The Rising of the Court/Mateship in Shakespeare's Rome

The Rising of the Court by Henry Lawson
Mateship in Shakespeare's Rome

How we do misquote sayings, or misunderstand them when quoted rightly! For instance, we “wait for something to turn up, like Micawber,” careless or ignorant of the fact that Micawber worked harder than all the rest put together for the leading characters’ sakes; he was the chief or only instrument in straightening out of the sadly mixed state of things—and he held his tongue till the time came. Moreover—and “Put a pin in that spot, young man,” as Dr “Yark” used to say—when there came a turn in the tide of the affairs of Micawber, he took it at the flood, and it led on to fortune. He became a hardworking settler, a pioneer—a respected early citizen and magistrate in this bright young Commonwealth of ours, my masters!

And, by the way, and strictly between you and me, I have a shrewd suspicion that Uriah Heep wasn’t the only cad in David Copperfield.

Brutus, the originator of the saying, took the tide at the flood, and it led him and his friends on to death, or—well, perhaps, under the circumstances, it was all the same to Brutus and his old mate, Cassius.

And this, my masters, brings me home,
    Bush-born bard, to Ancient Rome.

And there’s little difference in the climate, or the men—save in the little matter of ironmongery—and no difference at all in the women.

We’ll pass over the accident that happened to Caesar. Such accidents had happened to great and little Caesars hundreds of times before, and have happened many times since, and will happen until the end of time, both in “sport” (in plays) and in earnest:

Cassius: ....How many ages hence
            Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
            In states unborn and accents yet unknown?

    Brutus: How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
            That now at Pompey’s basis lies along
            No worthier than the dust!

Shakespeare hadn’t Australia and George Rignold in his mind’s eye when he wrote that.

Cassius: So oft as that shall be,
             So often shall the knot of us be call’d
             The men that gave their country liberty.

Well, be that as it will, I’m with Brutus too, irrespective of the merits of the case. Antony spoke at the funeral, with free and generous permission, and see what he made of it. And why shouldn’t I? and see what I’ll make of it.

Antony, after sending abject and uncalled-for surrender, and grovelling unasked in the dust to Brutus and his friends as no straight mate should do for another, dead or alive—and after taking the blood-stained hands of his alleged friend’s murderers—got permission to speak. To speak for his own ends or that paltry, selfish thing called “revenge,” be it for one’s self or one’s friend.

“Brutus, I want a word with you,” whispered Cassius. “Don’t let him speak! You don’t know how he might stir up the mob with what he says.” But Brutus had already given his word:

Antony: That’s all I seek:
            And am moreover suitor that I may
            Produce his body to the market place,
            And in the pulpit, as becomes a friend,
            Speak in the order of his funeral.

Brutus: You shall, Mark Antony.

And now, strong in his right, as he thinks, and trusting to the honour of Antony, he only stipulates that he (Brutus) shall go on to the platform first and explain things; and that Antony shall speak all the good he can of Caesar, but not abuse Brutus and his friends.

And Antony (mark you) agrees and promises and breaks his promise immediately afterwards. Maybe he was only gaining time for his good friend Octavius Caesar, but time gained by such foul means is time lost through all eternity. Did Mark think of these things years afterwards in Egypt when he was doubly ruined and doubly betrayed to his good friend Octavius by that hot, jealous, selfish, shallow, shifty, strumpet, Cleopatra, and Octavius was after his scalp with a certainty of getting it? He did—and he spoke of it, too.

Brutus made his speech, a straightforward, manly speech in prose, and the gist of the matter was that he did what he did (killed Caesar), not because he loved Caesar less, but because he loved Rome more. And I believe he told the simple honest truth.

Then he acts as Antony’s chairman, or introducer, in a manly straightforward manner, and then he goes off and leaves the stage to him, which is another generous act; though it was lucky for Brutus, as it happened afterwards, that he was out of the way.

Mark Antony gets all the limelight and blank verse. He had the “gift of the gab” all right. Old Cassius referred to it later on in one of those “words-before-blows” barneys they had on the battlefield where they hurt each other a damned sight more with their tongues than they did with their swords afterwards. We’ve all heard of Antony’s speech:

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

Which was a lie to start with.

