Monday, February 28, 2011

She Hath a Way (Sonnet 145)

In honor of the Oscars and my love for Anne Hathaway, today's post is related to the sonnet that is believed to have been written for Shakespeare's own Ms. Hathaway ("hate away" being a play on "Hathaway"):

                  Those lips that Love's own hand did make
                  Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
                  To me that languish'd for her sake;
                  But when she saw my woeful state,
                  Straight in her heart did mercy come,
                  Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
                  Was used in giving gentle doom,
                  And taught it thus anew to greet:
                  'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
                  That follow'd it as gentle day
                  Doth follow night, who like a fiend
                  From heaven to hell is flown away;
                  'I hate' from hate away she threw,
                  And saved my life, saying 'not you.'

I'm not positive (need to double, triple, quadruple check), but I believe that this is the only sonnet written in tetrameter, which gives the sonnet perhaps a lighter, livelier feel.  The sonnet recalls what may have been or what was almost a dreadful experience in the speaker's life, but the tetrameter seems to convey a sense of relief, thanks to the words "not you."

The eighth line serves as the turn in this sonnet and introduces something epic, something pre-Miltonic.  Words have the power to cast away.  The words are so powerful that even the ones who are cast away or are hated remember where they come from and how much they love the deliverers of those words.  Banished Cordelia never forsakes Lear.  Milton's Satan, Joseph Campbell's Satan remember God also saying "Get out of my sight," and keep the words close to them, not for the meaning, but for the voice.  That's how much the beloved are loved.

The speaker of this sonnet seems to be having a similar experience.  The speaker is recalling words of hate coming from the lips of the beloved, whose lips were made by Love's own hand.  Lips produced by Love's own hand producing words of hate!  The words are so powerful; they basically have the power to banish the lover to hell.  The speaker seemed to have seen this coming, but instead was recalled to life, so to speak, by the completion of the beloved's thought.  The words of the beloved, instead, banish the night, or the darkness, to hell.  The lover's life is spared, but still, the words, lips, of the beloved have the power to condemn....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who Art The Thing Itself (Hamlet, 2.2; King Lear, 3.4)

Final post for the week.  Something that's been on my brain for a while.  The Thing.  Which is it?  The play or unaccommodated man?

It has taken a little while, but by the end of Act 3.2 is Lear becomes Duke Senior.  After realizing that his wits begin to turn, he turns his mind to the succor of his companions, especially the Fool, whom the son-less father begins to treat like a sun.  In 3.4, the King recites fervent prayer to the "Poor naked wretches"; one of the most beautiful moments in the play.  The words, just like Kent's good night/good knight wish to Fortune when he's in the stocks at the end of 2.2, summon up from the dirt Edgar, who is now in disguise as Tom O'Bedlam.

That Lear's wits have turned and that he is now the pattern of all patience, he is able to see clearly and see something magnificent in the hobo-like figure.  Ever since the end of 2.4, we have had an idea of Lear's own concept of "Bestial oblivion" (cf. Hamlet 4.4), but it really shines through when it manifests itself physically before him in the form of Edgar as Poor Tom.  Pomp has heeded Lear's words, has taken physic, and is now exposing itself to feel what wretches feel.  Lear is able to see this very clearly and these are his words to man in his most basic, bestial form:

                  Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer
                  with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.
                  Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou
                  owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep
                  no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on
                  's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself:
                  unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
                  forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings!
                  come unbutton here.

This is the quintessence of dust.  Lear is in awe.  Calls Poor Tom learned Theban, philosopher, Athenian and will keep still with him.  In this instrument of darkness, Lear recognizes a truth teller.  As King in the court, Lear may have had a man like this whipped.  As King in nature, Poor Tom is his new all-licensed Fool.  The role of the Fool becomes significantly diminutive at this point; the Fool will only be Tom's "yokefellow of equity" (3.6) for a very short time before disappearing.

Edgar, then, as Poor Tom, as unaccommodated man, is the play, is the thing that catches the conscience of the King! 

