From Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.
3.Antonius': The 'Antonio's' of the Folios is the
Italian form with which both actors and audience would be more
familiar. So in IV, iii, 102, the Folios read "dearer than
Pluto's (i.e. Plutus') mine." Antonius was at this time
Consul, as Cęsar himself also was. Each Roman gens had its
own priesthood, and also its peculiar religious rites. The
priests of the Julian gens (so named from Iulus the son of
Ęneas) had lately been advanced to the same rank with those of
the god Lupercus; and Antony was at this time at their head.
It was probably as chief of the Julian Luperci that he
officiated on this occasion, stripped, as the old stage
direction has it, "for the course."
8-9. It was an old custom at these festivals for the
priests, naked except for a girdle about the loins, to run
through the streets of the city, waving in the hand a thong of
goat's hide, and striking with it such women as offered
themselves for the blow, in the belief that this would prevent
or avert "the sterile curse." Cęsar was at this time
childless; his only daughter, Julia, married to Pompey the
Great, having died some years before, upon the birth of her
first child, who also died soon after.
19. Coleridge has a remark on this line, which, whether
true to the subject or not, is very characteristic of the
writer: "If my ear does not deceive me, the metre of this line
was meant to express that sort of mild philosophic contempt,
characterizing Brutus even in his first casual
speech."--soothsayer. By derivation, 'truth teller.'
24.Sennet: This is an expression occurring repeatedly
in old stage directions. It is of uncertain origin (but cf.
'signature' in musical notation) and denotes a peculiar
succession of notes on a trumpet, used, as here, to signal the
march of a procession.
35. You hold me too hard on the bit, like a strange
rider who is doubtful of his steed, and not like one who
confides in his faithful horse, and so rides him with an easy
rein. See note on l. 310.
36. Caius Cassius Longinus had married Junia, a sister
of Brutus. Both had lately stood for the chief prętorship of
the city, and Brutus, through Cęsar's favor, had won it;
though Cassius was at the same time elected one of the sixteen
prętors or judges of the city. This is said to have produced a
coldness between Brutus and Cassius, so that they did not
speak to each other, till this extraordinary flight of
patriotism brought them together.
40.passions of some difference: conflicting
41.only proper to myself: belonging exclusively to
42.give some soil to: to a certain extent
tarnish.--behaviours. Shakespeare often uses abstract nouns
in the plural. This usage is common in Carlyle. Here, however,
and elsewhere in Shakespeare, as in Much Ado about Nothing,
II, iii, 100, the plural 'behaviours' may be regarded as
denoting the particular acts which make up what we call
'behavior.' See Clar.
48.mistook: The en of the termination of the past
participle of strong verbs is often dropped, and when the
resulting word might be mistaken for the infinitive, the form
of the past tense is frequently substituted.--passion.
Shakespeare uses 'passion' for any feeling, sentiment, or
emotion, whether painful or pleasant. So in Henry V, II, ii.
132: "Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger."
49.By means whereof: and because of my mistaking it.
'Means' was sometimes used in the sense of 'cause.'
53. Except by an image or 'shadow' (l. 68; cf. Venus
and Adonis, 162) reflected from a mirror, or from water, or
some polished surface. Cf. Troilus and Cressida, III, iii,
53. Except by an image or 'shadow' (l. 68; cf. Venus
and Adonis, 162) reflected from a mirror, or from water, or
some polished surface. Cf. Troilus and Cressida, III, iii,
59.Where: The adverb is here used of occasion, not of
place.--of the best respect: held in the highest
71.jealous on: suspicious of. In Shakespeare we find
'on' and 'of' used indifferently, even in the same sentence,
as in Hamlet, IV, v, 200. Cf. Macbeth, I, iii, 84;
Sonnets, LXXXIV, 14. See Abbott, § 181.
72.laughter: laughing-stock. Although most modern
editors have adopted Rowe's emendation, 'laugher,' the reading
of the Folios is perfectly intelligible and thoroughly
Shakespearian. Cf. IV, iii, 114.
