From Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.
This scene, taken with the preceding, affords an
interesting study in contrasts: Cæsar and Brutus; Calpurnia
the yielding wife, and Portia the heroic.
Enter CÆSAR in his night-gown.' Night-gown' here,
as in Macbeth, II, ii, 70, V, 1, 5, means 'dressing-robe' or
'dressing-gown.' This is the usual meaning of the word in
English from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth. So
Addison and Steele use it in The Spectator.
2. In Plutarch the scene is thus graphically described:
"Then going to bed the same night, as his manner was, and
lying with his wife Calpurnia, all the windows and doors of
his chamber flying open, the noise awoke him, and made him
afraid when he saw such light; but more, when he heard his
wife Calpurnia, being fast asleep, weep and sigh, and put
forth many fumbling lamentable speeches: for she dreamed that
Cæsar was slain.... Cæsar rising in the morning, she prayed
him, if it were possible, not to go out of the doors that day,
but to adjourn the session of the Senate until another day.
And if that he made no reckoning of her dream, yet that he
would search further of the soothsayers by their sacrifices,
to know what should happen him that day. Thereby it seemed
that Cæsar did likewise fear or suspect somewhat, because his
wife Calpurnia until that time was never given to any fear and
superstition; and that then he saw her so troubled in mind
with this dream she had. But much more afterwards, when the
soothsayers having sacrificed many beasts one after another,
told him that none did like them: then he determined to
send Antonius to adjourn the session of the Senate."--Julius
6.success: the result. The root notion of the word.
See note, p. 65, l. 324. But in V, iii, 65, the word is used
in its modern sense.
13. 'Ceremonies' is here put for the ceremonial or
sacerdotal interpretation of prodigies and omens, as in II, i,
16-24.: Cf. Hamlet, I, i, 113-125; Vergil, Georgics,
22.hurtled: clashed. The onomatopoetic 'hurtling' is
used in As You Like It, IV, iii, 132, to describe the
clashing encounter between Orlando and the lioness. Chaucer,
in The Knightes Tale l. 1758, uses the verb transitively,
suggesting a diminutive of 'hurt':
And he him hurtleth with his horse adown.
33.taste of death: This expression occurs thrice in
the New Testament (King James version). Plutarch relates that,
a short time before Cæsar fell, some of his friends urged him
to have a guard about him, and he replied that it was better
to die at once than live in the continual fear of death. He is
also said to have given as his reason for refusing a guard,
that he thought Rome had more need of him than he of Rome.
"And the very day before, Cæsar, supping with Marcus Lepidus,
sealed certain letters, as he was wont to do, at the board:
so, talk falling out amongst them, reasoning what death was
best, he, preventing their opinions, cried out aloud, 'Death
unlooked for.'"--Plutarch, Julius Cæsar.
76.to-night: last night. So in The Merchant of
Venice, II, v, 18.--statue. In Shakespeare's time 'statue'
was pronounced indifferently as a word of two syllables or
three. Bacon uses it repeatedly as a trisyllable, and spells
it 'statua,' as in his Advancement of Learning: "It is not
possible to have the true pictures or statuaes of Cyrus,
Alexander, Cæsar, no, nor of the kings or great personages."
88-89. In ancient times, when martyrs or other
distinguished men were executed, their friends often pressed
to stain handkerchiefs with their blood, or to get some other
relic, which they might keep, either as precious memorials of
them, or as having a kind of sacramental virtue. 'Cognizance'
is here used in a heraldic sense, meaning any badge to show
whose friends the wearers were.
94. The Roman people were specially yearning to avenge
the slaughter of Marcus Crassus and his army by the Parthians,
and Cæsar was at this time preparing an expedition against
them. But a Sibylline oracle was alleged, that Parthia could
only be conquered by a king; and it was proposed to invest
Cæsar with the royal title and authority over the foreign
subjects of the state. It is agreed on all hands that, if his
enemies did not originate this proposal, they at least
craftily urged it on, in order to make him odious, and
exasperate the people against him. To the same end, they had
for some time been plying the arts of extreme sycophancy,
heaping upon him all possible honors, human and divine, hoping
thereby to kindle such a fire of envy as would consume him.
96-97.it were a mock Apt to be render'd: it were a
sarcastic reply likely to be made. Cf. the expression, 'make a
104.liable: subject. Cf. King John, II, i, 490. The
thought here is that love stands as principal, reason as
second or subordinate. "The deference which reason holds due
from me to you is in this instance subject and amenable to the
calls of personal affection."
108. This was probably Publius Silicius, not a
conspirator. See III, i, 87, where he is described as "quite
confounded with this mutiny."
113. This is a graphic and charming touch. Here, for the
first time, we have Cæsar speaking fairly in character; for he
was probably the most finished gentleman of his time, one of
the sweetest of men, and as full of kindness as of wisdom and
courage. Merivale aptly styles him "Cæsar the politic and the
129.yearns: grieves. The Folios read 'earnes.' Skeat
considers earn (yearn) 'to grieve' of distinct origin from
earn (yearn) 'to desire.' Shakespeare uses the verb both
transitively and intransitively. The winning and honest
suavity of Cæsar here starts a pang of remorse in Brutus.
Drinking wine together was regarded as a sacred pledge of
truth and honor. Brutus knows that Cæsar is doing it in good
faith; and it hurts him to think that the others seem to be
doing the like, and yet are doing a very different thing.
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_2_2.html >.