The play, all along, is about accommodated man and the problems that come with the lendings.  Borrowed robes.  How we manipulate nature in order to suit, placate our fortune (of which we have no control).  Remove the lendings.  Make vile things precious.  Go to the hovel.  Find tongues in trees, books in brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.  It is the unaccommodated man who truly lives....

The play's the thing wherein Shakespeare catches the conscience of Man and exposes him, holds the mirror to his obsession and preoccupation with things (money, power, etc)....                          

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Name's the Thing (Twelfth Night, 2.3)

Someone very dear to me once complained that the "problem" with Twelfth Night is that Shakespeare does not "develop the revenge plot against Malvolio" enough.  Naturally, I had a major league problem with this.  Made me shutter.  But instead of throwing down my glove, I merely stated that everything that we need to know about the revenge plot is in the name itself.  Malvolio.  Ill will. 

The following passage says it all.  This is the speech that elicits the famous response from Toby about "no more cakes and ale" and commentaries about Puritanism.  Here is Malvolio reacting to the present mirth and present laughter, in the words of Feste's song, the irony being that Sir Toby and Sir Andrew chose a song about love rather than the good life:

               My masters, are you mad? or what are you? Have ye
               no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like
               tinkers at this time of night? Do ye make an
               alehouse of my lady's house, that ye squeak out your
               coziers' catches without any mitigation or remorse
               of voice? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor
               time in you? 

Interesting, though.  Present mirth hath present laughter.  Mirth.  The House of Mirth.  The Heart of the Fool, according to Ecclesiastes, lives in the House of Mirth.  In two houses where music is played live the hearts of two fools: Orsino and Olivia.

For all the negative criticism about inconsistencies in the works of Shakespeare, it is important to remember that, as Hamlet says, "the purpose of to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature."  These inconsistencies are but directions by indirections.  They represent nature as best as possible by the human mind.  They are about as lifelike as it gets....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

His Majesty's Antic Disposition (Richard II, 3.2)

So fair and foul a day he had not seen.

Coming home after a major success at quashing the Irish rebellion, King Richard comes home to find out that his cousin Henry Bullingbrooke has returned from exile and has amassed a rapidly growing power.  Apparently, it is easier for the King to handle disturbances abroad than it is in his own home; or worse, in his own family.  As of right now, Richard is a King not without honor except in his own family.  He understands the nature of Henry (a subject for another post) and is very quick to throw in the towel.  Perhaps as quick as he was to throw down his warder in 1.3, before the duel between his cousin Henry and Mowbray--an interesting moment at which Richard basically announces his own death sentence.  If he had let the duel go through, instead of declaring the two men banished, then his cousin may not have been so inclined to topple him.  When Richard comes home to find out that his cousin has also come home, he realizes that any conquests brings he home from Ireland are basically all for naught.  Today is the day of doom: from Richard's poor night to Bullingbrooke's fair day.  What was gentle earth to Richard, is now barren earth.  Paste and cover to our bones.

A grave.

He shall not live.


In light of this darkness, these are his words:

             For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
             And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
             How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
             Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
             Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
             All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
             That rounds the mortal temples of a king
             Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
             Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
             Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
             To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
             Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
             As if this flesh which walls about our life,
             Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
             Comes at the last and with a little pin
             Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

Like Isabella, here Richard articulates the transience of authority.  Of everything.  Nothing belongs to man.  Everything belongs to death.  Richard articulates this truth very sadly and prettily.  Death will scoff at the King's pomp, which will therefore feel what wretches feel.  Treasons that will make himself wish he were a beggar.  And so he will be.

The idea of sitting upon the ground, though.  That is very interesting.  The idea that the throne doesn't mean anything.  That ultimately, all men are doomed to the same seat: the earth.  I am not completely sure if Richard is completely humiliating himself here in the same way that Macbeth does when he says things like, "My dull brain was wrought with things forgotten," or when he makes light of his "strange infirmity," but it's close....

No more.

'Tis not so sweet as it was before.