73.To stale: to make common by frequent repetition,
to cheapen. So again in IV, i, 38. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra,
II, ii, 240.
74. 'To protest' is used by Shakespeare in the sense of
'to profess,' 'to declare,' 'to vow,' as in All's Well that
Ends Well, IV, ii, 28, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, I, i,
89. The best commentary on ll. 72-74 is Hamlet, I, iii,
64-65: "But do not dull thy palm with entertainment Of each
new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade."
87. "Warburton would read 'death' for 'both'; but I
prefer the old text. There are here three things, the public
good, the individual Brutus' honour, and his death. The latter
two so balanced each other, that he could decide for the first
by equipoise; nay--the thought growing--that honour had more
weight than death."--Coleridge.--indifferently: without
88.speed: prosper, bless. So in II, iv, 41. "The
notion of 'haste' which now belongs to the word is apparently
a derived sense. It is thus curiously parallel to the Latin
expedio, with which some would connect it etymologically....
The proverb 'more haste, worse speed' shows that haste and
speed are not the same."--Clar.
91.favour: appearance. The word has often this
meaning in Shakespeare. Cf. 'well-favored,' 'ill-favored,' and
such a provincial expression as 'the child favors his
95.lief: readily. The pronunciation of the f as v
brings out the quibble. From the Anglo-Saxon léof, 'dear.'
101.chafing: See Skeat for the interesting
development of the meanings of the verb 'chafe (Fr.
chauffer),' which Shakespeare uses twenty times, sometimes
transitively, sometimes intransitively.
109.hearts of controversy: controversial hearts,
emulation. In Shakespeare are many similar constructions and
expressions. Cf. 'passions of some difference,' l. 40, and
'mind of love' for 'loving mind,' The Merchant of Venice,
II, viii, 42.
110.arrive the point: In sixteenth and early
seventeenth century literature the omission of the preposition
with verbs of motion is common. Cf. 'pass the streets' in I,
119. In Elizabethan literature 'fever' is often used for
sickness in general as well as for what is now specifically
called a fever. Cęsar had three several campaigns in Spain at
different periods of his life, and the text does not show
which of these Shakespeare had in mind. One passage in
Plutarch indicates that Cęsar was first taken with the
'falling-sickness' during his third campaign, which closed
with the great battle of Munda, March 17, B.C. 45. See note,
p. 25, l. 252, and quotation from Plutarch, p. 26, l. 268.
122. The image, very bold, somewhat forced, and not
altogether happy, is of a cowardly soldier running away from
123.bend: look. So in Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii,
213: "tended her i' the eyes, And made their bends adornings."
In Shakespeare the verb 'bend,' when used of the eyes, has
usually the sense of 'direct,' as in Hamlet, II, i, 100:
"bended their light on me"; III, iv, 117: "That you do bend
your eye on vacancy."
124.his: its. 'Its' was just creeping into use at the
close of the sixteenth century. It does not occur once in the
King James version of the Bible as originally printed; it
occurs ten times in the First Folio, generally in the form
'it's'; it occurs only three times in Milton's poetry. See
Masson's Essay on Milton's English; Abbott, § 228; Sweet's
New English Grammar, § 1101.
129.temper: temperament, constitution. "The lean and
wrinkled Cassius" venting his spite at Cęsar, by ridiculing
his liability to sickness and death, is charmingly
characteristic. The mighty Cęsar, with all his electric energy
of mind and will, was of a rather fragile and delicate make;
and his countenance, as we have it in authentic busts, is of
almost feminine beauty. Cicero, who did not love him at all,
in one of his Letters applies to him the Greek word that is
used for 'miracle' or 'wonder' in the New Testament; the
English of the passage being, "This miracle (monster?) is a
thing of terrible energy, swiftness, diligence."
