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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0267  Thursday, 13 February 2003

[1]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Feb 2003 11:40:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0255 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Feb 2003 22:54:29 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0255 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Feb 2003 11:40:09 -0500
Subject: 14.0255 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0255 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

Steve Sohmer <
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 > writes,

>Shakespeare wrote JC for two audiences: those who didn't know their
>Plutarch and those who did. For those who didn't, Antony's speech seems
>a generous encomium. For those who knew Plutarch, it was hilarious.
>
>Brutus was Caesar's bastard. Anyone who doesn't think Shakespeare and
>"the wiser sort" were aware of this should remember Suffolk's dying
>declaration in 2H6: "Brutus' bastard hand Stabbed Julius Caesar" (2H6
>4.1.138-9).

There was a rumor to that effect, but Plutarch does not believe it,
regularly referring to Brutus' mother's husband as Brutus' father.
Indeed, insofar as he throws actual doubt on Brutus' ancestry, it is
over the question of whether he could have been the lineal descendant of
Lucius Junius Brutus, who famously executed his own two sons.  The most
credit he gives to the story is to say that "[i]t is believed that...
Caesar had a belief that [Brutus] was his own child."  And Plutarch's
own judgment (in his comparison of Brutus and Dion) is:

   The greatest thing charged on Brutus is, that he, being
   saved by Caesar's kindness, having saved all the friends
   whom he chose to ask for, he moreover accounted a friend,
   and preferred above many, did yet lay violent hands upon
   his preserver.  Nothing like this could be objected against
   Dion; quite the contrary, whilst he was of Dionysius's
   family and his friend, he did good service, and was useful
   to him; but driven from his country, wronged in his wife,
   and his estate lost, he openly entered upon a war just
   and lawful.  Does not, however, the matter turn the other
   way?  For the chief glory of both was their hatred of
   tyranny, and abhorrence of wickedness.  This was unmixed
   and sincere in Brutus; for he had no private quarrel with
   Caesar, but went into the risk singly for the liberty of
   his country.
          -- Dryden's version

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 12 Feb 2003 22:54:29 -0500
Subject: 14.0255 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0255 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

Steve Sohmer presents the proposition that Brutus is Caesar's bastard
son as a matter of fact, derived from Plutarch, and adducing in support
an ambiguous speech from *2H6*--"Brutus' bastard hand / Stabbed Julius
Caesar" (4.1.138-39) and an even more ambiguous metaphor from *JC*
itself, when Antony refers to Brutus as "Caesar's angel."  Plutarch (at
least in North's translation) is much more circumspect, stating at the
beginning of the life of Brutus that "he came of that Junius Brutus for
whom the Romans made his statute of brass to be set up in the capitol,"
and only several pages later reporting the gossip, in connection with
Caesar's solicitude for Brutus when the latter had joined the army of
Caesar's enemy Pompey before Pharsalia:
"Some say he [Caesar] did this for Servilia's sake, Brutus' mother.  For
when he was a young man, he had been acquainted with Servilia, who was
extremely in love with him.  And because Brutus was born in that time
when their love was hottest, he persuaded himself that he had begat
him."  I find it difficult to believe that if Shakespeare took Caesar's
fancy for fact, he would not have made developed in much more explicit
and extensive ways so potentially powerful a source of dramatic conflict
when he wrote the play and put Brutus' psychomachia at its center.  For
what it's worth, none of the modern historians of Rome I have at hand
even mentions the gossip.

Dubiously,
David Evett

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