« PreviousContinue »
* Broad-fronted Cæsar, When thou wast here above the ground, I was
A morsel for a monarch'-I, iv, 29-31. And when Thyreus says : ‘Give me grace to lay my duty on thy hand,' remarks :
'Your Cæsar's father oft, When he hath mused of taking kingdoms in, Bestowed his lips on that unworthy place,
As it rained kisses'-III, xiii, 81-85. Pompey, in the same play, praising 'your fine Egyptian cookery,' says, it ‘first
‘Shall have the fame. I have heard that Julius Cæsar
Grew fat with feasting there'-II, vi, 65, 66. There are, besides these, a few slighter passing references to the Roman conqueror, which do not materially aid us in comprehending Shakespeare's impression of Cæsar, but which serve to show us how deeply the facts and influences of the life of the dictator had engrossed the author's mind. In Richard III (IV, iv, 336) that sovereign promises that Queen Elizabeth's daughter shall be sole victress, Cæsar's Cæsar ;? Canidius, in Antony and Cleopatra, refers to Pharsalia, where Cæsar fought with Pompey' (111, vii, 30); Polonius did enact Julius Cæsar' (Hamlet, III, ii, 106) ; and the Prince of Denmark moralises on 'imperious Cæsar, dead and turned to clay' (Hamlet, V, i, 234).
If we make an induction from these passages regarding Shakespeare's ideal of Cæsar, we must certainly conclude that he considered his hero to have been a most influential factor in human history by personal valour and ability, as well as from his political and social relations to his times. While he shows us clearly the national demoralisation which made monarchy a practical necessity, though a theoretical anomaly, he reveals to us how surely success, power, victory, and opportunity result in arrogance, boastfulness, vanity, and desire for sovereign sway and masterdom. How ambition and discretion struggle terribly in the mind of one who entertains a lofty consciousness of personal power, and a low estimate of political principles! His Julius Cæsar is a hero in whom success has produced habits of haughtiness; in whom philosophy has failed to overcome superstitious fear; in whom desire and policy conspire to make a despot, and whom self-flattery and courtierly-fawning combine to mis
lead. He is a man of greater energy than dignity, who strikes the imagination, puzzles the understanding, and disappoints the heart; he exhibits active intelligence without depth; he excites admiration rather than reverence, and induces astonishment rather than inspires love. His material conquests are magnificent; but he lacks the highest moral might—the power of self-conquest. 'He is not a king, but Cæsar !!
BACON'S CHARACTER OF JULIUS CÆSAR. As Miss Delia Bacon, in her Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, has suggested that Bacon was probably the true intellectual Shakespeare to whom we owe the finest dramas ever composed, and her opinion seems shared in by several of her countrymen, it appears right to place before the student, for comparison and contrast with Shakespeare's idea of Julius Cæsar, Lord Bacon's essay on the character of the dictator. Singularly enough, Miss Bacon did not employ this production of the broad-browed Verulam'to prove that Shakespeare's Cæsar had issued from the same brain, which she surely would have done had she thought they both bore the same mental mint-mark.
Julius Cæsar, at the first, encountered a rugged fortune, which turned to his advantage: for this curbed his pride, and spurred his industry. He was a man of unruly passions and desires; but ex. tremely clear and settled in his judgment and understanding: as appears by his ready address, to extricate himself both in action and discourse; for no man ever resolved quicker, or spoke clearer. But his will and appetite were restless, and ever launched out beyond his acquisitions; yet the transitions of his actions were not rash, but well concerted: for he always brought his undertakings to coinplete and perfect periods. Thus, after having obtained numerous victories, and procured a great degree of security in Spain, he did not slight the remains of the civil war in that country; but having, in person, seen all things fully composed and settled there, he immediately went upon his expedition against the Parthians.
He was, without dispute, a man of a great and noble soul; though rather bent upon procuring his own private advantage, than good to the public: for he referred all things to himself, and was the truest centre of his own actions. Whence flowed his great and almost perpetual felicity and success: for neither his country nor religion, neither good offices, relations, nor friends, could check or moderate his designs. Again, he was not greatly bent upon preserving his memory; for he neither established a state of things, built lasting monuments, nor enacted laws of perpetuity, but worked entirely for
his own present and private ends; thus confining his thoughts within the limits of his own times. It is true, he endeavoured after fame and reputation, as he judged they might be of service to his designs; but certainly, in his heart, he rather aimed at power than dignity, and courted reputation and honours only as they were instruments of power and grandeur. So that he was led, not by any laudable course of discipline, but by a kind of natural impulse, to the sove. reignty; which he rather affected to seize, than appeared to deserve.
This procedure ingratiated him with the people, who had no dignity to lose; but, among the nobility and gentry, who desired to retain their honours, it gained him the character of a bold, aspiring
And certainly they judged right; for he was naturally very audacious, and never put on the appearance of modesty but to serve
Yet this daring spirit of his was so tempered, that it neither subjected him to the censure of rashness, or intolerable haughtiness, nor rendered his nature suspected; but was taken to proceed from a certain simplicity and freedom of behaviour, joined with the nobility of his birth. And in all other respects he had the reputation, not of a cunning and designing, but of an open and sincere man. And though he was a perfect master of dissimulation, and wholly made up of art, without leaving anything to nature but what art had proved, yet nothing of design or affectation appeared in his carriage : so that he was thought to follow his own natural disposition. He did not, however, stoop to any mean artifices, which men unpractised in the world, who depend not upon their own strength, but the abilities of others, employ to support their authority; for he was perfectly skilled in all the ways of men, and transacted everything of consequence in his own person, without the interposition of others.