135. Observe the force of 'narrow' here; as if Cęsar
were grown so enormously big that even the world seemed a
little thing under him. Some while before this, the Senate had
erected a bronze statue of Cęsar, standing on a globe, and
inscribed to "Cęsar the Demigod," but this inscription Cęsar
136. It is only a legend that the bronze Colossus of
Rhodes bestrode the entrance to the famous harbor. The story
probably arose from the statement that the figure, which
represented Helios, the national deity of the Rhodians, was so
high that a ship might sail between its legs.
140. In Shakespeare are many such allusions to the
tenets of the old astrology and the belief in planetary
influence upon the fortunes and characters of men which Scott
describes in the Introduction to Guy Mannering and makes the
atmosphere of the story.
142.should be: can be. So in The Tempest, I, ii,
387: "Where should this music be? i' the air or the earth?"
146-147. The allusion is to the old custom of muttering
certain names, supposed to have in them "the might of magic
spells," in raising or conjuring up spirits.
152.the great flood: By this an ancient Roman would
understand the universal deluge of classical mythology, from
which only Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha escaped alive. The
story is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses, I. Shakespeare
mentions Deucalion twice.
155.walks: The reasons why Rowe's emendation,
'walls,' is almost universally accepted, are that 'walls'
would be easily corrupted into 'walks' from the nearness of
'talk'd,' and that there is a disagreeable assonance in
'talk'd' and 'walks' in successive lines. But 'walks' is
picturesque and poetical; compared with it, 'walls' is
commonplace and obvious. Cf. Paradise Lost, IV, 586.
156. A play upon 'Rome' and 'room,' which appear to have
been sounded more alike in Shakespeare's time than they are
now. So again in III, i, 289-290: "A dangerous Rome, No Rome
of safety for Octavius yet." Cf. also King John, III, i,
159. The allusion is to Lucius Junius Brutus, who bore a
leading part in driving out the Tarquins and in turning the
kingdom into a republic. Afterwards, as consul, he condemned
his own sons to death for attempting to restore the kingdom.
The Marcus Junius Brutus of the play, according to Plutarch,
supposed himself to be descended from him. His mother,
Servilia, also derived her lineage from Servilius Ahala, who
slew Spurius Męlius for aspiring to royalty. Merivale remarks
that "the name of Brutus forced its possessor into prominence
as soon as royalty began to be discussed."--brook'd:
endured, tolerated. See Murray for the history of this word.
160.eternal: Johnson suggested 'infernal.' Dr. Wright
(Clar.) points out that in three plays printed in 1600
Shakespeare uses 'infernal,' but substitutes 'eternal' in
Julius Cęsar, Hamlet, and Othello, in obedience probably
to the popular Puritan agitation against profanity on the
stage. This has been used as evidence to determine dates of
composition. See Introduction, page xx. Cf. with this use of
'eternal' the old Yankee term 'tarnal' in such expressions as
'tarnal scamp,' 'tarnal shame,' etc.
162.am nothing jealous: do not doubt. Cf. l. 71.
'Jealous' and 'zealous' are etymologically the same word. See
163.work me to: prevail upon me to do. Cf. _Hamlet_,
IV, vii, 64.--/aim:/ guess. Cf. The Two Gentlemen of Verona,
III, i, 28. Similarly with the verb in Romeo and Juliet, I,
i, 211; Othello, III, iii, 223.
171. 'To chew' is, literally, in the Latin equivalent,
'to ruminate.' Cf. As You Like It, IV, iii, 102: "Chewing
the food of sweet and bitter fancy." In Bacon's Essays, Of
Studies, we have, with reference to books: "Some few are to
be chewed and digested." So in Lyly's Euphues: "Philantus
went into the fields to walk there, either to digest his
choler, or chew upon his melancholy."
174.these ... as: See note, l. 34; Abbott, §§ 112,
177. In Troilus and Cressida, III, iii, 256, Thersites
says of the wit of Ajax: "It lies as coldly in him as fire in
a flint, which will not show without knocking." The same
figure is found in the description which Brutus gives of his
unimpassioned nature, IV, iii, 112-114.
