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Title: A Probable Italian Source of Shakespeare's "Julius Cæsar"
Author: Boecker, Alexander
Language: English
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                               IL CESARE
                           D’ORLANDO PESCETTI
                         AL SERENISS. PRINCIPE
                        DONNO ALFONSO II. D’ESTE
                         DVCA DI FERRARA, &C._


  Nella Stamparia di Girolamo Discepolo.

                       A PROBABLE ITALIAN SOURCE
                      SHAKESPEARE’S “JULIUS CÆSAR”


                         ALEXANDER BOECKER, PH.D.


                                 NEW YORK

                                PRESS OF
                      THE NEW ERA PRINTING COMPANY
                             LANCASTER, PA.



This monograph was submitted to the Faculty of New York University in
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy, and was accepted by them in May, 1912. Its composition was
prompted chiefly by a desire to call attention to the long forgotten
work of Orlando Pescetti, because it is at least an open question
whether Shakespeare derived from the “Cesare” of the Italian dramatist
many hints which he later used in his own “Julius Caesar.” Pescetti’s
drama seems to have been entirely overlooked as a possible source,
although the many striking similarities to Shakespeare’s tragedy render
it well worth investigating. I believe that the present work is the
first attempt to demonstrate the possible relation between the two

“Cesare” seems to be the only play on the subject which has not been
exhaustively examined. The only notices in English with which I am
acquainted appeared in letters published in the _Nation_, June 2 and 9,
1910, while this work was in process of preparation. The first, by Miss
Lisi Cipriano, called attention to some marked similarities in
expression and treatment between the two dramas. In reply, two letters
appeared the following week: one from Professor Harry Morgan Ayres of
Columbia University, the other from Professor Henry N. McCracken of
Yale. Neither seemed to regard the parallels cited by Miss Cipriano as
indicative of direct borrowing on the part of Shakespeare. Professor
Ayres had previously in the June, 1910, number of the “American Modern
Language Association Publications” been the first to make any mention of
Pescetti in relation to Shakespeare. In his article, “Shakespeare’s
Julius Caesar in the Light of Some other Versions,” he called attention
to some parallels, without, however, attaching to them any particular

The above writers seem, however, to have missed the really vital points
of contact between the two dramas. These, I trust, will become
sufficiently evident in the following pages.

Pescetti has been no more fortunate in his Continental critics. The mere
mention of his name from Tiraboschi on is all one finds till Emilio
Bertana, in his “La tragedia” (1904), gives a brief analysis and
critique of the play. Ferdinando Neri, in his “La tragedia italiana nel
Cinquecento” (1904) has a brief mention, but none of his countrymen have
ever discussed Pescetti’s drama as a possible Shakespearean source. It
seems unknown to French and German critics.

Owing to the absence in America of material bearing upon Pescetti, I was
compelled to base my study upon a very carefully executed transcript of
the 1594 edition of “Cesare” now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of
Florence. Through the courtesy of Professor Ayres, I have been enabled
carefully to check all quotations by reference to his own copy of the
1594 edition. The references to “Julius Caesar” are to the Globe
Edition. The copy of Lydgate referred to is in the Library of Columbia
University, while the quotations from Ovid are taken from Golding’s 1575
translation in the Yale University Library. To the latter I am also
indebted for the extracts from the 1578 translation of Appian. The
references to Plutarch are to Professor Skeats’ edition.

To Mr. Emilio Bruschi of Florence I am indebted for his careful
transcriptions of documents, and to Professor Salomone Morpurgo, the
head librarian of the Biblioteca Nazionale, for his courtesy in putting
the available material contained therein at my disposal. To Professor
Harry Morgan Ayres I wish to express my thanks for permitting me to use
his copy of “Cesare.” To Professor Theodore F. Jones and Mr. Arthur H.
Nason of New York University I owe many valuable suggestions regarding
the arrangement of subject matter. My many obligations to Professor M.
W. MacCallum’s “Shakespeare’s Roman Plays and their Background,” and to
Professor F. H. Sykes’ edition of “Julius Caesar” are in evidence

I am above all indebted to my colleague, Dr. Edoardo San Giovanni, for
his kind help and encouragement, without which this work would probably
never have been consummated.

                                                      ALEXANDER BOECKER.

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                CHAPTER I

 INTRODUCTION                                                          1

   Purpose of Thesis—The Prologue of “Cesare”—Synopsis of its
   Plot—Its Senecan Characteristics—The Dramatis Personae—Persons
   Common to both “Cesare” and “Julius Caesar”—The Relation of
   “Cesare” to its Predecessors—Contemporary Notice by Beni—The
   Material derived from Classical Sources used by both Shakespeare
   and Pescetti—Appian, Pescetti’s Main Source—Pescetti the Source
   of the Historical Matter in “Julius Caesar” not traceable to

                               CHAPTER II

 THE INFLUENCE OF APPIAN                                              12

   Passages in Shakespeare traceable to Appian—The Parallel Passages
   in Pescetti—The Speech of Brutus and the Oration of Antony with
   the Parallels in the Fifth Act of Pescetti—The Exclamations of
   the Mob in both Dramas—The Behavior of the Conspirators
   immediately after the Murder.

                               CHAPTER III

 THE HANDLING OF THE SUPERNATURAL ELEMENT                             25

   The Parallelism in General Treatment—The Use of Ghosts—The
   Portents and Prodigies—Parallels.

                               CHAPTER IV

 THE BRUTUS-CASSIUS SCENES                                            41

   The Brutus-Cassius Scenes—The Debate Concerning Antony—Details
   peculiar to both Pescetti and Shakespeare—Comparison with Muretus
   and Grévin—Similarity in the Sequence of Scenes following the
   Debate—The Lena-Caesar Episode—The Parallel Use of Suspense.

                                CHAPTER V

 THE CHARACTER OF CAESAR                                              57

   Peculiarities of Shakespeare’s Delineation—The Influence of
   Medieval Conception of the Character—Pescetti’s Treatment—His
   Appreciation of Caesar’s Nobler Qualities—Their Submergence in
   the Action and his Emphasis of Caesar’s Weaknesses—Caesar’s
   Susceptibility to Flattery, his Pride, his Boastfulness, his
   Vacillation—Reasons for Pescetti’s Delineation—The Parallels in
   Shakespeare’s Treatment—Caesar’s Relative Inferiority in the
   Action—His Spiritual Domination of the Tragedy.

                               CHAPTER VI

 THE CHARACTER OF BRUTUS                                              76

   The Moral Elevation of the Hero, and the Reason therefor—Parallel
   in Content in a Brutus-Cassius Scene—Brutus as a
   Leader—Pescetti’s Conception of the Character—Brutus’ Lack of
   Foresight—His Sense of the Justice of his Cause—Lack of Definite
   Causes of Resentment against Caesar—Parallelism to Shakespeare.

                               CHAPTER VII

 THE OTHER CHARACTERS                                                 96

   Antony—Pescetti’s Conception—Parallels in Shakespeare—The
   Brutus-Portia Scenes—Their Historical and Critical
   Importance—Pescetti’s Delineation of Portia—Her Place in the
   Action—Details Common only to Pescetti and
   Shakespeare—Calpurnia—Striking Parallel between one of her
   Speeches and one by Cassius in Shakespeare—The Remaining

                              CHAPTER VIII

 “CESARE” IN ENGLAND                                                 110

   Pescetti’s Work known in England—Probable use by Sir William
   Alexander in the Composition of “The Tragedy of Julius
   Caesar”—The Evidence—Parallels between “Cesare” and Alexander’s
   Work—Shakespeare’s Knowledge of the Work—The Two Part Nature of
   “Julius Caesar”—Jonson’s assumed Collaboration—Shakespeare and

                               CHAPTER IX

 CONCLUSION                                                          121

   Pescetti’s Drama an Improvement on its Senecan Predecessors—Its
   Particular Value to the Literary Historian—Summary of the

 BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                        126


I intend in this monograph to demonstrate the probability of
Shakespeare’s indebtedness in the composition of the first three acts of
his “Julius Caesar,” to the “Cesare” of Orlando Pescetti, an Italian
tragedy on the same theme, first published at Verona in 1594.[1]

This connection has never yet been demonstrated. The work seems almost
totally unknown to the English literary world.[2] Shakespearean
criticism, eager to investigate the smallest matters in regard to the
great poet, is silent on Pescetti. I know of no French or German[3]
references. In Italy, Pescetti has received scant notice; few writers
have so much as mentioned “Cesare,” while not one has made any
suggestion as to a possible connection between this play and “Julius

The inscription upon the title page of the 1594 edition is as follows:

                               Il Cesare
                           d’Orlando Pescetti
                         al Sereniss. Principe
                        Donno Alfonso II. d’Este
                         Duca di Ferrara, etc.
                               In Verona
                 Nella stamparia di Girolamo Discepolo

Pescetti’s work is in quarto, and consists of six pages of dedicatory
matter, and one hundred and fifty pages of verse, for the most part
hendecasyllabic varied with septenarians. In the tragedy proper there
are nearly four thousand lines.

The author in his dedication establishes, to his own satisfaction at
least, the descent of the family of Este from the mighty Julius, and
ventures the belief that Brutus and Cassius, though they could not abide
Caesar’s rule, would rejoice in Alfonso’s. At the end of several pages
of this sort of flattery we read: “Di Verona il dì 19 di Febraio 1594.
Di V.A.S. Divotiss. et umiliss. Servitore Orlando Pescetti.”


Footnote 1:

  A second edition followed in 1604 from the same press (Girolamo
  Discepolo) in 4º.

  This is exceedingly rare; the only copy which I have traced is in the
  Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. I use the 1594 text, following the copy
  in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale at Florence.

Footnote 2:

  The only reference in English with which I am acquainted is by Harry
  Morgan Ayres in the June, 1910, number of the Proceedings of the Am.
  Modern Language Association. In his article, “Shakespeare’s Julius
  Caesar in the Light of some other Versions” he makes a brief mention
  of this play. But see Preface.

Footnote 3:

  A careful search of the forty volumes of Jahrbücher, published by the
  “Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft”, failed to reveal any mention of
  Pescetti. A search of the registers of the very complete collection of
  German literary periodicals contained in the library of New York
  University was equally unproductive.

Footnote 4:

  For a brief sketch of Pescetti see G. B. Gerini, Gli scrittori
  pedagogici italiani nel secolo decimo settimo. 1900. In addition to
  the above the following are the only works known to me which mention
  Pescetti’s “Cesare”:

  Fonte, Michelangelo, [Paolo Beni], Il Cavalcanti, 1614.

  Quadrio, Fr. Saverio, Della storia e della ragione d’ogni poesia,

  Fontanini, Giusto, Biblioteca dell’eloquenza italiana con le
  annotazioni del Sig. Apostolo Zeno, 1753.

  Allaci, Leone, Drammaturgia, 1755.

  Tiraboschi, Girolamo, Storia della letteratura italiana, 1822.

  Ginguené, P. L., Histoire Littéraire d’Italie, 1824.

  De Sanctis, Natale, G. Cesare e M. Bruto nei poeti tragici, 1895.

  Salvioli, Bibliografia universale del teatro drammatico italiano,

  Bertana, Emilio, La tragedia, 1904.

  Neri, Ferdinando, La tragedia italiana nel Cinquecento, 1904.

  Flamini, Francesco, A History of Italian Literature. Translated by
  Evangeline O’Connor, 1907.

  Of the above only Bertana has more than a brief mention. He alone
  attempts an analysis of the play.


                          THE PLOT OF “CESARE”

The following is a list of the persons in the drama, called by Pescetti,

            Marte  }
            Venere } Fanno il Prologo
            Giove  }
            Porzia moglie di Bruto
            Calpurnia moglie di Cesare
            Cameriera di Calpurnia
            Marc’Antonio Consolo
            Decimo Bruto
            Messo primo
            Messo secondo
            Coro di Matrone Romane
            Coro di Donne di Corte
            Coro di Cittadini
            Coro di Soldati

The tragedy proper is preceded by a prologue in which Mars, Venus, and
Jove are the actors. Pescetti, probably following Ovid’s account in Book
XV. of the “Metamorphoses,” represents Venus as bewailing the destined
death of Caesar, the last of her earthly descendants. Mars extends his
consolation and proffers his aid. She informs him that Jove is
responsible, and indulges in a denunciation of the Thunderer that must
have made his celestial ears tingle. All further discussion of the
matter is terminated by the appearance of the Father of the gods, who
reproves Venus for her blasphemous utterances, assures her that his ways
are inscrutable, and consoles her by promising Caesar immortality among
the gods, and the infliction of dire punishment upon his assassins.
Venus bows to his will, and impatient Mars hurries at Jove’s command to
sow the seeds of civil strife throughout the Roman world.

This Prologue is a literary curiosity. Its style is at times more
reminiscent of the madrigal than of tragedy, while the very earthly
flavor which clings to the celestial personages is decidedly humorous to
the modern reader. Pescetti undoubtedly was in grim earnest when he
wrote the Prologue, but many of the sentences he puts in the mouths of
his immortals must have made Melpomene smile. The admonition of Venus to
Mars on omniscient Jove’s approach, “Ma e’ vien ver noi, tacciam,
ch’egli non ci oda,” despite its Renaissance setting, is delightful for
its sheer absurdity.

The tragedy follows immediately after this prologue. In view of the
extreme length of Pescetti’s work and the lack of interest for our
purpose in many of the speeches, I have thought it advisable not to
inflict upon the reader an extended synopsis of the plot, but to confine
my efforts to the following outline of the story.

                                 ACT I

The scene is not stated, but is evidently, throughout the play, an open
space before a temple in the vicinity of Caesar’s house. The time is
just before dawn. Brutus is discovered apostrophizing the shade of
Pompey. He vows to deliver Rome from the tyrant. Cassius overhears him,
and commends this resolution. Brutus relates how the ghost of Pompey had
appeared to him during the past night and commanded him to restore the
ancient liberties. Together, they enter the temple to pray for the
success of their enterprise. The Priest now appears, deplores the
prevalent irreligion, urges the observance of the ancient rites, and
then goes to prepare the sacrifice commanded by the Dictator. Brutus and
Cassius reappear and discuss their plans. Cassius strongly favors the
killing of Antony along with Caesar. This Brutus will not tolerate, in
spite of the many forceful arguments of his fellow conspirator. He
abruptly terminates the discussion by detailing the manner of Caesar’s
murder. As he concludes, Portia enters in search of Brutus. She deplores
that her sex prevents her taking an active part in the conspiracy. She
begs to be favored with their confidence. Cassius hesitates, but finally
divulges their plans, and beseeches her to aid the enterprise with her
prayers. This, rather reluctantly, she promises. Brutus, who has taken
no part in this conversation, now bursts into an ecstatic speech
wherein, in imagination, he already hears the rejoicing which the news
of the tyrant’s death will cause among Rome’s noblest families. He
advises Portia to return home while he and Cassius go to join the other
conspirators. Portia invokes the blessing of Heaven on them, and the act
concludes as the Chorus of Matrons implores the intercession of Romulus
to restore to the city its former peace and happiness.

                                 ACT II

Calpurnia and her nurse indulge in the inevitable lengthy and tiresome
discussion concerning the former’s terrible dream. The ghost of Caesar,
horrible with wounds, had appeared to her that night. Almost half the
act is devoted to Calpurnia’s expression of grief and to her nurse’s
fruitless efforts at consolation. The Chorus declaims the fickleness of
mankind, whereupon Brutus and Portia reappear. The former, believing
that his wife has wounded herself in some domestic labor, reproves her
for turning her hands to such work. She tells him that she has wounded
herself to prove that she could commit suicide were her death necessary.
She fears that her husband may perish in his attempt against Caesar and
has resolved to restrain him. This dialogue, filled with mutual
protestations of love and constancy, is terminated by the appearance of
Calpurnia, whose perturbed countenance prompts them to overhear her.
Calpurnia, in a long and tiresome speech, condemns the desire of men for
dominion over others as the cause of all their sufferings. The nurse
interjects the usual advice and consolation. Calpurnia voices her
determination to persuade Caesar to abandon his contemplated visit to
the Senate. Brutus petitions Jove to steel the tyrant’s heart to the
appeals of his wife. Portia retires to pray for her husband’s success,
while he goes to rejoin Cassius and the others in the plot. The Chorus
sings the mutability of human happiness, and the act ends.

                                ACT III

Caesar and Antony indulge in a lengthy dialogue which is started by the
observations of the former regarding the banquet at the house of Lepidus
the preceding evening. Caesar, ably seconded by Antony, enlarges upon
his glories. His companion warns him against treachery, and advises a
bodyguard. Caesar scorns those who would harm him, but resolves after
this day to be surrounded by some of his trusty veterans. He orders
Antony to prepare for the Parthian campaign. Here follows a soliloquy by
Antony, in which, in contrast to Calpurnia, he exalts the pleasures of
rulership. He intends so to contrive that in the event of Caesar’s death
he can seize the reins of government. Hereupon the Priest in the longest
speech in the play recites the many and various portents which have
lately occurred. As he concludes, Caesar and Calpurnia join him, and
another long scene ensues in which Caesar stands firm against all the
arguments brought forward to dissuade him. He is resolved to go to the
Senate, and the scene is brought to an end by a final warning from the
Priest. The Chorus sings the direful results following the disregard of

                                 ACT IV

Brutus and Cassius discuss the probability of a detection of their plot.
It seems that Lenate, evidently not of their number, had approached
Brutus and whispered his good wishes for the success of their
enterprise. Brutus and Cassius engage in a dialogue concerning liberty,
but are interrupted by the appearance of Decimus Brutus, who laments the
perversity of fortune. It seems that Caesar has yielded to Calpurnia’s
entreaties and will stay at home. Worse still, on the morrow he will
appear with his bodyguard. Marcus Brutus feels that Jove will yet favor
their designs. Caesar enters and condemns those as fools who are guided
by the advice of women. Nevertheless, as he fears treachery, he has
resolved to heed the entreaties of his wife. He indulges in a panegyric
of himself. The conspirators now approach, and Marcus Brutus addresses
him, inquiring his reasons for not attending the important session of
the Senate. Caesar is in doubt as to the manner of his reply. The
prayers of his wife, he asserts, have influenced him. Besides, he has
reason to fear treachery. Decimus Brutus, by artfully playing on his
vanity, succeeds in overcoming his doubts. Caesar resolves to attend the
Senate. Marcus Brutus can hardly find words fit to sing the praises of
Jove, who has inspired this determination in the tyrant’s heart. The
conspirators indulge in pious prayers and felicitations. Caesar,
Calpurnia and Decimus Brutus are the persons in the next scene. Caesar
tells Calpurnia that her entreaties are vain; now, as formerly, the gods
will protect him. She bows to his will. Decimus, in another useless
speech, continues his laudation of Caesar and the belittlement of his
fears. Caesar at length starts for the Senate. He is detained by Lenate
who addresses him, to the great consternation of the conspirators, who
fear the revelation of their plot. Lenate begs a favor of Caesar, which
the latter is disposed to grant. The increasing panic of the
conspirators is stayed by Brutus, who has watched Lenate and feels
confident that he is not talking of the plot. At the conclusion of
Lenate’s address Caesar departs for the Senate, and Lenate joins the
conspirators and assures them of his silence. In the concluding scene
Calpurnia breaks into lamentations while the Chorus of Ladies of the
Court comments upon her distress and beseeches Juno to turn aside her
wrath and spare Caesar.

                                 ACT V

Brutus addresses the citizens and announces the death of the tyrant. He
calls on all to rejoice in their reestablished freedom, while the
conspirators shout the glad tidings. This is his last appearance. The
rest of the act is devoted to the lamentations of Calpurnia, the report
of the catastrophe by the First and the Second Messenger, and the
comments of the various Choruses.

Pescetti’s tragedy, as will readily be seen from this statement of its
plot, is thoroughly Senecan in its construction and perpetuates some of
the worst faults of its type. The dramatic unities are strictly
observed; there are the same lengthy speeches, the same moralizing, the
same absence of action evolved before the spectator, the same lack of
life characteristic of this dramatic form. The actors soliloquize,
converse, declaim, listen; they do everything but act. Their exits and
their entrances constitute the total of visible action. Deeds are
carefully excluded, or relegated beyond the stage; the declamatory
powers of messengers, the comments of the Chorus, and the speeches and
conduct of the actors are relied upon to vitalize them in the
imagination of the audience.

Of characterization, in the Shakespearean sense, there is very little.
It would be easy to dismiss the whole matter. A careful search is
necessary to locate those passages wherein Pescetti displays any decided
flashes of dramatic power in his characterizations. Yet there are times
when he attempts, and in a measure successfully, to provide adequate
motivation for the speeches of his characters; but unfortunately, these
are rather few and far between. He almost invariably locates these
places in such a rank rhetorical jungle that it requires considerable
care to discover them. Yet he reveals at times a true dramatic instinct
in his choice of material and in the handling of certain situations.[5]

But the force of convention was too strong for him successfully to
resist its insidious influences. Following in the footsteps of his
contemporaries, he spins his drama out to some four thousand lines,
ninety-nine percent of which are versified prose and the remainder
dubiously poetic. Nevertheless, compared with the crudities of Giraldi
(Cinthio), or the revolting horrors of Sperone and Cresci, Pescetti’s
work marks an advance in Italian drama.

The dramatis personae common both to Shakespeare and Pescetti are Julius
Caesar, Mark Antony, Marcus Brutus, Cassius, Decius Brutus, Popilius
Lena, Calpurnia and Portia. Pescetti calls Decius, Decimo, and Popilius
Lena, Lenate. In addition, the Italian mentions incidentally Casca,
Cimber, Trebonius and Cicero. Of the others occurring in Shakespeare,
there is no trace. Pescetti, however, introduces two new characters: the
Servant or Nurse to Calpurnia and the Priest. The former is one of the
traditional figures of the Senecan drama, while the latter performs at
various times the functions of monitor, mediator and chorus. From
non-Plutarchian sources the Italian obtained the names Spurinna and
Bucolianus, which occur in the First Messenger’s recital of the
assassination. The first he doubtless owes to Suetonius, while the
second he obtained from Appian’s account of Caesar’s murder. In
obedience to the formal demand of his drama, Pescetti has the first and
second Messenger, the Choruses of Roman Matrons (probably suggested by
Lucan),[6] of the Ladies of the Court, of Citizens, and of Soldiers. The
two latter are merged in the mob of Shakespeare.

As a natural result of the limitations imposed by his model, Pescetti
has to confine his action to the events of the day of Caesar’s
assassination, and can only inferentially introduce material of which
Shakespeare could avail himself to the full. The place is always the
same, and, though unmentioned by the dramatist, is presumably an open
space before a temple in the immediate vicinity of Caesar’s house. In
consequence of these restrictions such hints as Pescetti may have
furnished Shakespeare, are, almost exclusively, to be found embodied in
the composition of the first three acts of “Julius Caesar.”

Shakespeare’s main source was Plutarch; Pescetti’s was Appian, though he
did not hesitate to draw liberally from Plutarch, Suetonius, Lucan,
Ovid, and Vergil when the occasion required. In this I disagree with the
only two commentators who have given this drama more than passing
attention.[7] With the exception of the Brutus-Portia scene, the
portents, and his idealization of Brutus’ character, in every one of the
main incidents of the first four acts, and in the entire fifth act, the
Italian follows Appian faithfully. But, like Shakespeare, he does not
hesitate to amplify[8] his material nor to invent such incidents as the
exigencies of the situation seem to demand.

That Shakespeare went further than Plutarch for his sources has been the
subject of much discussion. He introduces historical touches not found
in the biographer. I purpose to show in the course of this work that
almost every one of these he could readily have obtained through
Pescetti. This Renaissance rhetorician was thoroughly at home in the
classics, and his work throughout bears unmistakable evidence of their

It is certain that he was well acquainted with the Latin tragedy
“Caesar,” written in 1544 by the French humanist Marc Antoine Muret
(Muretus). Pescetti’s enemies were quick to recognize the resemblance
between the two plays and openly accused him of plagiarism. While the
Italian undoubtedly received many hints from the work of his
predecessor, there is no ground for the vicious attack made upon him by
Beni.[9] Moreover, his borrowings, such as they are, in no way affect
our investigation. Undoubtedly he was also acquainted with the “César”
of Jacques Grévin (1561). But, whatever the hints as to treatment
Pescetti may have received from Muretus,[10] it is to his minute
knowledge of the classic authors that he owes the substance of his
drama. He makes a far greater use than do his predecessors of the
material later employed by Shakespeare. Very noteworthy is the fact that
here we find for the _first time_ in any play on the subject, the
Brutus-Portia scene; the suspense occasioned by the suspected discovery
of the plot; the panic among the conspirators when Popilius Lena
addresses Caesar; the great prominence of the portents.

The material derived from classical sources and used both by Shakespeare
and Pescetti includes the conference between Brutus and Cassius; the
respect in which the former was held; his relations to his wife, and her
demand to share his confidence; the enthusiasm of the conspirators;
their sparing of Antony at Brutus’ request; the prodigies and portents
that preceded Caesar’s death; Calpurnia’s dream and her efforts to stay
her husband at home and the counter efforts of Decimus Brutus; the
warning letter given to Caesar (only mentioned in “Cesare” by the
Messenger); all the details of the assassination scene, and Brutus’
speech to the people. Both also make use of personal characteristics
mentioned either in Plutarch or in Appian. Thus Antony’s friendship for
Caesar, his fondness for revelry, his hold on the soldiers; Brutus’
intense patriotism, his hatred for tyranny, his magnanimity, his
disinterestedness, his love of study; the caution of Cassius, his hatred
of tyrants; Caesar’s lately acquired superstition and arrogance. These
are all derived from the above sources. Pescetti refers to Pompey
several times, but he says nothing about the actions of the tribunes,
nor about their punishment. Nor is there any mention of the prophecy of
danger on the Ides of March; of the offer of the Crown on the Lupercal
or on any other occasion; of the anonymous letters sent to Brutus; of
the conspirators’ contempt for an oath; of their rejection of Cicero as
confederate; of Ligarius; of Artimidorus or his attempted intervention;
of Antony’s speech.

On the other hand Pescetti introduces material either simply hinted at
or altogether omitted in Shakespeare and the histories. Such is the
account of the conversation between Antony and Caesar, and Caesar’s
opinion of death; the pleas used by Decimus Brutus; the various
conversations between Portia and Cassius; between the Priest and
Calpurnia, and between Caesar and the Priest; the lamentations of
Calpurnia. He gives much prominence to the Priest and to Calpurnia’s
servant. He founded his choruses on material partly suggested by Lucan,
and perhaps by Muretus, Grévin and Garnier.

While Pescetti drew liberally from Plutarch, yet his indebtedness to
Appian is particularly significant for our purpose. There are passages
in “Julius Caesar” wherein Shakespeare introduces historical touches
which apparently can only be explained upon the supposition that he knew
and used the English translation of Appian published in 1578. Owing to
the peculiar parallelism often evident in the accounts both of Plutarch
and of Appian, and to the absence in “Julius Caesar” of those minutiae
necessary to a positive confirmation, the question of Shakespeare’s
indebtedness to the Greek historian has remained largely conjectural.
Pescetti undoubtedly used Appian, and in his use of the materials, and
in the similarity to Shakespeare’s subsequent treatment, the supposition
that Appian was the ultimate source of the disputed passages seems to
receive its strongest confirmation.


Footnote 5:

  In parts of the Brutus-Cassius dialogue in the first act; in his
  attempted contrast of Calpurnia and Portia; in his inclusion of the
  portents; and above all, in the scene wherein Lenate addresses Caesar,
  and the ensuing panic among the conspirators.

Footnote 6:

  Pharsalia, Bk. II., where the Chorus of Matrons bewails Caesar’s

Footnote 7:

  Emilio Bertana in “La tragedia,” 1904, and Francesco Neri in “La
  tragedia italiana nel Cinquecento,” 1904.

Footnote 8:

  _Inflate_ is perhaps more accurate in Pescetti’s case.

