« ZurückWeiter »
In the third scene there is a dialogue between Brutus and Cassius, in which the latter tenderly reproaches Brutus, that his countenance is not so open and cordial to him as formerly; to this the other replies, he has some inward discontent,
And that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
This intimation of discontent encourages Cassius to try to incense Brutus against the growing power of Cæsar. On the shouts of the mob, Brutus expresses his fear that they are making Cæsar king; this encourages Cassius to proceed in his design. He makes two speeches, in which he appears envious and malignant to Cæsar, of whom he speaks as men do, who, unwilling to confess the qualities that give superiority to a rival, dwell with malice on those petty circumstances, by which he is not distinguished from ordinary men.
The French critic is much offended at this scene, and says, it is not in the style of great men.
The language of envy is always low. The speeches of Cassius express well his envious and peevish
temper, and make him a foil to set off to advantage the more noble mind of Brutus. Cassius endeavours to stimulate Brutus to oppose the encroachments of Cæsar on the liberty of Rome, by setting before him its first deliverer, the great Junius Brutus; a name revered by every Roman, but undoubtedly adored by his descendants.
This is truly imitation, when the poet gives us the just copies of all circumstances that accompanied the action he represents. Corneille's dramas are fantastic compositions, void of historical truth, imitation of character, or representation of manners. Some few lines from Seneca, ingrafted into the Cinna, have given it reputation. For, however custom may have taught a very ingenious and polite people to endure the insipid scenes of l'amoreur et l'amoureuse, the fault has been in the poets, not the spectators : all their critics have strongly condemned this mode of writing; and the public, by its approbation of this piece on account of the scenes between Augustus and Cinna, shews plainly how much dialogues
of a noble and manly kind would please. Unhappily, Seneca's Augustus makes the Cinna of Corneille appear too mean and little. These borrowed ornaments never will assort perfectly well with the piece; they break in upon the harmony of sentiment, and the proportion of characters, and fall greatly short of the easy propriety, and becoming grace, of a perfect set of imitations designed for and fitted to the work, as in this tragedy of Julius Cæsar, where all the characters appear in due degrees of subordination to the hero of the piece. Our Poet, to interest us the more for Brutus, takes every occasion to make Cassius a foil for him. In the next scene he is represented by Cæsar in an unamiable light; the opportunity of so fit an occasion is taken, to make some fine reflections on the malignant and envious nature of men, not softened by the joys of mirth, and the endearing intercourse of social pleasures.
CESAR. (TO ANTONY, apart.)
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look ;
Fear him not, Cæsar, he's not dangerous ;
Would he were fatter. But I fear him not:
Casca's blunt recital of the offer of a crown to Cæsar, in the next scene, is much censured by the critic, accustomed to the decorums of the French theatre.
It is not improbable the poet
poet might have in his eye some person of eminence in his days, who
was distinguished by such manners. Many allusions and imitations which please at the time, are lost to posterity, unless they point at transactions and persons of the first consequence. Whether we approve such a character on the stage or not, we must allow his narration represents the designs of Cæsar's party, and the aversion of the Roman people to that royalty, which he affected ; and it was right to avoid engaging the parties in more deep discourse, as Shakspeare intended, by a sort of historical process, to shew how Brutus was led on to that act, to which his nature was averse.
The first scene of the second act presents Brutus debating with himself, upon the point on which Cassius had been urging him. Cassius in his soliloquy, scene third, act first, seems to intimate, that resentment had a share in his desire to take off Cæsar. Brutus, on the contrary, informs us, that no personal motives sway him, but such as are derived from an hereditary aversion to tyranny, and the pledge, which the virtue of his ancestors had given the commonwealth, that a Bru