Later, when Richard feels his death coming on and hears music, his response is very similar to that of another young, melodramatic nobleman, Orsino, in the midst of his heartache:

                              sour sweet music is,
             When time is broke and no proportion kept!
             So is it in the music of men's lives.

So let it be with Richard.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Our Universe's Several Dowers

Today's reflection has to do with the many references to "heavenly music" and the "music of the spheres" in the works of Shakespeare.  Late the other night, I happened upon a BBC World Service report about the Kepler space telescope and its recent discovery of some 1200 new planets/planet-like structures.  The end of the report provided a real treat: the sound of a heartbeat of a star!  I'd never heard anything like it.  Wish I could have found the exact recording, but this clip (and some of the others available) should do it justice.  Sounds like Holst out there!  Pythagoras is beaming....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Touching Wounds (Julius Caesar, 5.1)

Ever thinking about the correlation between Caesar and Christ.  Today, Octavius opens the eyes wide open in the following reply to Cassius:

             Come, come, the cause: if arguing make us sweat,
             The proof of it will turn to redder drops. Look;
             I draw a sword against conspirators;
             When think you that the sword goes up again?
             Never, till Caesar's three and thirty wounds
             Be well avenged; or till another Caesar
             Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors.

This is a startling passage on two fronts.  First, in an almost "Doubting Thomas" type moment, Octavius' wonder is connected to the wounds.  The answer to his question is related to the wounds of Caesar.  Second, the number.  Three and thirty.  The two great lives of Caesar by Plutarch and Suetonius report that the number wounds was three and twenty.  According to T.S. Dorsch in the second Arden edition, Theobald emended accordingly.  Big mistake.  The number here is three and thirty for a reason, a very good reason.  To draw a parallel between Caesar's wounds and the supposed age of Christ when he was crucified (mortally stabbed).  An extremely effective device here that should not be tampered with.  The most unkindest cuts of all deserve to placed at the center of the table.

Side note: I always think that Thomas gets a bad rap.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sermon in the Tavern (2 Henry IV, 1.2)

I'm not sure where it comes from, but I heard that Shaw said that at the heart of every joke is a great truth.  I may not be quoting this exactly, either.  I would say the same for truth, though.  That at the heart of every truth is a great joke.  This can certainly be said for the parables of Christ.  I think it was John Dominic Crossan, the former priest and writer of some of the best biblical criticism, who used to imagine Jesus winking at the end of every parable--as though he were delivering a punchline!

Of course, we call this, in both cases, irony.  The king of irony in the works of Shakespeare is, of course, Falstaff.  Today's moment of reflection takes us to the tavern in Eastcheap.  The Chief Justice wants to interrogate Sir John about the robbery at Gadshill.  The scene is pure Vaudeville.  The poor servant is the monkey in the middle of Sir John's deft defiance and the Chief Justice's determination.  When Falstaff, the man who can never have enough, pretends to have had enough (of the pestering), he throws up his arms, slaps his thighs and says (in another hilarious moment, just like when he asks, "Is there no virtue extant?"):

                   What! a young knave, and begging! Is there not
                   wars? is there not employment? doth not the king
                   lack subjects? do not the rebels need soldiers?
                   Though it be a shame to be on any side but one, it
                   is worse shame to beg than to be on the worst side,
                   were it worse than the name of rebellion can tell
                   how to make it.

At the risk of sounding perhaps too Bloomian, I'll let Falstaff do most of the talking here.  But here, we have another "honor speech."  Worse shame to beg than be on the worst side, the losing side.  Better to have fought and lost than to have begged.  Begging, then, is even below suicide in the agony of defeat.

