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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Friends, Romans, Countrymen
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1693  Tuesday, 4 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Alan Jones <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 17:14:02 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1679 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[2] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Monday, 03 Oct 2005 16:55:59 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[3] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Monday, 03 Oct 2005 20:06:53 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[4] 	From: 	Tony Burton <
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	Date: 	Monday, 3 Oct 2005 18:18:44 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Alan Jones <
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Date: 		Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 17:14:02 +0100
Subject: 16.1679 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1679 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Though I agree with much of what David Evett says, the text doesn't 
support his view that Octavius "is seen scheming to withdraw" Caesar's 
legacy to the plebs. He remains silent when Antony proposes reducing its 
scale, and - as we see when Antony speaks slightingly of Lepidus - he is 
his own man. When I've directed the play, I've had Antony exit 
immediately after his last speech, so that Octavius can call after him 
"Let us do so", and then, with a glance towards his departed colleague, 
imply that Antony is among the "some that smile" but "have in their 
hearts /Millions of mischiefs". A skilful actor could doubtless suggest 
the same thing while directly addressing Antony.

Incurring the resentment of the plebs whom his adoptive father had so 
sedulously courted would indeed be a "mischief" to Octavius' assumption 
of power.

Alan Jones

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Monday, 03 Oct 2005 16:55:59 +0000
Subject: 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Steve Sohmer may be too hasty in discounting Cicero's PHILIPPIC 2.XII as 
a source for "honorable" in JULIUS CAESAR.

Cicero seeks to dissipate his own share of guilt within collective 
responsibility for Caesar's death:
[Latin within brackets]

29...".So we are all guilty. And, to tell the truth, all honest [boni] 
men killed Caesar so far as in them lay."
30. "Observe the blockishness of the man {Anthony}--beast, I should 
rather call him. This is what he said: 'Marcus Brutus, whose name I 
mention with respect [honoris], called on Cicero as he held his 
bloodstained dagger: hence it must be inferred that Cicero was in the 
plot.' So then: you call me a crimnal because you suspect that I 
suspected something, whereas  the one who brandished his dripping 
weapon, is named by you with respect[honoris]!...Will you never 
understand that you have to make up your mind whether the authors of 
that deed are murderers or champions of freedom [libertatis] ?
31...."there is no middle way. If they are not liberators of the Roman 
People and preservers of the Republic, I confess them to be worse than 
assassins, worse than murderers, worse even than parricides, if it is 
more of an atrocity to cut down the parent of the fatherland [parens 
patriae] than one's own parent."

Steve Sohmer goes on to claim the word "honorable" in Latin was "pius". 
Isn't "honestus", "honoratus" or even "bonus" above a closer match? 
Also, "piusissimus", a rare variant of "piissimus", may not be invented 
by Cicero.

Dr Sohmer then seeks to defrock our self-deluded assassin unnecessarily 
("Brutus, on the other hand, was never a priest."). Wasn't he made a 
pontifex after Pompey's defeat at Pharsalus and subsequent 
reconciliation with Caesar?

Finally, Steve Sohmer argues: "He [Antony] could not know" the details 
of the assassination, not being an eyewitness. Can we rule out his 
learning these details from confederates who were present? Weren't his 
sources superior to our own?

Skeptical,
Joe Egert

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Monday, 03 Oct 2005 20:06:53 +0000
Subject: 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Steve Sohmer rules Antony's Forum speech a "tissue of lies." Just so. 
Yet aren't the play's truths embedded within those very lies?

Generations of critics have chosen to ignore or indifferently glance at 
Caesar's suspect sireship of Brutus--a subject Shakespeare deliberately 
de-emphasizes, in their eyes. David Daniell, in his Third Series Arden 
edition of Julius Caesar (1998), still claims, "Shakespeare keeps out of 
sight the possibility that Caesar was Brutus' real son." Perhaps, he 
does for those who will not look. Steve Sohmer has looked and has begun 
to redress the balance.

