Monday, January 31, 2011

What Antony Really Said

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar paints such a perfect picture of what happened on March 15, 44 BC that we often confuse what really happened with what Shakespeare told us. Did Shakespeare really say "Et tu, Brute?" Did Antony really ask friends, Romans and countrymen to lend him their ears?

Well, apparently we do know the answer to that last part, as Antony's funeral speech for Caesar was actually documented at the time?! Obviously this is old :), but I've never seen so it's new to me. Apparently the historian Appian wrote down a report (not a direct account) of what was said.

'It is not right, my fellow-citizens, for the funeral oration in praise of so great a man to be delivered by me, a single individual, instead of by his whole country. The honors that all of you alike, first Senate and then People, decreed for him in admiration of his qualities when he was still alive, these I shall read aloud and regard my voice as being not mine, but yours.'

He then read them out with a proud and thunderous expression on his face, emphasizing each with his voice and stressing particularly the terms with which they had sanctified him, calling him 'sacrosanct', 'inviolate', 'father of his country', 'benefactor', or 'leader', as they had done in no other case. As he came to each of these Antony turned and made a gesture with his hand towards the body of Caesar, comparing the deed with the word.   

Absolutely fascinating reading.


Cass said...

He lifts a lot straight out of Plutarch as well. Caesar's one of the really great examples of Shakespeare taking an old and well-known story and telling it in a new and captivating way.

kj said...

That's such a delightful derivative version of Shakespeare's play. It's amazing how many historical personages aren't quite up on what Shakespeare scripted for them.