Will Shakespeare, Julius Caesar: 1.2.97-131


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.
For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me, ‘Dar’st thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood
And swim to yonder point?’ Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plunged in
And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
The torrents roared, and we did buffet it
With lusty sinews, throwing it aside,
And stemming it with hearts of controversy.
But ere we could arrive the point proposed
Caesar cried, ‘Help me, Cassius, or I sink!’
I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
Did I the tired Caesar: and this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius
A wretched creature, and must bend his body
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him.
He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him I did mark
How he did shake. ‘Tis true, this god did shake:
His coward lips did from their colour fly,
And that same eye, whose bend doth awe the world,
Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan:
Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans
Mark him, and write his speeches in their books,
‘Alas,’ it cried,’ give me some drink, Titinius’,
As a sick girl. Ye gods, it doth amaze me
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world
And bear the palm alone.

~ by ohkrapp on May 13, 2008.

8 Responses to “Will Shakespeare, Julius Caesar: 1.2.97-131”

  1. I don’t think you need any annotation here if you can picture the scene: Caesar and Cassius, in full armor, swimming across the river Tiber. Caesar falters and Cassius saves him. Then Cassius recalls seeing Caesar sick in bed. (If it’s worth anything, contemporary accounts like Plutarch cite Caesar as an extraordinary swimmer and stoic when stick.) This is all evidence of Caesar’s humanity and thus equality with Cassius and Brutus. The following lines (after an exclamation by Brutus) are the famous

    Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
    Like a colossus, and we petty men
    Walk under his huge legs and peep about
    To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
    Men at some time are masters of their fates.
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

    My favorites parts:

    -‘Accoutred as I was I plunged in.’ You can appreciate why meter is so important (Shakespeare is best read aloud, even when alone) by seeing how the stress falls on ‘plungèd,’ which is more heroic that ‘PLUNJD’

    -‘With lusty sinews, throwing it aside.’ Lusty sinews. Lusty sinews.

    ‘Stemming it with hearts of controversy.’ controversy here = competition.

    -‘His coward lips did from their colour fly.’ This is the kind of bizarre line that makes Shakespeare Shakespeare. How many times better is this than a line in equal meaning and meter, say, ‘The colour from his coward lips did fly’? especially when the editor of my edition points out that it can evoke soldiers retreating from the ‘flying colours’ of a battlefield.

    -‘And that same eye, whose bend doth awe the world.’ WHOSE BEND DOTH AWE THE WORLD?!?! oh my god.

    -The choice of the tinny name Titinnius, which makes Caesar’s cry sound even more helpless.

    The punctuation is taken from David Daniell’s Arden Shakespeare edition. Autodidacts: the individual Arden Shakespeare volumes– accept not substitutes.

  2. also, cassius is one of the few roles that makes me want to act again

  3. oh, and in case you don’t know the play at all, some context:

    Cassius is part of a conspiracy, along with Brutus (his partner in this scene) and others, to assassinate Caesar. The conspirators fear that Caesar will soon be crowned king. This speech is meant to dispel the idea of Caesar’s immortality/divinity.

  4. great post Krapp. Maybe move your comments to the post itself? Very useful insightful.

    An Arden man these days, eh? Me too.

  5. thanks sebby. for the poems etc i like the continuity of having only the poem as the post and keeping the comments as a “turn to the back of the book if you’re interested”

  6. Act AGAIN? Have you lost the fever?

  7. .. no i’m just waiting for someone from my past to pull me back in for ONE. LAST. JOB.

  8. If only more than 69 people could read this!

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