181.proceeded: happened, come to pass. So in All's
Well that Ends Well, IV, ii, 62.--worthy note. Cf. All's
Well that Ends Well, III, v, 104. For the ellipsis of the
preposition, see Abbott, § 198 a.
186. One of the marked physical characteristics of the
albinotic ferret is the red or pink eye. Shakespeare turns the
noun 'ferret' into an adjective. The description of Cicero is
purely imaginary; but the angry spot on Cęsar's brow,
Calpurnia's pale cheek, and Cicero with fire in his eyes when
kindled by opposition in the Senate, make an exceedingly vivid
192-195. "Another time when Cęsar's friends complained
unto him of Antonius and Dolabella, that they pretended some
mischief towards him, he answered them again, As for those fat
men, and smooth-combed heads, quoth he, I never reckon of
them; but these pale visaged and carrion lean people, I fear
them most; meaning Brutus and Cassius."--Plutarch, Julius
Cęsar. There are similar passages in Plutarch's Life of
Brutus and in the Life of Marcus Antonius. Cf. Antony and
Cleopatra, III, xi, 37. Falstaff's famous cry was for 'spare
men.' See 2 Henry IV, III, ii, 288. 'Sleek-headed' recalls
Lamb's wish that the baby son of the tempestuous Hazlitt
should be "like his father, with something of a better temper
and a smoother head of hair."
197.well given: well disposed. So in 2 Henry VI,
III, i, 72.
203.he loves no plays: "In his house they did nothing
but feast, dance, and masque; and himself passed away the time
in hearing of foolish plays, and in marrying these players,
tumblers, jesters, and such sort of people."--Plutarch,
204. The power of music is repeatedly celebrated by
Shakespeare, and sometimes in strains that approximate the
classical hyperboles about Orpheus, Amphion, and Arion. What
is here said of Cassius has an apt commentary in The Merchant
of Venice, V, 1, 83-85:
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.
213. This is one of the little touches of invention that
so often impart a fact-like vividness to Shakespeare's
217.sad: The word is used here probably in its early
sense of 'weary' (as in Middle English) or 'resolute' (as in
Chaucer and old Ballads). In 2 Henry IV, V, i, 92, is the
expression "a jest with a sad brow," where 'sad' evidently
means 'wise,' 'sage.'
249.soft! This is an elliptical use of the adverb
'soft' and was much used as an exclamation for arresting or
retarding the speed of a person or thing; meaning about the
same as 'hold!' 'stay!' or 'not too fast!' So in Othello, V,
ii, 338: "Soft you; a word or two before you go"; and The
Merchant of Venice, IV, i, 320: "Soft! The Jew shall have all
justice; soft! no haste."
252.falling-sickness: An old English name for
epilepsy (Lat. morbus caducus, German fallende Sucht) used
by North in translating Plutarch. Another form of the word is
'falling-evil,' also used by North (see quotation, p. 26, l.
268). It is an interesting fact that the best authorities
allow that Napoleon suffered from epileptic seizures towards
the close of his life.
256.tag-rag people: Cf. 'the tag' in Coriolanus,
III, i, 248.
259.true: honest. Shakespeare frequently uses 'true'
in this sense, especially as opposed to 'thief.' Cf.
Cymbeline, II, iii, 76; Venus and Adonis, 724: "Rich preys
make true men thieves."
261.Marry: The common Elizabethan exclamation of
surprise, or asseveration, corrupted from the name of the
263.me: The ethical dative. Cf. III, iii, 18; The
Merchant of Venice, I, iii, 85; Romeo and Juliet, III, i,
6. See Abbott, § 220.--doublet. This was the common English
name of a man's outer body-garment. Shakespeare dresses his
Romans like Elizabethan Englishmen (cf. II, i, 73-74), but the
expression 'doublet-collar' occurs in North's Plutarch (see
quotation in note on ll. 268-270).--And: if. For 'and' in
this sense, see Murray, and Abbott, § 101.
