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of the personal character of Caius Marcius in the receipt of those honours, and in his subsequent candidateship at Rome, the several incidents of his hereditary titles to popular esteem and gratitude, and the nature of the political stumbling block over which he fell, are carefully gathered up in a handful out of which not one has dropped, sorted, and reproduced in the scenes of Shakespeare. In the wonderfully heroic representation of the visit of the banished Coriolanus to his great enemy, Aufidius, in his house at Antium, the speech of the exile is taken from North’s version of Plutarch's words with a singularly literal closeness. The grammatical construction of the sentences is merely altered so far as was needed to make them fall in with a metrical arrangement. Every thought, every salient phrase and word, are transcribed and set in their places by the simplest process. And from the beginning of the action of Coriolanus

. to its final catastrophe, it may be said that, beyond the lighter parts of Menenius (for whose portrait as a humorous patrician the notorious fable of the Belly and the Members gave the cue), and the purely Shakespearian representation of the many-headed plebeian multitude of Rome, there is but little of either plot, incident, or individual character, for which Shakespeare's audience are not directly or indirectly indebted to Plutarch.

As much may be said, and with equal truth, of the noble trilogy-for in the sense of the old Greek drama a trilogy it is -in which the first climax of Nemesis mounts to the death of Cæsar, the next to that of Brutus, while the last culminates in the end of Antony. We can only tire our imaginations in guessing at the rapidity with which the intuition of genius may have enabled the English dramatist to seize at a glance the exquisite completeness of the portraiture of character, and of fate as dependent upon character, which lay open before him in the lines of the Chæronean biographer. But the more closely we look into Plutarch as the main authority of Shakespeare in matters of Latin learning, the more highly shall we be obliged to estimate the care and labour bestowed by our greatest poet on picking out the separate touches of high thought, honourable action, majesty of circumstance and behaviour, for use in the composition of his own tragic pictures of the sharpest civil wars that ever racked the ancient mistress of the world. It is in no sense a detraction from the creative originality of such a magician as Shakespeare, to say that he placed an instinctive faith in the reality and fitness of all this authority gave him as materials for his own structure, and that in this faith he refused to walk within Plutarch's circle by any other light than Plutarch's own. It is scarcely requisite to place him by the side of other adapters from the same store, to show that to bring out the true


force and brilliancy of that light in a dramatic form, the highest, and not the second or third, rate of genius and imaginative power were required. In proportion as later classical playwrights have strayed from their ancient guide, they have lost alike in effectiveness and truth; while the greatest tragic composer is always the most faithful and close follower of the instructor he so intuitively chose. For every revel of Antony, every sentiment of Brutus, every touch of the divinely extravagant grandeur of Julius Cæsar'; for each line in the portraits of the politic Octavius and the subtle-passionate royal " serpent of old Nile;" for the music in the air on the night before Antony's last battle, which was held to betoken bis desertion by his patron-god Bacchus, or Heracles; and for the last words of the dying Charmian,- there is authority in Plutarch. To estimate the value of the lifelike reality which the judicious blending of such materials has infused into Shakespeare's representation of the Julian era, we should not only weigh it by the side of similar attempts by other English writers, but contrast it with the solemn coldness, the thin thread of human interest, and the artificial atmosphere, which mark the classical chefs-d'æuvre of the French dramatists. Their reverence for the dignity of the unities was in no point more hurtful than in this, that it forbad them, however much they might be inclined, to make any but the most meagre use of the varieties of action, scene, and changing circumstances, which, in the practice of our drama, legitimately and necessarily go to fill out the embodied imagination of a bistorical hero.

There are others among the Elizabethan constellation of dramatists who are indebted to Plutarch for leading hints of plot and character, if they have not followed him so closely. The idea and the scene of Beaumont and Fletcher's Humorous Lieutenant are taken from his vast repertory. The historical legend, how the physicians of Antigonus turned his bravest soldier into a coward, by curing him of a disease that had kept him careless of his miserable life, is to be found in the preface to the biography of Pelopidas. But if all the Lives of Plutarch had been lost except those which have supplied the material for some of the noblest dramas of Shakespeare, the literary debt of England to the writer who was Shakespeare's purveyor would still have been large indeed.

Plutarch himself takes care to tell his readers, on more than one occasion, that he is not compiling history, but writing “ Lives.” He expressly disclaims any intention of competing in the narrative of remarkable transactions with professed historians like Thucydides or others. His anecdotes are chosen and arranged with the view of illustrating the character and


