Darmowy fragment publikacji:
Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney, Grzegorz Zinkiewicz – University of Łódź
The International Shakespeare Studies Centre, 90-131 Łódź, 59a Narutowicza St.
Faculty of International and Political Studies
The Department of British and Commonwealth Studies
Munda – Maciej Torz
Lilianna Ladorucka, Leonora Wojciechowska
Stämpfli Polska Sp. z o.o.
Cover Image: © Shutterstock.com
The editors warmly thank Prof. dr hab. Radosław Bania, the Dean of the International
and Political Studies Faculty, for partly supporting financially this publikcation
© Copyright by Authors, Łódź 2017
© Copyright for this edition by Uniwersytet Łódzki, Łódź 2017
Published by Łódź University Press
First Edition. W.07845.16.0.K
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Łódź University Press
90-131 Łódź, 8 Lindleya St.
tel. 48 (42) 665 58 63
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her, that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish
Antony and Cleopatra, 2.2. 271-275
Table of Contents
Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney ~ Living Daily with Shakespeare Worldwide . . . .
REVISITING TEXTS AND CONTEXTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mario Domenichelli ~ Shakespeare’s Ideological Conflicts and Rhetorical Battles
Xenia Georgopoulou ~ The Price of Difference: Shakespeare’s Varieties of Bullying
PRACTICES AND APPROPRIATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Krystyna Kujawinska Courtney ~ Wojciech Bogusławski’s Hamlet (1798): Positio-
ning Shakespeare in Polish Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mark Sokolyansky ~ Another Look upon Alexander Pushkin’s Role in Appropria-
tion of Shakespeare by Russian Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Aleksandra Budrewicz ~ The One Gentleman from Poland. Polonius and 19th
Century Polish Translation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sarbani Chaudhury ~ Bombarding the Headquarters: Academic Tradaptations of
Shakespeare in Twenty-First Century Bengal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Anna Pietrzykowska-Motyka ~ Meeting the Binaries: Angela Carter’s Wise Child-
ren as a Shakespearean Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NATIONAL AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN THEATRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Emi Hamana ~ Hamlet (2015), Directed by Yukio Ninagawa: Possessed by the
Power of Theatre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jana Wild ~ “The Art of Performance” Staging Hamlet in the Rusyn Language . . .
Monika Sosnowska ~ Azorro Presents: Poland at the Crossroads or Whose Words
Are Hamlet’s “words, words, words” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE BARD ON THE NET . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Grace Ioppolo ~ Shakespeare and Digital and Social Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
WORKS CITED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
INDEX OF NAMES AND CHARACTERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Living Daily with Shakespeare
he four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, which was
celebrated in 2016, drew attention to his international recognition.
Indeed, Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies,
known as the First Folio (1623), is second in popularity only to the Bible. In
other words, as a writer who died four hundred years ago, he still enjoys an
exciting career: his works are constantly printed, read, translated, performed,
passed on, emulated, assimilated, appropriated, and cited.
Perhaps beginning a book on Shakespeare with the statement that he is the
most widely read author in the world does not predict exciting content; howe-
ver, I trust that this international collection of essays may open new interpretive
perspectives on his plays, sonnets, and narrative poems. The essays, written by
academics coming from various cultures—Greek, Indian, Japanese, Ukrainian,
British, French, Italian, Slovakian, and Polish—deal with diverse cultural, po-
litical, and social aspects of Shakespeare. The volume’s multiethnic character
shows him as a citizen of the world, an artist whose works enjoy an inexpugna-
ble position both at the local and global level of his international renown.
The essays included in this volume attempt to answer, directly or indirectly,
the following questions connected with Shakespeare’s popularity worldwide.
Can we appropriate Enobarbus’s fascination with Cleopatra, borrowed for the
motto of this volume: “age cannot wither Shakespeare, or custom stale”? What
makes it so that his works do not “cloy” their recipients’ appetite, but instead
constantly whet it for more? Can we still talk about Shakespeare’s “infinite varie-
ty” and how are we to understand this epithet in the twenty first century? Does
this opinion hold in the context of the international reception of his works?