The evil that men do lives after them,
       The good is oft interred with their bones.

Which is not so true in these days of newspapers and magazines. And so on. He says that Brutus and his friends are honourable men about nine times in his short speech. Now, was Mark Antony an honourable man?

And then the flap-doodle about dead Caesar’s wounds, and their poor dumb mouths, and the people kissing them, and dipping their handkerchiefs in his sacred blood. All worthy of our Purves trying to pump tears out of a jury.

But it fetched the crowd; it always did, it always has done, it always does, and it always will do. And the hint of Caesar’s will, and the open abuse of Brutus and Co. when he saw that he was safe, and the cheap anti-climax of the reading of the will. Nothing in this line can be too cheap for the crowd, as witness the melodramas of our own civilized and enlightened times.

Antony was a noble Purves.

And the mob rushed off to burn houses, as it has always done, and will always do when it gets a chance—it tried to burn mine more than once. The quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius is one of the best scenes in Shakespeare. It is great from the sublime to the ridiculous—you must read it for yourself. It seems that Brutus objected to Cassius’s, or one of his off-side friends’ methods of raising the wind—he reckoned it was one of the very things they killed Julius Caesar for; and Cassius, loving Brutus more than a brother, is very much hurt about it. I can’t make out what the trouble really was about and I don’t suppose either Cassius or Brutus was clear as to what it was all about either. It’s generally the way when friends fall out. It seems also that Brutus thinks that Cassius refused to lend him a few quid to pay his legions, and, you know, it’s an unpardonable crime for one mate to refuse another a few quid when he’s in a hole; but it seems that the messenger was but a fool who brought Cassius’s answer back. It is generally the messenger who is to blame, when friends make it up after a quarrel that was all their own fault. Messengers had an uncomfortable time in those days, as witness the case of the base slave who had to bring Cleopatra the news of Antony’s marriage with Octavia.

But the quarrel scene is great for its deep knowledge of the hearts of men in matters of man to man—of man friend to man friend—and it is as humanly simple as a barney between two old bush mates that threatens to end in a bloody fist-fight and separation for life, but chances to end in a beer. This quarrel threatened to end in the death of either Brutus or Cassius or a set-to between their two armies, just at the moment when they all should have been knit together against the forces of Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar; but it ended in a beer, or its equivalent, a bowl of wine. Earlier in the quarrel, where Brutus asks why, after striking down the foremost man in all the world for supporting land agents and others, should they do the same thing and contaminate their fingers with base bribes?

I’d rather be a dog and bay the moon,
Than such a Roman.

Cassius says:
             {{block center|<poem>Brutus, bait not me
             I’ll not endure it: you forget yourself,
             To hedge me in; I am a soldier, I,
             Older in practice, abler than yourself
             To make conditions.

Brutus: Go to, you are not, Cassius.

Cassius: I am.

Brutus: I say you are not.</poem>}}

And so they get to it again until:

Cassius: Is it come to this?

Brutus: You say you are a better soldier:
             Let it appear so; make your vaunting true,
             And it shall please me well: for mine own part,
             I shall be glad to learn of noble men.

Cassius: You wrong me every way; you wrong me, Brutus;
             I said, an elder soldier, not a better.
             Did I say better?

(What big boys they were—and what big boys we all are!)

Brutus: If you did, I care not.

Cassius: When Caesar lived he durst not thus have moved me.

Brutus: Peace, peace! you durst not thus have tempted him.

Cassius: I durst not!

Brutus: No.

Cassius: What! Durst not tempt him!

Brutus: For your life you durst not.

Cassius: Do not presume too much upon my love;
             I may do that I shall be sorry for.

Brutus: You have done that you should be sorry for.

And so on till he gets to the matter of the refused quids, which is cleared up at the expense of the messenger.

Cassius: .... Brutus hath rived my heart
             A friend should bear his friend’s infirmities,
             But Brutus makes mine greater than they are.

