I do find it cowardly and vile, None of his characters are either perfectly For fear of what might fall, so to prevent pure or perfectly depraved; in the best and the The time of life-arming myself with patience noblest are the traces of one common sin, and in To stay the providence of some higher powers the lowest and the most abandoned gleam here That govern its below,