Sunday, March 6, 2011

Parallels - Julius Caesar 1 of 3

Julius Caesar  Part 1 of 3

There are some tell-tale parallels between this play and Bacon works. Both our authors felt great, though qualified, admiration for Caesar. Shake-Speare's is obvious from his play. Bacon wrote a Character of Caesar and in his The Advancement of Learning called him "the most excellent spirit (his ambition reserved) of the world", and said that Caesar's history, letters and Apothegms "excel all men's else".

Julius Caesar 1.2.217-51

  CASCA. Why, there was a crown offered him, and being offered him,
     he put it by with the back of his hand, thus, and then the
     people fell as shouting.
  BRUTUS. What was the second noise for?
  CASCA. Why, for that too.
  CASSIUS. They shouted thrice. What was the last cry for?
  CASCA. Why, for that too.
  BRUTUS. Was the crown offered him thrice?
  CASCA. Ay, marry, was't, and he put it by thrice, every time gentler
    than other, and at every putting by mine honest neighbors
  CASSIUS. Who offered him the crown?
  CASCA. Why, Antony.
  BRUTUS. Tell us the manner of it, gentle Casca.
  CASCA. I can as well be hang'd as tell the manner of it. It was
    mere foolery; I did not mark it. I saw Mark Antony offer him a
    crown (yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one of these
    coronets) and, as I told you, he put it by once. But for all
    that, to my thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he offered
    it to him again; then he put it by again. But, to my thinking, he
    was very loath to lay his fingers off it. And then he offered it
    the third time; he put it the third time by; and still as he
    refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their chopped hands
    and threw up their sweaty nightcaps and uttered such a deal of
    stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown that it had
    almost choked Caesar, for he swounded and fell down at it. And
    for mine own part, I durst not laugh for fear of opening my lips
    and receiving the bad air.
  CASSIUS. But, soft, I pray you, what, did Caesars wound?
  CASCA. He fell down in the marketplace and foamed at mouth and was
  BRUTUS. 'Tis very like. He hath the falling sickness.
  CASSIUS. No, Caesar hath it not, but you, and I,
    And honest Casca, we have the falling sickness.

Let us first compare some of the above with a passage from Bacon's The Advancement of Learning. Bacon there gives three examples of Caesar's felicity of speech. He starts the first example: "As, first, it is reason to be thought a master of words, that could with one word appease a mutiny in his army, which was thus:".

Compare to Shake-Speare:
ANTONY. But yesterday the word of Caesar might
                 Have stood against the world.
Act 3.Scene2

Bacon then relates the incident and what Caesar said, and comes to the second example:

"The second speech was thus: Caesar did extremely affect the name of king; and some were set on as he passed by in popular acclamation to salute him king whereupon, finding the cry weak and poor, he put if off thus, in a kind of jest, as if they had mistaken his surname; Non Rex sum, sed Caesar...for Rex was a surname with the Romans, as well as King is with us".

Shake-Speare's source for the play was North's translation of Plutarch. But on two points the accounts of both Shake-Speare and Bacon resemble each other, while differing from north's:

a) North:              "Caesar refused it"
    Bacon:             "He put it off thus"
    Shake-Speare:  "He put it by with the back of his hand, thus...he put it by every putting by...he put it by once...he put it by again."

b) Bacon:               "In a kind of jest"
    Shake-Speare:  "It was mere foolery"
                            North says nothing about Caesar refusing the crown in a jesting manner.

One could sit 100 people down to write independent accounts based on North of the offer of the crown to Caesar, and it is doubtful whether one of them would say "he put it by" or "he put it off"; and almost certainly not one would say he put it by or off "thus". In the Bacon passage the two uses of "thus" preface apt remarks made by Caesar. But in the Shake-Speare line "thus" must relate to a gesture to be made by the actor playing Casca to reflect Caesar's rejection of the crown. If Bacon was Shake-Speare, he probably already had in mind when he wrote the play in 1599 what later appears in the Advancement (written about 1604), namely, "He put it off thus...Non Rex sum, sed Caesar [my name is not Rex, but Caesar]". But he made three changes for the play.  (1) he dropped the Latin name joke (Rex/Caesar), probably as unsuited to the public Theatre;  (2) he changed "he put it by" to "he put it off;  (3)  he retained "thus" but related it to a physical gesture, not to a remark. This last change explains the second - "put it off" (ie. parried it) is better suited to a remark, "put it by" (ie. waved the crown aside) better suited to a gesture. It seems that the collocation of "put it by" with "thus" still lingered in Bacon's mind years later as he used them together again for another purpose. These little quirks of phraseology can be a fingerprint of authorship evidence.

end of part 1 of 3

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