Footnote 9:

  He says, “E di qui è che preso animo e fatto cuore, poco dipoi
  compose, o più tosto tradusse in volgare, una Tragedia del Mureto
  detta il Cesare. . . . È vero che per alquanto ampliarla e ricoprir’
  insieme il furto, vi andò inserendo, e qua e là traponendo, varie
  leggierezze e vanità di sua testa. In modo tale che almen per queste
  meriterebbe d’esserne stimato Autore.” From “Il Cavalcanti,” by
  Michelangelo Fonte (Paolo Beni). In Padova per Francesco Bolzetta,
  1614. Page 107 ff. The animus back of such a charge may be inferred
  from the fact that Muretus has but little over eight hundred lines,
  and that Pescetti introduces much effective material not found in the
  former’s tragedy. Fr. Saverio Quadrio in “Della storia e della ragione
  d’ogni poesia,” Milano, 1739, Vol. IV, p. 72, says of “Cesare:” “Fiorì
  questo poeta celebre per altre opere circa il 1590; _e questa fu la
  prima tragedia_ di tale argomento che in lingua volgare si componesse:
  nè ha che fare con quella del Mureto, come ha malamente scritto il
  Fontanini, togliendolo da Paolo Beni.” In Fontanini, Giusto,
  “Biblioteca dell’eloquenza italiana con le annotazioni del Sig.
  Apostolo Zeno,” Venezia, Pasquali, 1753 (4 vols.), Vol. I, p. 483, we
  read of Pescetti’s work: “Nel Cavalcanti del Beni si fa nuovo stragio
  di Cesare per colpa di questo autore, come di plagiario del Mureto
  nella Tragedia latina del Cesare. Si vede, che i ladri letterari,
  colti in flagranti come succede, si rendono poi scherniti e ridicoli;
  e che poco giova l’andarsi rampicando per forza, quasi erba
  parietaria, sulle industrie degli altri, come se fossero loro proprie,
  con cercar poi di occultarlo, quando per conoscerlo di primo aspetto,
  ci vuole assai poco, mentre le cose o presto or tardi si scoprono.” In
  a note Zeno says: “Il Cesare del Mureto, e’l Cesare del Pescetti poco
  più di commune han fra loro, che l’argomento, la storia, ed il titolo;
  e però l’accusa di plagiario data del Beni al Pescetti, contra del
  quale scrisse il suo Cavalcanti per difesa della sua Anticrusca, è
  anzi dettata dalla passione che dalla verità.” It is interesting to
  note that Fontanini, like Allaci, speaks only of a 1604 edition of
  “Cesare.” Zeno, however, is careful to point out the error.

Footnote 10:

  There are portions of the speeches of the principal characters
  decidedly reminiscent of Muretus, but the similarity is more in
  content than in expression, and seldom enter those portions of
  “Cesare” which parallel those in “Julius Caesar.”

                        THE INFLUENCE OF APPIAN

The English translation of Appian, by “W. B.,” was published in 1578.
This is the work supposedly used by Shakespeare. In his “Julius Caesar”
there are four places in which the influence of the historian seems
predominant; in a part of the speech of Brutus to the citizens; in the
oration of Antony; in the conduct of the conspirators immediately
following the murder; and in a detail concerning Antony.

Neither the address of Brutus nor the funeral oration of Antony is
recorded in Plutarch. Both are to be found in Appian. It has been
suggested[11] that from him Shakespeare got the idea for Brutus’
exclamation, “Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves,
than that Caesar were dead, to live all freemen?” Appian’s Brutus says:
“We at his desire gaue him security, and as it should seeme, afrayde of
himself, seking to make his Tyrany sure, we sware unto it. If he had
required us to sware, not only to confirme the things past, but also to
haue bene hys slaues in time to come, what woulde they then haue done
that nowe lie in wayte for our liues? I suppose verye Romaines indeede,
wyll rather choose certaine death as they haue oft done, than by an othe
to abyde willing seruitude.”[12]

While it is possible that Shakespeare, following his custom in the
composition of this particular play, may have derived this hint from the
scattered pages of Plutarch, or indeed conceived it independently as a
dramatic consequence of Brutus’ previously expressed attitude, yet the
advantage of Appian’s account is manifest. Pescetti knew and used this
account, and while the same idea does not occur in Brutus’ address in
“Cesare” it is repeatedly expressed throughout the play. If we admit the
possibility of Shakespeare’s derivation of the disputed hints through a
careful selection from the pages of Plutarch, there can be no strong
objection to granting him the exercise of a similar freedom in his
perusal of Pescetti. It was a common enough practice of the Elizabethan
dramatists to appropriate suitable material wherever and whenever they
encountered it, a fact which must be borne in mind throughout this

Shakespeare could have found his matter in Pescetti. There is nothing
more repugnant to the Brutus of “Cesare” than the idea of slavery, and
he voices his opinion time and again throughout the play. To quote but
one instance: Cassius and Brutus are discussing liberty and Brutus says:

            “Il Tiranno è peggior dell’ omicida,
            Perchè la vita l’omicida toglie;
            Ma con la dignità toglie il possesso
            Della vita il Tiranno, e chi ad altrui,
            Non à se, vive, è viè peggior, che morte:
            Perciò saggio Caton, saggio et ardito,
            Ch’anzi morir, che viver servo elesse.”—Ces., p. 89.

The possibility that the address of Antony, as recorded by Appian,
furnished Shakespeare hints for the oration in the play, has recently
been investigated by Prof. MacCallum.[13] He concludes that while
Appian’s account bears little resemblance to the oration, it
nevertheless contains some parallels in details. Antony both in the
history and in the drama calls attention to his friendship for Caesar;
to the honors the latter had bestowed on his murderers; he proclaims his
own readiness to avenge his benefactor’s death; he recites Caesar’s
triumphs and the spoils he sent to Rome; he uncovers Caesar’s corpse and
displays the bloodstained robe; he makes Caesar cite the names of those
whom he had pardoned and advanced only to destroy him.

Professor MacCallum confesses that the evidence is not very convincing,
but that it is strengthened greatly by the apparent loans from the same
author discernible in Shakespeare’s treatment of various passages in
“Antony and Cleopatra.” The question at present is not whether the hints
in “Julius Caesar” were derived from Appian, but whether they were
derived from the English translation. The likelihood that Shakespeare
knew and used this translation when he wrote his later tragedy, does not
exclude the possibility that he was not acquainted with it when he
composed the earlier work, nor that he received the hints attributed to
Appian not at first hand, but through his knowledge of Pescetti’s

The Italian’s work contains no funeral oration by Antony, but the entire
fifth act is dramatically parallel to the third act of “Julius Caesar.”
In it we find Brutus’ speech to the people, the account of the
assassination, the various laments for Caesar, a chorus singing Brutus’
praises and another singing those of Caesar. The entire act is founded
upon Appian, and despite its comparative inferiority in dramatic
treatment, is rich in suggestions which a better dramatist could use to
great advantage. Caesar’s victories, his magnanimity to his enemies,
their base treachery and Antony’s readiness to avenge his friend’s
murder; in short, all the hints[15] presumably derived by Shakespeare
from the English translation of Appian are brought before us.
Shakespeare could have found his material in Pescetti’s drama, and the
supposition that he actually did do so is greatly strengthened by the
fact that not only does the material under discussion reappear in
“Julius Caesar”, but it reappears accompanied by certain individual
touches peculiar alone to Pescetti’s treatment.

Calpurnia’s speeches, the recitals of the Messengers, and the comments
of the Chorus are the dramatic counterpart in “Cesare” of the speeches
of Antony in “Julius Caesar.” Thus Calpurnia exclaims at the news of
Caesar’s death:

            “O dolce, ò caro, ò mio fedel consorte,
            O di quanti mai Roma
            Produsse figli, più possente, e forte,
            O della nostra età sovrano pregio,
            O domator de’ ribellanti Galli,
            Del feroce German, del fier Britanno;
            O altrettanto dolce
            Al perdonar, quanto al combatter pronto,
            O stupor delle genti,
            O miracol del mondo,
            Le cui maravigliose,
            E soprumane prove
            Stancheran tutte le più dotte penne,
            E con stupor saranno
            Cantate, udite e lette
            Da quei, che dopo noi
            Verran mill’ anni, e mille.”—Ces., pp. 128–29.

            “Oimè quel, ch’ai nemici hà perdonato,
            Quel, ch’il maggior nemico hà pianto morto,
            È stat’ ei da coloro, a cui donata
            Avea la vita, indegnamente ucciso.”—Ces., p. 135.

Here Caesar’s kindness to his enemies, his conquests, the sense of
Rome’s irreparable loss are emphasized.

            “Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?”

To Shakespeare, Pescetti’s work could hardly have been more than a
recital of events connected with a notable occurrence in history, and
while he needed no “Cesare” to point him towards the aim of Antony’s
address, it is noteworthy that Calpurnia openly urges what Antony
secretly wished, and towards which he shaped every sentence of his great
oration. Shakespeare’s treatment is so vastly superior that attempts at
comparison seem well nigh ridiculous; yet, when we consider how the
great poet was able to transform the meanest hints into the mighty
scenes we find in his greatest dramas,[16] we may well hesitate to
overlook similarities, however far removed they may seem from the matter
under consideration. Thus Calpurnia exhorts the soldiers to vengeance:

            “O robusti, o magnanimi soldati,
            Che sotto la felice scorta, sotto
            Le fortunate, e gloriose insegne
            Del mio Cesare invitto
            Mille vittorie riportate avete,
            Date di mano all’ arme,
            Prendete il ferro, e’l fuoco,
            E l’empia, indegna morte, e’l fiero strazio
            Vendicate del vostro
            Signore, e Capitano:”—Pp. 133–34.

Later on the Chorus of Soldiers exclaims:

            “Patirem noi, compagni,
            Ch’ invendicato resti
            Lui, per cui fatto abbiamo
            Di ricchezze e d’onor tanti guadagni?”—P. 143.

                          “there were an Antony
            Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue
            In every wound of Caesar, that should move
            The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.”—J. C., III., II,

            “He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
            Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.”

Calpurnia denounces Brutus:

            “O Bruto, ò Bruto, veramente Bruto,
            Non men d’animo, e d’opre, che di nome,
            Come t’è dato il cuor d’uccider quello,
            Ch’à te donato avea la vita e in luogo
            Preso t’avea di figlio? ahi scelerato,
            Ahi d’ogn’ umanità nemico; cuore
            Più che d’Orso, e di Tigre Ircana crudo,
            Come a ferir quel sacrosanto corpo,
            Orrido gel non ti legò le membra?”—P. 133.

Antony specifically mentions Brutus as “the well beloved.” Of special
significance is the fact that he makes the same play on the name
Brutus[17] as we find in Pescetti:

            “O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts
            And men have lost their reason.”—III., II, 102.

It is noteworthy that Calpurnia, after the play on the name, proceeds to
emphasize the brutality of the murder, not only by referring to the
closeness of the relation between Brutus and Caesar, but also by
comparing the insensate cruelty of his assassin to that of the most
savage beasts. There is no warrant for this touch in the histories.
Again, note the parallel:

            “For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel;
            Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him.”

                                                        —III., II, 180.

Another individual touch of Pescetti’s reappears in Antony’s oration.
Thus the Chorus in “Cesare,” on hearing that Caesar’s body is being
borne to his house by a few slaves, exclaims,

            “E quegli, a cui comandamenti presti
            Erano i Regi, e le provincie intiere,
            Or appena hà trè servi,
            Che ’l portin sù le spalle.”[18]—Ces., p. 127.

The Messenger at the sight of the corpse laments,

            “Ecco dov’ è ridutto
            Il pur dianzi Signor dell’ universo.”—P. 136.

Antony says:

            “But yesterday the word of Caesar might
            Have stood against the world: now lies he there,
            And none so poor to do him reverence.”—III., II, 117.

Also Act III., Sc. I:

            “O mighty Caesar! dost thou lie so low?
            Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,
            Shrunk to this small measure?”

Calpurnia exclaims:

            “Dunque, oimè, quella destra,
            C’hà vinti, e debellati
            Potentissimi eserciti, e distrutte
            Fortissime Cittadi, or fredda torpe
            Ad ogni officio inutile, e impotente?”—Ces., p. 129.

The corpse[19] of Caesar is not displayed upon the stage, but the
comments of the Chorus warn the spectator that it is approaching borne
by the slaves, and Calpurnia cries:

            “Fermate o là, posate
            Quel corpo in terra, acciocchè col mio pianto
            Lavi dall’ aspre sue ferite il sangue.”—Ces., p. 136.

The familiar,

            “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now”

has its parallel in the lines of the speech of the Second Messenger
addressed to the Chorus of Women:

            “Apparecchiate, o donne, gli occhi al pianto.”[20]—Ces., p.

Calpurnia, in her exhortation to the soldiers referred to before,

            “Sù, che fate? stringete
            Nell’ una man il ferro
            Nell’ altra le facelle,
            E correte alle case
            De’ traditori ingiusti,
            E uccidete, e ardete ciò, ch’avvanti
            Vi si para, ond’ al cielo
            Salgano le faville, e ’l Tebro porti
            L’onde sanguigne al mare.
            Che parlo? o dove sono? ahi che ’l soverchio
            Dolor t’hà tratta di te stessa fuori,
            Infelice Calpurnia.”—Ces., p. 134.

Noteworthy in the above is the touch, “Che parlo? o dove sono?” etc.
Thus Antony pauses:

                          “Bear with me;
            My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
            And I must wait till it come back to me.”

Plutarch records the doings of the mob after they had been aroused by
Antony’s speech. He recounts that the mob cried “Kill the murderers,”
but chronicles no other exclamations. Neither does Appian. In Pescetti,
Calpurnia’s speech contains material for the exclamations which
interrupt Antony’s discourse, but a direct parallel is to be found in
the cry of the soldiers inflamed by the exhortations of Caesar’s wife
and the laments of the Chorus. They shout:

            “Sù diam di mano all’armi,
            E gridando armi, armi, armi,
            Alla vendetta gli animi infiammiamo.
            Arme, arme, sangue, sangue, ammazza, ammazza,
            Degli empi traditor non resti razza.
            Altri occupi le porte,
            Altri corra alla piazza,
            Altri al Tempio di Giove, altri alla Corte,
            E per tutti apparisca orrore, e morte.”—Ces., pp. 143–144.

During Antony’s speech the mob cries:

            “Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
            Let not a traitor live!”

This is not only a close verbal parallel, but the similarity in the
exclamatory treatment is remarkable.

Another personal touch is to be found in the idea that Caesar’s fall was
Rome’s fall, which is strong throughout Pescetti, and is not traceable
to the influence of the historians. Thus the Second Messenger says:

            “Giunto è l’ultimo dì; giunto è la fine
            Di questa altiera patria, ò donne; Roma
            Fù; noi fummo Romani; or ogni gloria,
            Ogni grandezza nostra è posta in fondo.”—Ces., p. 146.

Antony exclaims,

            “O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
            Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
            Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.”

But one more point in connection with Antony’s oration remains for
discussion. Antony’s friendship for Caesar and his desire for vengeance
on the latter’s murderers are matters just as readily derivable from
Plutarch’s accounts as from the oration by Antony as recorded in Appian.
Pescetti, following Appian’s account of the events immediately following
the assassination, puts the following in the mouth of the Second

            “Antonio ...
            Fuggito è a casa, e d’essere credendo
            Anch’egli a morte destinato, or cinge
            Di ripari fortissimi la casa,
            E si prepara alla difesa contra
            Chiunque oltraggio, ò scorno fargli tenti.
            Lepido s’è nell’ Isola con quattro
            Legion ritirato, et ha mandato
            Dicendo a Marcantonio, ch’egli è pronto
            Co’suoi soldati a far quanto da lui
            Gli sarà imposto: Onde si stima ch’egli
            Per vendicar la morte dell’ amico
            Debba spingergli addosso a congiurati,
            E lor tagliar a pezzi, e le lor case
            Arder, e rovinar da fondamenti.”—P. 148.

Not only is Antony’s desire for vengeance intimated, but the ultimate
fate of the conspirators, and the failure of their cause is distinctly
foreshadowed. But most significant is the fact that Pescetti, here
almost literally following Appian, makes Antony take refuge in his _own_
house. In Shakespeare Antony is also made to take refuge in his own
house. Cassius inquires:

            “Where is Antony?
            _Trebonius_—Fled to his house amazed.”—(Act III., Sc. I,

This touch is certainly not derived from Plutarch. The biographer says
(Julius Caesar, p. 101): “But Antonius and Lepidus, which were two of
Caesar’s chiefest friends, secretly conveying themselves away, fled into
_other_ men’s houses and _forsook their own_.” Appian says: “Antony went
to his _owne_ house, entending to take advice for this case of Cesars.”
(Appian, 1578, p. 141.)[21]

But one more supposed loan from Appian remains for investigation. This
is to be found in the behavior of the conspirators immediately after the
murder. Plutarch’s account is as follows: “Brutus and his confederates
on the other side, being yet hot with this murder they had committed,
having their swords drawn in their hands, came all in a troup together
out of the Senate and went into the market-place, not as men that made
countenance to fly, but otherwise boldly holding up their heads like men
of courage, and called to the people to defend their liberty, and stayed
to speak with every great personage whom they met on their way.” (Julius
Caesar, p. 101, Skeat’s Ed.)

In Shakespeare we read:

  “_Caes._— Et tu Brute? Then fall, Caesar. (_Dies_)

  _Cinna._— Liberty! freedom! Tyranny’s dead!
            Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets.

    _Cas._— Some to the common pulpits and cry out
            ‘Liberty, freedom and enfranchisement!’”

A little farther on Brutus exclaims:

                          “Stoop, Romans, stoop,
            And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood
            Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords:
            Then walk we forth, even to the market-place,
            And waving our red weapons o’er our heads,
            Let’s all cry ‘Peace, freedom and liberty!’”—III., I, 106.

Plutarch mentions no sayings of the conspirators; there is no mention of
the dripping swords. Shakespeare is here supposed to follow Appian, who
says: “The murderers woulde haue sayde somewhat in ye Senate house, but
no man would tarry to heare. They wrapt their gowns about their left
armes as targets, and hauying their daggers bloudy, cryed they had
kylled a King and a Tyranne, and one bare an hatte upon a speare, in
token of Libertie. Then they exhorted them to the common wealth of their
country and remembered olde Brutus, and the oth mode againste the old
kings.” (Appian, 1578, p. 142.)[22] Here we find the matter of the
dripping swords, and an intimation of the cry of the Conspirators. But
Pescetti, who followed Appian, supplies a still closer parallel. Here
Brutus, after announcing the death of the tyrant, and after exhorting
the people to rejoice in their reestablished liberties, turns to the
conspirators and exclaims:

            “Ma scorriam per la terra,
            O voi, che fidelissimi compagni,
            Mi siete stati all’ onorata impresa,
            Con le coltella in mano,
            Del Tirannico sangue ancor stillanti
            E co’ pilei sù l’aste
            E ’l popolo di Marte
            Chiamiamo a libertade.

    _Con._— Libertà, libertà, morto è il Tiranno:
            Libera è Roma, e rotto è il giogo indegno.”—Ces., pp.

Here we have the substance of Appian’s account. Here Brutus, as in
Shakespeare, addresses his fellow conspirators. In the one case he
refers to them as “most faithful companions,” in the other, as “Romans.”
In both he exhorts them to the same purpose. In one they are to rove the
streets with their dripping swords still in their hands, and to call the
people of Rome to their reestablished liberty; in the other, they are
exhorted to walk forth waving their red weapons over their heads, and to
cry “Peace, freedom and liberty.” The cry of the chorus in Pescetti
seems an answer to this appeal:

            “Libertà, libertà, morto è il Tiranno:
            Libera è Roma e rotto è il giogo indegno.”

And this again is closely parallel to Cinna’s outburst,

            “Liberty! freedom! Tyranny is dead!
            Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets!”

The latter part of this seems an echo of

            “E ’l popolo di Marte
            Chiamiamo a libertade.”—P. 116.

“Cesare” contains no close parallel to Brutus’ exclamation:

                        “Stoop, Romans, stoop,
            And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood
            Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords:”

But Pescetti indicates a similar savage desire:

            “E fu sì grande del ferir la voglia
            Recandosi ciascuno a somma gloria,
            Tinger la spada sua nel sacro sangue.”[23]—P. 126.

He does say that the conspirators besmeared their swords, and
Shakespeare but intensified the scene by making the murderers literally
bathe in the blood of their victim.[24]

In this case, as in the others, the material from Appian is to be found
in Pescetti, and reappears in Shakespeare accompanied by touches due to
Pescetti alone. We find further, that in all the cases wherein the
influence of Appian has been suspected, Shakespeare could have derived
his matter from Pescetti, who, we can positively affirm, used Appian as
his source. The resemblance in Shakespeare between the scenes under
discussion and the corresponding scenes in Pescetti is far stronger than
the similarity to their alleged source in the English translation of
Appian, for not only does Shakespeare make use of the same historical
matter which Pescetti derived from the historian, but he includes
individual touches found only in the Italian drama. The conclusion that
Shakespeare derived from Pescetti the hints previously attributed to his
acquaintance with the English translation of Appian seems, therefore,
tentatively justifiable. This conclusion will be greatly strengthened by
the evidence adducible from the other similarities existing between the
two plays. Among these the treatment of the supernatural element in both
dramas offers points of contact which will now be discussed.


Footnote 11:

  Especially by Prof. Frederick H. Sykes in his notes to “Julius
  Caesar,” Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1909.

Footnote 12:

  Appian (1578), p. 153. Εὶ δἐ ἡμῖν ὀμνῦναι προσέταττεν, οὐ τὰ
  παρελθόντα μόνον οἴσειν ἐγκρατῶς, ἀλλὰ δουλεύσειν ἐς τὸ μέλλον
  ἑκόντας, τί ἂν ἔπραξαν οἱ νῦν ἐπιβουλεύοντες ἡμῖν· ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ, ὄντας
  γε Ῥωμαίους, οἶμαι πολλάκις ἀποθανεῖν ἑλέσθαι μᾶλλον, ἢ δουλεύειν
  ἑκόντας ἑπὶ ὅρκῳ. Appian, Ed. Didot. P. 403.

Footnote 13:

  “Shakespeare’s Roman Plays and their Background,” p. 646. MacMillan &
  Company, London and New York. 1910.

Footnote 14:

  As in the case of the supposed loan in the oration of Brutus, a
  careful comparison of Plutarch and Appian reveals nothing which
  Shakespeare could not have obtained from the former, if not directly,
  at least as a natural consequence of Plutarch’s various accounts. Even
  the matter of the display of the corpse is mentioned by the biographer
  (Julius Caesar, p. 102, Skeat’s Edition). As a matter of history, not
  the corpse itself, but a waxen image showing the mutilations, was
  exhibited to the populace. It is true that from Plutarch’s _direct_
  accounts of the oration, Shakespeare could have obtained very little.
  The whole matter illustrates the great difficulty encountered by the
  investigator who seeks to disentangle Appian’s contribution from that
  of Plutarch. This is especially difficult in view of the
  transformation inseparable from a dramatic treatment. In many passages
  covering the life of Caesar the marked similarity between the two
  writers has given rise to the theory that both worked from a common
  Greek source now lost. The minutiae necessary to a positive
  declaration in favor of Appian are lacking in Shakespeare’s treatment
  of this particular scene, but as will be noted from the main argument,
  they are evident in Pescetti.

Footnote 15:

  If we except the display of the corpse.

Footnote 16:

  Especially in those founded on material derived from Italian sources.

Footnote 17:

  It is found in Plutarch and in Cicero’s letters, but not in connection
  with this scene. See Sykes’ “Julius Caesar,” Notes, pp. 151–2.

Footnote 18:

  And when he wente from his house to the Senate, he was wayted on with
  manye of the magistrates, and great number of people, as wel Citizens
  as straungers, and servantes and free men in great multitude; all the
  which fleeing away by heapes, only three seruantes taried, which layd
  his body in the litter. Thus three men not suteable, did carie him
  home that a little before was Lorde of sea and lande. (Appian, 1578,
  p. 142.) Καὶ αἱ πλέονες ἀρχαὶ καὶ πολὺς ὅμιλος ἄλλος ἀστῶν, καὶ ζένων,
  καὶ πολὺς θεράπων καὶ ἐζελεύθερος αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ βουλευτήριον ἐκ τῆς
  οἰκίας παρεπεπόμφεισαν· ὧν ἀθρόως διαφυγόντων, τρεῖς θεράποντες μόνοι
  παρέμειναν, οἳ τὸ σῶμα ἐς τὸ φορεῖον ἐνθέμενοι, διεκόμισαν οἴκαδε
  ἀνωμάλως, οἷα τρεῖς, τὸν πρὸ ὀλίγου γῆς καὶ θαλάσσης προστάτην.
  Appian, Ed. Didot. P. 394. Suetonius has a similar account.

Footnote 19:

  It seems that the matter of the display of the corpse in Shakespeare
  is as readily traceable to Plutarch as to Appian.

Footnote 20:

  But, it should be noted, not quite in the same connection as in
  Shakespeare. The Messenger warns the women to fly the terrors sure to
  follow the assassination.

Footnote 21:

  Ἀντώνιός τε τὴν οἰκίαν ὠχύρου, τεκμαιρόμενος συνεπιβουλεύεσθαι τῷ
  Καίσαρι. Appian, Ed. Didot. P. 394.

Footnote 22:

  Οἱ δὲ σφαγεῖς ἐβούλοντο μέν τι εἱπεῖν ἐν τῷ βουλευτηρίῳ. Ουδενὸς δὲ
  παραμείναντος, τὰ ἱμάτια ταῖς λαιαῖς, ὥσπερ ἀσπίδας, περιπλεξάμενοι,
  καὶ τὰ ξίφη μετὰ τοῦ αἵματος ἕχοντες, ἐβοηδρόμουν βασιλέα καὶ τύραννον
  ἀνελεῖν· καὶ πῖλόν τις ἐπὶ δόρατος ἔφερε, σύμβολον ἐλευθερώσεως· ἐπί
  τε τὴν πάτριον πολιτείαν παρεκάλουν, κα-Βρούτου τοῦ πάλαι καὶ τῶν τότε
  σφίσιν ὀμωμοσμένων ἐπί τοῖς πάλαι βασιλεῦσιν ἀνεὶ μίμνησκον. Appian,
  Edition Didot, Paris, 1877. P. 395.

Footnote 23:

  Indicated in Plutarch also—Marcus Brutus—p. 119. He speaks of the
  eagerness of the conspirators to plunge their swords into Caesar, and
  records that every one of them was stained with blood.

Footnote 24:

  Also regarded as a supposedly ironical answer to Decimus’
  interpretation of the dream.


Shakespeare’s skill in the handling of the supernatural element in
“Julius Caesar” has been much commended. The omens and prodigies are
distributed in such a way as best to emphasize the tragic element and
they serve to invest the entire play in an atmosphere of portent. For
his material he drew largely upon Plutarch, but he also introduces
matter apparently indicating a familiarity with Ovid, Vergil, Lucan, and
Suetonius. Pescetti makes use of the supernatural element to a far
greater extent than do his predecessors.[25] His recital of the omens
and the prodigies embraces almost every item which the industry of a
Renaissance scholar could cull from the pages of Plutarch, Ovid, Vergil,
Lucan, Suetonius, and Appian. With a single exception, all the omens
mentioned by Shakespeare and not directly traceable to Plutarch, can be
found in Pescetti, whose treatment of the entire supernatural element
affords some interesting parallels.

Plutarch’s account, which furnished Shakespeare the bulk of his
material, is as follows:

  “Certainly destiny may easier be foreseen than avoided, considering
  the strange and wonderful signs that were said to be seen before
  Caesar’s death. For, touching the fires in the element, and spirits
  running up and down in the night and also of the solitary birds to
  be seen at noondays sitting in the great market-place, are not all
  these signs perhaps worth the noting, in such a wonderful chance as
  happened? But Strabo, the philosopher, writeth, that men were seen
  going up and down in fire; and, furthermore, that there was a slave
  of the soldiers that did cast a marvelous burning flame out of his
  hands, insomuch as they that saw it thought he had been burned; but
  when the fire was out, it was found he had no hurt. Caesar self also
  doing sacrifice unto the gods, found that one of the beasts which
  was sacrificed had no heart: which was a strange thing in nature,
  how a beast could live without a heart. Furthermore there was a
  certain soothsayer that had given Caesar warning long time before,
  to take heed of the day of the Ides of March, (which is the
  fifteenth of the month), for on that day he should be in great
  danger. That day being come, Caesar going into the Senate-house, and
  speaking merrily unto the soothsayer, told him ‘the Ides of March be
  come’: ‘so they be,’ softly answered the soothsayer, ‘but yet are
  they not past!’ And the very day before, Caesar, 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 the
  best, he, preventing their opinions, cried out aloud, ‘Death
  unlooked for!’ Then, going to bed the same night, as his manner was,
  and lying with his wife Calpurnia, all the windows 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 Caesar was slain, and that she held
  him in her arms.”[26]

Professor MacCallum, commenting upon this account says: “It is
interesting to note how Shakespeare takes this passage to pieces, and
assigns those of them for which he has a place to their fitting and
effective position. Plutarch’s reflections on destiny and Caesar’s
opinion on death he leaves aside. The first warning of the soothsayer he
refers back to the Lupercalia, and the second he shifts forward to its
natural place. Calpurnia’s outcries in her sleep and her prophetic
dream, the apparition of the ghosts mentioned by her among the other
prodigies, the lack of the heart in the sacrificial beast, are reserved
for the scene of her expostulation with Caesar, and are dramatically
distributed among the various speakers; Caesar, the servant, Calpurnia

Pescetti also takes this same passage[28] and distributes the various
sections in a manner similar to Shakespeare’s treatment, but
dramatically infinitely inferior. He, however, devotes nearly two
hundred and fifty lines at the beginning of the third act of “Cesare” to
a dialogue between Antony and Caesar, rather tediously moralizing on
destiny and Caesar’s opinion on death. The only purpose, dramatically,
is to continue the feeling of impending disaster created in the previous
acts and to give Antony an opportunity of warning Caesar to beware of
treachery.[29] The warnings of the soothsayer are entirely disregarded;
the only intimation we receive of this very effective scene is the
announcement of the messenger in the fifth act that a paper which gave
all the details of the conspiracy, and which Caesar had had no
opportunity to read, had been found clutched in his dead hand. Nearly
half his second act is occupied by a long drawn out dialogue between
Calpurnia and the servant regarding the former’s fears, and the terrible
dream she has had. The Priest, in the third act, together with
Calpurnia, recounts the portents to Caesar, and tries to dissuade him
from disregarding the manifest tokens of the gods’ displeasure. The
inspection of the sacrificial beast without a heart is reserved for the
expostulation of the Priest. Pescetti, like Shakespeare, thus attempts a
distribution of the supernatural which tends to emphasize the impending
catastrophe and to invest his play in an atmosphere of portent very
similar to that created in “Julius Caesar.”

