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Mateship In Shakespeare’s Rome
by [?]

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.