    Brutus: I do not, till you practise them on me.

    Cassius: You love me not.

    Brutus: I do not like your faults.

    Cassius: A friendly eye could never see such faults.

    Brutus: A flatterer’s would not, though they do appear
             As huge as high Olympus.

Then Cassius lets himself go. He calls on Antony and young Octavius and all the rest of ‘em to come and be revenged on him alone, for he’s tired of the world (“Cassius is aweary of the world,” he says). He’s hated by one he loves (that’s Brutus). He’s braved by his “brother” (Brutus), checked like a bondman, and Brutus keeps an eye on all his faults and puts ‘em down in a note-book, and learns ‘em over and gets ‘em off by memory to cast in his teeth. He offers Brutus his dagger and bare breast and wants Brutus to take out his heart, which, he says, is richer than all the quids—or rather gold—which Brutus said he wouldn’t lend him. He wants Brutus to strike him as he did Caesar, for he reckons that when Brutus hated Caesar worst he loved him far better than ever he loved Cassius.

Remember these men were Southerners, like ourselves, not cold-blooded Northerners—and, in spite of the seemingly effeminate Italian temperament, as brave as our men were at Elands River. The reason of Brutus’s seeming coldness and hardness during the quarrel is set forth in a startling manner later on, as only the greatest poet in this world could do it.

Brutus tells him kindly to put up his pig-sticker (and button his shirt) and he could be just as mad or good-tempered as he liked, and do what he liked, Brutus wouldn’t mind him:

.... Dishonour shall be humour.
             O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
             That carries anger as the flint bears fire,
             Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark
             And straight is cold again.

Whereupon Cassius weeps because he thinks Brutus is laughing at him.

Hath Cassius lived
             To be but mirth and laughter to his Brutus,
             When grief and blood ill-temper’d vexeth him.

    Brutus: When I spoke that, I was ill-temper’d too.

    Cassius: Do you confess so much? Give me your hand.

    Brutus: And my heart too.

Then Cassius explains that he got his temper from his mother (as I did mine).

Cassius: O Brutus!

    Brutus: What’s the matter? [Shakespeare should have added `now.‘]

    Cassius: Have not you love enough to bear with me,
             When that rash humour which my mother gave me
             Makes me forgetful?

    Brutus: Yes, Cassius, and from henceforth,
             When you are over-earnest with your Brutus,
             He’ll think your mother chides, and leave you so.

And all this on the brink of disaster and death.

But here comes a rare touch, and we might as well quote it in full.

Mind you, I am following Shakespeare, and not history, which is mostly lies. A great poet’s instinct might be nearer the truth; after all. Of course scholars know that Macbeth (or Macbethad) reigned for upwards of twenty years in Scotland a wise and a generous king—so much so that he was called “Macbathad the Liberal,” and it was Duncan who found his way to the throne by way of murder; but it didn’t fit in with Shakespeare’s plans, and—anyway that’s only a little matter between the ghosts of Bill and Mac which was doubtless fixed up long ago. More likely they thought it such a one-millionth part of a trifle that they never dreamed of thinking of mentioning it.

(Noise within.)

    Poet (within): Let me go in to see the generals; There is some
                   grudge between ‘em—‘tis not meet
                   They be alone.

    Lucilius (within): You shall not come to them.

    Poet (within): Nothing but death shall stay me.

(“Within” in this case is, of course, without—outside the tent where Lucilius and Titinius are on guard.)

Enter POET.

Cassius: How now! What’s the matter?

    Poet: For shame, you generals! What do you mean?
             Love, and be friends, as two such men should be:
             For I have seen more years, I’m sure, than ye.

    Cassius: Ha, ha! how vilely doth this cynic rhyme!

    Brutus: Get you hence, sirrah; saucy fellow, hence!

    Cassius: Bear with him, Brutus; ‘tis his fashion.

    Brutus: I’ll know his humour when he knows his time:
             What should the wars do with these jingling fools?
             Companion, hence!

    Cassius: Away, away, be gone!