In both dramas ghosts play important parts. Dramatically, it is quite
probable that Pescetti was only following the Senecan tradition when he
introduced the ghost of Pompey, but, historically, it seems that he was
indebted to Lucan for this hint. The poet in Book IX. of the “Pharsalia”
describes how the soul of Caesar’s foe, leaving the tomb, soars to the
abode of the blessed, and thence, looking down upon the earth, inspires
the breasts of Brutus and Cato.[30] This is the episode which probably
furnished Pescetti hints for the employment of the ghost of Pompey as
the prime exciting force upon the Brutus of his play.

Now, Plutarch mentions the apparition which appears to Brutus at
Philippi, as Brutus’ “ill angel” (page 104, J. C., Skeat). Shakespeare
calls it “Caesar’s ghost,” thereby immeasurably enhancing its dramatic
significance. That he should be compelled by his keen perception of its
dramatic fitness so to handle this episode, seems a very reasonable
conclusion; still, in view of his obligations to Pescetti, it would not
be stretching probabilities too far to suggest that the Italian’s use of
the shade of Pompey was not without its influence in the composition of
this particular scene. What a fitting example of poetic justice! That
Pompey’s shade should rouse Brutus to execute vengeance on a Caesar held
responsible for his death; that this same ghost-inspired zealot should
in turn have his own doom pronounced by the shade of his victim, closes
a cycle of nemesis which surely must have appealed to the great poet.

But it is in regard to the disturbances in the elements, and the
attendant prodigies, that we get a marked parallel between the two
plays. Casca, while the storm is raging, exclaims:

            “Are you not moved, when all the sway of earth
            Shakes, like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
            I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
            Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
            The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
            To be exalted with the threat’ning clouds;
            But never till to-night, never till now,
            Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.
            Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
            Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,
            Incenses them to send destruction.

    _Cic._— Why, saw you anything more wonderful?

   _Casca_— A common slave—you know him well by sight,—
            Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
            Like twenty torches joined, and yet his hand
            Not sensible of fire, remained unscorched.
            Besides,—I ha’ not since put up my sword,—
            Against the Capitol I met a lion,
            Who glared upon me, and went surly by
            Without annoying me. And there were drawn
            Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
            Transformed with their fear, who swore they saw
            Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
            And yesterday the bird of night did sit
            Even at noon-day upon the Market-place,
            Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
            Do so conjointly meet, let not men say,
            ‘These are their reasons: they are natural:’
            For, I believe, they are portentous things
            Unto the climate that they point upon.”[31]

In addition to the supernatural elements recounted in Casca’s speech,
Calpurnia trying to dissuade Caesar, says:

                                “... There is one within,
            Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
            Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
            A lioness hath whelped in the street;
            And graves have yawned and yielded up their dead;
            Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds,
            In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
            Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol;
            The noise of battle hurtled in the air,
            Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan;
            And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.”—II.,
               II, 14.

            .       .       .       .       .

            “When beggars die there are no comets seen;
            The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

The servant reporting the sacrifice says:

            “Plucking the entrails of an offering forth,
            They could not find a heart within the beast.”

The Priest in “Cesare” in his soliloquy exclaims:

            “Giunon con spaventosi, orribil tuoni,
            Con spessi lampi, e fulmini tremendi,
            Con infauste comete, con istrane
            Pioggie di sangue, e grandini di pietre,
            Con sembianze di pugne, con orrendi
            Strepiti di tamburi, e suon di trombe,
            Con alte grida, pianti, urli, e lamenti,
            Uditi nel suo regno hà mostro, quanto
            Sia contro noi d’ira, e di sdegno accesa.
            Nettun volto hà sossopra tutto il suo
            Immenso regno, e sì gonfiato hà l’onde,
            Che parea, che de’ suoi confin volesse
            Uscir, e tutta subissar la terra;

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            L’antica madre s’è più volte anch’essa
            Scossa sì, che parea, che il grave pondo
            Dell’huom malvagio, che sostien, volesse
            Scuoter del tergo suo, et in più luoghi
            Per inghiottirlo hà il vasto seno aperto:
            Ne pur questi gran corpi, ond’ogni cosa
            Si genera, ma molti ancor de’ misti
            Predetto han gli infortuni, e i danni nostri.”—Pp. 74–75.

In other portions of the Priest’s soliloquy we read:

            “Nè questi pur co’ lor maligni aspetti,
            Ma la Luna ecclissata, anzi di goccie
            Sanguigne tutta sparsa, e’l Sol d’oscuro,
            E ferrugineo vel coperto il volto.

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            Da mille tetti udito s’è lo stigio
            Gufo versi cantar lugubri, e mesti;
            In mille tempi gli ebani, e gli avori,
            Lagrimar si son visti, e sudar sangue;
            Per le piazze, alle case, a i tempi intorno
            Notturni cani urlar si sono uditi,
            E strider importune, e infauste streghe.
            Si son viste grand’ombre, de’ sepolcri
            Uscite, andar per la Città vagando
            Nelle persone alto terror mettendo.
            Il monte, che ad Encelado le spalle
            Col suo gran peso calca, e preme, rotte
            Le bollenti fornaci hà tai torrenti
            Di Zolfo, e di bitume vomitati,
            E tante fiamme, e sassi liquefatti,
            Ch’inondate, e distrutte,
            Le soggette campagne hà de’ Ciclopi.
            Ma quel, che più d’ogni altro mi spaventa
            E, che l’interiora di ciascuna
            Vittima mostran miseri, e infelici
            Avvenimenti, atroci, orribil mali:
            Perchè in alcune non si trova il cuore,
            In altre è guasto il fegato, o ’l polmone,
            Altre di negro fel son tutte sparse,
            Segni tutti evidenti di gran mali.”[32]—Pp. 75–76.

The soliloquy of the Priest seems to be a composite of the omens and
prodigies mentioned by Ovid, Vergil, Plutarch, Appian, Suetonius, and
Lucan. Ovid and Vergil seem to be his main sources.

Almost all of the ancient authorities mention the supernatural in
connection with the life of Caesar. The extraordinary prodigies and
portents attending his crossing of the Rubicon and his assassination are
recorded in more or less detail. Among the authors accessible to
Shakespeare, Ovid was available in the translation of the Metamorphoses
made by Arthur Golding in 1567 and several times reprinted before 1600.
Appian had been translated in 1578, while Marlowe’s translation of
Lucan’s first book, while it remained unpublished till 1600 (after the
first performance of “Julius Caesar”),[33] may have been known to the
dramatist in manuscript. But the substance of Lucan’s account was
accessible in Lydgate’s translation of Boccaccio’s “De Casibus Virorum
Illustrium.” While Lucan mentions only the omens preceding Caesar’s
entry into Rome at the beginning of the Civil Wars, his work was a
favorite source for the matters mentioned. Neither Vergil’s “Georgics”,
nor Suetonius’ “Lives”, had as yet been translated.

The question of Shakespeare’s classical learning does not concern us.
The problem at issue is not whether the dramatist might have obtained
his information directly from the ancient authors or through available
translations. The following discussion purposes to adduce the evidence
in support of the contention that Pescetti was the source of most, if
not all, of the non-Plutarchian matter included by the dramatist in his
handling of the supernatural.

That Shakespeare could not have built up his recital from an imaginative
transformation of Plutarch’s hints seems precluded by an examination of
the various sources already mentioned. These contain the substance of
the non-Plutarchian matter; it remains to establish Pescetti’s claims
against this evidence.

While there is a striking agreement as a whole in the various accounts
of the classic writers, no single one contains all the omens recorded by
Shakespeare. Pescetti, however, not only has the most comprehensive
extant record but he accompanies his account with individual touches
which seem reflected in Shakespeare’s subsequent treatment.

An examination of the portents mentioned by Shakespeare reveals the
following which can be traced to Plutarch: the flaming hand; the men all
in fire walking up and down; the bird of night at noon-day hooting and
shrieking in the market place; the beast without a heart; the comet. In
addition we have the following not indicated by the biographer: the
tremendous storm; the earthquake; the raging seas referred to by Casca;
the wild beasts roaming the streets; the civil strife in the heavens;
the dead leaving their sepulchres; the battle in the clouds.

Taking the earthquake first, a comparison of the available sources
reveals the following: Casca says to Cicero,

            “Are you not moved when all the sway of earth,
            Shakes like a thing unfirm?”

Vergil mentions the earthquakes in the Alps and the openings of the
earth as portents of Caesar’s death.[34] Lucan[35] says “The Alps shook
off their ancient snows,” while Lydgate[36] has

            “Earthquaues sodayne and terrible
            Ouertourned castels up so doune.”

In Ovid we read,

            “And with an earthquake shaken was the towne.”[37]

Pescetti mentions not only the earthquake, but he adds the violent
upheaval of the seas, together with an individual touch peculiar to him
alone which seems reflected in Shakespeare’s treatment.

            “Nettun volto hà sossopra tutto il suo
            Immenso regno, e sì gonfiato hà l’onde,
            Che parea, che de suoi confin volesse
            Uscir, e tutta subissar la terra;
            E quanti legni han questi dì solcato
            Il mar, tanti egli n’ha miseramente
            O trangugiati, o in duri scogli spinti.
            L’antica madre s’è più volte anch’essa
            Scossa sì, che parea, che’l grave pondo
            Dell’ huom malvagio, che sostien, volesse
            Scuoter dal tergo suo, et in più luoghi
            Per inghiottirlo hà il vasto seno aperto.”—Pp. 75.

The disturbance of the waters is not mentioned by Plutarch or Ovid.
Casca does not specifically state that such a condition of affairs
prevailed; he uses it as a comparison. But such a disturbance is
indicated in Lucan. In Marlowe’s[38] translation we read:

            “The ocean swelled as high as Spanish Calpe
            Or Atlas’ head.”[39]

Lydgate has

            “Wyth flodes rage, hydious and horrible
            Neptunus dyd great distruction.”

Vergil speaks of the overflow of Eridanus,[40]

  “Eridanus, king of rivers, overflowed, whirling in mad eddy whole
  woods along and tore away the herds with their stalls over all the

Of all these possible sources Pescetti supplies the closest parallel;
Vergil and Lydgate seem too remote for consideration in this connection.
Were we to exclude Lucan on the ground that his account deals with a
different period of Caesar’s career, Pescetti’s case would be still
further strengthened, for the Italian contains not only the substance of
Casca’s outburst, but there is a similarity in both style and sentiment.
Where Pescetti says,

            “Nettun volto hà sossopra tutto il suo
            Immenso regno, e sì gonfiato hà l’onde,
            Che parea, che de’ suoi confin volesse
            Uscir, e tutta subissar la terra:”

Shakespeare supplies the more poetic,

                                        “I have seen
            The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam
            To be exalted with the threat’ning clouds.”

Again, the earthquake is mentioned in close connection with the raging
of the waters, a feature missing in the other possible sources, while
Casca’s statement regarding the anger of the gods finds its counterpart
not only in this portion of Pescetti’s recital, but later where the
dramatist, detailing other manifestations of the gods’ displeasure,

            “Giunon .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   hà mostro, quanto
            Sia contra noi d’ira e di sdegno accessa.”

Such a condition of affairs is only faintly adumbrated in Ovid or Lucan.

The slave with the burning hand is from Plutarch. The “hundred ghastly
women transformèd with their fear” seems a specification of the terror
inspired by the ghosts as recorded by Pescetti,

            “Si son viste grand’ombre, de’ sepolcri
            Uscite, andar per la Città vagando
            Nelle persone alto terror mettendo.”[42]—P. 75.

Plutarch mentions the men in fire, but says nothing of the fear inspired
by them or by the ghosts.

The “bird of night sitting at noon-day upon the market place, hooting
and shrieking” was probably primarily derived from Plutarch’s “solitary
birds to be seen at noon days sitting in the great market place.” The
biographer calls them “solitary birds” and makes no reference to any
hooting and shrieking. Vergil refers to the “presaging birds”;[43] Ovid
says that the Stygian owl gave omens of ill in a thousand places;[44]
Lydgate speaks of the “fowles at noonday”; Marlowe, translating Lucan,
that “Ominous birds defil’d the day.” Pescetti, almost literally
translating Ovid, has:

            “Da mille tetti udito s’è lo stigio
            Gufo versi cantar lugubri e mesti.”

He calls the bird the owl: Shakespeare refers to “the bird of night,
hooting and shrieking.” The Italian could here supply as much as any of
the other non-Plutarchian sources.

Calpurnia says,

            “Graves have yawned and yielded up their dead.”

Plutarch mentions the “spirits running up and down in the night”;
Vergil, that “spectres strangely pale were seen under cloud of
night.”[45] Ovid[46] says: “And everywhere appeared ghastly spryghtes”
(Golding). Lucan mentions the ghosts; so does Lydgate. But none of the
above state that “graves have yawned and yielded up their dead.”
Pescetti supplies a close parallel:

            “Si son visti grand’ombre, de’ sepolcri
            Uscite, andar per la città vagando,
            Nelle persone alto terror mettendo.”

The battle in the clouds is mentioned by Ovid,[47]

   “For battells feyghting in the cloudes with crasshing armour flew,
   And dreadfull trumpets sownded in the ayre, and homes eeke blew.”


Lucan says: “Trumpets sounded and black night, amid the silent shades,
sent forth an uproar as that with which the cohorts are mingled in
combat.”[48] In Shakespeare the combat is closely associated with the
drizzling of blood upon the Capitol. This is not found in Lucan, while
Ovid, in a detached phrase, says:

            “It often rayned droppes of blood.”[49] (Golding.)

Shakespeare speaks of the “noise of battle hurtling in the air” and of
the groans of the dying. Pescetti has all that Ovid mentions in this
connection, closely connected and associated with the shouts and groans
in the heavens. This latter is not found in Ovid.

            “Giunon con spaventosi, orribil tuoni,
            Con spessi lampi, e fulmini tremendi,
            Con infauste comete, con istrane
            Pioggie di sangue, e grandini di pietre,
            Con sembianze di pugne, con orrendi
            Strepiti di tamburi, e suon di trombe,
            Con alte grida, pianti, urli, e lamenti,
            Uditi nel suo regno hà mostro, quanto
            Sia contra noi d’ira, e di sdegno accesa.”—P. 74.

The comet is mentioned by Plutarch, but as occurring after Caesar’s
death. Lucan mentions comets; so do Vergil and Ovid. They are also in
Pescetti. The omen of the beast without a heart is recorded by Plutarch,
but not as occurring on the day of the assassination. Appian so has it
and so it appears in Pescetti.

From the foregoing it is evident that Shakespeare could have derived
through Pescetti the omens not mentioned by Plutarch. The Italian seems
to have made use of all the generally available authorities. There is,
however, one omen mentioned by Shakespeare which is not found in any of
the assumed sources. There is no mention of the lions which Casca saw,
nor of the lioness which whelped in the street. Vergil speaks of the
“ill-omened dogs” and of “cities resounding with the howling of wolves
by night.”[50] Lucan[51] supplies a closer parallel.

            “... wild beasts were seen,
            Leaving the woods, lodge in the streets of Rome.”[52]

Lions are not mentioned, but Lydgate, translating Boccaccio, who in turn
derived from Lucan, has the following:

            “Lyons and wolves came down from the forest
            Wyth many other beastes sauagyne;
            Came to the cite, and some agayne kynde,
            Spake as do men in Bochas as I fynde.”[53]

Pescetti goes as far as Ovid or Vergil. Following them, he writes,

            “Per le piazze, alle case, a i tempi intorno,
            Notturni cani urlar si son uditi.”—P. 75.

Yet none of the sources quoted above makes mention of the lioness
whelping in the streets. Lydgate affords the closest parallel, and was
probably one of Shakespeare’s sources unless we are willing to concede
to the dramatist a far deeper and wider knowledge of the classics than
even the most enthusiastic advocates of his learning have dared to
maintain. The whelping of beasts is noted as ominous in Julius
Obsequens;[54] but Shakespeare could hardly have derived from such an
obscure authority.

From the foregoing examination of the various portents and prodigies
included in “Julius Caesar” it is evident that, excluding those plainly
derived from Plutarch, and the matter of the lions, Shakespeare could
have obtained all the rest from Pescetti. Owing to his habitual method
of manipulating and transforming material not directly found in his main
source, it becomes exceedingly difficult definitely to fix the
dramatist’s obligations to his minor sources. The case under
consideration is typical. It is certain that Plutarch did not furnish
all the hints Shakespeare employed. There seems to be no good reason for
denying him a knowledge of Ovid. He certainly was acquainted with
Golding’s translation. Nor can we fairly assume ignorance of such a mine
of information as Lydgate’s work furnishes. It is altogether probable
that in the composition of the particular scenes discussed, Shakespeare
employed a wider range of sources than has been credited. Nevertheless,
while he might have built up his incidents from a selection from various
authors, Pescetti’s account, containing in its one hundred and three
lines by far the most comprehensive extant account of the omens, set
with an eye to dramatic effect in a tragedy dealing with the death of
Caesar, and accompanied by touches not recorded elsewhere, formed the
most convenient source for the dramatist.

Besides, Shakespeare’s whole handling of the supernatural element is
reminiscent of Pescetti’s use of the same material. The Italian sought
to give his drama a portentous background; Shakespeare succeeded in
doing so in a manner which, however greatly superior dramatically, seems
nevertheless but an extension of Pescetti’s efforts.

The evidence herein presented is cumulative; the case for Pescetti does
not rest here. Not only could Shakespeare have derived from Pescetti the
historical matter not found in Plutarch, but his treatment of certain
original scenes in his drama bears a very close resemblance to the same
scenes as they occur in “Cesare.” This is particularly striking in
portions of the Brutus-Cassius action.


Footnote 25:

  In Pescetti the Priest’s recital of the omens consists of some one
  hundred and three lines. Muretus has Calpurnia’s recital to the nurse
  of the dream wherein she beheld Caesar’s bleeding body, and the

     _Calp_: Audere desine tu prius
             Tuaeque si adeo spernis uxoris metum
             Movere vatum oraculis minacibus,
             Periculosam qui tibi hanc lucem admonent:
             Si spectra, si te auspicia, si fibrae monent
             Cavere, et hunc meum timorem comprobant:
             Quid in paratam pertinax mortem ruis?

     _Caes_: Quando timorem ponere aliter non potes,
             Ne nos tibi queraris omnino nihil
             Tribuere, mittatur Senatus in hunc diem. Lines 343–52.

  Hereupon D. Brutus protests to Caesar and the latter yields. Grévin
  has substantially the same account. For Muretus and Grévin I use
  Collischonn’s reprint. See Bibliography.

Footnote 26:

  Life of Caesar, p. 98, Skeat’s edition.

Footnote 27:

  Op. cit., p. 194.

Footnote 28:

  Rather Appian’s almost parallel account.

Footnote 29:

  In the “Cornélie” of Garnier (1574) he also warns Caesar.

Footnote 30:

  Pharsalia, Book IX., lines 1–23.

Footnote 31:

  J. C., Act I., Sc. III, L. 1–32.

Footnote 32:

  In Hamlet I, I, 113 seq. we read.

      _Hor._ A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
             In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
             A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
             The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead,
             Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;
             As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
             Disasters in the sun; and the moist star
             Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
             Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.
             And even the like precurse of fierce events—
             As harbingers preceding still the fates,
             And prologue to the omen coming on,—
             Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
             Unto our climatures and country men.—

  The text is obviously corrupt. These lines do not appear in the Folio,
  nor is there any trace of them in the earliest quarto. It has been
  conjectured that the poet suppressed this passage in representation,
  after he had written “Julius Caesar.” Certainly the similarity to
  Pescetti is striking. The “dews of blood” are again mentioned; also
  the eclipse of the moon, neither occurring in Plutarch.

Footnote 33:

  In an account of a visit to London written by Thomas Platter, a
  merchant of Basle, he mentions a performance of “Julius Caesar,” Sept.
  21, 1599. (Ency. Brit., XI. ed., Art. Shakespeare.)

Footnote 34:

  See “Georgics,” Book I., lines 463–488, for Vergil’s account of the

Footnote 35:

  Lucan’s account is found in the Pharsalia, Bk. I., lines 523–583;
  Ovid’s in the Metamorphoses, Bk. XV., lines 783–798.

Footnote 36:

  Lydgate’s “Fall of Princes,” Boke Sixte, Chap. XI., Leaf CXLVI.,
  Edition of 1558 (see Bibliography).

Footnote 37:

  Translation by Golding, Ed. 1575.

Footnote 38:

  Works of Christopher Marlowe. Edited by Alexander Dyce. London. Wm.
  Pickering, 1850.

Footnote 39:

            Tethys maioribus undis
            Hesperiam Calpen summumque impleuit Atlanta. Phar. Bk. I, L.

Footnote 40:

            Proluit insano contorquens vertice silvas
            Fluviorum rex Eridanus, camposque per omnes
            Cum stabulis armenta tulit. Geo. Bk. 1, L. 481 ff. Ed.

Footnote 41:

  Translation by Davidson. Harper’s Classical Library, New York, 1896.

Footnote 42:

  Lydgate says:

            Another token pitous for here
            Which astonied many a proude Romayne
            Dead bodies dyd in the feldes appere
            Which in battayle had afore be slayne,
            Fro their tombes rising where they layne,

Footnote 43:

            Obscenaeque canes importunaeque volucres
            Signa dabant. Georgics, Bk. I., line 470.

Footnote 44:

  Tristia mille locis Stygius dedit omina bubo. Met., Bk. XV. Ed.
  Teubner. L. 791.

  This Golding quaintly translates,

                  The Screeche owle sent from hell,
            Did with her tune unfortunate in every corner yell.

Footnote 45:

            et simulacra modis pallentia miris
            Visa sub obscurum noctis. L. 477. Georg. I.

Footnote 46:

            umbrasque silentum
            Erravisse ferunt. L. 797. Met., XV.

Footnote 47:

            Arma ferunt inter nigras crepitantia nubes,
            Terribilesque tubas, auditaque cornua caelo. Met., XV. Ll.

Footnote 48:

            Insonuere tubae et quanto clamore cohortes
            Miscentur tantum nox astra silentibus umbris Phar., Bk. I.,

  Vergil has,

            Armorum sonitum toto Germania caelo
            Audiit. Georg., Bk. I., l. 474.

Footnote 49:

            Saepe inter nimbos guttae cecidere cruentae. Met., Bk. XV.,
               l. 788.

  Appian mentions the rain of blood in connection with the crossing of
  the Rubicon.

Footnote 50:

            .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .; et altae
            Per noctem resonare lupis ululantibus urbes. Geo., Bk. I.,
               l. 486.

Footnote 51:

            Siluisque feras sub nocte relictis
            Audaces media posuisse cubilia Roma. Phar., Bk. I, ll.

Footnote 52:

  Translation by Marlowe.

Footnote 53:

  Falls of Princes, Bk. VI.

Footnote 54:

  Julius Obsequens, CXV., mentioned by Sykes in op. cit.

                       THE BRUTUS-CASSIUS SCENES

Especially important for our purpose is the fact that Pescetti makes use
of materials and situations not found in the historians but later used
by Shakespeare. Of these perhaps the most significant is to be found in
the conversation between Brutus and Cassius regarding Antony. This is
one of the most striking parallels to be found in the play. In Pescetti,
as later in Shakespeare, Cassius strenuously favors the killing of
Antony along with Caesar, and the reasons he advances are almost exactly
those found in Shakespeare. As in the latter’s tragedy, Brutus allows
his magnanimity to overbalance his prudence, so in Pescetti, Brutus uses
almost the same arguments against Cassius’ plan as he uses in
Shakespeare’s work.

Plutarch nowhere specifically states that Cassius opposed Antony’s entry
into the conspiracy, or suggested his death.[55] Thus in the life of
Marcus Antonius we read: “This was a good encouragement for Brutus and
Cassius to conspire his death, who fell into a consort with their
trustiest friends, to execute their enterprise, but yet stood doubtful
whether they should make Antonius privy to it or not. All the rest liked
of it, saving Trebonius only. He told them that, when they rode to meet
Caesar on his return out of Spain, Antony and he always keeping company,
and lying together by the way, he felt his mind afar off; but Antonius
finding his meaning, would hearken no more unto it, and yet
notwithstanding, never made Caesar acquainted with this talk, but had
faithfully kept it to himself. After that, they consulted whether they
should kill Antonius with Caesar. But Brutus would in nowise consent to
it, saying, that venturing on such an enterprise as that, for the
maintenance of law and justice, it ought to be clear from all
villany.”[56] In the life of Marcus Brutus, Plutarch writes: “For it was
set down and agreed between them, that they should kill no man but
Caesar only, and should entreat all the rest to look to defend their
liberty. All the conspirators, but Brutus,[57] determining upon this
matter, thought it good also to kill Antonius, because he was a wicked
man, and that in nature favored tyranny; besides, also, for he was in
great estimation with soldiers, having been conversant of long time
amongst them; and especially having a mind bent to great enterprises, he
was also of great authority at that time, being Consul with Caesar. But
Brutus would not agree to it. First, for that he said it was not honest;
secondly, because he told them that there was hope of change in him. For
he did not mistrust but that Antonius, being a noble-minded and
courageous man (when he should know that Caesar was dead), would
willingly help his country to recover her liberty, having them an
example unto him to follow their courage and virtue.”[58]

In Pescetti the conspiracy has been hatched before the play begins, as
is evident from the following lines. Thus Cassius, finding Brutus in the
gloom of early morning apostrophizing the shade of Pompey, asks:

            “Qual pensier ti molesta, e si per tempo
            Abbandonar ti fa le molli piume?”—P. 15.

to which Brutus replies,

            “Oggi, Cassio, disposto ho di dar fine
            A quel, che già per noi s’è divisato.”—P. 16.

namely, the death of the tyrant. Brutus and Cassius enter the temple to
pray for the success of their enterprise, while the Priest, and then the
Chorus holds the stage. On their reappearance immediately thereafter,
the two conspirators discuss the details of the assassination. I will
quote the entire dialogue relating to Antony.

    _Cas._— Parmi d’avere scorto in Marcantonio
            Disio di dominar: perciò s’in tutto
            Vogliam la patria assicurar, spegniamo
            Anco lui col Tiranno, e fuor de gli occhi
            Tragghiamci questo stecco, che potrebbe,
            Quando che sia, non poca briga darne.
            Che tu sai ben, quanto li siano amici
            I veterani, e quanto acconcio ei sia
            Gli animi a concitar del volgo insano.

    _Bru._— S’ad altri, oltre al Tiranno, darem morte,
            Si stimerà dal volgo, che le cose
            Sempre stravolge, e falsamente espone,
            Che non disio di liberar la patria,
            Ma privato odio, e brama di vendetta
            A ciò sospinti n’abbia, e di quell’opra,
            Onde da noi s’attende eterna fama,
            N’acquisterem vergogna, e biasmo eterno:
            E dove nome di pietà cerchiamo,
            Sarem del titol d’empietà notati;
            Nè perciò a noi gran fatto avrem giovato;
            Che non è Marcantonio huom, di cui deggia
            Altri temer gran fatto, un’huomo al ventre
            Dedito, e al sonno, e ne’ piacer venerei,
            Nelle dissolutioni, e nell’ebbrezze
            Snervato, e rotto osarà prender l’arme
            Contra color, che nulla ebber giammai
            Amicizia con l’ozio, o col piacere,
            Ma tutta trapassar lor vita in duri
            Studi et in faticosi aspri esercizi?
            E ’l veder a che fin pervengan quelli,
            Ch’altrui cercan di tor la libertade,
            E la recente morte del Tiranno
            Spaventarallo in guisa, che s’in lui
            Fosse di dominar alcun disio
            Subito spegnerassi. Cas.—È Marcantonio
            Dedito certo all’ozio, et ai piaceri,
            Ma di lui per contrario non si trova
            Altri più forte, e coraggioso, e delle
            Fatiche, e de’disagi paziente,
            Quando e’fa d’uopo; onde si poca stima
            Non è da far di lui: di ciò che dica
            Il volgo, il volgo sciocco, ben dovemo
            Noi poco conto far, che chi si muove
            Per le voci del volgo, è più del volgo
            Lieve, e incostante. Br. In somma e’non si deve
            Punir, chi non hà errato, e a me non basta
            L’animo di dar morte a chi nocciuto
            Non m’hà, nè fatto ingiuria. Cas. A me più saggio
            Sembra colui che’l suo nemico uccide
            Pria, che l’offenda, che colui, che dopo
            Ch’è stato offeso, vendica l’ingiuria.