Why does he still enjoy such an exciting career—with his works still in active
circulation—even though he died in 1616? How is it possible for works written
with a quill over four hundred years ago by a man in ruffs and tights to resonate
with the hearts and minds of contemporary recipients all over the world?
In his famous monograph, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998),
Harold Bloom maintains that Shakespeare was the first writer to create genuinely
three-dimensional characters who demonstrate inner complexity in their ability
to think and feel. Shakespeare’s greatness is indeed closely connected with his cha-
racters--e.g. Hamlet, Falstaff, Lady Macbeth, Lucrece are treated as eponymous
names and they function in cultures all over the world. Their inner lives are very
intricate, and though finite on page, they remain infinite in faculty and endless in
interpretive mediations. Their qualities of both mind and spirit, and their ability
to be self-dramatizing as well witty, ironic, skeptical, and laconic, turn them into
real flesh and blood human beings, who are easy to understand and to identify
with, as evidenced by responses to Shakespeare all over the world. In her essay
“The Price of Difference: Shakespeare’s Varieties of Bullying,” Xenia Georgopo-
ulou demonstrates that, despite being a modern psychological term, bullying as
a complex human emotion is experienced by many of his characters.
Some people maintain that the attraction of Shakespeare’s works lies in
his language. Yet, for the twenty-first century audience, his language, with its
old-fashioned and long-forgotten words and phrases, often inhibits a compre-
hensive understanding of his texts. Dated, by our contemporary standards,
Elizabethan syntax, word games and neologisms additionally complicate our
response to Shakespeare. The situation is further exacerbated in non-English
speaking countries, where his works are accessed through translation. As several
of the essays in this volume testify, Shakespeare’s use of language is extremely
important, though it constitutes a labyrinthine issue for study.
After all, translations of his works are usually interpretations of the originals.
They present competent renditions of Shakespeare’s thoughts into target langu-
ages that are not only different linguistically, but also culturally, aesthetically, and
stylistically. This complex aspect of Shakespeare’s life in non-English speaking
countries is covered by Aleksandra Budrewicz in “The One Gentleman from Po-
land. Polonius and 19th century Polish Translation,” by Mark Sokolyansky in
“Another Look Upon Alexander Pushkin’s Role in Appropriation of Shakespeare
by Russian Culture” and by Krystyna Kujawinska Courtney in “Wojciech Bogu-
sławski’s Hamlet (1798): Positioning Shakespeare in Polish Culture”.
The universal significance of Shakespeare’s plays is also expressed in their
moral and human dimensions, which are revealed in diverse plots, dramatic
structures, themes, and interior monologues. They expand the imagination,
and generate an ability to respond to and fully embrace our complex human
condition. Mario Domenichelli presents this aspect of Shakespeare’s works in
~ Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney ~his essay “Shakespeare’s Ideological Conflicts and Rhetorical Battles.” Indeed,
Shakespeare’s texts conceptualize life’s existential realities: isolation, love, hate,
ambition, hubris, revenge, loss, murder, rebellion, war, meaninglessness, illness,
suffering, death, human and inhuman power, the divine, and the tragic possi-
bilities of intimacy. These realities are experienced by people all over the world,
which demonstrates the universality of Shakespeare’s works.
The array of metaphors embedded within his texts enriches our under-
standing of the dilemma of human existence when it is confronted with life
experience and knowledge. Readers/spectators encounter the positive role of the
loss of innocence: they receive first-hand access to maturity by gaining a positive
moral outlook, a tolerance for all races, and a humanistic attitude.