(Exit POET.)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall inherit a black eye (Lawson). Shakespeare was ever rough on poets—but stay! Consider that this great world of Rome and all the men and women in it were created by a “jingling fool” and a master of bad—not to say execrable—rhymes, and his name was William Shakespeare. You need to sit down and think awhile after that.

Brutus sends Lucilius and Titinius to bid the commanders lodge their companies for the night, and then all come to him. Then he gives Cassius a shock and strikes him to the heart for his share in the quarrel. It is almost directly after the row, when they have kicked out the “jingling fool” of a poet. Cassius does not know that Brutus has to-day received news of the death, in Rome, of his good and true wife Portia, who, during a fit of insanity, brought on by her grief and anxiety for Brutus, and in the absence of her attendant, has poisoned herself—or “swallowed fire,” as Shakespeare has it.

Brutus (to Lucius, his servant): Lucius, a bowl of wine!
    Cassius: I did not think you could have been so angry.
    Brutus: O Cassius, I am sick of many griefs.

    Cassius: Of your philosophy you make no use,
             If you give place to accidental evils.

    Brutus: No man bears sorrow better:—Portia is dead.

    Cassius: Ha! Portia!

    Brutus: She is dead.

    Cassius: How ‘scaped I killing when I cross’d you so!
             O insupportable and touching loss!
             Upon what sickness?

    Brutus: Impatient of my absence,
             And grief that young Octavius with Mark Antony
             Have made themselves so strong: for with her death
             That tidings came; with this she fell distract,
             And, her attendants absent, swallowed fire.

    Cassius: And died so?

    Brutus: Even so.

    Cassius: O, ye immortal gods!

(Enter Lucius, with a jar of wine, a goblet, and a taper.)

Brutus: Speak no more of her. Give me a bowl of wine:

            In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius.
   Cassius: My heart is thirsty for that noble pledge.
            Fill, Lucius, till the wine o’erswell the cup;
            I cannot drink too much of Brutus’ love.

You ought to read that scene carefully. It will do no one any harm. It did me a lot of good one time, when I was about to quarrel with a friend whose heart was sick with many griefs that I knew nothing of at the time. You never know what’s behind. Titinius and Messala come in, and proceed to discuss the situation.

Brutus: Come in, Titinius!! Welcome, good Messala.
             Now sit we close about this taper here,
             And call in question our necessities.

    Cassius (on whom the wine seems to have taken some effect):
             Portia, art thou gone?

    Brutus: No more, I pray you.
             Messala, I have here received letters,
             That young Octavius and Mark Antony
             Come down upon us with a mighty power,
             Bending their expedition towards Philippi.

Messala has also letters to the same purpose, and they have likewise news of the murder, or execution, of upwards of a hundred senators in Rome.

Cassius: Cicero one!
    Messala: Cicero is dead.

Poor Brutus! His heart had cause to be sick of many griefs that day. Messala thinks he has news to break, and Brutus draws him out. How many and many a man and woman, with a lump in the throat, have broken sad and bad news since that day, and started out to do it in the same old gentle way:

Messala: Had you your letters from your wife, my lord?

    Brutus: No, Messala.

    Messala: Nor nothing in your letters writ of her?

    Brutus: Nothing, Messala.

    Messala: That, methinks, is strange.

    Brutus: Why ask you? Hear you aught of her in yours?

Maybe it strikes Messala like a flash that Brutus is in no need of any more bad news just now, and it had better be postponed till after the battle:

Messala: No, my lord.

    Brutus: Now, as you are a Roman, tell me true.

    Messala: Then like a Roman bear the truth I tell:
             For certain she is dead, and by strange manner.

    Brutus: Why, farewell, Portia. We must die, Messala:
             With meditating that she must die once
             I have the patience to endure it now.

Poor Messala comes to the scratch again rather lamely with a little weak flattery: “Even so great men great losses should endure;” and Cassius says, rather mixedly—it might have been the wine—that he has as much strength in bearing trouble as Brutus has, and yet he couldn’t bear it so.

I have as much of this in art as you,
             But yet my nature could not bear it so.

    Brutus: Well, to our work alive. What do you think
             Of marching on Philippi presently?