    _Bru._— Non il pensier, ma l’opra punir vuolsi;
            Oltra, che chi m’accerta, ch’ei tal mente
            Abbia, qual dici? Chi può dentro il petto
            Suo penetrar? e ciò, che vi nasconde,
            Veder? Gli uman pensier sol Giove intende.

    _Cas._— Bruto, tu se’ troppo pietoso: voglia
            Il Ciel, che questa tua pietà non sia
            Un giorno a noi crudel. Nel risanare
            Dall’ulcere nascenti i corpi il ferro,
            E ’l fuoco oprar convien, che tu ben sai,
            Che ’l medico pietoso infistolisce
            La piaga, e spesso tutto il corpo infetta.

    _Bru._— Col troncar della testa all’altre membra
            Troncasi ogni vigore, ogni possanza.

    _Cas._— Nell’ Idra ov’una testa si troncava,
            Ivi ne rinascean subito sette.

    _Bru._— Pur alla fine anch’ella estinta giacque.

    _Cas._— Sì, ma da un figlio dell’eterno Giove.

    _Bru._— Chiunque ama virtù, figlio è di Giove;
            Ma ciò lasciam da parte, et ogni nostro
            Pensier intorno si raggiri, e volga
            Alla morte di Giulio.[59]—Pp. 25–27.

In Shakespeare we have the following:

    _Dec._— Shall no man else be touched but only Caesar?

    _Cas._— Decius, well urged: I think it is not meet,
            Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,
            Should outlive Caesar: we shall find of him
            A shrewd contriver; and you know his means,
            If he improve them, may well stretch so far
            As to annoy us all: which to prevent,
            Let Antony and Caesar fall together.

    _Bru._— Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
            To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
            Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
            For Antony is but a limb of Caesar:
            Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
            We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,
            And in the spirit of men there is no blood:
            O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit,
            And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
            Caesar must bleed for it. And, gentle friends,
            Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
            Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
            Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds;
            And let our hearts, as subtle masters do,
            Stir up their servants to an act of rage
            And after seem to chide ’em. This shall make
            Our purpose necessary and not envious:
            Which so appearing to the common eyes,
            We shall be call’d purgers, not murderers.
            And for Mark Antony, think not of him;
            For he can do no more than Caesar’s arm
            When Caesar’s head is off.

    _Cas._—                          Yet I fear him,
            For in the ingrafted love he bears to Caesar—

    _Bru._— Alas! good Cassius, do not think of him:
            If he love Caesar, all that he can do
            Is to himself, take thought, and die for Caesar;
            And that were much he should, for he is given
            To sports, to wildness and much company.

   _Treb._— There is no fear in him; let him not die;
            For he will live and laugh at this hereafter.

                                            —II., i, ll. 154–191.[60]

The statements in the above quotation which can, however faintly, be
traced to Plutarch, are the love of Antony for Caesar, his power both as
Consul and general, his ambitious mind, and, at some length, his loose
manner of living.[61] But nowhere does the biographer mention this last
among the reasons urged by Brutus for his salvation, nor that he was but
a “limb of Caesar.” Nor, in the handling of this scene by either
Pescetti or Shakespeare do we find Brutus considering Antony a
noble-minded man, who, once Caesar were dead, would gladly help his
country regain her liberty.

The reasons urged by Cassius are in substance exactly the same in
Pescetti as in Shakespeare. They are either entirely absent, or only
faintly indicated in scattered hints throughout Plutarch or Appian. The
similarity is at times almost verbal. Thus Cassius, in urging the death
of Antony says:

                                  E fuor degli occhi
            Tragghiamci questo stecco, che potrebbe,
            Quando che sia, non poca briga darne.

Translated this reads,

                          And from our eyes
            Let us pluck this thorn, which might,
            Some time or other, cause us no little annoyance.

Shakespeare makes Cassius exclaim,

                            And you know his means
            If he improve them, may well stretch so far
            As to annoy us all.

Sir William Alexander in his “Tragedy of Julius Caesar” (circa 1604–7),
in the course of the same debate, puts the following in the mouth of

                  Well Brutus, I protest against my will
                  From this black cloud, whatever tempest fall,
                  That mercy but most cruelly doth kill,
                  Which saves one, who once may plague us all.

            Works of Stirling. Edition 1870, Glasgow, p. 280.

While it is still to be proved that Alexander borrowed anything from
Shakespeare, it is certain, as will be shown later,[62] that he not only
followed Grévin, but also derived many hints from Pescetti. Although
Plutarch was a common source for all three authors, it is certainly
remarkable to find them all, in the same scene, using exactly the same
term to characterize the threatened activity of Antony. Pescetti,
Shakespeare, and Alexander agree in making Cassius urge the conspirators
to kill him, for fear, that if spared, he might _annoy_ them all.

Cassius says further:

            ... We shall find of him
            A shrewd contriver;

And in a later scene when Brutus says of Antony,

            “I know that we shall have him well to friend,”

Cassius replies,

            “I wish we may. But yet have I a mind
            That fears him much; and my misgiving still
            Falls shrewdly to the purpose” (Act III., Sc. 1, ll.

And again, in the scene between Brutus and Cassius regarding the
former’s resolve to permit Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral, Cassius

                          Brutus, a word with you,
    (_Aside to Bru._) You know not what you do: do not consent
              That Antony speak in his funeral:
              Know you how much the people may be moved
              By that which he will utter?—III., Sc. 1, ll. 232–236.

All this is very similar to Cassius’ argument:

            “Che tu sai ben, quanto li siano amici
            I veterani, e quanto acconcio ei sia
            Gli animi a concitar del volgo insano.”

As Brutus cannot be persuaded, Cassius adds:

            “I know not what may fall; I like it not.”—III., 1, l. 244.

In Pescetti, his reply to Brutus’ magnanimous but shortsighted attitude

            “Bruto, tu se’ troppo pietoso: voglia
            Il Ciel, che questa tua pietà non sia
            Un giorno a noi crudel.”

All that Plutarch gives us of Brutus’ counter-arguments is as follows:

  “First, for he said it was not honest; secondly, because he told
  them that there was hope of change in him.”[63]

Furthermore, we read:

  “But Brutus would in nowise consent to it, saying, that venturing on
  such an enterprise as that, for the maintenance of law and justice,
  it ought to be clear from all villany.”[64]

In Pescetti, Brutus says:

            “S’ad altri, oltre al Tiranno, darem morte,
            Si stimerà dal volgo, che le cose
            Sempre stravolge, e falsamente espone,
            Che non disio di liberar la patria,
            Ma privato odio, e brama di vendetta
            A ciò sospinti n’abbia, e di quell’opra,
            Onde da noi s’attende eterna fama,
            N’acquisterem vergogna, e biasmo eterno;
            E dove nome di pietà cerchiamo,
            Sarem del titol d’empietà notati:
            Nè perciò a noi gran fatto avrem giovato.”[65]

Note his solicitude for the opinions of the people. Witness the
parallelism, almost verbal at times, between the above and Shakespeare’s

            “... This shall make
            Our purpose necessary and not envious;
            Which so appearing to the _common_ eyes,
            We shall be called purgers, not murderers.”

Again in Pescetti:

    _Bru._— “.   .   .   .   .   .   . In somma e’ non si deve
            Punir, chi non hà errato, e a me non basta
            L’animo di dar morte a chi nocciuto
            Non m’hà, nè fatto ingiuria.

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            Col troncar della testa all’altre membra
            Troncasi ogni vigor, ogni possanza.”[66]

Compare this with Shakespeare:

    _Bru._— “Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
            To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
            Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
            For Antony is but a limb of Caesar:
            Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.

            .       .       .       .       .

            And as for Mark Antony, think not of him,
            For he can do no more than Caesar’s arm
            When Caesar’s head is off.”

Again Pescetti’s Brutus says:

    _Bru._— “Che non è Marcantonio huom di cui deggia
            Altri temer gran fatto, un’huomo al ventre
            Dedito, e al sonno, e ne’ piacer venerei
            Nelle dissolutioni, e nell’ebbrezze
            Snervato, e rotto osarà prender l’arme
            Contra color, che nulla ebber giammai
            Amicizia con l’ozio, e col piacere.”

Thus in Shakespeare:

    _Bru._— “And that were much he should, for he is given
            To sports, wildness and much company.”[67]

Not only are these scenes in both dramatists almost exactly parallel in
sentiment, but the abruptness of the conclusion and the sequence of the
following scenes are noteworthy. Pescetti dismisses the idea thus:

    _Bru._— “Chiunque ama virtù, figlio è di Giove;
            Ma ciò lasciam da parte, e ogni nostro
            Pensier intorno si raggiri, e volga
            Alla morte di Giulio.”—P. 27.

In Shakespeare, Trebonius, whom Plutarch represents as opposing Antony’s
entry into the conspiracy, lightly dismisses the subject:

   _Treb._— “There is no fear in him; let him not die;
            For he will live and laugh at this hereafter.”—II., 1, ll.

It is peculiar that in both Pescetti and Shakespeare the sequence of the
immediately following scenes is the same. In the former Brutus proceeds
to detail the plans for Caesar’s assassination, and as he finishes,
Portia enters. He concludes:

            “Ma giamo ad informar del tutto gli altri,
            Acciò gli spirti destino, e le forze,
            Et apparecchin l’arme all’alta impresa.”—P. 28.

This is closely followed by the entry of Portia. In Shakespeare the
conspirators discuss ways and means of getting Caesar to the Capitol.

Towards the conclusion we have:

    _Cas._— “The morning comes upon’s: we’ll leave you, Brutus:
            And, friends, disperse yourselves; but all remember
            What you have said and show yourselves true Romans.”

                                                            —II., 1, 221.

Soon after Portia enters. It is also noteworthy that Brutus and Cassius
in both plays perfect their plans in the early morning. There is no
warrant for this in Plutarch or Appian.

Another striking parallel in situation and treatment is to be found in
the behavior of the conspirators during the conversation of Lenate
(Popilius Lena) with Caesar immediately preceding the murder. This is
Plutarch’s[68] account: “Another Senator, called Popilius Lena, after he
had saluted Brutus more friendly than he was wont to do, he rounded
softly in their ears, and told them: ‘I pray the gods you may go through
with that you have taken in hand; but withal dispatch, I reade you, for
your enterprise is bewrayed.’ When he had said, he presently departed
from them, and left them both afraid that their conspiracy would out....
When Caesar came out of his litter, Popilius Lena (that had talked
before with Brutus and Cassius, and had prayed the gods they might bring
their enterprise to pass) went unto Caesar, and kept him a long time
with a talk. Caesar gave good ear unto him: wherefore the conspirators
(if so they should be called) not hearing what he said to Caesar, but
conjecturing by that he had told them a little while before that his
talk was none other than the very discovery of their conspiracy, they
were afraid every man of them; and, one looking in another’s face, it
was easy to see that they were of a mind, that it was no tarrying for
them till they were apprehended, but rather that they should kill
themselves with their own hands. And when Cassius and certain other
clapped their hands on their swords under their gowns to draw them,
Brutus, marking the countenance and gesture of Lena, and considering
that he did use himself rather like an humble and earnest suitor than
like an accuser, he said nothing to his companions (because there were
many amongst them that were not of the conspiracy) but with a pleasant
countenance encouraged Cassius. And immediately after Lena went from
Caesar, and kissed his hand; which showed plainly that it was for some
matter concerning himself that he had held him so long in talk.”[69]

Note that Plutarch, outside of Lena’s remark, cites no sayings of the
conspirators, but describes their demeanor only. Appian does likewise.
Pescetti follows his account faithfully, but in spirit very similar to
Shakespeare’s treatment. In Pescetti, Caesar is accosted by Lena, who
begs a favor for a friend. Their conversation is entirely too lengthy
for dramatic effectiveness. Previous to this episode, Brutus, at the
beginning of the fourth act, confides to Cassius his belief that the
conspiracy will be discovered, if indeed it has not already been
revealed to Caesar. Among other statements he says:

            “Senza sangue rimasi dianzi, quando
            Ci s’appressò Lenate, et in disparte
            Trattine, nell’orecchia fin felice
            All’impresa auguronne, e dubitai,
            Che già non fosse discoperto il tutto.”—P. 88.

In the scene between Lenate and Caesar, Cassius, marking the former’s
approach to the Dictator, says,

            “Bruto, noi siam spediti; ecco Lenate,
            Che ragiona con Cesare in secreto.”—P. 107.

And then following:

    _Bru._— Questo ch’importa a noi?

    _Cas._— Come ch’importa?
            Non sai, se la congiura gli è palese?

    _Bru._— T’intendo: ahi che valor, dove fortuna
            S’opponga, nulla val. Stiam preparati,
            Per proveder, se fia bisogno, al nostro
            Scampo, e alla libertà farci la strada,
            Se non possiam con altro, col passarci
            Co’pugnali l’un l’altro il fianco, o ’l petto.—P. 107.

Lenate and Caesar continue their talk. Cassius’ fears are increasing. He

            “Gli occhi teniamo intenti, e se fa cenno
            Che presi siam, pria che ci leghi alcuno,
            Sciogliam noi l’alma da corporei lacci.”—P. 107.

Near the end of the conversation Brutus says,

            “Respira, ò Cassio, che li parla d’altro,
            Per quel, che di quì posso dal sembiante
            Comprender, e da gesti.”—P. 109.

After Lenate leaves Caesar, Cassius, turning to the former, exclaims,

            “M’è ritornata l’anima nel corpo.
            Il tuo parlar con Cesare n’hà messo,
            Lenate, in gran spavento?”

To which Lenate replies,

            Della mia fede, avete dubitato,
            Ch’un muto parli. Sievi pure il cielo
            Propizio, com’io vi sarò fedele.”

This entire scene, as others in Pescetti, make us regret that his
slavish subservience to his models caused him to smother his dramatic
ability in an avalanche of verbiage. He shows, in spite of many
omissions, a true perception of the dramatic possibilities of his
material. Had he only been able to condense his work by almost
three-quarters, his tragedy would rank high as a representative of its
type. Shakespeare uses the same material, takes out his few ounces of
gold, and casts away the tons of dross. Nothing that can impede the
swiftly approaching climax is tolerated, yet everything necessary to
heighten the suspense is introduced.

    _Pop._— I wish your enterprise to-day may thrive.

    _Cas._— What enterprise, Popilius?

    _Pop._—             Fare you well
                        (_Advances to Caesar_)

    _Bru._— What said Popilius Lena?

    _Cas._— He wished to-day our enterprise might thrive.
            I fear our purpose is discovered.

    _Bru._— Look, how he makes to Caesar: mark him.

    _Cas._—                             Casca,
            Be sudden, for we fear prevention.
            Brutus, what shall be done? If this be known,
            Cassius, or Caesar never shall turn back,
            For I will slay myself.

    _Bru._—               Cassius, be constant:
            Popilius Lena speaks not of our purposes;
            For, look he smiles, and Caesar doth not change.[70]

These scenes are not only significant from a critical standpoint; they
are historically of prime importance. In Muretus and Grévin the matter
of Antony’s entry into the conspiracy is confined to a few lines;
Pescetti is the first to give it more importance and the first to employ
material which later reappears in Shakespeare’s work. The Popilius Lena
scene is even more important, for it is in “Cesare” that we find the
first dramatic treatment of this significant episode. Shakespeare’s
treatment almost exactly parallels the work of his humble predecessor.

Pescetti seemed well aware of the dramatic value of suspense. In “Julius
Caesar”, Shakespeare’s use of this device is much commended, but in this
particular play he seems to have been anticipated by the Italian. The
preceding scene is not the only one wherein it is employed by Pescetti.
Some time before, D. Brutus joins Cassius and M. Brutus, deploring the
perversity of fortune.[71] He fears that Caesar has scented the
conspiracy and will not attend that day’s session of the Senate. The
introduction of this matter at this time strongly resembles
Shakespeare’s use of the same device, under the same circumstances.
Cassius says to D. Brutus:

    _Cas._— Bruto tu sè turbato.

   _D. B._— E n’hò cagione.

    _Cas._— Che c’è?

   _D. B._— S’appon fortuna, à desir nostri.

    _Cas._— .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
            “Ma che cosa incontrat’è, ch’interrompe
            I nostri alti disegni?

   _D. B._— S’è pentito
            D’ir in Senato Cesar, e dimane
            Come dianzi vi dissi, prende à guardia,
            Del corpo suo cinquanta huomini eletti:
            Et ò pur, che non abbia qualche cosa
            Della congiura, e dell’ insidie udito.”—Pp. 92–93.

In Shakespeare we read:

    _Cas._—              “But it is doubtful yet
            Whether Caesar will come forth to-day or no;
            For he is superstitious grown of late,
            Quite from the main opinion he held once
            Of fantasy, of dreams and ceremonies.
            It may be these apparent prodigies,
            The unaccustomed terror of this night,
            And the persuasion of his augurers,
            May hold him from the Capitol to-day.” Act II., I, l. 194

In both dramas the object is the same; to awaken doubts in the
spectators’ minds as to the ultimate success of the plotters and to
awaken an interest in the means whereby the conspirators succeed in
overcoming Caesar’s suspicion. The difference in content in the
parallels seems due to the fact that while Pescetti follows Appian,
Shakespeare follows Plutarch.


Footnote 55:

  Neither does Appian.

Footnote 56:

  Shakespeare’s Plutarch. Ed. by W. W. Skeat, page 164.

Footnote 57:

  Appian says: “Some of the Conspirators” (1578 Ed.).

Footnote 58:

  Plutarch, page 119. Skeat.

Footnote 59:

  This scene goes far beyond Muret and Grévin. In Muretus the scene is
  confined to the following lines:

    _Cass._— .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
             Unus mihi nunc scrupulus restat:
             Unane opera confodiendum
             Cum Caesare ipso censeas Antonium?

     _Bru._— Jam saepe dixi, id esse consilium mihi,
             Salvis perimere civibus tyrannida.

    _Cass._— Perimatur ergo ab infimis radicibus,
             Ne quando post hac caesa rursum pullulet.

     _Bru._— Latet sub uno tota radix corpore.

    _Cass._— Itan’ videtur? amplius nil proloquar.
             Tibi pareatur; te sequimur omnes ducem.
             Vide modo, ut, cum opus erit, adsis. Brut. videro. Lines
             184 ff.

  Grévin differs but slightly. Cassius says:

            Mais j’ay je ne sçay quoy qui mi detient pensif.
            N’estes vous pas d’advis que de force pareille
            Nous abordions Antoine, à fin qu’il ne resveille,
            L’orgueil de ce Tyran en ses nouveaux amis?

                              M. Brute.

            Je vous ay tousjours dict que ce n’est mon advis.


            Si seroit-ce bien faict, arrachans la racine,
            Avecque le gros tronc de tout ceste vermine,
            De peur qu’ell’ ne revive, ou que le pied laissé,
            Ne resemble celuy qui l’auroit devancé.

                              M. Brute.

            C’est assez, soyez prest, pendant que je regarde,
            Que chascun de mes gens se tienne sur sa garde. Lines 508

  Cassius exults in the prospect of liberty and the scene closes. It is
  curious to remark the simile regarding Antony’s relations to Caesar
  which runs through Muretus, Grévin, Pescetti and Shakespeare. In all
  Caesar is likened to a trunk of which Antony is simply an appendage.

Footnote 60:

  Julius Caesar, II, I, ll. 154–191.

Footnote 61:

  Particularly in “Marcus Antonius,” page 161.

Footnote 62:

  Page 114 et seq.

Footnote 63:

  “Marcus Antonius,” p. 119. Skeat.

Footnote 64:

  “Marcus Antonius,” p. 164. Skeat.

Footnote 65:

  Pescetti throughout this scene follows Appian rather than Plutarch.
  Appian says: “Some thought that Antony ought to be killed also because
  he was consul with Caesar, and was his most powerful friend, and the
  one of the most repute with the army; but Brutus said that they would
  win the glory of tyrannicide from the death of Caesar alone, because
  that would be the killing of a king. If they should kill his friends
  also, the deed would be imputed to private enmity and to the Pompeian
  faction.” (Civil Wars, Bk. II, Ch. XVI., White’s Trans.)

Footnote 66:

  This parallel is noted by Ayres (in work cited before).

Footnote 67:

  Noted by Ayres.

Footnote 68:

  Substantially the same in Appian.

Footnote 69:

  Marcus Brutus, p. 117–118.

Footnote 70:

  J. C., Act. III., Sc. I, ll. 14–27.

Footnote 71:

  P. 91 ff.

                        THE CHARACTER OF CAESAR

Of all Shakespeare’s portraits, there are few which have so puzzled his
critics as that of Julius Caesar. Their ingenuity has been taxed to the
utmost to account for a characterization so at variance with historical
fact, and many have been the theories advanced in explanation. It is not
my purpose to detail this controversy. The facts are commonplaces of
Shakespearian study. Neither is it necessary to set forth all the many
and various tributes wherein Shakespeare, in his other works, and in
“Julius Caesar” itself, gives ample evidence of his appreciation of
Caesar’s true greatness. What I do purpose to show is the marked
similarity between the conception of Caesar’s character in Shakespeare
and that found in Pescetti.

It must be understood that I employ the term characterization as applied
to Pescetti’s dramatis personae for lack of a better term. In his type
of the drama very little of the characterization is brought out by the
clash of conflict, although, as I have before pointed out, there are
passages in “Cesare” in which this is to some extent true. We gain our
conception of character more through a recital of the characteristics or
traits of his persons, rather than through a revelation in action.

To Shakespeare, therefore, “Cesare” would not have appealed as a drama;
but as a history or a recital of the feelings animating various persons
during certain situations, it had its attractions. I purpose to show in
just what manner Shakespeare in his delineation of Caesar may have
availed himself of the material provided by this long forgotten work.

It has been claimed, and in my opinion, erroneously, that Shakespeare’s
peculiar characterization of his titular hero was due to his lack of
classical knowledge. Surely such a charge can not hold against the
Veronese rhetorician, whose livelihood depended on his classical
training, and who did not hesitate to dispute with Tasso. Yet his
characterization brings into relief many of those features which have in
Shakespeare’s portrait so aroused the surprise and chagrin of critics.

Professor Harry Morgan Ayres[72] traces these peculiarities in
Shakespeare’s delineation of his titular character to the influence of a
Renaissance idea of Caesar which had its ultimate source in the Hercules
Oetoeus of Seneca, found its way into the Renaissance drama through
Muretus, and had become traditional in Shakespeare’s time. No claim is
advanced of any direct relation of “Julius Caesar” to preceding
versions, but the similarity in certain particulars existing between the
various characterizations of Caesar is emphasized. That Grévin’s
portrait should be markedly similar to that of Muretus is but natural in
view of the former’s open plagiarism. Pescetti also owes much to the
noted humanist. The latter made Caesar a grandiloquent braggart.
Pescetti, following his example, makes Caesar’s boastfulness a prominent
trait of his character. Yet neither Muretus nor Grévin emphasizes
Caesar’s vacillation, nor this indecision, which, seemingly through the
Italian’s drama, found its way later into Shakespeare’s portrait.

While it is quite possible that the traditional conception of Caesar
supposedly prevalent in Shakespeare’s time influenced his peculiar
delineation of the Dictator, there is apparently no good reason for
excluding the possibility that the dramatist’s notion of his titular
hero’s traditional character was confirmed by an examination of
Pescetti’s work, if indeed he did not derive from the latter all the
hints supposedly due to the tradition fixed by Muretus.

Like Shakespeare, Pescetti is not lacking in appreciation of Caesar’s
greatness; of his courage, patriotism, magnanimity. Thus Cassius says to

            “Tu sai, ch’egli è feroce, e ne’ perigli
            Non si sgomenta punto, anzi diviene
            Allor più ardito, e coraggioso, quando
            Maggior vede il periglio.”[73]

In his dedication, the highest compliment he can pay to Alfonso d’Este
is to number the mighty Julius among his ancestors. In the prologue his
approaching death troubles the gods, and Jove promises for him
immortality among the celestials as the only fitting reward for his
merit, while ruin and destruction await his assassins. In the play the
First Messenger refers to him as “huom divino.”[74] The Chorus sings his

                          “Così dunque
            Quei, che pur dianzi un folgor fu di guerra,
            Un’ Achille, un Alcide di possanza,
            Un’ Ulisse di senno, e d’accortezza,
            Un Ciro, un Alessandro d’ardimento,
            Di magnaminità, di cortesia,
            Estinto giace miserabilmente.”—P. 127.

Criticism cannot be too guarded in considering as evidence of personal
bias the words of an author’s character, but cumulative evidence is
certainly not without its influence. The chorus later in the play refers
to Caesar again, and as

            “Del più saggio, e più forte
            Huom, ch’arme unqua vestisse.”[74]—P. 131.

The Chorus of Soldiers towards the close of the play sings his praise.
Decimus Brutus, trying to persuade Caesar, runs the whole gamut of the
latter’s deeds.

Nor does Pescetti, any more than Shakespeare, begrudge him credit for
his courtesy and magnanimity. Regarding this trait, Professor MacCallum
calls particular attention to the passage in “Julius Caesar” wherein
Artemidorus urges the consideration of his petition:

    _Art._— Hail, Caesar! read this schedule.

    _Dec._— Trebonius doth desire you to o’er-read,
            At your best leisure, this his humble suit.

    _Art._— O Caesar, read mine first; for mine’s a suit
            That touches Caesar nearer: read it, great Caesar.

   _Caes._— What touches us ourself shall be last served.—III., 1, 3–8.

This is nowhere suggested in Plutarch. It is, indeed, quite easy to
regard this magnanimous action as the caprice of a man so intoxicated by
success that he has lost all sense of social perspective; a real
Colossus, for whom the ordinary motives of men seem too insignificant
for his semi-divine being. Pescetti’s Caesar leaves no room for the
exercise of surmise. In the scene between Lenate and the Dictator,
Caesar is courteous and magnanimous beyond criticism. Lenate felicitates
Caesar, who replies:

            “E tè, Lenate, a pien contento renda.
            Che chiedi? in che può Cesare, Lenate
            Servir? in c’hà dell’ opra sua bisogno?”—P. 106.

Lenate praises Caesar’s courtesy, and Caesar tells him to name his suit,
for he will deny him nothing. Lenate begs a military appointment for
Quinto Fulvio. Caesar says:

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            “A lor di soddisfarti io ti prometto,
            Et in soddisfacendoti maggiore
            Riceverò, che non farò servigio,
            Ch’à somma grazia, e a singular favore
            D’esser da tà servito mi rech’io:
            E se, qual tu me lo dipingi, fia,
            Come fia veramente, che Lenate
            Sò, che non mente, i premi all’ opre uguali
            Andranno, e sarà Cesare con lui
            Quel, che stat’ è con gli altri.”

At the conclusion of this scene he remarks,

            “Huom, che d’umanità si spogli, indegno
            Stim’ io del nome d’huomo, e fu più degno
            Di ruggir fra Leon, fremer frà gli Orsi,
            Urlar frà i Lupi, e sibilar frà i Serpi
            Nelle selve, negli antri, e nelle grotte,
            Che formar nelle terre umani accenti.”—Ces., pp. 106–110.

This, while rather declamatory, rings true.

Still, in spite of this consideration of Caesar’s nobler traits,
Pescetti so emphasizes his weaknesses that the total impression we
receive from his characterization is not at all in keeping with that
which we derive from the Caesar of history. True, Pescetti does not
mention the Dictator’s physical failings; but the same pride, the same
thrasonical boastfulness, the same vacillation are to be found in both
characterizations treated in a manner singularly similar.

Caesar, on his first appearance, while he displays traits which
apparently are hard to reconcile with his future statements, strikes one
note which predominates throughout; that of boastfulness. His very first
words are:

            “Magnifica, superba, e veramente
            Qual darsi ad un Pontefice conviene,
            La cena fu, che Lepido iersera
            Ne diè. . . .”—P. 62.

His sense of his own importance, and of the honors due to his position,
is evident. He comments philosophically upon the delights of
conversation around the banqueting board. This gives Antony an
opportunity to dilate upon the mutability of human fortune. Caesar

            “Quest’ instabilità, quest’ inconstanza
            Delle cose mondane, à me ricorda,
            Che lo stato presente, in che m’ hà posto,
            O fortuna, ò valor, non mi prometta
            Perpetuo, ma, ch’ io creda, e stia sicuro,
            Che si debba mutar, quando, che sia.”—P. 66.

It must be borne in mind that Caesar is talking to an intimate friend
and companion in arms. Antony takes the occasion to warn him:

            “Della fortuna io t’assicuro, ch’ella
            Non ti sie mai contraria sì nel crine
            Avvolte l’ hai le mani. Dall’ insidie
            Ben t’esort’ io guardarti de’ nemici.
            Molti offesi da te si tengon; molti
            Portano invidia alla tua gloria; alcuni
            Abbaglia il tuo splendore: altri patire
            Che tu lor sii superior, non ponno.”—Pp. 66–67.