My dad used to have a very funny line about unreliable people: "....always there when you need him, instead of right here where you can really use his help."  This description fits Falstaff certainly better than his armor.  And yet, of course, everything that Falstaff says, every question that he asks here, is true.  It is funny, but it is so true.  Is there not anything better or more important to do?  And yet, Falstaff is our guide down the primrose path, our captain in fleeting the time carelessly....  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shakespeare's Small Time & Lesse Speake (Brutus and Macbeth)

Cassius and Lady Macbeth are similar roles, and so it is no wonder that Brutus and Macbeth respond similarly to their respective deaths.  Time once again rears its ever present head in the small eulogies that Brutus and Macbeth pay to their loved ones.  They speak of it not being the right time for death or not having the right amount of time to pay full tribute, and yet in the little bit of time that they have they speak the perfect amount of perfect words.  First, Brutus:  

                     Are yet two Romans living such as these?
                     The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!
                     It is impossible that ever Rome
                     Should breed thy fellow. 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 Macbeth:

                    She should have died hereafter;
                    There would have been a time for such a word.
                    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
                    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
                    To the last syllable of recorded time,
                    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
                    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
                    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
                    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
                    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
                    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
                    Signifying nothing.

And then, for both men, it's once more unto the breach.... and then, no more.

But these two speeches often get taken for granted.  I think a lot of Shakespeare's words do.  They get read and heard and quoted and played with so often that many people forget or don't even realize just how piercing they are.  This was a particularly difficult post for me to write, because every time I read or hear "The last of all the Romans," I lose it.  That's "Renown and grace is dead" to me.  Great men are dead.  A great society is dead.  An era is dead.  Something is lost that can never be retrieved or repeated. 

What a tribute.  The last of all the Romans.  There'll never be another one like Cassius.  Perhaps, that's a good thing.  In the beginning of the play, Caesar was wary of men like Cassius.  Here, in Brutus' words, there is a touch of that, too, but moreover, would there were more men like Cassius.  Both men are right. 

Side note: Who would call Iago, "The last of all the Venetians?"  After all, he is not even worthy of death; 'tis happiness to die.  Perhaps this is something that Iago realizes, though, which is maybe why he doesn't even take the officer's way out.  His battle was not even a battle worth losing and taking his own life for.  He will go on as a Spartan dog with no journey shortly to go....       

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Which I'd Fain Call Master (Measure for Measure, 2.2)

More people in the law enactment and law enforcement industries ought to read Measure for Measure.  Today's clip comes from Isabella, who is pleading for her brother Claudio's life to Angelo, the newly installed duke:

                                            ....but man, proud man,
               Drest in a little brief authority,
               Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
               His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
               Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
               As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
               Would all themselves laugh mortal.

An excellent little lesson how man wastes his gifts, talents, and powers.  There used to be the idea of ruling by divine right.  Here, Isabella says that there isn't anything divine about it.  If only man could see how angels would react to how man functions down here.  
Like time, authority is a man made thing, often and usually misappropriated in the name of God or some other divine being.  Drest in a little brief authority.  Just like the candle.  Signifying nothing.  All very self-serving.... 
And Claudio must march to his execution.  His offense, copulation.  Would Lear were here to back Isabella up.  Let copulation thrive!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Brawling Love (Hamlet, 4.5)

Today is Valentine’s Day, and yesterday, the fair Ophelia might have spoken these words:

No one has expressed or will express love better than Shakespeare.  The reality of love, which is so often wonderfully depicted in the works of Shakespeare, is that it will drive you mad.  Here, Ophelia, with the wildflowers of the field in her hair (in a state resembling Lear in 4.6), has snapped as a result of the death of her father.  It is not evident that she knows that her father has been slain by the man to whom she’s been romantically inclined, Hamlet, but in her dirge here, the memory of Hamlet in his doublet all unbraced (her own balcony scene) seems to be crossing her mind.  There is a connection, here.

The intensity of the love that she has for the three men in her life—a trinity, so to speak, of father (Polonius), son (Laertes), and son of a holy ghost (Hamlet)—drives her to this.  She is either crazy or in the heat of a spiritually ecstatic experience.  A transition to her own death, with Gis (Jesus) and Saint Charity also in her sights.  Tripping the light fantastic on her way to the netherworld.   

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In His Perfect Mind (As You Like It, 2.1)

A week late, but say there were a Shakespeare Bowl and the two teams were Pure Evil and Pure Good.  No doubt Team Pure Evil would be co-captained by Aaron and Saturninus from Titus Andronicus.  I can just imagine Iago jumping up and down, saying “Pick me, pick me!” but I don’t see him a captain.