Brutus was a strong man. Portia’s spirit must bide a while. They discuss a plan of campaign. Cassius is for waiting for the enemy to seek them and so get through his tucker and knock his men up, while they rest in a good position; but Brutus argues that the enemy will gather up the country people between Philippi and their camp and come on refreshed with added numbers and courage, and it would be better for them to meet him at Philippi with these people at their back. The politics or inclination of the said country people didn’t matter in those days. “There is a tide in the affairs of men”—and so they decide to take it at the flood and float high on to the rocks at Philippi. Ah well, it led on to immortality, if it didn’t to fortune. Well, there’s no more to say. Brutus thinks that the main thing now is a little rest—in which you’ll agree with him; and he sends for his night-shirt.

Good night, Titinius: noble, noble Cassius,
             Good night, and good repose!

That old fool of a Cassius—remorseful old smooth-bore—is still a bit maudlin—maybe he had another swig at the wine when Shakespeare wasn’t looking.

Cassius: O my dear brother!
             This was an ill beginning of the night
             Never come such division ‘tween our souls!
             Let it not, Brutus.

    Brutus: Everything is well.

    Cassius: Good night, my lord.

    Brutus: Good sight, good brother.

    Titinius and Messala: Good night, Lord Brutus.

    Brutus: Farewell, every one.

And Cassius is the man whom Caesar denounced as having a lean and hungry look: “Let me have men about me that are fat... such men are dangerous.” (Mr Archibald held with that—and he had a lean, if not a hungry, look too.) When Antony put in a word for Cassius, Caesar said that he wished he was fatter anyhow. “He thinks too much,” Caesar said to Antony. He read a lot; he could look through men; he never went to the theatre, and heard no music; he never smiled except as if grinning sarcastically at himself for “being moved to smile at anything.” Caesar said that such men were never at heart’s ease while they could see a bigger man than themselves, and therefore such men were dangerous. “Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf, and tell me truly what thou think’st of him.” (That’s a touch, for deafness in people affected that way is usually greater in the left ear.) When Lucilius returned from taking a message from Brutus to Cassius re the loan of the fivers aforementioned and other matters—and before the arrival of Cassius with his horse and foot, and the quarrel—Brutus asked Lucilius what sort of a reception he had, and being told “With courtesy and respect enough,” he remarked, “Thou hast described a hot friend cooling,” and so on. But Cassius will cool no more until death cools him to-morrow at Philippi.

The rare gentleness of Brutus’s character—and of the characters of thousands of other bosses in trouble—is splendidly, and ah! so softly, pictured in the tent with his servants after the departure of the others. It is a purely domestic scene without a hint of home, women, or children—save that they themselves are big children. The scene now has the atmosphere of a soft, sad nightfall, after a long, long, hot and weary day full of toil and struggle and trouble—though it is really well on towards morning.

Lucius comes in with the gown. Brutus says, “Give me the gown,” and asks where his (Lucius’s) musical instrument is, and Lucius replies that it’s here in the tent. Brutus notices that he speaks drowsily. “Poor knave, I blame thee not, thou are o’er-watched.” He tells him to call Claudius and some other of his men: “I’d have them sleep on cushions in my tent.” They come. He tells them he might have to send them on business by and by to his “brother” Cassius, and bids them lie down and sleep, calling them sirs. They say they’ll stand and watch his pleasure. “I will not have it so; lie down, good sirs.” He finds, in the pocket of his gown, a book he’d been hunting high and low for—and had evidently given Lucius a warm time about—and he draws Lucius’s attention to the fact:

Look, Lucius, here’s the book I sought for so:
             I put it in the pocket of my gown.

     Lucius: I was sure your lordship did not give it to me.

     Brutus: Bear with me, good boy, I am much forgetful, etc.

He asks Lucius if he can hold up his heavy eyes and touch his instrument a strain or two. But better give it all—it’s not long:

     Lucius: Ay, my lord, an’t please you.

     Brutus: It does, my boy:
             I trouble thee too much, but thou art willing.