Caesar replies:

            “Diman cinquanta de’ più fidi, e forti[75]
            Scer della legion decima i voglio,
            Che mi stien di continuo al fianco, e scudo
            Mi sien contra ogni inganno, e forza esterna.
            Ch’io non son mica si di senno privo,
            Nè m’hà sì la dolcezza inebriato
            Delle prosperità, ch’io non conosca,
            Quant’ abbia di temer giusta cagione:
            E già d’insidie non sò, che m’è stato
            Susurrato all’ orecchie: ma i disegni
            Schernirò di chi tenta oltraggio farmi.
            Ma ciò poc’ or mi preme, e mi dà noia:
            Più mi dà noia, e preme il ricordarmi
            Ch’ invendicata ancor resti la morte
            Di Crasso. . . .”—Page 67.

He longs to see the Roman eagle triumphant, and Rome mistress of the

This speech of Caesar’s is noteworthy. The dictator affirms that the
intoxication of success has not blinded his common sense. He has reason
to fear treachery, yet just what is contemplated against him he does not
know. He despises those who would harm him. That humbled Rome has not
yet wreaked vengeance on the Parthians concerns him far more. Here again
this concern of Caesar for the welfare of others finds its echo in
Shakespeare’s lines,

            “What touches us ourself shall be last served.”

There is no historical warrant for this attitude in this particular

Courageous words! But be it noted that Pescetti’s Caesar in the presence
of Antony does not wish to convey the impression of fear. He hastens to
voice his scorn of treachery, even as he recounts his suspicions. This
man, who prides himself on his self-command, is destined to fall an easy
victim to his own vanity. His own self praise opens the way for Antony’s

            “Alla fortuna, al valor tuo riserba
            Quest’ alta impresa il cielo, acciocchè nulla
            A tuoi gran vanti, alle tue glorie manchi:

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            O quali omai trovar si ponno al tuo
            Merto conformi titoli, e cognomi?
            Son vili i Magni al vincitor de’ Magni.
            Al del salir convien, por man bisogna
            A titoli, e a nomi de gli Dei.
            Divine l’opre son, divini i fatti
            Divino è il tuo valor, divini ancora
            Esser vogliono i titoli, e i cognomi,
            Di che la grata età t’addorni, e fregi.—Pp. 68–69.

    _Ces._— Con quai nomi m’appelli il mondo, o quali
            Titoli egli mi dia, poco mi cale.
            A me basta, ch’ ei sappia, e legga, e narri
            Le da me oprate cose in pace, e in guerra;
            Onde ne resti la memoria viva
            Al par del Sol, con cui gareggi, e giostri
            Di chiarezza, e splendor la gloria mia.”—P. 69.

The dialogue has become a duet of praise, in which Antony seeks to
outsing his master. Finally Caesar says,

            “Delle sovrane lodi, onde m’addorni,
            Molto mi pregio, ò Antonio, e con ragione,
            Poscia, che vengon da colui, che, come
            Scorge, così di dir hà per costume
            Il vero, e in bocca hà quel, ch’egli hà nel cuore,
            Ch’è così saggio, e candido, che come
            Esser nel giudicar non può ingannato,
            Così nel dir altri ingannar non vuole.”—P. 70.

He accepts Antony’s praise because he feels that it is true, coming from
the heart of a sincere and plain-speaking friend. He reposes the same
faith in Antony’s judgment as is the case in Shakespeare. Thus, when he
speaks of Cassius, Antony tells him,

            “Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous;
            He is a noble Roman, and well given.”

A few lines later, Caesar says,

            “Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,
            And tell me truly what thou think’st of him.”

In “Cesare” to Calpurnia’s entreaties he retorts:

            “Donna, tu spargi le parole al vento;
            Resta di più pregar, se saggia sei;
            A i lamenti, alle lagrime pon fine,
            Che vedrai sorger pria dall’ Occidente,
            Et attuffarsi il Sol là, dond’ ei nasce,
            Ch’ io presti fede a i sogni, che possanza
            Habbian di frastornarmi dall’ imprese
            Già destinate i sogni, od i prodigi

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            Esca di questo petto anzi lo spirto,
            Che’ l timor c’ entri, e massime de’ sogni,
            Ch’ altro non son, che vane ombre, e fantasmi.
            Quel, che di me prefisso è il ciel, conviene,
            Che sia: ne per por mente a sogni, ò a segni
            Potrò schivarlo, e folle à me colui
            Sembra, che teme quel, che per consiglio,
            Nè per saver uman non può schivarsi.”[76]—Pp. 76–77.

Let it be noted that Caesar is addressing Calpurnia in the presence of
the Priest, and it would ill become the conqueror of the world to show
fear or vacillation before them. He is discussing his wife’s dream, yet
in spite of his expressed disbelief in omens, it was he who ordered the
fateful sacrifice, which, as the First Messenger announces after the
catastrophe, he himself inspected. Evidently he was in doubt even then,
but his vanity and the urging of the conspirators lured him to his doom.
Compare his boasts of fearlessness with Shakespeare:

            “Would he were fatter! but I fear him not:
            Yet if my name were liable to fear,
            I do not know the man I should avoid
            So soon as that spare Cassius....

                   .       .       .       .       .

            I rather tell thee what it is to be fear’d
            Than what I fear: for always, I am Caesar.”[77]

Yet immediately thereafter he wishes Antony to give him his true opinion
of Cassius. What for?

Still, in spite of his outwardly expressed contempt of the omens,
Pescetti’s Caesar yields, just as does Shakespeare’s, when the crafty
Decimus plays on his vanity. In the presence of the conspirators he

            “Chi da consigli governar si lascia
            Delle donne, più d’esse è vano, e stolto;
            Tuttavia forza è, ch’oggi condescenda
            Al voler della mia, s’aver vuò pace,
            E tormi questa noia dalle spalle.
            Ma tanto, e così insolito timore,
            Ond’ è si fieramente tormentata,
            Non è senza cagion: e benchè tema
            In me non abbia luogo, pur sospetto,
            Che qualche tradimento alla mia vita
            S’ordisca, et ho di sospettar cagione.
            Ma sia che può: s’è destinato in cielo,
            Ch’io muoia, e muoia: a voglia sua mi tolga
            La morte, che non può, se non illustre,
            E glorioso tormi: Andrà sotterra,
            Qualunque volta dal mortal sia scarca,
            L’ombra mia di trionfi, e spoglie addorna:
            E tal di me qui rimarrà memoria,
            Che finchè giri il ciel fia con stupore
            Cesare mentovato; e quel, che bee
            Il Tanai, l’Ibero, il Tigre, il Gange,
            Attonito udirà narrar il Reno,
            Il Nilo, e l’Ocean domati, e vinti
            E l’Africa, e la Spagna del Romano
            Sangue da me inondate, e’l gran Pompeio,
            C’hà del suo nome pien tutti i confini
            Dell’ampia terra, vinto, e d’ogni sua
            Gloria, d’ogni suo onor spogliato, e privo:
            Morrà il terren, che fra pochi anni ad ogni
            Modo hà da sciorsi in polve: ma immortale
            Rimarrà del mio nome la memoria.
            Abbastanza ho vissuto alla natura,
            Et alla gloria, Omai ch’à far mi resti,
            Per più glorificar il nome mio
            Non veggio. Asceso sono à quella altezza,
            Cui non è pari in terra; oltre alla quale
            Non può salir, chi del terreno incarco
            Non si spoglia, et isgrava, e mette l’ale.”[78]

These are certainly “high astounding terms,” but doubt and fear are at
work, and this Caesar’s long cogitations are very much like the
whistling of a small boy to keep up his courage. When Decimus
approaches, and informs him that the Senate is assembled, and awaits
him, he says,

            “Debbol dir, ò tacer? i preghi e i pianti
            Di mia mogliera avuto hanno possanza
            Di farmi variar proponimento;
            Oltre ch’io temo, e ’l mio timor fondato
            È, non sopra fallaci, e vani sogni,
            Ma sopra certi indizi, e chiari segni,
            Che sien ordite alla mia vita insidie.”—Page 95.

Here is a man who has just proudly exclaimed that fear was foreign to
him, now confessing that he fears, and that his fears are founded not on
vain dreams or portents, but upon substantial grounds. But what are the
“certi indizi, e chiari segni” that threaten his well-being? The vague
warnings of Antony? No more substantial grounds have been presented in
the course of the drama. No conspirators have been named; Caesar,
despite the talk regarding his conviction of impending disaster, is
unsuspectingly conversing with one of the plotters. Are we to regard
this lack of adequate reason for Caesar’s fears as a flaw in Pescetti’s
technique? It must be remembered that Caesar ordered the fateful
sacrifice, and that he himself confesses, in soliloquy, that Calpurnia’s
unusual fear has disturbed him. But he dreads to ascribe his
perturbation to the influence of the portents, and lays the emphasis
upon a suspicion of treachery, which, as far as he had any personal
knowledge, we know rested on the vaguest grounds. There is no fault in
Pescetti’s motivation. He presents a Caesar, shaken by the very fears
that assail baser men, but too proud to convey such an impression,
fatuously trying to persuade himself that he is “constant as the
northern star,” while he wavers like a weather-cock between his fear and
his pride.

He listens to Decimus’ arguments. The latter, knowing how to “give his
humor the true bent,” lays great stress on Rome’s indebtedness to the
Dictator: what Roman could be so base as to contemplate his death?

 _D. Brutus_— “.   .   .   .   .   .   .   . e nondimeno
            Crederem, che si trovi alcun di cuore
            Così barbaro, e rio, così spietato
            Che pensi, non dirò, ch’ardisca, ò tenti
            Di privarti di vita? io non lo credo,
            Io non lo credo, nè che sia, ch’il creda,
            Credo, nè credo, che tu stesso il creda.
            E come io ti consiglio, ch’à guardarti
            La diligenza accresca; così voglio,
            Ch’ogni timor deponga, ogni sospetto,
            Acciocchè nulla nebbia offuschi, ò turbi
            Il seren del tuo petto, e acquetate,
            Dopo tanti travagli, e tante guerre
            Le cose, insieme con la patria goda
            Quella felicità, quella quiete,
            Ch’ognun del saggio tuo governo attende.”—Pp. 96–97.

Thus Decimus artfully contrives to work on Caesar’s vanity and to
express his disbelief in the genuineness of Caesar’s fears. The latter
is sorely touched; he recognizes his mistake in using the word fear in
his first statement, and hastens to assure Decimus:

            “Non tem’io, nò; non hà luogo il timore
            In questo petto: unque il mio cuor non seppe,
            Che timor fosse: e già son giunto a tale
            Etade, e tale cose oprate hò in arme,
            Che della morte aver non debba tema.[79]
            Potrà ben morte, ch’ogni cosa scioglie,
            Questo corpo atterrar; ma la memoria
            Del nome mio non spegnerà in eterno.”—P. 97.

Still his fears are potent, but he no longer says “temo,” a word so
unbefitting Caesar; it now becomes

            “Tuttavia credo, e sopra certi segni
            E conietture è il mio creder fondato,
            Che si tendano insidie alla mia vita.”—P. 97.

But he would not appear afraid; apprehensive lest fear may be suspected
from this statement, he continues:

            “Dalle quai guarderommi in guisa, ch’io
            Non paventi però, nè del mio petto
            In parte alcuna la quiete turbi;
            Ma tu và trova Marcantonio, e dilli
            Da parte mia, che vada a dar licenza
            Al Senato, e li dica, che per oggi
            In Senato non posso ritrovarmi.”—P. 97.

And note the solicitude of this Colossus, for the opinion of Caesar’s

            “E mi scusi con lui sì, che non nasca
            Sospetto in lui d’esser da me sprezzato.”—P. 97.

This Caesar, in spite of his words, fears. He fears the omens, but he
will not betray his feelings. It might be claimed that his message to
the Senate is a natural result of an innate courtesy typical of true
greatness. But coming where it does and as it does, it seems more an
exhibition of that pride which a man consciously great takes in the good
opinions of his underlings. Surely Caesar had nothing to fear from his
puppet Senators. He could just as curtly have disregarded them; but
demigods must display some good attributes, some care for their
worshippers, if only to feed the sense of their superiority on the
admiration of inferior beings.

Decimus is quick to seize his opportunity and plays on this trait of
Caesar’s character. Surely the Senate will think that he has grown
arrogant; that fortune has transformed a kind and courteous Caesar. The
preservation of his reputation for generosity demands his personal
appearance before the Senators. Caesar yields, while Marcus Brutus
glorifies the gods for this turn of affairs. The Dictator tells the
still anxious Calpurnia to banish her fears, for the gods which so long
have defended him, will not fail him now, while Decimus lauds him and
assures Calpurnia that it were unthinkable that harm could befall Caesar
in his own city.

This scene, between Caesar, Calpurnia, and Decimus Brutus, seems to have
no legitimate place in the plot unless Pescetti aims to heighten the
pathos by bringing into stronger relief the vanity of the Dictator and
the base treachery of his assassins. Caesar becomes to the modern reader
a pitiable, almost a pitiful character. Any lurking admiration for the
Conspirators’ cause is effectually destroyed, and a feeling of horror
supervenes. Perhaps Pescetti so intended. It is revolting to listen to
Decimus, Caesar’s beloved friend and companion in arms, recounting with
smiling countenance his benefactor’s courtesy, his magnanimity, his many
great services to Rome, while he burns to plunge a dagger into his
auditor’s heart. And to think that Caesar, blinded by his vanity, allows
a smiling villain to lead him like an ox to the sacrifice! This is
pitiful, not pathetic.

Later on, Decimus’ praises soar to such heights that Caesar tells him

            “.  .  .  .  .  . Assai corso l’arringo
            Hai di mie lodi, Bruto, di che debbo
            Molto pregiarmi, e rallegrarmi, essendo
            Il lodator d’eterna lode degno.
            Ch’alor la lode è finalmente vera,
            Quando da huom lodato ella proviene.”—Page 106.

Yet Caesar accepts this fulsome flattery because in his judgment, it
comes from a man well qualified to deliver it. Then, surrounded by his
murderers, he walks unsuspectingly to his doom.

There is no historical justification for such a delineation of the
greatest man of antiquity. Plutarch’s account may not be sympathetic,
but the modest author of the Commentaries is nowhere depicted as a vain,
pompous, vacillating boaster. It is indeed difficult to account for such
a characterization. Muretus may have fixed in his drama a conception of
Caesar supposedly current in his day. But it must be remembered that
this tragedy of Muretus was a youthful product, and one cannot expect of
the student of eighteen, the mature judgment of the scholar of forty.
Grévin followed Muretus, and since his drama is frankly an enlarged
version of his predecessor’s work, it is not surprising that the young
physician took over the humanist’s characterization of Caesar with
scarcely any alterations. But Pescetti’s livelihood depended upon his
knowledge of the classics,[80] and his work bears unmistakable evidence
of wide reading in both Latin and Greek authors. Unlike Muretus, he was
over thirty when he wrote “Cesare”; surely his acquaintance with the
sources must have made him well aware of the falsity of the traditional
estimate of Caesar’s character, if indeed in his time such an estimate
was popularly current. There can be no question of the influence of
Muretus in his own work, yet just why he should choose not only to
follow the former, but further to emphasize the weaknesses of Caesar
must remain purely speculative. Pescetti’s position in the matter is all
the more curious because he dedicated his work to Alfonso D’Este, a
supposed descendant of his titular hero. Under such circumstances it
certainly would have been much to his advantage to have cast his Caesar
in the most heroic mold, instead of presenting him in such a manner as
to provoke resentment in the very quarters where he expected praise.[81]
Is it possible that Pescetti possessed sufficient dramatic technique to
endeavor to present Caesar not as he really was, but as he appeared to
the conspirators, and thus to give their action some excuse?

That Shakespeare so presented him has been contended by some critics,
but the motives that actuated the dramatists are not the point at issue.
The total impression we gain in both dramas is singularly alike, while
in some details the coincidence is striking; as where Caesar says,

            “Cowards die many times before their death;
            The valiant never taste of death but once.
            Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
            It seems to me most strange that men should fear:
            Seeing that death, a necessary end,
            Will come, when it will come” (II., 11, 32).[82]

There is nothing novel in these views; one is directly traceable to
Plutarch; the others are often repeated in the classic drama, but it is
at least curious that the same thought occurs frequently in Pescetti.
Thus the Nurse, trying to comfort Calpurnia, says:

            “Che più? certo è ciascun d’aver un giorno
            A terminar sua vita, e ’l quando è incerto:
            Ne può verun, per giovine, e robusto,
            Che sia pur un sol dì, pur un momento
            Promettersi di vita, or dobbiam noi
            Perciò viver ogn’or col cuor tremante,
            Come ogn’ora il carnefice ci stesse
            Col ferro ignudo sopra, e avvelenare
            Tutte col timor nostro le dolcezze
            Della presente vita, anzi una morte
            Perpetua far tutta la vita nostra?
            Perch’ in temendo il mal pena maggiore,
            Che nel patir lo stesso mal si prova.”[83]

Caesar, in response to the Priest and Calpurnia, says,

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

            “Quel, che di me prefisso è in ciel, conviene,
            Che sia; nè per por mente a sogni, ò a segni
            Potrò schivarlo, e folle à me colui
            Sembra, che teme quel, che per consiglio,
            Nè per saver uman non può schivarsi.”—Page 77.

Again, it is remarkable that in both Pescetti and Shakespeare, D. Brutus
is made the bearer of Caesar’s message: in the former, to Mark Antony,
who is to address the Senate; in the latter, he himself is to deliver
the message to the Senate.[84]

Again, to Decius’ greeting Caesar replies:

            “And you are come in very happy time,
            To bear my greeting to the senators,
            And tell them that I will not come to-day:
            Cannot, is false, and that I dare not, falser:
            I will not come to-day: tell them so, Decius.

    _Cal._— Say he is sick” (II., 11, 60).

Who has intimated that Caesar fears to come to the Senate? His
expressions are plainly those of a man influenced by circumstances which
he considers it derogatory to his own sense of superiority to
acknowledge. His exaggerated self-consciousness is feverish; even as he
speaks, he builds inferences which no one but himself could derive from
the premises.[85] He knows he is not sick, nor that he looks as if he
were sick; when Calpurnia tells Decius to plead his illness, he builds
another inference:

   _Caes._— “Shall Caesar send a lie?
            Have I in conquest stretch’d mine arm so far,
            To be afeard to tell graybeards the truth?
            Decius, go tell them Caesar will not come.”

The very thought that anyone would suspect him of fear, and worse yet,
of attempting to hide his fear in a falsehood, revolts him. An absolute
exhibition of will is more becoming, and he feels it.

    _Dec._— “Most mighty Caesar, let me know some cause,
            Lest I be laugh’d at when I tell them so.”

This request is dramatically effective: is it historically or
dramatically true? Caesar has said nothing at which the Senate might
laugh; the commands of a Dictator were dangerous subjects for mirth. His
entourage were in no jocund mood after the Lupercalia.

    _Bru._— “I will do so; but, look you, Cassius,
            The angry spot doth glow on Caesar’s brow,
            And all the rest look like a chidden train.”[86]

Yet here is a proud conqueror, that lets an underling, although a
friend, hint that his commands might be laughed at. True, Decius says,
“Lest I be laughed at,” but to insult the messenger because of Caesar’s
message, would surely be to scorn Caesar. Instead of the decisive,
imperious command we should expect, we get a reiteration of a previous
statement, and then the Dictator is lost in the man. For Decius’ private
satisfaction, but by no means for his public announcement, Caesar
confides his true reasons. Decius interprets the dream in a manner most
soothing to Caesar’s vanity, and when he intimates that were some one to
tell of this dream to the Senate, Caesar might become a laughing-stock
and be accused of cowardice, the Dictator is vanquished; pride has
conquered fear. Yet, mark, the dream was told to Decius as to a good
friend, and in confidence. What right had he to assume that the dream
would be told to the Senate? If it were told, he alone could be held
responsible for its telling, since he alone, (besides Calpurnia), knew
of it. Since when has the valiant Decius become a superior interpreter
of dreams? Why should his explanations of a woman’s fancies have greater
weight with Caesar than the solemn decision of the venerable college of
augurs? Decius boasts his ability to oversway Caesar, but he succeeds
only because the latter, as in “Cesare,” in his pride and vanity, is
only too glad to seize an opportunity to silence his own apprehension,
without compromise to his own exalted opinion of himself. He is blind to
all other circumstances. This conception of the scene is the only one,
which, to me at least, renders it dramatically satisfying.

Professor MacCallum,[87] of all the many commentators on this character,
seems to have offered the most satisfactory interpretation. Caesar’s
bearing certainly justifies this critic’s opinion, that, in a certain
sense, he is playing a part and aping the immortal to be seen of men. As
has been shown above, Pescetti’s entire treatment suggests the same
conception. His Caesar, if we may overlook the omission of any mention
of his physical failings, can be aptly characterized by Professor
Dowden’s appraisal of the character in Shakespeare. “Julius Caesar
appears in only three scenes of the play. In the first scene of the
third act he dies. When he does appear, the poet seems anxious to insist
upon the weakness rather than on the strength of Caesar. He is subject
to the vain hopes and vain alarms of superstition. His manner of speech
is pompous and arrogant. He accepts flattery as a right; he vacillates
while professing unalterable constancy; he has lost in part his gift of
perceiving facts and of dealing efficiently with men and events.”[88]

Another similarity in the treatment of Caesar must be noted. While
Pescetti’s tragedy is called “Il Cesare,” the titular hero occupies a
position of the same relative unimportance as the Caesar of
Shakespeare’s drama. He appears in but two of the five acts, the third
and the fourth, and is fairly prominent. Yet, Brutus is the real
protagonist. He appears in each act but the third, and is conspicuous
throughout as the chief representative of the action.

Yet here, as in Shakespeare, the spirit of Caesar dominates the play.
From first to last it permeates the drama and provides the mainspring of
the action. From Brutus’ first speech to the concluding words of the
Second Messenger his name is always before us. Calpurnia beholds him in
her dreams, the Priest sees in the portents destruction threatening him
and Rome, while the Choruses beg the gods to avert the impending
disasters. Even Portia is animated by a desire to wreak vengeance on
him. The Messenger in his final lament sees in his death the end of
Rome’s glories and presents him to us as the nemesis of his murderers.
The effect of this treatment is to invest the entire play in an
atmosphere of portent, with Caesar predominant.


Footnote 72:

  In the monograph to which reference has already been made.

Footnote 73:

  Page 24. See later chapter on Brutus.

Footnote 74:

  Compare Antony’s outburst:

            Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
            That ever lived in the tide of times. J. C. III., 1, 257–58.

Footnote 75:

  This is a detail which Pescetti derived from Appian’s “Civil Wars,”
  Bk. II., Ch. XVI., wherein it is stated that the conspirators had to
  hasten, as Caesar contemplated departing for Parthia within four days
  and would thereupon have a bodyguard. (White’s translation, p. 176.)

Footnote 76:

  Pp. 76–77. This speech, in substance, occurs both in Muretus and in

Footnote 77:

  I., ii. 199.

Footnote 78:

  Pp. 93, 94, 95. There are some similarities to “Cornelie” and to
  Grévin in this passage.

Footnote 79:

            “Have I in conquest stretch’d mine arm so far,
            To be afeard to tell graybeards the truth?”

Footnote 80:

  He taught grammar and rhetoric in Verona. See Gerini, “Gli scrittori
  pedagogici nel secolo decimo settimo.”

Footnote 81:

  Paolo Beni was quick to seize upon this feature of Pescetti’s
  characterization of Caesar. He says: “Che se pur volesse alcuno che
  non perciò restasse suo Cesare di esser furto, almen convien
  confessare ch’egli solo fosse vero Autore dell’ingiuria la quale con
  tanta sciocchezza e temerità fece in tal Tragedia a quell’Altezza et a
  tutta la serenissima Casa d’Este, poscia che havendo pubblicato e
  celebrato Alfonso per congiuntissimo di sangue con la Casa Giulia, e
  con Giulio Cesare, finalmente si adduce a dedicarli la sua Tragedia;
  (che sua chiamerolla per hora) quella Tragedia dico nella qual Cesare
  vien com’empio tiranno e traditor della patria bruttamente trucidato.
  Vedi imprudenza estrema di quest’huomo: vedi sciocchezza et audacia
  incomparabile: ricordare che questo serenissimo Principe sia per
  sangue strettamente congiunto con Giulio Cesare, e disceso da Giulio
  Cesare, e poi immantinente far che il Theatro per ogni parte risuoni
  l’impietà, la perfidia, la tirannia di Cesare: e che su gli occhi di
  quell’Altezza ne venga quasi pernitioso mostro co’l ferro trucidato et
  estinto. E forse che non supplica il Serenissimo Alfonso (vedi nuova
  imprudenza et ardire) che faccia rappresentar questa Tragedia in
  publico con nobil pompa, e dia spettacolo sì horrendo d’un suo
  antenato al Mondo.” Il Cavalcanti, 1614, p. 107 et seq.

Footnote 82:

  It is interesting to note the fascination which this remark of
  Caesar’s had for the dramatists of his fortunes. No doubt they drew
  their direct inspiration from Plutarch, who relates that Caesar, on
  being urged to have a bodyguard, retorted, “It is better to die once,
  than always to be afraid of death.” (J. C., p. 92.) Skeat.

  Thus Muretus says (Act III., verse 386):

                    “Sed tamen quando semel
            Vel cadere praestat, quam metu longo premi.”

  And Grévin, Act III., v. 791:

            “.  .  .  .  .  .  . et si j’aime bien mieux
            Mourir tout en un coup, qu’estre tousjours paoureux.”

  Also Act I., v. 13:

                    “Il vault bien mieux mourir
            Asseure de tout poinct, qu’incessamment perir.
            Faulsement par la peur.”

  In Garnier’s “Cornelie” (Kyd’s trans.) we read:

            “The fear of evil doth afflict us more
            Than the evil itself, though it be neer so sore.”

Footnote 83:

  Pp. 39–40. Also pages 79, 80, 82, 83 and 94, in which this same idea
  finds expression.

Footnote 84:

  This is not the case in Muretus or Grévin, nor is it found in

Footnote 85:

  True, the conspirators have suspected that the portents and the
  auspices might persuade him, and Trebonius has prepared for this. But
  how was Caesar to know?

Footnote 86:

  I., ii, 182.

Footnote 87:

  MacCallum, op. cit., p. 228.

Footnote 88:

  “Shakespeare, A Critical Study of his Mind and Art,” by Edward Dowden,
  Harper & Bros., 1903, pp. 253–54.


Pescetti wrote his tragedy with the evident intention of flattering the
Duke of Ferrara, yet never was fulfillment further from promise.
“Cesare” could hardly have furnished agreeable reading to a prince, who,
lauded on one page as the greatest descendant of the mightiest Julius,
finds throughout the succeeding pages this same ancestor denounced as an
odious tyrant, and displayed in action as a weak, vacillating braggart.
Nor would his appreciation of Pescetti’s efforts have been increased by
a consideration of the treatment accorded Brutus. Far from presenting
the assassin of Caesar in a manner which might have been regarded as
acceptable to the Duke, the Italian dramatist considers him throughout
with the highest favor and never wearies of his praises.

Pescetti’s dedication renders it rather difficult to account
satisfactorily for his Brutus. Possibly he harbored liberal sympathies
of which he found it hard to rid himself; possibly he was here too
greatly under Plutarch’s influence; perhaps he was simply following in
the footsteps of Muretus and Grévin. Plutarch certainly wrote the life
“con amore,” and both Pescetti and Shakespeare continue the idealization
of the character begun by the biographer. To both dramatists, as to
Muretus and Grévin, Brutus was the “last of the Romans,” in whom the old
regime found its final and noblest champion. Under the circumstances it
is difficult to seize upon any phase of the character peculiar alone to
Shakespeare and Pescetti. Both went to the same, or nearly the same
source for their material; both followed their source faithfully. Yet it
is this very similarity in the conception of the character which is
especially significant for our purpose, for Shakespeare could have found
in the Italian dramatist nothing to weaken, but much to confirm the
favorable impression he gathered from the varied pages of Plutarch.

Pescetti’s pronounced bias is discernible from the very beginning. In
his dedication[89] his fulsome flattery of Alfonso does not prevent him
hinting that Caesar was no lawful ruler, nor from glancing at his
excessive ambition, even though he afterward, in his drama, makes little
mention of the one and none of the other. But perhaps most significant
of his own feelings are the words he puts into the mouth of the Chorus
of Citizens in his last act. The chorus sings the praises of Brutus in a
manner which makes the immediately following praise of Caesar by the
soldiers pale in comparison:

      _Coro di Cittadini_: .  .  .  .  .  .  .
              O magnanimo Bruto,
              Vera stirpe di lui,
              Che cacciò i Rè, ch’uccise i figli sui:
              O vero Rè, ch’i regni
              Non pur sprezzi, ma spegni,
              Et, ucciso il Tiranno,
              Torni la libertà nel proprio scanno;
              Qual premio possiam darti
              Al tuo valor condegno?
              Qual lingua, qual ingegno
              È bastante a lodarti,
              Quanto se’ degno?
              O quanto sdegno
              Hò, che ’l mio stile
              Non giunga al segno
              Delle tuo lodi, ond’ io
              Portar potessi, al mio
              Desir conforme, il tuo nome gentile
              Dall’ aureo Gange alla rimota Tile.
              Dov’ è, dov’ è la Tromba
              Ond’ Achille, et Ulisse ancor rimbomba?
              Che con sonoro canto
              Celebri in ogni canto
              Il generoso, e pio
              Fatto, e tolga di mano al cieco oblio.—Pp. 140–141.