It is this universality or human sameness which usually functions as a bridge for
conveying knowledge of cultural diversity. In other words, the local interpretations
of Shakespeare’s works demonstrate how different creative minds “disclose” the texts
according to the requirements of their time, place, race, age, and gender. In “Me-
eting the Binaries: Angela Carter’s Wise Children as a Shakespearean Appropriation,”
Anna Pietrzykowska-Motyka shows that these adaptations, appropriations, paro-
dies, transformations, and re-writings only make sense within the context of univer-
sal continuity. This continuity does not only refer to the continuity of Shakespeare’s
humanism, but also the continuity of his presence in world cultures.
The responses to his works worldwide demonstrate the existence of uni-
versal constants in human life, despite changing philosophical, literary, or the-
atrical aesthetics and modes. The myriad of truths “discovered” in the plays
emerge from a variety of readings. These “discoveries,” I think, are what perfor-
mers, directors, audiences, and readers particularly value. After all, the dramatic
genre requires constant creative appropriation; in their theatrical renditions,
Shakespeare’s plays all undergo cultural appropriations that transform and even
change the understanding and, consequently, meaning of the original text. After
all, dramatic texts are not like the other literary genres: they not only offer, but
also invite, urge, and, in a way, impose infinite opportunities for their endless
remaking by directors, stage designers, choreographers, performers, and many
others often not listed in the theatre programs. In Shakespeare’s case these artists
usually take advantage of the universal character of his texts and treat them as
inspiration to interpret their own national histories and literatures by suiting,
justifying, and frequently exalting their cultures in his name.
Just as one thinks that nothing more can be done to make Shakespeare’s
plays exciting for contemporary audiences, new theatrical interpretations appe-
~ Introduction. Living Daily with Shakespeare Worldwide ~ar. Examples of this flexibility of Shakespeare’s plays is demonstrated in: “Ham-
let (2015), Directed by Yukio Ninagawa: Possessed by the Power of Theatre” by
Emi Hamana; “‘The Art of Performance’: Staging Hamlet in the Rusyn Lan-
guage” by Jana Wild; “Playing the Fools with Time and Space? Digital Reme-
diations in “Azorro Presents: Poland at the Crossroads or Whose Words Are
Shakespearean in Hamlet’s ‘words, words, words’” by Monika Sosnowska.
One of the essays in this volume is inspired by the responses of students,
who are invariably eager to read his works. His Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo
and Juliet, to name a few, are usually included in the syllabi of masterpieces of
world literature courses all across the globe. In “Bombarding the Headquarters:
Academic Tradaptations of Shakespeare in Twenty-First Century Bengal,” Sarbani
Chaudhury shows how Kalyani University students used Shakespeare to deal with
postcolonial issues, popular culture, and politics. Though no essay in this volume
presents high school students’ current interest in Shakespeare’s plays, I believe it
is worth mentioning. In 2017, the International Shakespeare Research Centre at
the University of Łódź, organized the contest “Shakespeare. Camera. Action.” It
revealed that high school students find it inspirational to recite selected fragments
from Shakespeare’s plays in various unusual public spaces, which they documen-
ted in short films.
Recently, experimental stagings, film versions, adaptations, and YouTube
interpretations have become standard responses to, and interactions with, the
Shakespearean canon. Grace Ioppolo discusses this trend in her essay “Shake-
speare and Digital and Social Media.”
As all these essays demonstrate, the inspirational possibilities of Shake-
speare’s works, both as written texts and as theatrical and digital phenomena,
still evoke international interest. Interpreted through the prisms of the authors’
cultural experiences, which reflect heterogeneous academic methodologies and
practices, Shakespeare never “cloys.” On the contrary, his characters, language,
plots, dramatic structures, themes, subjects, contexts, and many other elements
inherent in his works are never “stale.” Like Cleopatra on the barge, which
Enobarbus describes in his monologue, the power of Shakespeare’s works never
allow to fully satisfy “the appetites,” but they constantly “make hungry” for
more cultural, political, and social analyses, interpretations, and appropriations.