     Lucius: It is my duty, sir.

     Brutus: I should not urge thy duty past thy might;
             I know young bloods look for a time of rest.

     Lucius: I have slept, my lord, already.

     Brutus: It was well done; and thou shalt sleep again;
             I will not hold thee long: if I do live,
             I will be good to thee. (Music, and a song.)
             This is a sleepy tune. O murderous slumber,
             Lay’st thou thy leaden mace upon my boy
             That plays thee music? Gentle knave, good-night;
             I will not do thee so much wrong to wake thee:
             If thou dost nod, thou break’st thy instrument;
             I’ll take it from thee; and, good boy, good-night.
             Let me see, let me see; is not the leaf turn’d down
             Where I left reading? Here it is, I think.

(He sits down.)

A man for all time! How natural it all reads! You must remember that he is a tired man after a long, strenuous day such as none of us ever know. The fate of Rome and his—a much smaller matter—are hanging on the balance, and tomorrow will decide; but he is so mind-dulled and shoulder-weary under the tremendous burden of great things and of many griefs that he is almost apathetic; and over all is the cloud of a loss that he has not yet had time to realize. He is self-hypnotized, so to speak, and his mind mercifully dulled for the moment on the Sea of Fatalism.


Brutus: How ill this taper burns! Ha! who comes here?
             I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
             That shapes this monstrous apparition.
             It comes upon me. Art thou any thing?
             Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil
             That makest my blood cold, and my hair to stare?
             Speak to me what thou art!

His very “scare,” or rather his cold blood and staring hair are as things apart, to be analysed and explained quickly and put aside.

Ghost: Thy evil spirit, Brutus.

That was frank enough, anyway.

Brutus: Why comest thou?

     Ghost: To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.

     Brutus: Well; then I shall see thee again?

     Ghost: Ay, at Philippi.


That was very satisfactory, so far. But Brutus, having taken heart, as he says, would hold more talk with the “ill spirit.” A ghost always needs to be taken quietly—it’s no use getting excited and threshing round. But Caesar’s, being a new-chum ghost and bashful, was doubtless embarrassed by his cool, matter-of-fact reception, and left. It didn’t matter much. They were to meet soon, above Philippi, on more level terms.

But I cannot get away from the idea that Caesar’s ghost’s visit was made in a friendly spirit. Who knows? Perhaps Portia’s spirit had sent it to comfort Brutus: her own being prevented from going for some reason only known to the immortal gods.

Then Brutus wakes them all.

Lucius: The strings, my lord, are false.

     Brutus: He thinks he is still at his instrument.
             Lucius, awake!

And after questioning them as to whether they cried out in their sleep, or saw anything, he bids the boy sleep again (it is easy for tired boys to sleep at will in camp) and sends two of the others to Cassius to bid him get his forces on the way early and he would follow.

Brutus: Go and commend me to my brother Cassius;

             Bid him set on his powers betimes before,
             And we will follow.

     Varro and Claudius: It shall be done, my lord.

For, being a wise soldier, as well as a brave and gentle one, he reckoned, no doubt, that it would be best to have a strong man in the rear until the field was actually reached, for the benefit of would-be deserters, and unconsidered trifles of country people-and maybe for another reason not totally disconnected with his erratic friend Cassius. Just one more scene, and a very different one, before we hurry on to the end, as they have done to Philippi. It’s the only scene in which those two unlucky Romans, Cassius and Brutus, seem to score. It is during the barney, or as Shakespeare calls it, the “parley” before the battle. Those parleys never seemed to do any good—except to make matters worse, if I might put it like that: it’s the same, under similar circumstances, right up to to-day. Enter on one side Octavius Caesar, Mark Antony, and their pals and army; and, on the other, Brutus and Cassius and the friends and followers of their falling fortunes.

Brutus: Words before blows: is it so, countrymen?

     Octavius: Not that we love words better, as you do.

You see, Octavius starts it.

Brutus lays himself open:

Brutus: Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius.

     Antony: In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words:
             Witness the hole you made in Caesar’s heart,
             Crying, “Long live! hail, Caesar!”