It is difficult to consider these utterances as impersonal. Such is
Pescetti’s admiration for the assassin of Caesar that he speaks in his
own person, apparently forgetting in his enthusiasm that he has assigned
the words to the Chorus of Citizens.[90] A further remove from Dante’s
conception of Brutus can hardly be imagined.

Such an exhibition of partiality could not have been lost on
Shakespeare. Such an emphasis of Plutarch’s attitude could not have
failed to confirm the favorable impression which he gathered from the
biographer. Nor could Shakespeare, in those scenes in “Cesare” wherein
Pescetti attempts to exhibit Brutus in action, have gathered any hints
to shake the final opinion in his own play:

            “This was the noblest Roman of them all.”

Like Shakespeare, Pescetti very carefully eliminates from his
characterization anything which might reflect unfavorably upon the moral
character of the protagonist. We hear nothing of his positive moral
defects; of his divorce, of his rivalry with Cassius for offices within
the gift of the Dictator, nor of his many obligations to Caesar. All is
discreetly passed over. Whatever Pescetti’s intentions, he probably
found it a dramatic necessity to exclude them, much for the same reason
that Shakespeare, in all likelihood influenced by his example, was led
to ignore them. Possibly it was the Italian’s purpose to portray the
fruitless struggle of a hopeless, though noble and virtuous
Republicanism against a condition of affairs whose existence had been
preordained by the gods, and against which all the forces of an outraged
idealism could not prevail. The mortal embodiment of this power might
fall; a place was ready for him with the gods, while Tartarus enlarged
its bounds to compass his foes.[91]

If we are to accept the opinion of some critics, Shakespeare was
influenced in his treatment of the subject by the recent failure of the
Duke of Essex’ rebellion. It showed plainly and forcibly the folly of
opposition to the monarchial power. The same idea can be discovered in
Pescetti. Much as he lauds Brutus, the practical considerations of
authorship compel him at times to a consideration of contemporary
conditions. Possibly he realized that he was going too far in his
denunciation of Caesar, for we find the Nurse engaging in a defense of
monarchs, and declaring,

            “E non son altro i Regi, che Vicari
            Del sommo Giove.”—P. 55.

At the end of the play, the author is careful to emphasize the futility
of fighting against the established order:

            “E chiaro vedrai meco,
            Che questo mondo è una perpetua guerra,
            Ove l’un l’altro atterra,
            E si tosto, ch’un manca,
            Rinasce un altro, e ’l mondo si rinfranca.”—P. 149.

But it is quite possible that neither Pescetti nor Shakespeare had the
faintest idea of introducing any such problem into their tragedy.
Possibly both dramatized history as they conceived it, without any
attempt to invest their work with a larger significance. Yet consciously
or unconsciously, by thus representing their hero as morally immaculate,
actuated solely by the highest and most unselfish motives, while the
representative of monarchy is depicted as weak, vacillating, and
tyrannous, both Pescetti and Shakespeare have secured for the problem
its most elemental and most emphatic statement.

Both dramatists, therefore, approached the subject in the same spirit.
Both excluded from their portrait of Brutus whatever seemed to reflect
unfavorably upon his character; both included whatever might add to his
moral elevation. It is this peculiar insistence upon certain traits of
Brutus’ character to the exclusion of others, that furnishes a close
parallel between the two plays.[92]

The Brutus of “Cesare”, at his first appearance, curiously resembles the
Brutus of “Julius Caesar” after the famous soliloquy. He is torn by no
doubts as to the moral excellence of his plans: his whole soul is bent
upon the destruction of the tyrant. Thus, in his opening speech[92] he

            “Oggi a Roma farò conoscer, ch’io
            Degno nipote son di quel gran Bruto,
            Che di questa Città cacciando i Regi
            Alta vendetta, e memorabil feo
            Del barbarico stupro di Lucrezia.
            Roma, oggi questa mano, e questo ferro,
            O hà da sciorre, e romper le catene,
            Ond’ in duro servaggio avvinta sei,
            O hà da trar di vergognosa, e grave
            Vita, anzi morte me.”—P. 12.

This, in style, sentiment, and wording is closely parallel to the
exclamation of Brutus on reading the notes:

            “Shall Rome stand under one man’s awe? What, Rome?
            My ancestors did from the streets of Rome
            The Tarquin drive, when he was called a King.
            ‘Speak, strike, redress.’—Am I entreated
            To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise
            If the redress will follow, thou receivest
            Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus!”

The exclamatory style is particularly noteworthy, as it occurs
frequently in the parallels.

A peculiar difference in treatment, but a striking parallel in content,
is to be found in a portion of the Brutus-Cassius scene.[93] In
Pescetti, Brutus enters the action fully resolved, and though Cassius is
already in the plot, that cautious conspirator has his doubts as to
Caesar’s vulnerability. Brutus thereupon indulges in an argument
curiously similar to that used later by Cassius in Shakespeare’s play
when he is striving to arouse Brutus. In Pescetti, Cassius says of

            “Tu sai, ch’egli è feroce, e ne’ perigli
            Non si sgomenta punto, anzi diviene
            Allor più ardito, e coraggioso, quando
            Maggior vede il periglio.”[94]—P. 24.

Brutus replies:

            “.   .   .   .   . E siasi, nulla
            Li gioverà l’ardir, nulla la forza,
            Che non potrà, se tutto acciaio ei fosse
            Resister al furor di trenta, c’hanno
            Posta la propria vita in abbandono
            Per liberar la patria. O Cassio, credi
            Tu, ch’io non sappia, ch’in cotesto tuo
            Petto non meno ardir si chiude, e serra,
            Ch’in quel di Giulio? e che cotesto braccio
            Non è del suo men nerboruto, e forte?”[95]

Shakespeare has:

 _Cassius_— “I had as lief not be as live to be
            In awe of such a thing as I myself.
            I was born free as Caesar; so were you.
            We both have fed as well, and we can both
            Endure the winter’s cold as well as he.”[96]

It is remarkable that in both dramas the authors found it necessary to
convince one of their conspirators that Caesar was physically the same
as other men.

The Brutus of Pescetti is accorded the same high estimate by his
countrymen as the Brutus of Shakespeare. Cassius refers to him as “Il
mio Bruto” and lauds him as

            “Bruto sovrano pregio, e gloria della
            Romana gioventù, Bruto, in cui splende
            Ogni prisco valor, cui chiama il cielo
            A gloriose, et immortali imprese.”—P. 15.

A little further on he continues:

            “Or sì, c’huomo ti stimo, Bruto, e vero
            Ramo di quella eccelsa, e gloriosa
            Stirpe, ch’à Roma il giogo indegno scosse.
            Or sì, che chiaro veggio, ch’in te spirto
            Veramente Roman si chiude, e serra;
            Ch’in te quel valor vive, ch’oggi, invano
            Cerco nel popol nostro, invan disio.”—P. 16.

This speech follows Brutus’ revelation of his determination to kill the
tyrant. In Shakespeare, after Cassius has succeeded in moving Brutus, he

            “Well, Brutus, thou art noble....”[97]

The shade of Pompey says to Brutus:

            “. . . Tu puoi dunque,
            Bruto, servir? tu, che l’origin trai
            Da colui, che premier la libertade
            A questa alta Città donò? tu puoi
            A Tiranno servir? tu, che discendi
            Da colui, che’l leggitimo Signore
            Tollerar non poteo? questo appreso hai
            Da quella sacrosanta, e veneranda
            Maestra della vita, e de’ costumi,
            Per cui seguir già nell’ etade acerba
            La patria abbandonasti, e là te’n gisti,
            Ove fiorian tutti i lodati studi,
            Tutte l’arti gentili, e bei costumi?
            Ahi quanto defraudato hai quella speme,
            Che già fanciullo ancor di te destasti
            Nel petto di ciascun, che ti conobbe?
            Mal col principio il fin s’accorda, o Bruto,
            Mal risponde alla prima la mezzana
            Età: pur sai, ch’in valor dee l’huom sempre
            Irsi avanzando, qual fiume reale,
            Che quanto più dal fonte suo si scosta,
            Tanto più cresce, e al mar più ricco corre.
            Destati, e Bruto, destati, e raccendi
            Quel fuoco, ch’era in te ne’ tuoi primi anni;
            E mostra, ch’al tuo nome corrisponde
            L’animo, nè dal ceppo tuo traligni.”—P. 17.

Here we find many characteristics enumerated, garnered from Plutarch and
Appian, which, in addition to those already quoted, could have enabled
Shakespeare without Plutarch’s scattered hints, to build a considerable
part of his characterization of Brutus. In Shakespeare, Cassius says to

            “You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
            Over your friend that loves you.”[98]

Here, as in Pescetti, all animosity between them is forgotten.

Further on Cassius exclaims, as Brutus assures him that he loves the
name of honor more than he fears death:

            “I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,
            As well as I do know your outward favor.”[99]

Just before this, he says:

            “And it is very much lamented, Brutus,
            That you have no such mirrors as will turn
            Your hidden worthiness into your eye,
            That you might see your shadow. I have heard
            Where many of the best respect in Rome,
            Except immortal Caesar, speaking of Brutus,
            And groaning underneath this age’s yoke,
            Have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes.”[100]

Casca refers to Brutus as follows:

            “O, he sits high in all the people’s hearts.”[101]

Cassius again:

            “... and no man here
            But honors you; and every one doth wish
            You had but that opinion of yourself
            Which every noble Roman bears of you.”[102]

Ligarius hails him as,

                          “Soul of Rome,
            Brave son, derived from honorable loins.”[103]

                   .       .       .       .       .

                        “Set on your foot,
            And with a heart new-fired I follow you,
            To do I know not what; but it sufficeth
            That Brutus leads me on.”[104]

The same confidence in Brutus is manifested by the Cassius of “Cesare.”
As Brutus and he come out of the temple, Cassius says:

            “Scritta nel volto tuo veggio, e per gli occhi
            Scintillar fuor tal tua baldanza scorgo.
            Quindi felice augurio io prendo; quindi
            Anch’ io tutto m’inanimo, e rincuoro
            E certissima speme io concepisco,
            Ch’aver felice fin deggia la cosa.”—P. 23.

Like Shakespeare, Pescetti lays great stress upon Brutus’ lack of
foresight. As is evident from the discussion regarding Antony, he
utterly fails to see the fatal mistake he makes in sparing that subtle
opportunist. That it is a mistake, Pescetti shows, when, near the end of
the drama, the Messenger announced that Antony and Lepidus are about to
avenge Caesar’s death. Brutus’ whole argument is characteristic of the
closet philosopher; books, not men, have been the object of his studies.
He can dissect sagely the motives of his own actions, but he is helpless
to penetrate the purposes of other men. In glaring contrast to the
Brutus of the famous soliloquy, yet akin in his impracticability, here
is a Brutus who speaks thus, when a cautious, worldly Cassius reminds
him (in regard to Antony),

                        “A me più saggio
            Sembra colui che l’ suo nemico uccide
            Pria che l’ offenda, che lui, che dopo
            Ch’ è stato offeso, vendica l’ingiuria.
            Bruto—Non il pensier, ma l’opra punir vuolsi.
            Oltra, che chi m’accerta, ch’ei tal mente
            Abbia, qual dici? Chi può dentro il petto
            Suo penetrar? e ciò, che vi nasconde
            Veder? Gli uman pensier sol Giove intende.”—P. 26.

He would spare Antony because he is a reveller and given to the
pleasures of the flesh. How could such a man, he asks, triumph over
those who have devoted their lives to study and toil? He fatuously
believes that Caesar’s death will so intimidate Antony as to drive all
desire of domination out of the head of that wily schemer.

And to all of this, Cassius very appropriately replies:

            “Bruto, tu se’ troppo pietoso: voglia
            Il ciel, che questa tua pietà non sia
            Un giorno a noi crudel.”—P. 27.

Yet this Brutus, just like Shakespeare’s Brutus, is so carried away by
the conviction of the irresistible justice of his cause that he abruptly
terminates this vital discussion by the lofty statement:

            “Chiunque ama virtù, figlio è di Giove.”

This overpowering sense of the righteousness of his cause is strong
throughout. In his opening speech he exclaims, as he addresses Jove:

            “.  .  .  .  .  .  . nè sdegnar, ch’io sia,
            Benchè indegno, ministro, et instrumento
            Della giustizia tua; nè perchè sacro
            Luogo alla morte del Tiranno abbiamo
            Eletto, riputar, ch’in noi s’annidi
            Altro pensier, che pio: Rimira al cuore,
            Che, se l’atto è profano, il cuor è pio,
            E pietà sola è di tal atto madre.”—P. 13.

He considers himself the unworthy instrument of Jove’s vengeance. He
feels that the act itself is impious,[105] but his lofty motives must
plead his excuse.

                        “O conspiracy,
            Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brow by night,
            When evils are most free? O, then, by day
            Where will thou find a cavern dark enough
            To mask thy monstrous visage?”[106]

Just before this he says:

            “Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar
            I have not slept.”[107]

Since the shade of Pompey appeared to him, Pescetti’s Brutus exclaims
that his thoughts, like those of the Greek Milthiades,

            “Non mi lascian dormir, nè prender posa.”—P. 15.

When Portia reminds him that fortune often opposes merit he replies:

            “Hà ben fortuna per antica usanza
            Di contrastar alla virtù; ma quello
            Addopra contra lei, che l’onda insana
            Del tempestoso mar nel fermo scoglio.”—P. 49.

This is the same spirit that prompts Shakespeare’s Brutus to reject the

                        “What other oath
            Than honesty to honesty engaged
            That this shall be or we will fall for it?”

                        “Unto bad causes swear
            Such creatures as men doubt, but do not stain
            The even virtue of our enterprise,
            Nor the insuppressive mettle of our spirits
            To think that or our cause or our performance
            Did need an oath....”[108]

In “Cesare,” Brutus has such a hold over the conspirators that they
gladly, as in Shakespeare, accept his leadership and decision on all
points. To him are left all the details of the murder. When the fateful
moment comes, he stands, after the first shock, unmoved by the fears of
his fellows, and calms their panic when Lenate speaks to Caesar.

            “Respira, ò Cassio, che li parla d’altro,
            Per quel, che di quì posso dal sembiante
            Comprender, e da gesti.”[109]

                          “Cassius, be constant;
            Popilius Lena speaks not of our purpose;
            For, look, he smiles, and Caesar doth not change.”[110]

The Brutus of Pescetti, who can find time to study faces at such a
critical moment, never forgets the respect due to himself. Just like
Shakespeare’s Brutus, as long as a fighting chance exists, he would
fight to the last, but he would sooner die by his own hand than grace
the triumph of his enemy. To Cassius, who rouses him to the danger in
Lenate’s talk to Caesar, he replies:

            “T’intendo; ahi che valor, dove fortuna
            S’opponga, nulla val. Stiam preparati,
            Per proveder, se fia bisogno, al nostro
            Scampo, e alla libertà farci la strada,
            Se non possiam con altro, col passarci
            Co’ pugnali l’un l’altro il fianco, o ’l petto.”—P. 107.

    _Cas._—             “Then, if we lose this battle,
            You are contented to be led in triumph
            Thorough the streets of Rome?

    _Bru._— No, Cassius, no. Think not, thou noble Roman,
            That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome;
            He bears too great a mind. But this same day
            Must end that work the Ides of March begun.
            And whether we shall meet again I know not;
            Therefore, our everlasting farewell take.
            Forever, and forever, farewell, Cassius!
            If we do meet again, why, we shall smile,
            If not, why then this parting was well made.”[111]

One of the curious things in Shakespeare’s drama is the rather vague
causes of resentment which the conspirators have towards Caesar. As
Professor MacCallum says, “Cassius, the moving spirit of the opposition,
is, at his noblest, actuated by jealousy of greatness. And he is not
always at his noblest. He confesses that had he been in Caesar’s good
graces, he would have been on Caesar’s side. This strain of servility is
more apparent in the flatteries and officiousness of Decius and Casca.
And what is the motive? Cassius seeks to win Antony by promising him an
equal voice in disposing of the dignities; and he presently uses his
position for extortion, and the patronage of corruption. Envy, ambition,
cupidity, are the principles of the governing classes; and their
enthusiasm for freedom means nothing more than an enthusiasm for
prestige and influence, for the privilege of parcelling out the
authority and dividing the spoils. What care have these against the Man
of Destiny, whose glories have given compass, peace and security to the
Roman world? But their plea of liberty misleads the impractical student,
the worshipper of dreams, memories, and ideals, behind whose virtue they
shelter their selfish aims, and whose countenance alone can make their
conspiracy respectable. And this very Brutus enters the conspiracy, not
because of what Caesar did, or what he is, but because of what he may
become! I need not here recount such causes of resentment which may be
gleaned from the play. They all tend to the conclusions advanced above.
The only serious charge urged against Caesar is that he was
ambitious;—surely a sorry charge upon which to justify to the Roman
populace the murder of a benefactor.”[112]

The same lack of definiteness in the charges against Caesar is to be
found in Pescetti. The latter, like Shakespeare, could have found enough
material in Appian and in Plutarch upon which to ground the conspiracy,
but we look in vain for some decisive accusation. There is much talk of
tyranny, much about the hard yoke under which Romans groan, but very
little in the way of elucidation. Caesar is not accused of ambition; no
mention whatever is made of the attempts to crown him. Envy does not
seem to be a motive; at least we gain no such idea from the conduct of
the conspirators, although Mark Antony directly hints at this in his
warning to Caesar.

            “Della fortuna io t’assicuro, ch’ella
            Non ti sie mai contraria sì nel crine
            Avvolte l’hai le mani. Dall’insidie
            Ben t’esort’ io guardarti de’ nemici.
            Molti offesi da te si tengon: molti
            Portano invidia alla tua gloria; alcuni
            Abbaglia il tuo splendore: altri patire,
            Che tu lor sii superior, non ponno.”—P. 67.

As far as most of the conspirators in “Julius Caesar” are concerned,
this seems to fit them; but, strange to say, it is difficult to see
where it applies in “Cesare.” Of the many offenses of which Caesar is
held responsible we get very little beyond this bare statement.

As far as Brutus is concerned, he evidently blames Caesar for Pompey’s
death and burns to avenge it. Just why, is nowhere apparent. He longs to
restore the ancient liberties, but in what degree they have been
destroyed, and above all, just what part Caesar played[113] in their
destruction is not very clear. In the very first scene, Brutus
apostrophises the shade of Pompey, who had appeared to him during the
night, and had said,

                          “. . . Tu puoi dunque,
            Bruto, servir? tu che l’origin trai
            Da colui che primo la libertade
            A questa alta Città donò? tu puoi
            A Tiranno servir? tu, che discendi
            Da colui, ch’l leggitimo Signore
            Tollerar non poteo? questo appreso hai
            Da quella sacrosanta, e veneranda
            Maestra della vita, e de’ costumi,
            Per cui seguir già nell’ etade acerba
            La patria abbandonasti:”[114]

He recounts the hopes entertained by the bright promise of Brutus’
youth, and exhorts him to prove to the world that these hopes may yet be

The shade does not demand vengeance on his own account; he deplores
Brutus’ fealty to a tyrant, and states certain conditions, but nothing
specifically tyrannical. In his opening apostrophe to the shade, Brutus
indulges in the same generalities. I will quote this entire speech,
partly for its bearing on the matter under discussion, and partly for
the light it sheds on Pescetti’s conception of Brutus’ character.

            “Magnanim’ ombra ecch’io ti seguo, ecch’io
            M’accingo all’ alta impresa, a che m’esorti.
            Oggi ò del sangue del crudel Tiranno,
            O del mio spargerassi il terren sacro.
            Oggi ò vendicarò l’empia tua morte,
            E riporrò la patria in libertade,
            O verrotti a trovar, dovunque sei.
            Oggi a Roma farò conoscer, ch’io
            Degno nipote son di quel gran Bruto,
            Che di questa Città cacciando i Regi
            Alta vendetta, e memorabil feo
            Del barbarico stupro di Lucrezia.
            Roma, oggi questa mano, e questo ferro
            O hà da sciorre, e romper le catene,
            Ond’ in duro servaggio avvinta sei,
            O hà da trar di vergognosa, e grave
            Vita, anzi morte me. Giove, se giusto
            Se’, se ’l trar le Città di sotto a piedi
            De superbi Tiranni, se ’l punire
            Gli empi, se ’l dar a gli innocenti aita,
            Opra è, che sovra ogn’altra aggrada, e piace
            Alla tua maestà, deh favorisci
            La santa impresa, e se prosontuoso
            Son in tor quell’effetto alla tua destra,
            Che si doveva a lei, ch’era suo proprio,
            Perdona al gran disio, c’ho di vedere
            Nella primiera libertà riposta
            Quest’alta patria; nè sdegnar, ch’io sia,
            Benchè indegno, ministro, et instrumento
            Della giustizia tua: nè perchè sacro
            Luogo alla morte del Tiranno abbiamo
            Eletto, riputar, ch’in noi s’annidi
            Altro pensier, che pio: Rimira al cuore,
            Che, se l’atto è profano, il cuore è pio,
            E pietà sola è di tal atto madre.”

Here is a man ready to kill Caesar because of a dream! The Brutus of
Shakespeare would kill him not because of what he is, but for what he
might become. The same statement regarding tyranny, ancient liberties,
etc., occurs again and again throughout “Cesare.” Cassius repeats them
in the very next speech; but all is very vague, very indefinite. Brutus
and Cassius later indulge in a lofty dialogue concerning liberty, and
Brutus says that the only thing which has kept him alive is the hope
that some day he may be able to help Rome regain her ancient liberties.
That alone, he feels sure, has also kept Cassius from desiring to
outlive the dead Republic.[115]

Perhaps the strongest statement is contained in Brutus’ speech at the
beginning of the fifth act.[116]

            “Cittadini, Il Tiranno hà col suo sangue
            Pagate le dovute pene, et hà soddisfatto
            All’anime di tanti huomini illustri,
            Che son, per colpa sua, giti sotterra.
            Omai libera è Roma,
            Dalle nostre cervici è scosso il giogo,
            Et ei conforme al merto suo nel proprio
            Sangue, ch’in larga vena
            Per cento piaghe versa
            Giace a piè della statua
            Del magnanimo Duce,
            Cui non vider mai par quest’ alte mura:”—P. 115.

Yet there is nothing stronger in all this than in Shakespeare. There
Caesar comes in triumph over Pompey’s sons; not alone the parent, but
the offspring have fallen. Brutus says,

            “No, not an oath: if not the face of men,
            The sufferance of our souls, the time’s abuse,—
            If these be motives weak, break off betimes,
            And every man hence to his idle bed;
            So let high sighted tyranny rage on
            Till each man drop by lottery” (II., 1, 114).

Nor can I, despite all this talk concerning ancient liberties, this
vehement denunciation of tyranny, discern any definite republican
tendencies in “Cesare.” As has already been pointed out, Pescetti’s
treatment of Caesar aroused the resentment of the partisans of Alfonso
d’Este, yet the author takes pains to have it understood that princes
rule by divine right as God’s vicars on earth. In the fourth act, Brutus
and Cassius indulge in a dialogue, entirely superfluous, regarding
liberty, and Cassius advances what, to a Roman at least, must have
seemed rather a novel view of this much discussed subject.

    _Cas._— “La libertà null’altro
            È, ch’imperio, e dominio di se stesso.”—P. 89.

The interjection of this philosophical conception, seemingly so at
variance with classical traditions, serves only further to complicate an
already sufficiently complicated issue. In short, the motives of the
conspirators are not expressed with sufficient clearness to enable us to
indicate their exact nature.

Yet, in spite of his impracticability, in spite of the haziness of his
motives, the Brutus of Pescetti, like that of Shakespeare, leaves us in
no doubt as to the sincerity of his purpose. Whatever base motives may
actuate his follows (and in Pescetti none are discernible), he seems to
deserve the same eulogy accorded the Brutus of Shakespeare. The
salvation of the common weal alone, even at the expense of his own life,
seems to animate him. Thus, he says to Decimus Brutus:

            “Albin tanto al morir, quanto al dar morte
            All’ ingiusto Signor siam preparati:
            Però succeda, come piace al cielo.
            Se l’opre de’ mortai rimira Giove
            Con occhio giusto, à fin felice, e lieto
            Scorgerà i pensier nostri, ch’all’ altrui
            Salute, all’ altrui ben rivolti sono.”—Ces., p. 93.

            “He only, in a general honest thought
            And common good to all, made one of them.”—J. C., V., v, 71.

It is certainly significant, that with a wealth of material to draw
upon, both Pescetti and Shakespeare should, in regard to Brutus, treat
the available sources in a manner so similar. Pescetti excludes much
historical matter which he might have employed; Shakespeare makes
practically the same exclusions. Thus the histories contained sufficient
data upon which to found a formidable indictment against Caesar, but
both chose to overlook them and to found the conspirators’ cause on
comparatively insignificant accusations. In both dramas, certain phases
of Brutus’ character are emphasized to the exclusion of others. Much is
said of his virtues: nothing, not even by his enemies, of his vices. In
their inclusions, a similar parallelism exists between the two
dramatists. Pescetti, with a keen perception of the dramatic value of
that phase of Brutus’ character, assigns to his mistaken idealism in
sparing Antony, a far more significant position in the development of
his tragedy than did his predecessors.[117] Here we get an individual
treatment of this dramatic crux which has a striking similarity to that
in Shakespeare. It leaves us with the same conception of Brutus’
practical failings, with the same misgivings which we experience in the
work of his great contemporary.[118] Unlike Muretus and Grévin, Pescetti
does not overlook the importance of the Popilius Lena incident, and by
his treatment he introduces an element of suspense which Shakespeare
could well use to advantage. Though both dramatists used practically the
same source, Pescetti’s individual touches seem reflected in
Shakespeare’s handling of this episode. Again, unlike his predecessors,
Pescetti was fully alive to the value of the Brutus-Portia scenes, and
reveals Brutus in his domestic relations very much as Shakespeare does
some ten years later.[119] Finally, in both dramas the protagonist is
but a pawn moved by invisible powers, pursuing his fated way against an
ominous and supernatural background. In both tragedies, destiny has its
ghostly precursors; in the one to arouse the hero to action, in the
other, to herald his doom.


Footnote 89:

  E per non fare ora qui (che nè il luogo, nè l’occasione il ricerca) un
  catalogo di tutti, chi dell’ antico, ò del moderno secolo possiam noi
  trovare, che a Cesare somigli più, e faccia meglio parallelo di quel,
  che fa la Sereniss. Altezza Vostra? Sol che quelli fosse stato
  Cristiano, e avesse saputo contentarsi d’esser il primo della sua
  Città, senza voler esser anche della stessa Città più potente, ò
  Signor legittimo fosse suto; . . . “Cesare,” Dedication, p. 2.

Footnote 90:

  In the classic drama it is not unusual for the Chorus to speak in the
  first person, but this instance is unique in Pescetti. It strikes the
  reader with all the force of an individual opinion of the author.

Footnote 91:

  In the Prologue, Jove comforts Venus, saying:

            “Giulio, della cui morte tanto lutto
            Meni, e cordoglio, e sì ti lagni, e duoli,
            Risplenderà doman in ciel al pari
            Della tua stella; . . .”     Prologue, p. 10.

Footnote 92:

  As is well known, Plutarch nowhere condemns Brutus for his murder of
  Caesar. Appian, however, while he recognizes Brutus’ virtues, is
  strong in condemnation of his act. He says: “Against all these virtues
  and merits must be set down the crime against Caesar, which was not an
  ordinary or a small one, for it was committed unexpectedly against a
  friend, ungratefully against a benefactor who has spared them in war,
  and nefariously against the head of the state, in the senate house,
  against a pontiff clothed in his sacred vestments, against a ruler
  without an equal, who was most useful above all other men to Rome and
  its empire.” Civil Wars, White’s Trans., p. 381.

  It is curious to note how Pescetti here abandons Appian in favor of

Footnote 93:

  Just before the discussion concerning Antony, already quoted.

Footnote 94:

  From these words the reader may believe that the conspirators feared
  that very courage of which Caesar himself proves deficient. But by
  courage, Cassius here means sheer physical bravery, an attribute which
  no reader either of Pescetti or of Shakespeare can deny him. The
  courage Caesar lacked was that of his own convictions. Like Macbeth,
  the known had no terrors for him, but like the Scottish king, he is
  confounded by the unseen. No Roman could have found fault with a man
  for heeding the warning of the gods. The historical Caesar, it is
  true, oft expressed his contempt for omens, while the Caesar of the
  drama professes to disregard them. But his disregard is superficial,
  and apparently the result of an attitude which we cannot but attribute
  to a belief in his own semi-divine being. Rather than be suspected of
  feelings common enough to ordinary mortals, Caesar deludes himself by
  a process of self-hypnotism, and is led to his doom, a victim of his
  lack of true courage, a sacrifice to his own inordinate vanity.