I hope readers of this collection of essays enjoy our multi-national encounters
with Shakespeare as much as their authors enjoyed writing about them and are
thereby able to experience the Bard’s infinite variety.
Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney
~ Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney ~Revisiting Texts
University of Florence, Italy
SHAKESPEARE’S IDEOLOGICAL CONFLICTS
AND RHETORICAL BATTLES
n 1599, when Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar must have been staged for
the first time, no English translation of Machiavelli’s De Principati-
bus had been published1. However, the book’s scandalous fame was
widespread, and it could either be read in Silvestro Tegli’s Latin version (1560),
or in Jacques Gohory’s French translation (1553)2. In any case, in Protestant
countries Machiavelli’s negative fame was spread by the French, Latin, and En-
glish versions of Gentillet’s famous Huguenot Anti-Machiavel3. Also an Italian
1 Though some translations were circulating in manuscript form in the last decade
of the 16th century, Edward Dacres’s version, the first to be printed, was published by
Bishop in London, only in 1640. See: Alessandra Petrina, A Florentine Prince in Queen
Elizabeth’s Court. Petrina is also the author of Machiavelli in the British Isles. On the English
Machiavelli see: Giuliano Procacci, La fortuna inglese del Machiavelli, in Studi sulla fortuna
2 Paris, Le Mangnier, 1571, based on Guillaume Cappel’s 1553 translation (Paris,
3 Innocent Gentillet, Discours sur les moyens de bien gouverner et maintenir en bonne
paix un Royaume ou autre Principauté. Contre Nicholas Machiavel Florentin (1576), see:
Antonio D’Andrea Patricia Stewart ‘s critical edition (1974). Gentillet’s Discours was
anonymously transl. into Latin the following year: Commentariorum de regno aut quovis
principatu recte tranquillle administrando libri tres… Adversus Nicolaum Machiavellum,
~ Mario Domenichelli ~
version of The Prince was circulating in London, printed by John Wolfe, with
an introduction either by Jacopo Castelvetro, or by Petruccio Ubaldini,4 both of
them political and religious refugees in England out of the Inquisition’s reach.
In the introduction to the Wolfe edition, the interpretation of De Principatibus
was totally different from what one could read in Gentillet’s book. Machia-
velli was described as a republican, and a cold-blood analyst of the corruption
of the late Qattrocento Italian political scene. Thus, as we read in the preface
to the Wolfe edition of I discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, Machiavelli
teaches “a perfect knowledge of the difference between a regime of justice, and
one of injustice, between a Prince and a Tyrant, between the rule of many good
men, and that of a few wicked ones, between a well ruled common wealth and
the licentious and confused rule of the multitude” (“a punto a conoscere qual
differenza sia da un principe giusto ad un tiranno, dal governo di molti buoni
a quello di pochi malvagi e da un commune ben regolato ad una moltitudine
confusa e licenziosa.”) (Machiavelli, I discorsi sulla prima Deca di Tito Livio).
Machiavelli’s books were not the only Italian books printed in England.
Bruno had his books published in London5, and Wolfe also published Pietro
Aretino’s I Ragionamenti, Il Marescalco, La Cortegiana, Talanta, L’ Hipocrito6,
The English version by Simon Paterick was published in 1602—see: Antonio D’Andrea,
Machiavelli, Satan and the Gospel (156-177), in which the Latin translation is attributed
to Lambert Daneau.
4 Il Prencipe… con alcune altre operette, Palermo, Heredi d’Antoniello degli
Antonielli, 1584; see: Paola Ottolenghi, Giacopo Castelvetro esule modenese nell’Inghilterra
di Shakespeare. On then Wolfe editions see: Gerber All of the five fictitious Italian editions
of Writings of Machiavelli and three of those of Pietro Aretino printed by John Wolfe (1584-
1588) (129-135, 201.208); see also: Idem, N. Machiavelli. Die Handschriften, Ausgaben und
Übersetzungen Seiner Werke im 16 und 17 Jahrhundert, vol. 2 85, ff.