This is one for Brutus, though it contains a lie. But Cassius comes to the rescue:

Cassius: Antony,
              The posture of your blows are yet unknown,
              But, for your words, they rob the Hybla bees
              And leave them honeyless.

     Antony: Not stingless too.

     Brutus: O, yes, and soundless too;
              For you have stol’n their buzzing, Antony,
              And very wisely threat before you sting.

That was one for Antony, and he gets mad. “Villains!” he yells, and he abuses them about their vile daggers hacking one another in the sides of Caesar (a little matter that ought to be worn threadbare by now), and calls them apes and hounds and bondmen and curs, and O, flatterers (which seems to be worst of all in his opinion—for he isn’t one, you know), and damns ‘em generally.

Old Cassius remarks, “Flatterers!”

Then Octavius breaks loose, and draws his Roman chopper and waves it round, and spreads himself out over Caesar’s three-and-thirty wounds—which ought to be given a rest by this time, but only seem to be growing in number—and swears that he won’t put up said chopper till said wounds are avenged,

Or till another Caesar
              Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors.

Brutus says quietly that he cannot die by traitors unless he brings ‘em with him. (He sent one to Egypt later on.) Octavius says he hopes he wasn’t born to die on Brutus’s sword; and Brutus says, in effect, that even if he was any good he couldn’t die more honourably.

Brutus: O, if thou wert the noblest of thy strain,
              Young man, thou couldst not die more honourable.

Cassius: A peevish schoolboy, worthless of such honour,
              Join’d with a masker and a reveller!

Octavius calls off his dogs, and tells them to come on to-day if they dare, or if not, when they have stomachs.

Cassius: Why, now, blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark!
              The storm is up, and all is on the hazard.

Yes, I reckon old Cassius (“old” in an affectionate sense) and Brutus came out top dogs from that scrap anyway. And, yes, Antony was good at orating. He was great at orating over dead men—especially dead “friends” (as he called his rivals) and dead enemies. Brutus was “the noblest Roman of them all” when Antony came across him stiff later on. Now when I die—

Octavius, by the way, orated over Antony and his dusky hussy later on in Egypt, and they were the most “famous pair” in the world. I wonder whether the grim humour of it struck Octavius then: but then that young man seemed to have but little brains and less humour.

But now they go to see about settling the matter with ironmongery. You can imagine the fight; the heat and the dust, for it was spring in a climate like ours. The bullocking, sweating, grunting, slaughter, the crack and clash and rattle as of fire-irons in a fender. The bad Latin language; the running away and chasing en masse and by individuals. The mutual pauses, the truces or spells—“smoke-ho’s” we’d call ‘em—between masses and individuals. The battered-in, lost, discarded or stolen helmets; the blood-stained, dinted, and loosened armour with bits missing, and the bloody and grotesque bandages. The confusion amongst the soldiers, as it is to-day—the ignorance of one wing as to the fate of the other, of one party as to the fate of the other, of one individual as to the fate of another:

    Brutus:  Ride, ride, Messala, ride, and give these bills [directions to officers]
             Unto the legions on the other side:

Poor Cassius, routed and in danger of being surrounded, and thinking Brutus is in the same plight, or a prisoner or dead—and that Titinius is taken or killed—gets his bondman, whose life he once saved, to kill him in return for his freedom.

Stand not to answer: here, take thou the hilts;
              And when my face is cover ‘d, as ‘tis now,
              Guide thou the sword.
                       Caesar, thou art revenged,
              Even with the sword that kill’d thee.

Good-bye, Cassius, old chap! Titinius and Messala, coming too late, find Cassius dead; and Titinius, being left alone while Messala takes the news to Brutus, kills himself with Cassius’s sword. Titinius, farewell! Come Brutus and those that are left.

Brutus: Where, where, Messala, doth his body lie?

     Messala: Lo, yonder, and Titinius mourning it.

     Brutus: Titinius’ face is upward.

     Cato: He is slain.

Grim mates in a grim day in a grim hour. Then the cry of Brutus:

O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!