It’s been a while since I’ve read and taught As You Like It, but one thing I remember always pointing out is just how great Duke Senior is.  The man is a champ.  And so, if voting for the Shakespeare Bowl MVP were being held today, then I think that the trophy and new Camaro would go to the captain of Team Pure Good: Duke Senior.

Duke Senior makes his first appearance in Act 2.1 when he is entering the Forest of Arden after being driven out of his dukedom by his brother Frederick.  Like Lear, Senior is not alone when he goes out into exile.  The energy that Lear creates on the heath is magnificent, but Duke Senior truly handles his circumstances with aplomb.  He is accompanied by Amiens and two or three other lords and his wondering about the location of Jaques, perhaps his most important attendant.  Here is how Senior reacts to entering the forest:

Here, Senior uses the word “pomp” that Lear uses in his prayer to the poor naked wretches in 3.4.  Here, Senior already knows what it takes Lear a little while to discover: that, out here, pomp is of no circumstance.  And that is a good thing.  Out here, life can truly be lived.  Duke Senior is feeling heartache, no doubt, for three reasons: his brother has betrayed him; he’s been separated from his daughter Rosalind (and, if he does know that she is residing with her uncle Frederick and cousin Celia, then he may not be too comfortable with that); and, of course, he’s lost dukedom.  This speaks to the tug-of-war between Nature and Fortune (Shakespeare Bowl II?) that runs throughout the course of this play.  Fortune breeds too many cares that get in the way of pure living.  Despite the heartache, this is something that Senior is man and leader enough to recognize when out of doors.  The elements are on his side, too, and he can see the beauty that Nature has to offer.  The true ornaments of life.

Renown may be dead, but his grace is not.  Duke Senior cares about the morale of his attendants and puts it before his own cares.  He is still their leader and it is his job to keep their spirits up.  It is incumbent upon him to express the beauty that they are now able to enjoy away from the court.  Senior continues to come out a champion in his reaction to how Jaques has been ranting (“moralizing”) about deer hunting and even later still when he invites a crazed Orlando to retrieve the elder Adam and join him in breaking bread. 

“Here feel we but the penalty of Adam.”  In doing so, Duke Senior feeds Adam.  Something also needs to be said to that….     

Friday, February 11, 2011

Storm and Tempest

My thought for 2/12 is a sonnet that I wrote a couple of years ago for Lear in the spirit of Sonnet XII:

When I do drown the cocks that tell the clime
And spit fire, spout rain, to his odious plight,
When I see the divested king past his prime
And singe his wiry black tresses to white,
When oak trees I cleave, uproot, anatomize,
Which used to cote sheep and stock from the heat,
And those champains riched, now blighted by lies –
His brains in his heels; chilblains on his feet –
Then of his demesne will they then demean,
He among the tests of clime – Lear’s shadow,
Since scarcely kept warm by these children of spleen
And the sugar coated words he did trow.
    Then I’ll take physic and give him that patience –
    The true need – to stave their brief alliance.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Witchcraft (King Lear 1.1)


When Lear responds to Cordelia’s refusal to join in any reindeer games, he concocts an interesting and insightful correlation between truth, the sacred, witchcraft, the nature of the cosmos, and fatherhood.  In banishing his daughter, the King says:

Let it be so, thy truth then be thy dower!
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this forever.

In this speech, truth (Cordelia’s brand) and Lear’s fatherhood are connected by the sacred radiance of the sun, the mysteries (or miseries, in F—either way), and the operation of the orbs.  This means that the sacred radiance of the sun, the mysteries of Hecate, and the operation of the orbs are all working in tandem.  They may be opposing forces, but they are working together and producing together.   They are opposite sexes.  Together, they produce Cordelia’s truth, at one end, and Lear’s fatherhood, at the other.  These opposing forces produce opposing forces.  Lear, in his rage, recognizes incongruity between Cordelia’s truth and his fatherhood—perhaps everything that he tried to instill in his daughter.  Everything that he tried to instill in his daughter, it seems, has gone out the window.  Cordelia is now the opposite of Lear.  Must be.  In Lear’s eyes, which, as we can see, are failing him at the moment—the moment that he forces to its crisis, the moment that he disturbs the universe.