Antony in his Forum speech admits, "What private griefs they have, alas, 
I know not/That made them do it..." The mystery of his origin burns 
within Brutus--it will not let him rest. This troubled Son of Rome 
protests his noble origin at every turn. He is loath to reveal those 
"conceptions only proper to myself", responsible for his dis-ease. 
Cassius taunts him with a Rome that "hast lost the breed of noble 
bloods!", among them his ancient namesake. Brutus soliloquizes, "I know 
no personal cause to spurn at him but for the gener-al" He reproves his 
fellow conspirators for needing oaths "when every drop of blood/That 
every Roman bears, and nobly bears,/Is guilty of a several bastardy" 
should he beak his word. Portia relates with what "ungentle looks" her 
husband stared at her--echoing Ophelia's report of Hamlet's distarught 
perusal of her face. Are both men weighing the perfidy of their maters, 
and by extension all women? Ligarius, healed by Brutus' spell and ready 
for murder, calls him "Soul of Rome,/ Brave Son, derived from honourable 
loins..." After the deed of blood, Brutus seeks to mollify Antony with 
the promise of reasons, "That were you Antony the son of Caesar/You 
should be satisfied." Indeed the "hole in Caesar's heart" may not be the 
only wound by Brutus' bastard hand: his "private" griefs may recall the 
wound about Caesar's"privities" in Plutarch.

These private bloodlusts are masked by the "name" of honour, by the 
"name" of patriotism, by the "names" of noble ancestors. Shrewd Cassius 
is not fooled, "Brutus, this sober form of yours hides wrongs." Nor is 
Antony deceived, "In your bad strokes, Brutus you give good words." 
Caesar's "evil spirit" lurks within.

This unHoly Spirit of pride, ambition, ingratitude hovers over the 
streets of Rome like a plague, moving into Pompey, then to Caesar, then 
to the conspirators of all stripes, leaving a river of blood in its 
wake. Passion is indeed catching. The Spirit draws the men forth from 
hearth and home. Rather than heed their wives and stay indoors, they 
step across their thresholds "out onto the unpurged streets, the 
Error-prone world of the polis. Their souls are trod underfoot on these 
streets--now unmended souls. Rather than touch, prick and fertilize 
their barren women with Nature's awls, they fashion metal awls to touch, 
prick, and poke new holes in each other--new bleeding gaping wombs. The 
spellbinding rhetoric of their conjuring stirs and moves each other to 
bloody action.

Is this unHoly Spirit part of an anti-Trinity, parodying or prefiguring 
the Christian drama, with J.ulius C.aesar as Father (the PARENS PATRIAE) 
and Brutus as Son. Here the priestly Son sacrifices his High Priest, the 
pontifical Father. This blood sacrifice will revive the State en route 
to univerasal empire (the Augustan Peace). So, the nourishing blood 
sacrifice of J.esus C.hrist will usher in universal redemption.

A Fortunate Fall? Or the fall of the no-blest?

Joe Egert

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tony Burton <
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Date: 		Monday, 3 Oct 2005 18:18:44 -0400
Subject: 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1658 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

  Steve Sohmer says,

 >"Antony's word,  "honorable"- which in Latin was pius -- can be found in
 >Philippic 13,  wherein Cicero characterizes Antony as 'piusissimus,' an
 >invented word which must have struck his listeners as sharply sarcastic."

I confess ignorance of Latin except as dictionaries and ponies can help 
me through it, but I find it hard to accept this observation and would 
like some clarification.  My dictionary tells me that the Latin 
equivalents for "honorable" are "honestus," "honoratus," and "bonus;" 
and that "pius" means "pious," "kind" "religious," "conscientious," and 
"dutiful."

If Cicero's "piusissimus" is an invented word for the purpose of a 
particular verbal attack, why then are we to assume that Cicero ignored 
the established root meaning of the word, by which his audience 
presumably would have (mis)understood him, and intended it instead to 
have the meaning "honorable" just because centuries later, in a state 
unborn and accent yet unknown, Shakespeare was to use that word?  Why 
import Shakespeare's usage back into a classical text (even if it may 
have been one of his sources), when doing so requires one to ignore the 
apparent conflict in meanings between the Latin "source" and the English 
retelling?

Isn't it much more likely that Shakespeare simply edited the historical 
record as he so often does, and employed a word that suited his own 
purposes?  Indeed, the idea of "honor" was a pet issue for him, 
particularly in the notion that the word "honor" described what only too 
often was an unmerited social construct, as in "your honorable lords," 
and not an essential trait, like "virtue".  He draw frequent and 
subversive attention to the contrast between the one with the other. 
And it seems to me also significant that Shakespeare chose NOT to invoke 
the religious context that would have been created by mention of 
Antony's and Caesar's religious titles and functions.

Like Claudius, but only (I hope) in desiring more light,
Tony Burton

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