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Julius Caesar

ACT IV SCENE I A house in Rome.
ANTONY, OCTAVIUS, and LEPIDUS, seated at a table.
ANTONY These many, then, shall die; their names are prick’d.
OCTAVIUS Your brother too must die; consent you, Lepidus?
LEPIDUS I do consent–
OCTAVIUS Prick him down, Antony.
LEPIDUS Upon condition Publius shall not live,
Who is your sister’s son, Mark Antony.  5
ANTONY He shall not live; look, with a spot I damn him.
But, Lepidus, go you to Caesar’s house;
Fetch the will hither, and we shall determine
How to cut off some charge in legacies.
LEPIDUS What, shall I find you here?  10
OCTAVIUS Or here, or at the Capitol.
ANTONY This is a slight unmeritable man,
Meet to be sent on errands: is it fit,
The three-fold world divided, he should stand
One of the three to share it?
OCTAVIUS So you thought him;
And took his voice who should be prick’d to die,
In our black sentence and proscription.
ANTONY Octavius, I have seen more days than you:
And though we lay these honours on this man,
To ease ourselves of divers slanderous loads,  20
He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business,
Either led or driven, as we point the way;
And having brought our treasure where we will,
Then take we down his load, and turn him off,  25
Like to the empty ass, to shake his ears,
And graze in commons.
OCTAVIUS You may do your will;
But he’s a tried and valiant soldier.
ANTONY So is my horse, Octavius; and for that
I do appoint him store of provender:  30
It is a creature that I teach to fight,
To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
His corporal motion govern’d by my spirit.
And, in some taste, is Lepidus but so;
He must be taught and train’d and bid go forth;  35
A barren-spirited fellow; one that feeds
On abjects, orts and imitations,
Which, out of use and staled by other men,
Begin his fashion: do not talk of him,
But as a property. And now, Octavius,  40
Listen great things:–Brutus and Cassius
Are levying powers: we must straight make head:
Therefore let our alliance be combined,
Our best friends made, our means stretch’d
And let us presently go sit in council,  45
How covert matters may be best disclosed,
And open perils surest answered.
OCTAVIUS Let us do so: for we are at the stake,
And bay’d about with many enemies;
And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear,  50
Millions of mischiefs.

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1

From Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.

SCENE I. The Folios give no indication of place, but that Shakespeare intended the scene to be in Rome is clear from ll. 10, 11, where Lepidus is sent to Cæsar’s house and told that he will find his confederates “or here, or at the Capitol.” In fact, however, the triumvirs, Octavius, Antonius, and Lepidus, met in November, B.C. 43, some nineteen months after the assassination of Cæsar, on a small island in the river Rhenus (now the Reno), near Bononia (Bologna). “All three met together in an island environed round about with a little river, and there remained three days together. Now, as touching all other matters they were easily agreed, and did divide all the empire of Rome between them, as if it had been their own inheritance. But yet they could hardly agree whom they would put to death: for every one of them would kill their enemies, and save their kinsmen and friends. Yet, at length, giving place to their greedy desire to be revenged of their enemies, they spurned all reverence of blood and holiness of friendship at their feet. For Cæsar left Cicero to Antonius’s will; Antonius also forsook Lucius Cæsar, who was his uncle by his mother; and both of them together suffered Lepidus to kill his own brother Paulus. Yet some writers affirm that Cæsar and Antonius requested Paulus might be slain, and that Lepidus was contented with it.”–Plutarch, Marcus Antonius.

1. prick’d: So in III, i. 217. See note, p. 95, l. 217.

4-5. According to Plutarch, as quoted above, this was Lucius Cæsar, not Publius; nor was he Antony’s nephew, but his uncle by the mother’s side. His name in full was Antonius Lucius Cæsar.

6. with a spot I damn him: with a mark I condemn him.

12. slight unmeritable: insignificant, undeserving. In Shakespeare many adjectives, especially those ending in -ful-less-ble, and -ive, have both an active and a passive meaning. See Abbott, § 3.

27. commons: This is a thoroughly English allusion to such pasture-lands as are not owned by individuals, but occupied by a given neighborhood in common. In 1614 Shakespeare protested against the inclosure of such ‘common fields’ at Stratford-on-Avon.

32. wind: wheel, turn. We have ‘wind’ as an active verb in 1 Henry IV, IV, i, 109: “To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus.”

34. in some taste: to some small extent. This meaning comes from ‘taste’ in the sense of ‘a small portion given as a sample.’

37-39. As the textual notes show, modern editors have not been content with the reading of the Folios. The serious trouble with the old text is the period at the close of l. 37. If a comma be substituted the meaning becomes obvious: Lepidus is one who is always interested in, and talking about, such things–books, works of art, etc.–as everybody else has got tired of and thrown aside. Cf. Falstaff’s account of Shallow, 2 Henry IV, III, ii, 340: “‘a came ever in the rearward of the fashion; and sung those tunes to the over-scutch’d huswives that he heard the carmen whistle, and sware they were his fancies or his good-nights.” ‘Stal’d’ is ‘outworn,’ or ‘grown stale’; and the reference is not to objects, etc., generally, but only to those which have lost the interest of freshness. ‘Abjects’ in the Staunton-Cambridge reading, is ‘things thrown away’; ‘orts,’ ‘broken fragments.’

40. a property: a tool, an accessory. The reference is to a ‘stage property.’ Cf. Fletcher and Massinger, The False One, V, iii:

this devil Photinus
Employs me as a property, and, grown useless,
Will shake me off again.

Shakespeare uses ‘property’ as a verb in this sense in Twelfth Night, IV, ii, 99: “They have here propertied me.”

41. Listen: The transitive use is older than the intransitive.

42. make head: raise an armed force. ‘Head’ has often the meaning of ‘armed force’ in Shakespeare. So in sixteenth century literature and old ballads. It usually connotes insurrection.

44. The reading adopted is that of the later Folios. It makes a normal blank verse line. Cf. II, i, 158-159.

48-49. The metaphor is from bear-baiting. Cf. Macbeth, V, vii, 1.



How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.