It’s not so strange that Lear is invoking Hecate in this situation.  Shakespeare is most likely writing Macbeth and King Lear around the same time--two plays about two kings; one younger and one much older.  Despite age, they are somewhat similar.  Some words from Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, may help shed a certain slant of light on this.  A recent article quotes him as saying, “They whom the gods would destroy, they make all powerful.”  Obviously, a play on, “….they make mad,” (though I think the article says that this was an inadvertent mistake).  Still, talk about ruling by divine right!  Lear’s already powerful, so his madness, more or less, comes with age.  It’s the end of the line for Lear.  Macbeth’s madness comes while he is assuming the throne, or taking actions in order to assume the throne.  His wife does say that he is too full of the milk of human kindness.  Perhaps he is aware of this about himself, too.  His madness comes, then, perhaps, as a result of realizing that he may not be ready or able to rule Scotland, even though the vaulting ambition is there.

But, again, here we have two kings.  Two kings who go mad.  Two kings who receive truths, dark as they may be, from three sisters, whether they be weird or just plain cruel.  Two kings who receive truths on the heaths of Britannia.  Macbeth and Lear have some significant things in common.  Both their lives are or seem to be governed by the mysteries of Hecate and the night.  The mysteries are made palpable to Macbeth by the Weird Sisters.  For Lear, by his daughters, except, of course, he makes the wrong daughter guilty by the wrong association.  Lear goes mad, but Lear also comes to his senses and when he does, he gets his day in court (3.6).  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Enter Through the Narrow World

In Act 1.2, the juxtaposition of Cassius’ commentary about Caesar’s behavior during two nearly fatal experiences and the roar of the crowd is really quite extraordinary.  Cassius says:

            ….Ye gods, it doth amaze me,
A man of such feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world,
And bear the palm alone.

Palm is a symbol of triumph, but like Flavius and Marullus before him, Cassius wonders what conquests Caesar brings home that warrant him being able to bear the palm alone.  Brutus then replies to another general shout and once this occurs, we can’t help but associate these words and actions with Christ’s triumphant ride through Jerusalem (“through the narrow gate”--??), on a colt, with crowds cheering and strewing the ground with palm just days before he would be betrayed and killed himself.

Cassius does not respond directly to Brutus’ comment about the crowd, but rather continues with his rant:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.  

These are words that no doubt Brutus remembers and has in mind during his great “tide in the affairs of men” speech in 4.3.  The word “man,” here, takes on important implications, too.  It’s more than a casual reference, say, like the word “friend.”  Cassius is not just calling Brutus friend, but man—as in Brutus represents man and what man is supposed to be.  Caesar may be a Colossus, but he is no man, according to Cassius.  According to Cassius, there are men (who are petty), and there is man (which is Brutus).  This gets reinforced later when Antony says over the corpse of Brutus, “This was a man!”  Over the corpse of Caesar, he says, “This was a Caesar,” but over the body of Brutus he says, “This was a man.”  Of the three—Caesar-Colossus, men, and man—Brutus is the greatest.

But what does “the narrow world” mean?  First, it is “the majestic world,” but then it is “the narrow world.”  Do these words this diminish the size of the world?  Do these words flatten the world?  When Christ spoke of “the narrow gate,” he spoke of it as the hard road, the path of most resistance, to spiritual excellence.  By bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus, is Cassius suggesting that Caesar is crushing the road by which men may grow or improve, materially and spiritually?  By placing the fault in ourselves that we are underlings, Cassius is expressing a concern for the soul.  In order for the narrow world to inherit its majesty once again, and in order for the petty to inherit the majestic world, Brutus must act as redeemer and take down the giant.