5 On Italian books printed in Renaissance England see: Sellers. In the colophon of
Degli heroici furori we find “Parigi, appresso Antonio Baio”, but the book was printed by
John Charlewood in 1585. Charlewood also printed Lo spaccio della bestia trionfante (1584),
given for printed in Paris (no printer’s name), and De la causa, principio, et uno (1584), De
l’infinito universo et mondi (1584), Cabala del cauallo Pegaseo (1585) given for printed in
Paris or in Venice.
6 Peter Whitehorn’s translation of The Arte of Warre had been printed in 1560-62 by
John Kingston for Nicholas England. Wolfe printed it in Italian in 1587 (Heredi d’Antoniello
degli Antonielli, Palermo). Historie fiorentine was also printed by Wolfe under the name of
Heredi di Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari in 1587. Lasino d’oro di Niccolò Machiavelli con tutte
laltre sue operette (Dell’Occasione,Di Fortuna, Dell’Ingratitudine, Dell’ambizione, Belfagor,
Compendio, Mandragola, Clitia), has in the colophon Rome 1588; Quattro commedie del
divino Pietro Aretino (La Cortigiana, La Talanta, L’Hipocrito, Il Marescalco were printed by
~ Shakespeare’s Ideological Conflicts and Rhetorical Battles ~
with anonymous prefaces (Ubaldini, or Castelvetro) conceived as apologies, and
defenses. Thus, we read a somewhat libertine assumption in the anonymous
Barbagrigia’s preface in the Wolfe edition of I Ragionamenti d’amore, published
in 1584,: “chi non lascia la libertà agli uomini, che ha lor conceduta la benigna
Natura, non fa altro che fargli diventare doppi e malvagi” (“Human beings must
be let free to enjoy benign Nature’s freedom, or else they are doomed to become
double-tongued and wicked”), thus “chi non permette a” begli spiriti di palesare
con le dotte penne loro al mondo cieco le cattiverie de le femine malvagie e le
sporchezze degli ipocriti, niente altro opera che nutricare e coprire il vizio sotto
il mantello de l’onestà”7. (“where men of wits are not allowed to use their pen
to open the eyes of the world and show the wickedness of harlots, and the hy-
pocrites’ dirty mind, vice remains secretly hidden under honesty’s cloak”). From
a certain point of view, here Aretino is indirectly described as a kind of martyr
of truth, a witness to παρρησία (freedom of speech) in a philosophical key of
cynicism, even though one might also assume that Aretino’s is not really a parlar
franco, frank speaking, but a parlar coperto, covert speaking, in prudentia, deli-
vering a secret message on freedom of speech disguised as a harlot’s handbook,
for the ears of those who could understand.
Be it as it may, all those books had been listed in the index librorum prohi-
bitorum since 1559, even though no printing permission for any of them had
been released by any authority in Italy since 1549. Wolfe probably meant to
smuggle his Machiavelli and Aretino to Italy,8 but a number of those books co-
uld also be sold in London, where Italian was generally spoken, or read among
merchants, people of quality, poets, playwrights, intellectuals, so that it would
be wrong to assume that Machiavelli was chiefly known in England through
that sort of wicked propaganda caricature one finds in Gentillet’s Antimachia-
vel.9 A proof of this may be found in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where the
Wolfe in 1588. The first part of I Ragionamenti was published in Rome by Gio. Andrea del
Melograno in 1589.
7 Finisce la seconda parte de ragionamenti di M. Pietro Aretino (…) stampata con buona
licenza (toltami) nella nobil città di Bengodi ne l’Italia altre volte più felice, il viggesimo primo
d’octobre MDLXXXIV C., A2v, C.A3r. See: Gerber, “All of the five fictitious Italian Editions
of Writings of Machiavelli” (2-6; 129-35; 187-206); Sellers, “Italian Books printed in
England before 1640” (105-28); Crane, Italian Social Customs of the Sixteenth Century and
Their Influence on The Literatures of Europe; Gargano, Scapigliatura Italiana.