264.a man of any occupation: This probably means not
only a mechanic or user of cutting-tools, but also a man of
business and of action, as distinguished from a gentleman of
leisure, or an idler.
265-266.to hell among the rogues: The early English
drama abounds in examples of such historical confusion. For
example, in the Towneley Miracle Plays Noah's wife swears by
the Virgin Mary.
268-270. "Thereupon Cęsar rising departed home to his
house; and, tearing open his doublet-collar, making his neck
bare, he cried out aloud to his friends, that his throat was
ready to offer to any man that would come and cut it....
Afterwards, to excuse his folly, he imputed it to his disease,
saying that their wits are not perfect which have this disease
of the falling-evil."--Plutarch, Julius Cęsar.
275-281. A charming invention, though in his Life of
Cicero Plutarch refers to the orator's nicknames, 'Grecian'
and 'scholer,' due to his ability to "declaim in Greek."
Cicero had a sharp, agile tongue, and was fond of using it;
and nothing was more natural than that he should snap off some
keen, sententious sayings, prudently veiling them, however, in
a foreign language from all but those who might safely
understand them.--Greek to me. 'Greek,' often 'heathen
Greek,' was a common Elizabethan expression for unintelligible
speech. In Dekker's Grissil (1600) occurs "It's Greek to
him." So in Dickens's Barnaby Rudge: "this is Greek to me."
286.I am promis'd forth: I have promised to go out.
'Forth' is often used in this way in Elizabethan literature
without any verb of motion. Cf. The Merchant of Venice, II,
v, 11. See Abbott, § 41.
292.blunt: dull, slow. Or there may be a quibble
involved in connection with 'mettle' in the next line. Brutus
alludes to the 'tardy form' (l. 296) Casca has just 'put on'
in winding so long about the matter before coming to the
293.quick mettle: lively spirit. Collier conjectured
'quick-mettl'd.' 'Mettlesome' is still used of spirited
horses. Cf. I, i, 63.
296.However: notwithstanding. Cf. Troilus and
Cressida, I, iii, 322.--tardy form: appearance of
tardiness. The construction in this expression is common in
Shakespeare, as 'shady stealth' for 'stealing shadow,' in
Sonnets, LXXVII, 7; 'negligent danger' for 'danger from
negligence,' in Antony and Cleopatra, III, v, 81.
307.that it is dispos'd: that which it is disposed
to. For the omission of prepositions in Shakespeare, see
Abbott, §§ 198-202. Cassius in this speech is chuckling over
the effect his talk has had upon Brutus.
310.bear me hard: has a grudge against me. This
remarkable expression occurs three times in this play, but
nowhere else in Shakespeare. Professor Hales quotes an example
of it from Ben Jonson's Catiline, IV, v. It seems to have
been borrowed from horsemanship, and to mean 'carries tight
rein,' or 'reins hard,' like one who distrusts his horse. So
before, ll. 35, 36:
You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
Over your friend that loves you.
312.humour: To 'humor' a man, as the word is here
used, is to turn and wind and manage him by watching his moods
and crotchets, and to touch him accordingly. It is somewhat in
doubt whether the 'he' in the preceding line refers to Brutus
or to Cęsar. If to Brutus, the meaning of course is: he should
not play upon my humors and fancies as I do upon his. And this
sense is fairly required by the context, for the whole speech
is occupied with the speaker's success in cajoling Brutus, and
with plans for cajoling and shaping him still further. Johnson
refers 'he' to Cęsar.
313.hands: handwritings. So the word is used
319. We will either shake him, or endure worse days in
suffering the consequences of our attempt.--Shakespeare makes
Cassius overflow with intense personal spite against Cęsar.
This is in accordance with what he read in North's Plutarch.
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_2.html >.