But if he were, perhaps he only gathered old Cassius and Titinius to be sure of their company with him and Brutus amongst the gods a little later.

Brutus: Friends, I owe more tears
              To this dead man than you shall see me pay.
              I shall find time, Cassius, I shall find time.

And, after making arrangements for the removal of Cassius’s body, they go to try their fortunes in a second fight. Young Cato is killed and good Lucilius taken. Comes Brutus beaten, with Dardanius his last friend, and his three servants, Clitus, Strato, and Volumnius.

Brutus: Come, poor remains of friends, rest on this rock.

Strato, exhausted, goes to sleep, as man can sleep during a battle; and Brutus whispers the others, one after another, to kill him; but they are shocked and refuse: “I’ll rather kill myself,” “I do such a deed?” etc. He begs Volumnius, his old schoolmate, to hold his sword-hilt while he runs on it, for their love of old.

Volumnius: That’s not the office for a friend, my lord.

There are alarums, and they urge him to fly, for it’s no use stopping there.

Brutus: Farewell to you; and you; and you, Volumnius.
              Strato, thou hast been all this while asleep;
              Farewell to thee too, Strato! Countrymen,
              My heart doth joy that yet in all my life
              I found so man but he was true to me.

Ye gods! but it’s grand. I wish to our God that I could say as much—or that man or woman [n]ever found me untrue. Could Antony say as much, afterwards, in Egypt—or Octavius! with Antony then on his mind? Even Antony’s last man and servant failed him in the end, killing himself rather than kill his master. But Strato—

There are more alarums and voices calling to them to run. They urge Brutus again, and he tells them to go and he’ll follow. They all run except Strato, who hesitates.

Brutus: I prithee, Strato, stay thou by thy lord:
              Thou art a fellow of a good respect;
              Thy life hath had some snatch of honour in it
              Hold then my sword, and turn away thy face,
              While I do run upon it. Wilt thou, Strato?

     Strato: Give me your hand first: fare you well, my lord.

     Brutus: Farewell, good Strato. Caesar, now be still:
              I kill’d not thee with half so good a will.
Brutus, good night!

I like Shakespeare’s servants. They seem to show that he sprang from servants or common people rather than from lords and masters, for he deals with them very gently. It must be understood that servants, bond and free, were born unto the same house and served it for generations; and so down to modern England, where the old nurse and the tottering old gardener often nursed and played with “Master Will,” when his father, the dead and gone old squire, was a young man. See where Timon’s servants stand in the only patch of sunlight in that black and bitter story:

Enter Flavius, with two or three SERVANTS.

1 Serv.: Hear you, master steward, where’s our master?
              Are we undone? cast off? nothing remaining?

     Flav.: Alack, my fellows, what should I say to you?
              Let me be recorded by the righteous gods,
              I am as poor as you.

     1 Serv.: Such a house broke!
              So noble a master fall’n! All gone! and not
              One friend to take his fortune by the arm,
              And go along with him!

     2 Serv.: As we do turn our backs
              From our companion thrown into his grave,
              So his familiars to his buried fortunes
              Slink all away; leave their false vows with him,
              Like empty purses pick’d; and his poor self,
              A dedicated beggar to the air,
              With his disease of all-shunn’d poverty,
              Walks, like contempt, alone. More of our fellows.

                                      Enter other Servants

     Flav.: All broken implements of a ruin’d house.

     3 Serv.: Yet do our hearts wear Timon’s livery;
              That see I by our faces; we are fellows still,
              Serving alike in sorrow: leak’d is our bark,
              And we, poor mates, stand on the dying deck,
              Hearing the surges threat; we must all part
              Into this sea of air.

     Flav.: Good fellows all,
              The latest of my wealth I’ll share amongst you.
              Wherever we shall meet, for Timon’s sake
              Let’s yet be fellows; let’s shake our heads, and say,
              As ‘twere a knell unto our master’s fortunes,
              “We have seen better days.” Let each take some.
                                             (Giving them money.)
              Nay, put out all your hands. Not one word more:
              Thus part we rich in sorrow, parting poor.