8 See: Bertelli and Innocenti.
9 See: Orsini. See also: Praz. Innocent Gentillet, Discours contre Machiavel has been
edited by Antonio D’Andrea Pamela Stewart (1974). On Innocent Gentillet and the
~ Mario Domenichelli ~
Machiavellian element is transparent, even though it does neither correspond
to Gentillet’s caricature, nor to the Machiavelli we find in the anonymous pre-
faces to the Wolfe editions. Machiavelli, if I am not mistaken, never mentions
Julius Caesar, Cassius, Brutus, Marc Antony in De Principatibus, although he
frequently does in Discorsi sopra la prima Deca, of course, and in The Art of War.
In the republican perspective of I Discorsi, Caesar is seen both as the tyrant who
brought to an end political freedom in Rome forever, and, at the same time, as
the great soldier and statesman who prepared Rome’s greatness to come (Chapt.
10, 17, 37 etc.). To my knowledge, no mention is made of Brutus’s and Cassius’s
plot, and of Caesar’s assassination, which is odd enough considering that from
Machiavelli’s perspective it might have been a crucial event of a great power
conquered and lost, and an exemplum well worth analyzing.
What one finds in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is rather, as I will try to show,
a Machiavelli turned to “il buon fine”. As a consequence of this, in a very dialec-
tical way, Shakespeare’s two tragedies on the Roman civil wars and the creation
of the Empire, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra, articulate a philosophy
of history structured on the necessity of Evil, where Roman history is read as
the antecedent of English history between the end of the Sixteenth and the first
decade of the Seventeenth century. In Shakespeare’s “imperial diptych”—Julius
Caesar (1599), and Antony and Cleopatra (1606)—a rhetorical battle is fought,
whose changing fronts I intend to analyze, also taking into consideration some
other variations of the same theme in Troilus and Cressida (1601-2), and Othello
As the battle front-line is immensely fragmented, one should rather speak
of a series of front-lines connected by way of analogy or by way of symmetrical
oppositions. In the Imperial Diptych the battle-line is not only the one we find
in Julius Caesar, opposing Brutus’s attic speech-delivering technique to Antony’s
Asian rhetoric, but the confrontation is also between aristocratic speech, on the
one side, and Machiavellian demagogy on the other. In Antony and Cleopatra,
with a reversal of the perspective, Antony’s oriental, Asian rhetoric is on the lo-
sing side, beaten by Octavian’s laconic Atticism. As a matter of fact the question
we are posing is concerned with the power of language, which can also be exem-
plified by the opposition between Othello’s “free and open nature”, and “honest
Iago’s” honesty as the exemplum of the Elizabethan Machiavelli-like character.
anti-Machiavellian tradition, both as a Protestant and Catholic feature in the Reformation/
Counter Reformation age, see: Domenichelli, Cavaliere e gentiluomo, 86-92.
10 The Shakespeare edition I shall be using is The Norton Shakespeare (1997).
~ Shakespeare’s Ideological Conflicts and Rhetorical Battles ~
What we shall be looking for in Othello, is a gap, a hiatus, some hermeneutic
threshold through which the epoch’s common-sense axiology, what is given for
granted, is simply turned upside-down.
In Julius Caesar, there is a passage obviously taken from Plutarch’s Life of
Caesar (62) in which Caesar is twice reported to express his idea of Cassius. Ca-
esar can feel danger in Cassius’s pale pensiveness, and, referring to Cassius and
Brutus alike, Caesar also says he does not fear fat men, but he rather distrusts
the pale and thin whom he considers dangerous people11. Caesar, that is, does
not undervalue Cassius, either in Plutarch, or in Shakespeare, as in Cassius’s
restlessness he perceives a dangerous political intelligence of the world:
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights.