'He had the perfect secret of extinguishing envy, and thought it proper in his proceedings to secure this effect, though with some diminution of his dignity. For being wholly bent upon real power, he almost constantly declined, and contentedly postponed all the empty show, and gaudy appearance of greatness: till at length, whether satiated with enjoyment, or corrupted by flattery, he affected even the ensigns of royalty, the style and diadem of a king, which proved his ruin. He entertained the thought of dominion from his very youth; and this was easily suggested to him by the example of Sylla, the affinity of Marius, the emulation of Pompey, and the corruption and troubles of the times. But he paved his way to it in a wonderful manner: first, by a popular and seditious, and afterwards by a military and imperial force. For at the entrance he was to break through the power and authority of the senate; which remaining entire, there was no passage to an immoderate and extraordinary sovereignty. Next, the power of Crassus and Pompey was to be subdued, which could not be but by arms. And, therefore, like a skilful architect of his own fortune, he began and carried on his first structure by largesses; by corrupting the courts of justice; by renewing the memory of Caius Marius and his party, whilst most
of the senators and nobility were of Sylla's faction; by the agrarian laws; by seditious tribunes, whom he instigated; by the fury of Catiline, and his conspirators, whom he secretly favoured; by the banishment of Cicero, upon whom the authority of the senate turned; and other the like artifices: but what finished the affair, was the alliance of Crassus and Pompey, joined with himself.
'Having thus secured all matters on this side, he directly turned to the other; he was now made proconsul of Gaul for five years, and afterwards continued for five more; he was furnished with arms, legions, and commanded a warlike province, adjacent to Italy. For he knew that, after he had strengthened himself with arms and a military power, neither Crassus nor Pompey could make head against him; the one trusting to his riches, the other to his fame and reputation; the one decaying in age, the other in authority; and neither of them resting upon true and solid foundations. And all this succeeded to his wish; especially as he had bound and obliged all the senators, magistrates, and those who had any power, so firmly to himself, by private benefits, that he feared no conspiracy or combination against his designs; till he had openly invaded the state. And though this was ever his scheme, and at last put in execution, yet he did not unmask; but what by the reasonableness of his demands, his pretences of peace, and moderating his successes, he turned the whole load of envy upon the opposite party; and appeared to take arms of necessity, for his own preservation and safety. The emptiness of this pretence manifestly appeared, when the civil wars were ended; all his rivals, that might give him any disturbance, slain; and he possessed of the regal power; for now he never once thought of restoring the republic, nor so much as pretended it. Which plainly showed, as the event confirmed, that his designs were all along upon the sovereignty; and, accordingly he never seized occasions as they happened, but raised and worked them out himself.
‘His principal talent lay in military matters; wherein he so excelled, that he could not only lead, but mould an army to his mind. For he was as skilful in governing men's passions, as in conducting affairs;
and this he did not by any ordinary discipline, that taught his soldiers obedience, stung them with shame, or awed them by severity; but in such a manner, as raised a surprising ardour and alacrity in them, and made them confident of victory and success; thus endearing the soldiery to him, more than was convenient for a free state. And as he was well versed in war of all kinds, and as he joined civil and military arts together, nothing could come so suddenly upon him, but he had an expedient ready for it; nothing so adverse, but he drew some advantage from it. He had a due regard to his per. son; for in great battles he would sit in his pavilion, and manage all by adjutants. Whence he received a double advantage; as thus coming the seldomer in danger; and in case of an unfortunate turn, could animate and renew the fight, by his own presence, as by a fresh supply. In all his military preparations he did not square himself to precedents only, but ever with exquisite judgment, took
new measures, according to the present exigence. He was constant, singularly beneficent, and indulgent in his friendships; but made such choice of friends, as easily showed that he sought for those who might forward and not obstruct his designs. And as he was both by nature and habit led, not to be eminent among great men, but to command among inferiors, he made friends of mean and industrious persons, to whom he alone gave law. As for the nobility, and his equals, he contracted friendship with them just as they might serve his turn; and admitted none to his intimacies, but such whose whole expectations centred upon him.
He was tolerably learned; but chiefly in what related to civil policy; For he was well versed in history; and perfectly understood both the edge and weight of words: and because he attributed much to his good stars, he affected to be thought skilful in astronomy. His eloquence was natural to him, and pure. He was given to pleasures, and profuse in them, which served at his first setting out as a cloak to his ambition; for no danger was apprehended from one of this cast. Yet he so governed his pleasures, that they were no prejudice to himself, nor business; but rather whetted than blunted the vigour of his mind. He was temperate in diet, not delicate in his amours, and pleasant and magnificent at public shows. This being his character, the same thing at last was the means of his fall which at first was a step to his rise, viz., his affectation of popularity: for nothing is more popular than to forgive our enemies. Through which virtue, or cunning, he lost his life.
[Julius Cæsar, being of a restless, discomposed spirit, as those generally prove who are troubled with the falling-sicknesses, yet cleared the way to his own ends with the utmost address and prudence. His error was the not rightly fixing his ends; but with an insatiable and unnatural appetite still pursuing further views.']
THE DATE OF THE COMPOSITION OF 'JULIUS CÆSAR.' 'The death of Julius Cæsar," says William Watkiss Lloyd, is the most central incident in the political history of the world: it is placed in time, at the conclusion of one great series of events and at the commencement of another, most strikingly contrasted, and dividing between them the general course of events, which—as the body of ancient history stands in the closest relation to modern-is its proper offspring and inheritor. The life, fortunes, character, and fate of him who stood 'the foremost man of all the world'-at this the confuence of old and new, when the most important worldchange was just on the eve of being brought about by the institution of a religion of faith for one of forms—are matters of capital interest in history and for thought. And, notwithstanding the grievous losses of documents and records of