Footnote 95:

  P. 24. Is this perhaps the hint from which Shakespeare built up the
  entire scheme of physical comparisons dwelt upon by Cassius? The
  swimming of the Tiber, for instance?

Footnote 96:

  I., ii, 95.

Footnote 97:

  I., ii, 308.

Footnote 98:

  I., ii, 33–34.

Footnote 99:

  I., ii, 89–90.

Footnote 100:

  I., ii, 54–61.

Footnote 101:

  I., iii, 157.

Footnote 102:

  II., i, 90.

Footnote 103:

  II., i, 321.

Footnote 104:

  II., i, 332.

Footnote 105:

  Probably because it involved a profanation of the sacred precincts of
  the Senate. But one might expect such an ardent patriot to regard
  Caesar’s death here as a very acceptable sacrifice to the gods he
  supposedly outraged. But see Appian.

Footnote 106:

  II., i, 77.

Footnote 107:

  II., i, 61.

Footnote 108:

  II., i, 124.

Footnote 109:

  P. 109.

Footnote 110:

  III., i, 22.

Footnote 111:

  V., i, 109.

Footnote 112:

  P. 216–217, MacCallum.

Footnote 113:

  The conclusion is irresistible that Pescetti was very much under the
  influence of Lucan. This is true not alone of the supernatural
  element, but also of the general attitude of Brutus and Cassius, who
  talk of Caesar very much in the spirit of the Pharsalia. In Book IX.
  Lucan describes how the soul of Pompey leaving the tomb soars to the
  abodes of the Blessed and thence looking down upon the earth inspires
  the breasts of Brutus and Cato. (Lines 1–23.)

Footnote 114:

  P. 17.

Footnote 115:

  Pp. 89–90.

Footnote 116:

  In Muretus the case against Caesar is also weak. In Grévin, Brutus in
  his speech to the citizens makes definite charges:

            “Ce Tyran, ce Cesar, enemi du Senat,
            Oppresseur du pays, qui de son Consulat
            Avoit faict heritage, e de la Republique
            Une commune vente en sa seule practique,
            Ce bourreau d’innocens, ruine de nos loix,
            La terreur des Romains, e le poison des droicts,
            Ambitieux d’honneur, qui monstrant son envie,
            S’estoit faict appeler Pere de la patrie,
            E Consul à jamais, à jamais Dictateur,
            Et pour comble de tout, du surnom d’Empereur.
            Il est mort ce meschant, qui decelant sa rage,
            Se feit impudemment eslever un image
            Entre les Rois, aussi il a eu le loyer
            Par une mesme main qu’eut Tarquin le dernier.”

                                            (Lines 1017 ff.)

Footnote 117:

  There is no doubt that Pescetti found in Muretus the hints for some of
  Brutus’ speeches, but his loans from his predecessor do not affect the

Footnote 118:

  But, as usual, Pescetti fails to take full advantage of this motif.
  During the wordy progress of the drama we lose sight of Antony, and
  only a few lines at the end suggest him as the Nemesis of the

Footnote 119:

  See section on Portia.

                          THE OTHER CHARACTERS


There is little in Pescetti’s presentation of the figure of Cassius
suggestive of the splendidly drawn portrait in “Julius Caesar.” Pescetti
found it a difficult matter to differentiate between Brutus and Cassius;
much that the latter says or does throughout might with equal propriety
have been assigned to his fellow conspirator. Both seem to be of one
mind in most matters; only in the two important scenes already
noted[120] does Cassius seem possessed of any distinct individuality. In
one his caution is emphasized, in the other his rashness in the face of


Pescetti was little more fortunate in his characterization of Antony. He
is hardly more than a puppet who acts the part of an echo to Caesar in
the dialogue before mentioned, indulges in a soliloquy, and then
vanishes from the scene. Obviously Pescetti intended him to play the
part of the tried friend and counsellor, but there is nothing resembling
individuality in his speeches. He talks like a book, and has about at
much true vitality as an automaton. Possibly the soliloquy was
introduced to contrast his ideas on dominion with those of Calpurnia on
the same subject, and to lend force to the dictum contained in the
concluding passage of the play:

            “Che questo mondo è una perpetua guerra,
            Ove l’un l’altro atterra,
            E si tosto, ch’un manca
            Rinasce un’ altro, e ’l mondo si rinfranca.”—Ces., p. 149.

This is not a bad dramatic device, but the progress of the plot is so
obstructed by the mass of needless declamation, that long before the
end, all thought of Antony as a possible successor to Caesar has escaped
the reader. In Antony’s recital of his secret longings, he reveals
traits which justify us in classifying his utterances as those
appropriate to a crafty opportunist. Pescetti could describe his
characters acceptably enough, either in their own words, or in those of
others, but he could not exhibit them successfully in action; hence,
this soliloquy, while ineffective in his own drama, could readily
furnish hints which a better dramatic artist could use to advantage. To
this Antony, nothing is dearer than dominion; for him there is no bliss
comparable to the “sweet fruition of an earthly crown.”

            “.  .  .  .  .  .  . Ma sperar tanto
            Non oso. Pur chi sà quel, ch’ordinato
            Sia nel celeste regno? A me medesmo
            Di non mancar deliberato sono,
            Se mi presenta occasione il cielo,
            E mi mostra la via di conseguire
            Quel, che può farmi un’ altro Giove in terra,
            A pormi in man dell’ universo il freno.
            In tanto io cercherò per ogni via,
            D’accattar appo il popolo favore,
            E di farmi benevoli i soldati,
            Acciò, mancando Cesare per morte
            O naturale, ò violenta, i possa
            Col mezzo lor por sù quel grado il piede,
            Ov’ hà condutto lui benigna Stella.”—P. 72.

Antony disappears after this scene, and no mention is made of him again
till near the end of the tragedy, where he is described as having fled
to his house after the murder. Unfortunately, Pescetti fails to give
Antony an opportunity to realize his ambition, but he provides material
for the delineation of a counter player who would have delighted the
Elizabethan dramatists. Pescetti certainly was not amiss in his estimate
of the character, but it remained for a greater dramatist to exhibit him
in action.

Antony does not appear in the fifth act of “Cesare,” but there is
between several of his statements in Shakespeare, and those contained in
Pescetti, a marked similarity in style and sentiment. Some of these have
already been indicated. Among others, Antony over Caesar’s body,

            “Pardon me, Julius! Here was’t thou bay’d, brave hart;
            Here didst thou fall, and here thy hunters stand,
            Sign’d in they spoil and crimson’d in thy lethe.

                   .       .       .       .       .

            How like a deer strucken by many princes
            Dost thou here lie!”—III., 1, 205.

It must be remembered that Antony’s “credit stands on slippery grounds,”
and it is hardly to be expected that he would use, at this critical
moment, the simile employed by the Messenger in Pescetti as he laments
the murder:

            “Non fu mai fatto si crudele strazio
            Di mansueto agnello
            Da un gregge di rabbiosi
            E famelici lupi,
            Com’ han del Signor mio quest’ empi fatto.
            Parean cani bramosi
            D’insanguinar l’acuto
            Dente, e l’avide labbia
            Nella già morta fiera.”—P. 120.

There seems in Antony’s lament, an echo of Mars’ threats in the Prologue
to “Cesare.”

    _Ant._— “       .       .       .       .       .
            A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
            Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
            Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
            Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
            And dreadful objects so familiar,
            That mothers shall but smile when they behold
            Their infants quartered with the hands of war:
            All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
            And Caesar’s spirit ranging for revenge,
            With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
            Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
            Cry ‘Havoc’, and let slip the dogs of war;
            That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
            With carrion men, groaning for burial.” (III., 1, 263).

  _Marte._— “Strage orribil vedrai; dell’ empio sangue
            Correranno le strade, e quai torrenti
            Porteran l’arme, e i corpi morti al mare.
            Fin di quì n’ udirai lo scoppio, e ’l grido.”—P. 6.

Jove commands Mars:

            “Mescola sdegni, odi, discordie, versa
            Sopra il popol Roman furor, disio
            Di sangue, di vendetta, ond’ alla fine
            Tutti gli empi dal mondo il ferro tolga.”—P. 11.

The idea of civil strife is found all through the last act of Pescetti,
and is probably due to the influence of Appian, who details the horrors
following the proscription.


Historically and critically, the Brutus-Portia scenes in “Cesare” are of
prime importance: historically, because here for the first time in any
play on this subject does Portia figure among the actors; critically,
because the Italian dramatist avails himself of the same episode chosen
from the same source and treated broadly along the same lines later
followed by Shakespeare.

Pescetti, of all the dramatists of Caesar’s fortunes, seems to have been
the first to realize the dramatic value of the Brutus-Portia
scenes.[121] Like Shakespeare, he found his material in Plutarch, and
while he does not adhere as faithfully to the Plutarchian sequence, the
correspondence in the motifs he employs is so close as to render the
presentation of parallels peculiar alone to the two dramatists, a matter
of extreme difficulty, and in most instances, of doubtful value. With
perhaps two exceptions, to be noted later, there are no hints in
Shakespeare’s treatment which he could not have derived from Plutarch, a
fact, however, which in no way invalidates the hypothesis herein
advanced that Pescetti’s inclusion of Portia influenced Shakespeare to
introduce her in his drama. “Julius Caesar” without her would have lost
nothing in technical completeness, whatever it might have forfeited in
human interest. Voltaire, with Shakespeare’s example before him,
excluded Portia from his drama on the ground that the introduction of a
love element would detract from the high seriousness he considered
proper to his tragic hero. Technically, his drama is sufficiently
satisfactory, but like in Muretus and in Grévin, her exclusion injures
the fullness of his characterization of Brutus, and robs his tragedy of
a character which, skilfully handled, would greatly have enhanced its
popular appeal.

Shakespeare’s Portia is a character with which we would grudgingly part.
Beautiful in herself, her presence serves to bring the softer side of
Brutus into relief, while after her husband’s departure on his fateful
mission, her mental anguish serves admirably to increase in the mind of
the spectator the presentiment of impending disaster.

Pescetti, like Shakespeare, makes Portia occupy a relatively small part
in the action, perhaps for the same reason that prompted the greater
dramatist. We are irresistibly attracted to the latter’s Portia, and her
persistence in the action would inevitably have led to a divided
interest. Possibly Pescetti was dramatist enough to realize this and
acted accordingly. His Portia, like Shakespeare’s, serves further to
broaden our conception of her husband’s character, while in herself, she
is portrayed with power sufficient to revive, at her appearance, the
flagging interest of the modern reader, even though she seems at times a
Brutus in female attire, and shows a fondness for dialectic more
appropriate to the schoolman than to the Roman matron.

From the evidence presented in Pescetti’s handling of this theme little
is adducible in support of the hypothesis advanced above; its
probability must rest upon the cumulative evidence favoring
Shakespeare’s knowledge of “Cesare” presented in the course of this

Yet, while these scenes offer little of value for our purpose, their
historical significance, and the fact that, as far as can be determined,
this is the first time that the matter has been dwelt upon in the
literature of the subject,[122] must excuse the expository character of
much that follows.

In Pescetti, Portia appears three times: once in the first act in the
scene immediately following that between Brutus and Cassius; in the
second act with Brutus alone; and lastly, in the same act in a scene
wherein both overhear Calpurnia’s lament to her Nurse. In the first
scene Brutus has little to say. The dialogue is carried on mainly with
Cassius. On her first appearance Portia indulges in a soliloquy:

            “Non senza gran cagion stamane uscito
            Si per tempo di casa è il mio consorte:
            Gran cose ei tratta certo, e se non erra
            Il mio pensier, egli apparecchia il giusto
            Premio al Tiranno ingiusto, se pur giusto
            Può darsi premio ad huom si ingiusto, et empio.
            Ah perchè il sesso mio non mi permette
            Vestir gonne maschili, e ne’ consigli
            Mescolarmi de gli huomini, e le cose
            Trattar della Republica, e di duro
            Acciar gravando il corpo in prò di quella
            L’asta, e la spada oprar?”—P. 28.

She longs to dye her sword in the tyrant’s blood. This is a Portia, more
like the Roman matrons who could calmly watch the bloody shows in the
amphitheatre than resembling the idealized portrait of Shakespeare. Yet,
considering her terrible suicide,[123] perhaps Pescetti had the truer
conception of her real character. That, in spite of her martial bearing,
he appreciated her more womanly traits, is evident from the tenor of
Cassius’ address, even though it does reflect the attitude of the
Renaissance courtier:

            “Molto per tempo esci di casa, ò Porzia,
            Porzia, di pudicizia raro esempio,
            E della matronal prudenza chiaro,
            E purissimo specchio, viva imago
            Di quel saggio; appo cui fu stolto quale
            Più saggio ebbe la Grecia; alla cui morte
            Morì la libertade, e nello stesso
            Sepolcro a canto a lui volle esser posta,
            Qual facenda a quest’ora, oltra l’usato
            Tuo, quà ti mena? Senza gran cagione
            Non è ciò fermamente, che non suoli
            Tu, se non per gravissime, e importanti
            Cagioni uscir in pubblico; ma come
            A grave, e saggia femmina conviensi
            Dentro a muri domestici in onesti
            Studi passar il tempo, riputando
            Degna d’eterna lode quella donna,
            La cui bellezza a pochi, ma la fama
            È nota a molti, che non fa del corpo
            Nelle pubbliche piazze, e ne’ teatri
            A cupid’ occhi, ma alle caste menti
            Fa di sua pudicizia altiera mostra.”—Pp. 29–30.

To Cassius’ compliments, and his inquiry as to her early rising, she
replies that the love she bears her country demands that she be made a
party to their plans. It is in vain that they withhold secrets from a
loving woman. Cassius assures her that no one doubts her worth and
constancy, but the matters they contemplate are such that it would be
unwise to risk their discovery. Yet, since she longs to know, he will
tell her.

                          “Noi trattiam di trarre
            Di sotto al giogo Roma, e di riporla
            Nello stato, ond’ altrui spietata, e ingorda
            Voglia di dominar la trasse a forza.”—Ces., p. 31.

He asks her to aid the cause with her prayers. This is not much to her
liking; she would rather draw a sword against the tyrant. Cassius
assures her that the prayers of woman have often had greater force than
that of arms. Her reply is one of Pescetti’s unconscious gems of humor:

            “Io dunque, poich’ à me stringer non lice
            Contra il Tiranno il ferro, con la lingua
            Gli farò cruda, e dispietata guerra.”—P. 32.

Towards the end of the scene Brutus indulges in an exultant outburst. He
seems already to hear the paeans of joy resounding throughout Rome at
the news of the Dictator’s death. The scene concludes as Portia invokes
Heaven’s blessing on the conspirators’ enterprise. She announces her
readiness to die, if failure attend their efforts, for the love she
bears her husband is such that she cannot live without him.

We get a nearer approach to Shakespeare’s treatment in Portia’s dialogue
with Brutus. This is opened by Brutus, who perceiving that Portia has
wounded herself, and thinking that she had sustained the injury in the
discharge of some household duty, reproves her for turning her hands to
the lowly tools of the housewife. She replies:

            “Hò voluto far prova, s’in me tanto
            Regni animo, et ardir, che darmi possa
            Di mia man morte, occasion venendo,
            Ch’il morir bello, ò necessario sia.”—P. 49.

Brutus admires her courage, and inquires the reason for her fears. She
assures him that often fortune opposes merit, and she fears for his
safety. He loftily replies that fortune can no more prevail against the
virtue of his enterprise than the raging sea against the immovable
rocks. At this, Portia, in spite of her martial bearing heretofore,
begins to exhibit the same vacillation as Shakespeare’s Portia. Fears
for her husband now dominate; the Amazon is lost in the wife. She

            “Tuttavia, benche lei[124] non vinca mai,
            Impedisce sovente i suoi disegni;
            Et io, s’avvien (che no ’l consenta il cielo)
            Che ciò, che tenti, abbia infelice effetto,
            E dove pensi dar, riceva morte,
            Hò stabilito di tenerti dietro.”—Pp. 49–50.

    _Bru._— “Lodo, Porzia, et ammiro la grandezza,
            E generosità della tua mente
            Sprezzatrice del fato, e della morte,
            E sopra modo pregiomi, et altiero
            Vò di consorte tal.”

Yet he does not approve of her design, and conjures her, by the love she
bears him, to refrain from all thoughts of self-destruction. Portia
replies that she cannot live if he die;

            “Porzia di Bruto moglie, e di Catone
            Figlia? soffrir il volto del Tiranno,
            Onde sia giunto a crudel morte il padre
            Et il marito, potrà Porzia? O Bruto
            Quanto più ti stimava accorto, e saggio?
            Dunque in tant’ anni, che vissuto hai meco
            Non hai l’animo mio compreso appieno?
            Dell’ amor, ch’io ti porto, ancor potuto
            Non ho farti ben chiaro? E tu mi stimi
            Si poco amante, ch’io potessi senza
            Tè star un’ ora in vita? _Bru._ Io sò, che m’ami:
            Ma sò dall’ altra parte, che non meno
            Saggia, che amante se’.”—P. 50.

The scene is now spun out to include a series of mutual protestations of
love. It concludes as Calpurnia is seen coming out of the temple,
whereupon Brutus and Portia descend from amatory dialogue to vulgar

Plutarch relates that when Portia showed Brutus the wound in her thigh,
“he was amazed to hear what she said to him, and lifting up his hands to
heaven, he besought the gods to give him the grace he might bring his
enterprise in so good pass, that he might be found a husband worthy of
so noble a wife as Portia: so then he did comfort her the best he
could.”[125] Pescetti does not rest Brutus’ appreciation of his wife on
this basis; he rejoices in the possession of a wife so spirited.
Shakespeare idealizes the situation in Brutus’ exclamation:

                        “O ye gods!
            Render me worthy of this noble wife.”

Near the end of the third scene in which Portia figures, and wherein she
and her husband overhear Calpurnia’s determination to prevent her
husband from attending the session of the Senate, Brutus advises her to
go home while he goes to join the conspirators. The scene concludes as
she speeds him with her blessing.

Throughout these scenes Pescetti utilizes many of the motifs derived
from Plutarch, which Shakespeare afterwards included in his treatment.
But the emphasis upon several of them has been shifted; the similarity
in parts between the two authors is due mainly to this common source.
There are but two points of importance wherein distinctly individual
resemblance is noticeable. Both in Pescetti and in Shakespeare, as has
previously been pointed out, Portia enters the scene under practically
the same attendant circumstances. In both dramas she appears immediately
after the completion of the details of the assassination. Brutus says to

            “Ma giamo ad informar del tutto gli altri,
            Acciò gli spirti destino, e le forze,
            Et apparecchin l’arme all’ alta impresa.

    _Cas._— Aspetta, ch’esce fuor di casa Porzia.”—P. 28.

Hereupon Portia enters.

Shakespeare has:

    _Cas._— The morning comes upon’s. We’ll leave you Brutus,
            And, friends, disperse yourselves; but all remember
            What you have said and show yourselves true Romans.

    _Bru._— And, gentlemen, look fresh and merrily;
            Let not our looks put on our purposes;
            But bear it as our Roman actors do,
            With untired spirits and formal constancy;
            And so, good-morrow to you every one.

                        _Exeunt. Brutus remains._ Act II., 1.

Immediately after the few lines to Lucius, Portia enters. While it may
be simply a coincidence, it is worth remarking that in both dramas
Portia arises in the early morning to seek her husband. There is no
warrant for this in Plutarch. That Pescetti should have the conspirators
perfecting their plans in the early morning may be regarded as a
necessity of his dramatic form. Plutarch does not suggest this touch.
Possibly Shakespeare considered it a gain in dramatic effectiveness to
have the conspiracy confirmed during the tempestuous night. Perhaps
Pescetti’s treatment influenced him. In both dramas the interrogator
comments upon Portia’s early rising.

 _Cassius_— Molto per tempo esci di casa, ò Porzia.—Ces., p. 29.

  _Brutus_— Portia, what mean you? Wherefore rise you now?
            It is not for your health thus to commit
            Your weak condition to the raw, cold morning.

Portia in soliloquy says:

            Non senza gran cagion stamane uscito
            Si per tempo di casa è il mio consorte.—Ces., p. 28.

In Shakespeare we read:

  _Portia_— ... You’ve ungently, Brutus,
            Stole from my bed.

Plutarch says: “So when the day was come, Brutus went out of his house
with a dagger by his side under his long gown, that nobody saw nor knew
but his wife only.” (Marcus Brutus, p. 116.) Thus, according to the
biographer, the conspiracy had been perfected days before and Portia by
this time evidently knew of it.

Neither is there any warrant in the histories for Portia’s prayer for

                        “O Brutus,
            The heavens speed thee in thine enterprise!”—Act II., Sc.

Similarly, in Pescetti, Portia’s last words are a blessing on Brutus:

            “Và, che ti scorga, e ti difenda Giove.”—P. 58.

Even closer is her prayer at the conclusion of Brutus’ rapturous
outburst in her scene with Cassius:

            “Ite, ò forti, ite ò saggi, ite ò de gli alti
            Legnaggi, onde scendete, degni; il Cielo
            Secondi i desir vostri.”—P. 33.

These coincidences may be simply accidental, but taken in connection
with many other points of contact between the two dramas, they assume
greater significance, and lend strength to the hypothesis herein
advanced: that Shakespeare was influenced by Pescetti’s treatment to
include the Brutus-Portia scenes in his own drama.


Pescetti’s other principal feminine character is the conventional lay
figure of the drama of his time: a lifeless automaton who seems to exist
solely for the purpose of indulging in intolerably wordy
lamentations.[126] Yet Pescetti has put in the mouth of this lachrymose
puppet a few lines which form the closest parallel to be found between
the two plays.

D. Brutus thus replies to Caesar’s depreciation of his flattery:

   _D. B._— “Non è lingua mortal per pronta, e scaltra
            Che sia, non è di dir si ricca vena,
            Nè si divino ingegno, che, non dico
            Degnamente lodar, ma narrar possa
            Le sopr’umane eroiche tue prove.
            E se vivesse il grande Omero, altrove
            Certo non volgeria l’alto suo stile,
            Che a cantar i tuoi fatti eccelsi, e magni,
            E tema vil reputaria lo sdegno
            D’Achille, e i lunghi error del saggio Ulisse.”

Hereupon Calpurnia exclaims:

            “Ahi pur, ch’anzi a gli Euripidi non porga
            Materia, onde risuonino i teatri
            Ne’secoli avvenir le sue sventure.”

This outburst is entirely lost on Caesar, who says:

            “A parlar d’altro omai volgiamo i nostri
            Ragionamenti;” . . . .—Ces., pp. 105–106.

Calpurnia’s prophetic doubt is placed in such a setting that its
dramatic effect is lost. This, it seems, was too tempting a morsel for
Shakespeare’s keen sense of dramatic fitness to overlook, and at the
moment when the conspirators have reached the climax of their success,
we find him assigning Calpurnia’s speech to the exultant Cassius, to
stir the audience with its theatrical effect and to bewilder generations
of future critics.

    _Cas._—               “How many ages hence
            Shall this our lofty scene be acted over,
            In states unborn and accents yet unknown!”

    _Bru._— “How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
            That now on Pompey’s basis lies along
            No worthier than the dust.”[127] (III, 1, 112.)

I regard this as the most remarkable parallel between the work of
Pescetti and that of Shakespeare. It is entirely too close in word and
content to be fortuitous. The dramatic effect of Cassius’ outburst is
undeniable; yet its dramatic truth is questionable. All the more so
since the speech of Cassius immediately following,

            “.   .   .   .   .   .   . So oft as that shall be,
            So often shall the knot of us be call’d
            The men that gave their country liberty,”

has always impressed me as an anticlimax. This, both in word and in
thought, coming so soon after his noble speech, produces the same
unpleasant effect as,

            “O world, thou wast the forest to this hart,
            And this, indeed, O world, the heart of thee,”

which, intruded into Antony’s lament, has caused many critics to regard
these lines as interpolations. Nor does Cassius’ first exalted outburst
seem in keeping with his character. Of all the conspirators he is the
last whom we would expect to find indulging in raptures at such a
critical moment. Far more in keeping are his next words,

                          “Ay, every man away:
            Brutus shall lead, and we will grace his heels
            With the most boldest and best hearts of Rome.”

This indeed is Cassius; every man on the alert, and every energy bent to
insure the successful conclusion of their enterprise.

But, whatever its fitness to the character, Shakespeare, from the point
of view of effect, certainly could have found no better place for its
introduction. Doubtless, in his day the gentry clenched their pipes,
while the gaping groundlings clutched their greasy jerkins, both
animated by the same feeling that oversways the modern audience at these
ringing prophetic phrases. And then the simple stage direction, “Enter a
servant:” the beginning of the end! For sheer dramatic effect few
passages in Shakespeare surpass it.


The other persons in “Cesare” may be dismissed in a few words. The Nurse
and the Priest are simply the conventional lay figures of the drama of
the time, while Decimus Brutus seems to have been included because he
happened to be in the histories. Neither he nor Lenate possesses any
individuality, and considered solely in themselves, contribute nothing
of value to this investigation.


Footnote 120:

  In regard to Antony and the Popilius Lena episode.

Footnote 121:

  In Muretus she has no place in the action. Brutus refers to her in his
  soliloquy: Act II., lines 107 ff.

   _Brutus_— “. . . Haec parum si te movent,
             Tua jam, vir ut sis, te satis conjux monet,
             Fidem cruore quae tibi obstrinxit suam,
             Testata sic se avunculi prolem tui.
             Si ab exequendis te avocat coeptis timor,
             Animusque pigro torpet ignavus gelu,
             Ex femina perdisce, quid deceat virum.”

  This is the only reference to Portia throughout the drama. Grévin
  makes no mention of her, while Garnier, in his “Porcie” (1568) treats
  of events following the death of Caesar.

Footnote 122:

  I know of but two notices of these scenes, neither being much more
  than a mere mention. Neri says: “Su tutte ancora primeggia il Cesare
  d’Orlando Pescetti, che per il rilievo della figura di Bruto, tratta
  da Plutarco—vedi la bella scena di Porzia nel secondo atto, etc.” (La
  Tragedia italiana nel Cinquecento, Ferdinando Neri, Firenze, 1904, p.
  158.) It is also referred to by Emilio Bertana in “La tragedia,”
  Milano, 1904, p. 75 ff.

Footnote 123:

  Plutarch notes that she was of a “noble courage.”

Footnote 124:

  That is, Fortune.

Footnote 125:

  Marcus Brutus, p. 116. Skeat.

  In the “Julius Caesar” of Sir William Alexander, (Earl of Stirling)
  written a few years after Shakespeare’s play, there is a decided
  similarity between some portions of the Brutus-Portia scenes and those
  in Pescetti. The prologue seems an echo of Pescetti’s. Nor do these
  portions have anything verbally in common with Seneca, the model of
  both tragedies. See Conclusion, page 121.

Footnote 126:

  Many of the motifs of the Calpurnia-Nurse scene in Pescetti are
  derived from Muretus. Others are reminiscent of Grévin.

Footnote 127:

  Malone long ago suggested that this scene probably refers to the
  popularity of the play on the stage, and that it points to other
  contemporary dramas on the same subject. Prolegomena, II, ff. 448–9.
  Ed. 1823. Prof. Sykes sees in it a dramatic device to emphasize the
  reality of the presentation. “Julius Caesar” note, page 142.

                          “CESARE” IN ENGLAND

Pescetti’s work, tedious as it is to the modern reader, was not without
its attractions to the Elizabethan. An age which could produce
“Polyolbions” could very well tolerate a “Cesare.” It was cast in the
popular dramatic form, dealt with a popular theme, and above all, came
from a land inseparably connected in the public mind with romance and
tragedy. To the Elizabethan, “Ex Italia, semper aliquid novi.” That the
work was probably known to English authors receives additional support
from the use seemingly made of it by Sir William Alexander (Earl of
Stirling) in his own “Tragedy of Julius Caesar.”

Alexander’s work was issued about 1604–7. Of it, Dr. T. A. Lester says:
“In general it may be said that Alexander follows Grévin, availing
himself not only of Grévin’s original scenes, but also of Grévin’s
non-Plutarchian order.... There can be little doubt that Alexander’s
‘Julius Caesar’ is nothing but Grévin’s ‘Cesar’ rewritten and
enlarged.”[128] Alexander followed Grévin, but he did so with an
admixture of Pescetti.

Prof. H. M. Ayres claims that Alexander got his Prologue from the
Hercules Furens of Seneca, substituting Caesar for Hercules as the
object of Juno’s wrath. Pescetti’s Prologue is one of the curious things
about his drama. Such an introduction is lacking in both Muretus and
Grévin.[129] Possibly both Alexander and Pescetti got their idea from
Seneca, but there are parallels in content between the two which are
only faintly adumbrated in the Latin author. Juno’s censure of Jove’s
amours in the Scotchman’s work bears a very close resemblance to the
denunciations of Venus as recorded by the Italian. The threat of civil
strife and discord are found in each. But more important is the fact
that in certain scenes lacking in Grévin, there is a close parallel
between Alexander and Pescetti.