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.” (1.2: 193-215).
Cassius in the first part of Shakespeare’s play shows a political intelligence,
a science du monde, and an adaptability, which is certainly superior to Brutus’s
rigidly aristocratic ideological posture and to Antony’s boyish inclination to
pleasure. It is also superior to Caesar’s understanding of what is going on around
him, as Caesar seems not only to be half deaf, as he really was, but he also seems
to be totally blind. In the first part of the play, Cassius is the one who conceives
the form of time, thus shaping events to come, at least up to a point. There is
no change whatsoever in Caesar’s character, and there is no change in Brutus’
either. Caesar and Brutus correspond to, and are the emblems of two different
conceptions of power and governance of the polis. Cassius and Antony instead
are the only ones who undergo a change in the quartet of outstanding jarring
voices in the tale of Caesar’s death. They change according to an antithetical
movement which may seem to be a change in character, but which in fact corre-
sponds far more to a gradual, symmetrically opposed unveiling of Cassius’s and
Antony’s human nature.
11 Plutarco, Alessandro e Cesare, 447. Of course Shakespeare had read Plutarch in
Thomas North’s translation of Amiot’s French version of Plutarch. North’s Englished
Plutarch was published in 1579, see: Plutarch’s Lives Englished by Sir Thomas North; the
passage in question here is in vol. 7, 202: “Caesar also had Cassius in great jealousie and
suspected him much […]. I like not his pale looks […]. As for those fat men with sooth
combed heads […] them I never reckoned, but those pale-visaged and carrion lean people,
I fear them most”.
~ Mario Domenichelli ~
This movement is important as it shapes Antony’s gradual triumph, in pa-
rallel with Cassius’s hopeless defeat. Antony, no doubt, is the real protagonist
of the tragedy of Julius Caesar, while Cassius is the real antagonist, far more so
than Brutus, who is no match for such a man as Antony. The fact is that Cassius
and Antony are somehow a couple of dramatic twins, as they seem to share
the same kind of Machiavellian political wisdom. But Cassius is also a kind
of ideological doppelgänger of Brutus, in the sense that Cassius is the one who
has the political wisdom and readiness Brutus utterly lacks, as Cassius would
always know exactly what to do, and when, and how to seize τύχη, the occasion,
in order to get control of Fortuna, and be in control of his own life as well as
of history. But the point is that Cassius is an “underling” with a weakness of
character, in the sense that he has prudentia, but no courage and no fortitude.
On that account, he seems to admit in a perfectly Machiavelli manner: “Men at
sometimes were masters of their fate/The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
/But in ourselves that we are underlings” (1.2: 140-142).
When the plot against Caesar is ripe enough, and all the plotters meet so
they can plan what they must do in order to assassinate Caesar, and what they
should do afterwards in order to ensure their own safety, Cassius very clearly
sees that Antony cannot be spared:
I think it is not meet Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,/ Should outlive Caesar.
We shall find of him/ A shrewd contriver. And you know his means,/ If he improve
them, may well stretch so far/ As to annoy us all; which to prevent,/ Let Antony and
Caesar fall together. (2.1: 155-161)
Brutus does not want to hear about that as he is the ingenuus, which means
“well-born”, from a noble family, hence “honest” (the same root as “honour”)
—a truly good man, since he is reported to have been not only in Plutarch,
but also in Cicero’s De Oratore, and Brutus. Brutus is a patrician. He belongs to
the senatorial class whose values and poetics of existence he embodies. Caesar’s
assassination is a political necessity as Caesar represents a threat and a danger to
the superior interests, and to the very freedom of the senatorial class, the ordo
to which Brutus belongs. There are therefore reasons of mentality and cultural
reasons blinding Brutus’s eyes to what is otherwise evident to Cassius. Brutus
cannot take the right decision, the prudent decision, he cannot do what he sho-
uld, nor take the cautions he should to ensure his own safety and the success of
the cause he is fighting for:
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