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THE earliest text of Julius Cæsar is that of the First Folio. It is markedly free from corruptions, and we may almost say that in but one or two instances would an earlier Quarto text be required to render any doubtful readings more sure.
The most notable example is that of the lines: ‘Know, Cæsar doth not wrong, nor without cause Will he be satisfied.'—III, i, 56, 57. This line is quoted by Ben Jonson in his Discoveries: 'Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause'; this change in form and Jonson's ridicule of its absurdity seem to point to the existence of a text earlier than that which has come down to us. As the remarks of editors and commentators are given at some length in the notes on this passage, it is unnecessary to recapitulate them individually here. The general feeling is, however, that even had the line ever existed as quoted by Jonson, it is not so widely inconsistent with other grandiloquent speeches of Shakespeare's Cæsar, and, in this case at least, Jonson-to use Drummond's words-loved his jest better than his friend. Another passage wherein an earlier Quarto text might have helped towards a better understanding of the author's intention is in Act IV. scene iii, where Brutus, having told Cassius of ortia's death, denies all knowledge of it when questioned later by Messala, for no purpose, apparently, other than to exhibit his stoic power of self-control under that insupportable and touching loss. Resch's sagacious conjecture, that the dialogue with Messala is the result of an interpolation of an alternative passage from a player's copy, is a happy solution of the problem, and clears Brutus of the ugly stain of making capital out of the death of Portia.
Other corruptions--which may be classed as purely textualwherein ingenious editors may frolic in conjecture are, in the present play, pleasurably few in number. In the Appendix will be found a list of those passages wherein emendations of the Folio text have been adopted in the Cambridge Edition; the small number of these is a striking proof of the purity of the earliest text.