« PreviousContinue »
genuine son of ancient Rome, the lover of the liberty of his country, that we are interested. A concern for him mixed with compassion for any other person, would only, from these discordant Sentiments, have excited some painful Emotions, in the Spectator. Indeed, the common aim of tragedy writers seems to be merely to make us uneasy, for some reason or other, during the drama. They take any thing to be tragedy, in which there are great persons, and much lamentation ; but our Poet never represents an action of one fort, and raises emotions and passions of another fort. He excites the sympathies, and the concern, proper to the story. The passion of love, or maternal affection, may afford good subjects fora tragedy. In the fables of Phædra and Merope, those sentiments belong to the action ; but they had no share in the resolution taken to kill Cæsar; and, if they are made to interfere, they adulterate the imitation ; if to predominate, they spoil it. Our author disdains the legerdemain trick of substituting one passion for another. He is the great magi
cian who can call forth passions of any fort. . If they are such as time has destroyed, or custom extinguished, he summons from the dead those fouls in which they once existed. Having sufficiently enlarged on the general scope of our Author in this play, we will now consider it in the detail.
The first scene is in the streets of Rome. The Tribunes chide the people for gathering together to do honour to Cæsar's triumph. As certain decorums were unknown to the writers of Shakespear's days, he suffers some poor mechanics to be too loquacious. As it was his business to depress the character of Cæsar, and render his victory over his illustrious rival as odious as possible, he judiciously makes one of the Tribunes thus address himself to the people:
O you hard hearts ! you cruel Men of Rome!
The next speech expresses the general apprehension of Cæsar's assuming too great a degree of power. ,
Let no images
The second scene is the course at the Lupercal games, in which Antony appears the humble courtier of Cæsar. A Soothsayer bids him beware the Ides of March.
In the third scene there is a dialogue between Brutus and Caffius, 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 Caffius 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. Caffius 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