fortune of individuals, not of delineating the national and secular progress of Greece and Rome. Those actions of his heroes which have formed the staple of any permanent and well-known historical record, even if they bear especially upon the temper and personal qualities of the subject of his biography, are only cited or briefly run over for the sake of avoiding the imputation of absolute negligence. “Such things as are not commonly known, and lie scattered here and there in other men's writings, or are found amongst the old monuments and archives,” are those which Plutarch professedly aims to bring together; “not collecting mere useless pieces of learning, but adducing what may make the disposition and habit of mind" of his hero understood. It is not (he says again, when justifying his method of epitoinising the wonderful story of so great a king as Alexander the Great) always the most glorious exploits that “furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever. Therefore as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and features of the face, in which the character is seen, than in the other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the marks and indications of the souls of men; and while I endeavour by these to portray their lives, may be free to leave more weighty matters and great battles to be treated of by others.” Remembering that Plutarch wrote in this spirit, and that he wrote at such a distance of time from most of his heroes as left him with few means of sifting the truth out of detached statements and varying records which are not equally enjoyed by his own critics in modern times, we may assume, without scruple and without wonder, that many of his touches of personal anecdote are taken upon trust and on easy terms. The requisition of a certain and cogent proof of the authenticity and accuracy of his documents, wherever such proof is possible, inay be fairly demanded at the hands of a historian. But the difference of aim, involving a different method of treatment, allows a different kind, if not degree, of strictness in inquiry. It may be taken for granted, that among the multitudinous anecdotes concerning remarkable individuals which swarm into unlicensed circulation in their own age, a large proportion have undoubtedly no foundation in fact whatever. Yet among that number of unfounded falsehoods the greater part would be found to have engendered themselves, so to speak, out of their own obvious, inherent, and characteristic probability. An ingenious, satirical, or even a purely mischievous, gossiper takes little pleasure in launching an invention which its ineptitude will instantly con


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vict of untruth. The success of a personal canard depends on its personal aptness, from the first moment of its being set afloat; and this dependence is more absolute in proportion to the general notoriety of the personage to whom it endeavours to attach itself. Not being actually and demonstrably true, it must do its utmost to be undeniably ben trovato. The Great Duke of our own days bore the brunt of many baseless anecdotes; but they were all “ in a tale” with acknowledged facts and with the received theory of his character. And when once a familiar name has vanished from outer life into the realm of history, the tendency of successive generations of anecdote-mongers is (fortunately) not to add to the existing heap of collected figments which may at first tend to smother the facts actually belonging to that name, but by a gradual and unconscious, yet not undiscriminating process of elimination, to sift out the most trivial and inept among them. An anecdote illustrative of any man's character which survives his decease a hundred years must almost inevitably either be true, or possess such verisimilitude as will cause it to fit in exactly with some acknowledged portion of his genuine nature. If it does not belong to the one or the other class, it will be riddled out into oblivion as an inappropriate platitude and superfluity. Few of the anecdotes repeated by Plutarch deserved to be classed under this third category.

Since the Lives are beyond all doubt or comparison those of Plutarch's works which have exercised the widest and most enduring influence on the thoughts of men, it may be more pertinent and more interesting to draw from this source alone some illustrations of his philosophical and religious tendencies, even if the idea conveyed in them be less formal and complete than if we took his interpretation of his own views from his autobiographical or more purely speculative writings. But in considering the moral standing-point from which Plutarch looked upon the great problems of the world, it is necessary to analyse his circumstances as well as his character, and to bear in mind that he was at once, so to speak, a Greek and a Roman. Born in the little but famous Baotian city of Chæronea, familiar from his childhood with the great lion which commemorated the sacred Theban band that fell in defending the independence of Greece against Philip of Macedon, bred within the limits of the mysterious influences of traditionally sacred oracles at Delphi, and the still nearer cave of the deified hero Trophonius at Lebadea,- Plutarch was by early association as well as by nature of a homely, reverent, patriotic, conservative turn, and of a concentrative imagination. The same feeling which in his old age kept him a constant resident in his small and secluded birthplace, “ lest it should become still smaller by the loss of one citi

zen,” ran through his philosophy as well as his practice. Yet the narrow and localising tendencies of the old Hellenic spirit of worship and citizenhood were counterbalanced in his case by his education in the schools of Athens under Ammonius, his journeys to Egypt and Rome, and his acquaintance with the history, law, and generally tolerant and cosmopolitan religious code of the Roman empire. In the time of Trajan it was impossible for any educated and earnest Greek subject of the imperial city (setting aside any special philosophical training he might have received) to feel entirely content with the old Greek fables of indivirlual and separate personification of the powers of nature, as either literally true, or as more than temporary and partial symbols of some more comprehensive principle of being: And the very fact that the oracles had ceased to be given as of old from their time-honoured shrines was more likely to strike with earnest curiosity and speculative zeal a true Greek who had been born almost within the sacred precincts of Delphic tradition, than a Roman whose creed was that of the state, and whose average habit of mind was a combination of indifferent credulity and contemptuous scepticism. It does not appear on the face of any of Plutarch's remaining writings, that he had any personal knowledge of the rise of that religion which Paul preached at Athens and at Rome. It is not perhaps very probable that he should have either adverted to, or considered with any especial regard, that which Tacitus glanced at as a weak and dying invention of the Jews. With abundant local traditions of his own to stand by, the material cravings of his religious appetite had food enough supplied for rumination and digestion at home, without leading him to inquire into the story of a foreign miraculous revelation, of which he could not at first sight have appreciated the authority: Every modification of

. his belief, induced by a philosophical habit of reasoning, simply brought him nearer to that unmixed phase of natural religion which may perhaps have been typified in the altar to the Unknown God, which Paul saw in the metropolis of Greek culture. It is clear from the passage in the Life of Dion, where Dion is represented as exhorting the younger Dionysius to study philosophy, that Plutarch believed in the “ Divine and glorious Model of Being, out of whose control the general confusion is changed into the beautiful order of the Universe," and after whose likeness it behoved all men to fashion their lives. But we must at the same time in fer from the facts of his life, that so conscientiously consistent a man as Plutarch had an honest belief in the existence of Apollo as one of the partial manifestations of this divine exemplar, or he would not have undertaken and filled for many years the office of Apollo's priesthood. Again, we

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