Thus, in the dialogue concerning Antony, Pescetti has:

    _Cas._— Parmi d’avere scorto in Marcantonio
            Disio di dominar: perciò s’in tutto
            Vogliam la patria assicurar, spegniamo
            Anco lui col Tiranno, e fuor degli occhi
            Tragghiamci questo stecco, che potrebbe,
            Quando che sia, non poca briga darne.
            Che tu sai ben, quanto li siano amici
            I veterani, e quanto acconcio ei sia
            Gli animi a concitar del volgo insano.

    _Bru._— S’ad altri, oltre al Tiranno, darem morte,
            Si stimerà dal volgo, che le cose
            Sempre stravolge, e falsamente espone,
            Che non disio di liberar la patria,
            Ma privato odio, e brama di vendetta
            A ciò sospinti n’abbia, e di quell’opra,
            Onde da noi s’attende eterna fama,
            N’acquisterem vergogna, e biasmo eterno:
            E dove nome di pietà cerchiamo,
            Sarem del titol d’empietà notati;
            Nè perciò a noi gran fatto avrem giovato:

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

                          In somma e’ non si deve
            Punir, chi non hà errato, e a me non basta
            L’animo di dar morte a chi nocciuto
            Non m’hà, nè fatto ingiuria.

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

    _Cas._— Bruto, tu se’ troppo pietoso; voglia
            Il Ciel, che questa tua pietà non sia
            Un giorno a noi crudel. Nel risanare
            Dall’ ulcere nascenti i corpi il ferro,
            E ’l fuoco oprar convien, che tu ben sai,
            Che’l medico pietoso infistolisce
            La piaga, e spesso tutto il corpo infetta.

In the “Tragedy of Julius Caesar” we read:

   _Cass._—        .       .       .       .       .
            There is Antonius, Caesars greatest friend,
            A man whose nature tyranny affects,
            Whom all the soldiers daily do attend,
            As one who nought but to command respects;

            .       .       .       .       .

            And in my judgment I would thinke it best,
            When sacrific’d the proud usurper lyes,
            That this seditious enemy of rest
            Should fall with him, with whom he first did rise:
            Thus, of our liberty we now may lay
            A solid ground, which can be shak’t by none;

            .       .       .       .       .

   _Brut._— I cannot, Cassius, condescend to kill,
            (Thus from the path of justice to decline)
            One faultlesse yet, lest after he prove ill,
            So to prevent his guiltinesse by mine;
            No, no, that neither honest were, nor just,
            Which rigorous forme would but the world affright,
            Men by this meane, our meaning might mistrust,
            And for a little wrong damne all that’s right:
            If we do only kill the common foe,
            Our countries zeale must then acquire due praise
            But if (like tyrants) fiercely raging so,
            We will be thought that which we raze to raise;
            And where we but intend to aide the state,
            Though by endangering what we hold most deare,
            If slaying him (as arm’d by private hate)
            We to the world all partiall will appeare.

            .       .       .       .       .

   _Cass._— Well Brutus, I protest against my will,
            From this black cloud, whatever tempest fall,
            That mercy but most cruelly doth kill,
            Which thus saves one, who once may plague us all.

                                    Page 279 et seq., Glasgow ed., 1872.

This is not in Grévin, neither is the Brutus-Portia scene. Here again,
there are significant points of contact. Alexander’s whole handling of
the scene resembles Pescetti’s treatment, while in individual sections
the parallels are almost verbal. Portia’s attitude throughout is
reminiscent of Pescetti’s delineation. In both dramas the conspiracy is
revealed to her; in both she proffers her help; in both she falls back
on prayer as her best aid; in both the failure of the plot means her
self-destruction.[130] She says:

       “Though nature, sexe, and education breed
       No power in me, with such a purpose even,
       I must lend help to this intended deed,
       If vows and pray’rs may penetrate the heaven;
       But difficulties huge my fancie findes,
       Nought, save the successe, can defray my feare:
       ‘Ah! fortune alwayes frownes on worthy mindes
       As hating all who trust in ought save her.’
       Yet I despaire not but thou may’st prevaile,
       And by this course to ease my present grones,
       I this advantage have which cannot faile:
       I’ll be a free-man’s wife, or else be nones:
       For, if all prosper not as we pretend
       And that the heavens Romes bondage to decree,
       Straight with thy liberty my life shall end,
       Who have no comfort but what comes from thee;
       My father hath me taught what way to dye,
       By which if hindred from encountring death,
       Some other meanes, I (though more strange) must try;
       For after Brutus, none shall see me breathe.”

 (Tragedy of Julius Caesar, pp. 268–69, Vol. 2, Glasgow edition, 1872.)

In Pescetti Portia says:

            “Più volentier la man di ferro contra
            Il Tiranno armerei, che di preghiere
            La lingua, e’l cuor: ma poichè ciò mi niega
            Il sesso mio, con quel, ch’a me conviensi
            E lice, aiuterò la santa impresa.”—Ces., p. 32.

            “Ite, ò forti, ite ò saggi, ite ò de gli alti
            Legnaggi, onde scendete, degni; il Cielo
            Secondi i desir vostri: Scorga, e regga
            Benigno i piedi, e le man vostre Giove,
            Tu vedi, ò Porzia, in che periglio posta
            Del tuo consorte la salute sia.
            Or di mestier t’è preparar il petto
            A colpi della morte, s’egli avviene,
            Che’l Ciel (sia lunge ogni sinistro augurio)
            Contrasti a generosi suoi disegni.
            O libera convien, che viva, ò chiugga
            Con glorioso fin degno del padre,
            E del marito tuo la vita: In questa
            Luce di padre libero venisti,
            Et a marito libero congiunta
            Vivesti, ch’ambo altieramente amaro
            Di più tosto morir, che viver servi:
            Si che di spirti generosi, e maschi
            Arma il femminil petto, e’l cuor rinforza;
            Onde con fin del nascimento degno,
            E della vita tua la vita chiuda.”—Pp. 33–34.

She says to Brutus:

            “Dell’ amor, ch’io ti porto, ancor potuto
            Non ho farti ben chiaro? E tu mi stimi
            Si poco amante, ch’io potessi senza
            Tè star un ora in vita?”—P. 50.

                        “Or tu non sai
            Quanto sovente a generosi sforzi
            Soglia fortuna ingiuriosa opporsi?”—P. 49.

Following his lofty response she says:

            “Tuttavia, benche lei[131] non vinca mai,
            Impedisce sovente i suoi disegni.”—P. 49.

There is no historical warrant for Portia’s contemplated suicide at this
time. In both dramas Brutus’ reply is the same in content:

            “Do not defraud the world of thy rare worth,
            But of thy Brutus the remembrance love;
            From this fair prison strive not to breake forth,
            Till first the fates have forc’d thee to remove.”—P. 269.

In Pescetti, Brutus says:

            “Ma che accidente pensi tu, che possa
            Addivenir, ch’armar contra te stessa
            Le man ti stringa, e innanzi tempo l’alma
            Spigner del caro albergo?”—P. 49.

                            “Ma non approvo
            Già il tuo consiglio, e pregoti, per quanto
            Amor mi porti, ch’ à sì fiera voglia
            Dij del tuo petto bando, e l’ora aspetti
            Prefissa al tuo partir da questa vita.”—P. 50.

Her “rare worth” is emphasized by Brutus:

            “Ma non consentirà Giove, che donna
            Sì valorosa, e bella, a dar salute
            A mille altri atta, se medesma uccida.”—P. 52.

Alexander also makes Cassius mention that Laena had accosted him, and
expressed the wish that his desires might prosper, thus making Cassius
suspect the conspiracy was discovered. This parallels Brutus’ experience
in Pescetti. Decius refers to the banquet at the house of Lepidus and
Caesar’s opinions on death. This is also mentioned in Pescetti.
Alexander’s recital of Caesar’s perturbation, as he describes it in
soliloquy, is too long to quote, but it is simply an echo of Calpurnia’s
state of mind as revealed in Pescetti.

If we can assume that Alexander was acquainted with Pescetti’s drama, as
these parallels seem to indicate, we have no reason for supposing that
it was unknown to the literati of his time. “Cesare” was popular enough
to go through two editions in Italy. Alexander was a man of wide
reading, but no more so than was Ben Jonson. Possibly Alexander was
indebted to the latter for his knowledge of Pescetti’s work.[132]
Alexander’s drama followed that of Shakespeare. If he knew Pescetti’s
work some few years after the composition of Shakespeare’s drama, there
is no reason to deny to Jonson, the most learned author of his day, a
prior acquaintance.

In this connection, the hypothesis advanced by Frederick Gard
Fleay,[133] regarding the two-part nature of Shakespeare’s play, assumes
new significance. According to him, “Julius Caesar” was originally
written in two parts, “Caesar’s Tragedy” and “Caesar’s Revenge,”
following a custom of the time, and that through some exigency the two
were later merged into the play as we now have it. This is not the place
to enter this controversy. Fleay presents his reasons, and among them
the fact that in “Julius Caesar” the name Antony occurs without the h,
contrary to Shakespeare’s custom in his other plays wherein the name
occurs. It may be well to suggest here that the prevalent fondness for
Italian names probably prompted the use of the name as found in
Pescetti: Antonio or Marcantonio. But especially significant is Fleay’s
surmise that it was Jonson who performed the merging of the two plays,
and who is, therefore, responsible for the present form. If this be the
case, it may well be that Jonson introduced “Cesare” to Shakespeare’s
notice, for notwithstanding its tediousness, it was cast in a form which
appealed to Ben’s classic taste. The hypothetical “Tragedy of Julius
Caesar” could well have been inspired by Pescetti’s drama, for the first
three acts of “Julius Caesar” as we have it now, form a satisfactory
dramatic whole, and all of Shakespeare’s assumed indebtedness to the
Italian is contained in these three acts.

Jonson’s “Sejanus,” whose composition was probably prompted by the
popularity of Shakespeare’s work in the same field, followed “Julius
Caesar” in 1603. The friendly relations existing at this time between
the two great dramatists is sufficiently attested by the fact that
Shakespeare was one of the actors in Jonson’s tragedy. “Julius Caesar”
as we now have it appears first in the 1623 folio; what alterations were
made in the preceding twenty years are matters of speculation. Jonson
was sufficiently interested in its success is strive to rival it along
purely classic lines, while about the only criticism of a Shakespearean
play that we possess from Ben deals with a speech in “Julius
Caesar.”[134] It seems, therefore, within the bounds of probability that
Jonson may have introduced “Cesare” to Shakespeare’s notice.

There were, however, other means whereby Shakespeare may have become
acquainted with “Cesare.” Much as we know of his wonderful age, we do
not even now realize its vast and all-embracing activities, especially
in literature. Translations by the score were made from the
Italian.[135] Plagiarism, especially from foreign sources, was rampant;
nor was such plagiarism decried.[136] Shakespeare may not have known
Italian, yet the evidence to the contrary is steadily growing stronger.
Italian was the fashion in his day; many of his colleagues had travelled
in Italy; many knew the language. His patron, Southampton, spoke Italian
fluently, while among his guests Italian scholars were conspicuous. Amid
such surroundings it is well-nigh inconceivable that Shakespeare failed
to come into intimate contact with the Italian literature of the day.
Recent research renders it almost positive that he not only did, but
that he was sufficiently versed in the language to read the literature
in the original tongue. We marvel at his intimate descriptions of
Italian life, explicable, apparently, only on the supposition that he
was an eye-witness of the scenes he describes. We wonder at the
familiarity with Italian authors evident upon a close examination of his
work. Brandes, in his study of Othello[137] calls attention to several
portions of that drama, which both in content and expression, form too
close a parallel to the Italian of Ariosto and Berni to be accidental.
More recently, Professor Carlo Segré[138] has pointed to places in
Othello explicable only upon the supposition that Shakespeare was
intimately acquainted with the Italian version of Cinthio.

“Segré disagrees with Sidney Lee, who avers that Shakespeare borrowed
from Italian sources, only bare outlines and general ideas which lent
themselves to his scheme, and that these in his masterly hands were so
arranged and reconstructed as to be almost unrecognizable. In Segré’s
opinion, Shakespeare studied the Italian literature, not only with the
analysis of a man of letters, but also with the careful attention and
open mind of a poet, for the benefit he drew from these sources was
chosen with consummate art and critical skill, according to what seemed
most useful to him in the exercise of his marvellous gifts.”[139] As we
have seen, Shakespeare’s procedure with “Cesare” differed in no
essentials from his usual method.

Even if Shakespeare knew no Italian, it was still possible for him to
become fairly familiar with “Cesare.” Shakespeare was a dramatist
because the drama was profitable. Like a keen playwright, he studied the
taste of his public. The story of Caesar was no new one to
theatre-goers. Other plays on the subject had met with success. The
chronicle history had had its day, and with its waning popularity
Shakespeare turned to that hazy, romantic epoch in history when Rome was
mistress of the world; for in his day Rome’s name still loomed large in
the imagination of mankind. The great dramatist never scrupled to
appropriate the efforts of others, when, by the transforming power of
his genius, he might use them to further the success of his own work.
The more we know of the Elizabethan world, the more modern it seems to
us. No doubt, in those days as in these, theatrical managers were ever
on the lookout for promising material. Perhaps Jonson did not introduce
“Cesare” to his notice, yet what was to prevent Shakespeare’s employing
lowly but learned hacks to investigate plays or other works, both native
and foreign, which promised to provide adequate material for his own
dramas? There is nothing startlingly novel in this assumption, although
it seems to have been overlooked in the discussions concerning the
poet’s linguistic knowledge. It had been done before; it was done
afterwards. Association and collaboration were common. What one man
lacked another supplied. Why did Henslowe, in 1602, commission Munday,
Drayton, Webster, Middleton, and “the rest,” to write a “sesers falle”?
Why so many to write one play? No doubt many an old drama was ransacked
for material, many an ancient source laid under contribution, many a
verbal jewel or entire scene torn from its setting to grace the new
production. Shakespeare, employing scholarly searchers, who brought to
his notice whatever they considered valuable in the material they
investigated, had no need of knowing various languages. He wanted the
ideas; his imagination provided the rest.

There was no lack of books. The late Professor J. Churton Collins, in
his consideration of Shakespeare as a classical scholar, says: “The
collection of books was not only the fashion, but the passion of the
age. His friend Ben Jonson had one of the finest private libraries in
England, so had Camden and Cotton, and their liberality in lending books
was proverbial. He could have had books from the library of Southampton
and through Southampton from the libraries of others of the nobility.
The magnificent collection of Parker at Lambeth would have been open to
him, as well as the collection at Gresham College. There was the Queen’s
library at Whitehall, well stored according to Hentzner, who visited it
in 1598, with Greek, Latin, Italian, and French books. What afterwards
formed the nucleus of the Bodleian at Oxford, which contains, by the
way, an Aldine Ovid, with his name in autograph, to all appearances
genuine, on the title-page, was during the last decade of the sixteenth
century almost within a stone’s throw of the Black Friars Theatre.”[140]


Footnote 128:

  “Connections between the Drama of France and Great Britain,
  particularly in the Elizabethan Period.” Harvard Dissertation, 1900
  (unpublished), quoted by Ayres.

Footnote 129:

  Alexander’s Prologue is the first act of the drama. Juno delivers a
  long monologue and the chorus closes the act. In Muretus, Caesar and
  the chorus occupy the first act. In Grévin, it is Caesar, Antony and
  the Chorus of Soldiers. In Pescetti, the Prologue is separate, but
  like in Alexander the actors therein do not appear in the drama

Footnote 130:

  Of the above only the fact that the conspiracy was revealed to her is
  recorded by Plutarch in this connection.

Footnote 131:


Footnote 132:

  Alexander, in his younger days, travelled in France, Spain and Italy.
  He was high in the favor of James VI. of Scotland and accompanied him
  to London in 1603, where he became an intimate of Prince Henry. That
  he was well and favorably known to the authors of the day may be
  inferred from the dedication of a sonnet to him by Michael Drayton.

Footnote 133:

  In Shakespeare Soc. Pub., 1874, p. 357. Also his Life of Shakespeare,
  1886, p. 215–6.

Footnote 134:

  The allusion to the phrase Act III, Sc. 1.

            “Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause
            Will he be satisfied.”

  This originally stood:

  “Caesar did never wrong but with just cause” and is ridiculed by
  Jonson in his “Discoveries.” It is quite likely that the Caesar in the
  play as originally written was an even more self-important individual
  than he is at present. Possibly Shakespeare saw no absurdity in the
  line when he first penned it. Caesar, in his own estimation, is
  semi-divine. The cause of things is in his will. What might seem wrong
  to the mob was not so to Caesar, for he felt that the cause was just,
  no matter what the world thought. That was sufficient. The apparent
  contradiction in terms thus seems capable of explanation.

Footnote 135:

  Appendix to Vol. IV of the Cambridge History of English Literature.
  Also M. A. Scott, Elizabethan Translations from the Italian. Mod.
  Lang. Assoc. Pub., X. to XIV., 1895–99.

Footnote 136:

  Sidney Lee, The French Renaissance in England, 1910. Phoebe Sheavyn,
  The Literary Profession in the Elizabethan Age, 1909.

Footnote 137:

  Shakespeare: A Critical Study, George Brandes—London, William
  Heineman, 1902, p. 444–45.

Footnote 138:

  “Relazioni Litterarie fra Italia e Inghilterra,” Florence, 1911.
  Reviewed in article, “The Italian Sources of Othello,” by Ethel M. de
  Fonblanque, Fortnightly Review, Nov., 1911, p. 907.

Footnote 139:

  Ethel M. de Fonblanque in Fortnightly Review, Nov., 1911.

Footnote 140:

  “Studies in Shakespeare.”


To claim that Pescetti’s drama possesses any intrinsic attraction for
the modern reader would be straining truth in the interest of zeal. It
is doubtful whether it ever attained the dignity of a stage
representation; the least regard for the patience of humanity prompts
the hope that it never was inflicted upon an audience. Too often,
throughout its toilsome progress, “Declamation roars while Passion
sleeps.” Pescetti attempted to individualize his major characters, yet
we miss the life which throbs in Shakespeare’s pages; all too frequently
the passionate utterances of real men and women are sunk in the frigid
rhetoric of book-born puppets. Still while it was not given to Pescetti
to scale Olympus, he at least glimpsed the path. His drama is true to
the traditions of its type; in some ways it marks an advance over its
predecessors. While the English drama, freed from the shackles of
convention, buoyed by the exuberant spirit of a conscious nationalism,
followed the Zeitgeist to the highest pinnacle of achievement, Italian
tragedy, misled by the ignis fatuus of a false classicism, floundered
ever more helplessly and hopelessly in the depths of the Senecan morass.

Pescetti has most of the faults of his contemporaries, but in a few
respects he rises superior to many of his predecessors. His work is free
from their revolting horrors; he shows a true perception of the dramatic
possibilities of his material; he arranges his subject matter with a
proper regard for dramatic effect, even though he well-nigh stifles his
plot under an avalanche of words. He dares attempt what Symonds[141]
scarcely believed possible; to portray upon the Italian stage the
patriotism of a Brutus and the downfall of a tyrant.

But what renders this long-forgotten work of special interest to the
modern reader is the probability of its relation to “Julius Caesar”; a
probability which the preceding investigation has sought to confirm. It
seems that “Cesare” furnished the greatest dramatist of the age with
hints which he did not hesitate to employ. It deserves recognition
because here, for the first time, we find individual scenes which appear
later in “Julius Caesar.” Here for the first time in any extant drama on
this subject, we find the debate (in its extended form) concerning the
contemplated murder of Antony. In “Cesare,” Portia for the first time
enters the action, while Brutus is shown in his domestic relations in a
manner suggestive of Shakespeare’s treatment. Here, for the first time,
the omens and prodigies find a prominent place in the drama, while the
significance of the Caesar-Lena episode receives its first recognition.
All these scenes appear later in “Julius Caesar,” accompanied by
individual touches peculiar alone to the Italian dramatist.

Muretus and Grévin both include in their dramas the debate concerning
Antony. But Pescetti seems to have had a better idea of its dramatic
value, for not only is his treatment of this significant episode far
more comprehensive, but he includes matter purely his own, which, both
in form and content, is so similar to its dramatic counterpart in
“Julius Caesar” as to render the supposition of accidental coincidence
highly improbable.

In his delineation of Brutus, Pescetti continued the exaltation of the
character, begun by Plutarch and introduced into the Renaissance drama
by Muretus. In view of the fact that the Italian dramatist openly
courted the favor of the ruler of Ferrara, his treatment of the assassin
of the Duke’s great ancestor is surprising. Pescetti could have found
many things in his sources which would have detracted from the moral
excellence of his Brutus, but he ignores them, and portrays his
protagonist along the same lines as his great contemporary. Therefore
Shakespeare found nothing in Pescetti to induce him to change his
conception of the character.

The Brutus-Portia scenes in “Cesare” mark the first introduction of this
material in any drama on the same subject. Pescetti portrays Brutus in
his domestic relations along the lines later adopted by Shakespeare, and
adds touches not traceable to Plutarch, yet included in “Julius Caesar.”

Inasmuch as Pescetti dedicated his tragedy to Alfonso D’Este, whom he
hails in his preface as Caesar’s reincarnation, we naturally would
expect a delineation of the titular character cast in the most heroic
mould. Yet, whatever the intention, the fulfillment seems the very
antipode of the promise. The Caesar of Pescetti appears the same weak,
vacillating, boastful figure that in Shakespeare has so puzzled his
critics, and who occupies in the drama the same position of relative
inferiority assigned to him in “Julius Caesar.”

Pescetti was the first dramatist of Caesar’s fortunes to realize the
dramatic value of a supernatural background. He presents the ghost of
Pompey as the exciting force on his Brutus; Shakespeare introduced the
ghost of Caesar to herald his doom. In his attempted distribution of the
omens and prodigies, the Italian seems to have anticipated Shakespeare’s
similar but vastly superior treatment. With a single puzzling exception,
he mentions all the portents later used by Shakespeare, and adds many
more culled from the classic authors. Shakespeare includes among the
omens several not mentioned by Plutarch; to obtain these he had no
occasion to go beyond Pescetti.

The Italian seemed to realize the dramatic value of suspense, and uses
this device twice in a manner almost exactly parallel to that of
Shakespeare. Like the Cassius of Shakespeare, the Decimus Brutus of
Pescetti raises a doubt as to Caesar’s attending the session of the
Senate, and the introduction of this element of suspense paves the way
for his ultimate persuasion of the Dictator. In Shakespeare’s play the
episode performs the same office. But more significant is Pescetti’s
employment of the Caesar-Lena scene, which in word and thought
constitute a very close parallel to the same scene as it stands in
“Julius Caesar.”

“Cesare” seems to shed new light upon the much discussed question of
Shakespeare’s indebtedness to Appian, for the historical matter
supposedly derived by the great poet from the English translation of the
history can be found in the Italian drama, and reappears later in
“Julius Caesar,” accompanied by touches peculiar alone to Pescetti’s
treatment. The resemblance between these portions of the Italian’s work
and the corresponding parts in the English drama, is far stronger than
their similarity to their hitherto supposed source.

Pescetti’s minor figures are hardly suggestive of Shakespeare’s vivid
portraits, but, as has been pointed out, the significant speech which he
assigns to Calpurnia furnishes the most striking parallel between the
two plays.

When Cicero said:

            “But men may construe things after their fashion,
            Clean from the purpose of the things themselves,”

he uttered a truism which might well serve us a warning to all critics,
especially those of Shakespeare. But the great poet often builded better
than he knew. Shakespeare to us is what we can get from him. Because
Pescetti was no Shakespeare is no reason for interpreting his efforts in
an unkindlier spirit. His critics have, however, judged him by his
fellows; often, apparently, without reading him. We cannot attempt to
measure his influence in his own day by our modern standards. What is
tedious to us was not necessarily so to the Elizabethans. It may be well
to remember that even among Shakespeare’s contemporaries the Senecan
drama had its advocates.[142] There are few purple patches in “Cesare”
to catch the eye of the romantic dramatist; probably as a tragedy,
Pescetti’s drama had as little attraction for Shakespeare as it has for
us. But to a dramatist who never scrupled to appropriate suitable
material wherever he could find it, “Cesare” must have appeared well
worth investigation. It presented, in convenient dramatic form, material
which served to supplement his own selections from the scattered pages
of Plutarch. With the sure perception of genius the great poet took from
the Italian the matter best suited to his purpose and discarded the

It is for this reason that “Cesare” is worthy of notice. It is for this
reason that the obscure pedagogue of Verona, whose pedantic personality
lay buried beneath the controversial debris of three centuries, deserves
to stand to-day among that humbler brotherhood whom association with our
greatest dramatist has preserved for the curious admiration of the
literary world.


Footnote 141:

  In his discussion of the state of the Italian drama during the
  sixteenth century, Symonds says: “At the same time, we may question
  whether the Despots would have welcomed tragic shows which dramatized
  their deeds of violence; whether they would have suffered the
  patriotism of a Brutus, the vengeance of Virginius, the plots of
  Catiline, or the downfall of Sejanus to be displayed with
  spirit-stirring pomp in the theatres of Milan and Ferrara, when
  conspiracies like that of Olgaiti were frequent.” John Addington
  Symonds, “The Renaissance in Italy, Italian Literature,” Vol. II., p.
  119. Henry Holt & Co., 1888.

Footnote 142:

  “The Monarchicke Tragedies” of Alexander by 1617 had gone through
  three editions, besides several single quartos.


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        Graece et Latine cum Indicibus. Didot. Paris, 1877.

      The Roman History of Appian of Alexandria. Translated from the
        Greek by Horace White. 2 vols. London, George Bell & Sons,

      Civil Wars. 1578. Extract from the Second Book. (New Shakespeare
        Society Trans. 1875–6. Part 2. Append. 4. London, 1877.)

      An Auncient Historie and exquisite Chronicle of the Romanes
        warres, both Civile and Foren Written in Greeke by the noble
        Orator and Historiographer, Appian of Alexandria....
        Translated out of divers languages, and now set forth in
        Englishe, according to the Greeke text, taken out of a Royall
        Librarie: by W. B.... Imprinted at London by Raulfe Newberrie
        and Henrie Bynniman, Anno 1578.

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                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Retained the blanks that the original Italian text often had before
 2. Inserted a blank before the apostrophe in front of the letter l,
      whenever the apostrophed ’l stands for il.
 3. Changed “προσέττατεν” to “προσέταττεν” in footnote 12.
 4. Added anchor after “—II., i, ll. 154–191.” for the first
      footnote[60] on p. 46.
 5. Changed “cosi” to “così” on p. 67.
 6. Changed “angurio” to “augurio” on p. 84.
 7. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 8. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 9. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

 The following corrections to obvious Italian misspellings in Boecker's
      text made by comparing excerpts with Pescetti's original at
    http://www.opal.unito.it/psixsite/Teatro italiano del XVI e XVII
                   secolo/Elenco opere/image589.pdf.

 1. Changed “Secundo” to “secondo” on p. 1.
 2. Changed “ricchezze” to “ricchezze” on p. 16.
 3. Changed “Più che d’Orso, e de Tigre Ircana crudo” to “Più che
      d’Orso, e di Tigre Ircana crudo” on p. 17.
 4. Changed “E fù si grande del ferir la voglia Ricandosi” to “E fu sì
      grande del ferir la voglia Recandosi” on p. 24.
 5. Changed “Immenso regno, e sì gonfiato ha l’onde,” to “Immenso regno,
      e sì gonfiato hà l’onde,” on p. 30.
 6. Changed “Altri temer gran fatto, un’huom al ventre” to “Altri temer
      gran fatto, un’huomo al ventre” on p. 43.
 7. Changed “Sciogliam noi l’alma de’ corporei lacci.” to “Sciogliam noi
      l’alma da corporei lacci.” on p. 53.
 8. Changed “Ben t’esort’ io guardati de’ nemici.” to “Ben t’esort’ io
      guardarti de’ nemici.” on p. 61.
 9. Changed “Quest’ alta impresa il cielo, acciochè nulla” to “Quest’
      alta impresa il cielo, acciocchè nulla” on p. 63.
10. Changed “Non può salir, che del terreno incarco” to “Non può salir,
      chi del terreno incarco” on p. 66.
11. Changed “Et ei conforme al merto suo nel propio” to “Et ei conforme
      al merto suo nel proprio” on p. 92.
12. Changed “Non senza gran cagion stamane uscito” to “Non senza gran
      cagion stamane uscito” on p. 101.
13. Changed “Ite, ò forti, ite ò saggi, te ò de gli alti” to “Ite, ò
      forti, ite ò saggi, ite ò de gli alti” on p. 107.
14. Changed “te ò de gli alti Lenaggi,” to “ite ò de gli alti Legnaggi,”
      on p. 114.

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