Commentary Notes

are the heart of any NVS edition and help make its other features accessible to the nonspecialist reader, especially TN, UCE, PI, and CT. The best CN draw these elements together in a coherent way.

Here is the F1 page image of the entire passage.

Here is Furness’ version of TLN 873-952 in v1913.

Commentary notes provide “a condensed historical survey of significant attempts . . . to establish, elucidate, and interpret particular words, phrases, lines, and passages. Generally, “credit will be given to the first editor, scholar, or critic to provide each explanation” (NVS HB, p. 106).

These include readings or interpretations by editors of fully collated and occasionally quoted editions, as well as independent commentators of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, or important contemporary sources that Shakespeare knew about or may have consulted, such as Geffrey Whitney’s A Choice of Emblemes (1586) and his primary historical source for Julius Caesar, Sir Thomas North’s translation of Jacques Amyot’s French rendition of Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes (1579). For a complete list of the texts mentioned below, see the PW.

The draft CN below represent in miniature a history of Shakespeare criticism from the Enlightenment to the present day, nearly seventy editions and commentaries from the PW. Portia and her wound are now generally recognized as the epicenter of the scene, though both were downplayed or ignored for predictable reasons until the middle of the twentieth century.

The notes with links that correspond to the brief example on the sample page are 941, 942, and 946.

     873 Enter Portia] G{RANVILLE}-B{ARKER} (1947, 2:378): “Her appearance is admirably contrived. . . . Portia is a portrait in miniature. . . . Note how everything in the scene—not the words and their meaning only—contributes to build up this Portia. The quiet entrance, the collected thought and sustained rhythm of her unchecked speech, the homely talk of supper-time.”
     877 condition] R{ANN} (ed. 1794): “frame.” S{INGER} (ed. 1826): “temper, disposition.” Compare 895. H{UDSON} (ed. 1855): “temper, disposition, demeanour.”
     878 Y’haue vngently Brutus] G{ENTLEMAN} (1770, 2:5): “Introducing Portia, though what she says cannot affect an audience much, is judicious, as it is a relief to the other scenes, and approaches the pathetic, though it cannot touch the tender feelings.” J{AMESON} (1833, 2:239): “The situation is exactly similar [to 1H4 1.3.37-117 (883-963)]; the topics of remonstrance are nearly the same; the sentiments and the style as opposite as are the characters of the two women. Lady Percy is evidently accustomed to win more from her fiery lord by caresses than by reason; he loves her in his rough way, ‘as Harry Percy’s wife,’ but she has no real influence over him; he has no confidence in her. . . . Lady Percy has no character, properly so called; whereas that of Portia is very distinctly and faithfully drawn from the outline furnished by Plutarch. Lady Percy’s fond upbraidings, and her half-playful, half-pouting entreaties, scarcely gain her husband’s attention. Portia, with true matronly dignity and tenderness, pleads her right to share her husband’s thoughts and proves it too.” L{EE} (1861, p. 496): “The introduction of Portia here is most exquisitely timed. Brutus has just identified himself with the faction, and assumed their leadership. The odium of treachery, ingratitude, and murder is clinging to his skirts; and this garden scene with Portia is needed to restore him to our good ‘apprehension.’” D{OWDEN} (1875, p. 298) compares the scene from 1H4 also: “the relation of husband and wife, as conceived in the historical plays, differs throughout from that relation as conceived in the tragedies.” F{URNIVALL} (apud LEO, 1878, pp. lxviii-lxix): Sh. replicates the Percy interlude in 1H4, but it is nobler in JC and without the comic content, “pure soul to soul, no thought of earthly dallying between them.” O’B{RIEN} (1886, pp. 361-2): “Her grave and sober pleading is the very opposite of the kitten-like coaxing and scratching of sweet Kate Percy on a similar occasion, just as Brutus is the very antipodes of Hotspur.” A{SHWELL} (1926, p. 176): “In this one play of the Shakespearean Drama the women might as well be absent, for all the difference they make in the event. Portia, the ideal wife, sure that her man, Brutus, is getting himself into trouble, will not be satisfied until she knows the truth; and yet must pay the price of his reluctant confession, her oath to speak no word and take no action.” L{AW} (1948, pp. 207-14): The ultimate structural source for this scene as well as its analogues in 1H4 and Mac. 3.2 (1161-1215) is in Plutarch’s “Brutus,” although the central event of that narrative, the self-inflicted wound, only occurs in JC, and briefly, “possibly on aesthetic grounds.” B{ROOK} (1976, p. 74) observes that Portia and Brutus use the formal you rather than the familiar thou.  However, at 948 and 950, Brutus uses the familiar in anguished appreciation of his wife’s “voluntary wound.” V{ELZ} (1977-78, pp. 303-05): the confrontation between Brutus and Portia anticipated by encounter between Bassanio and Portia in MV 3.2. Both characters owe much to Plutarch’s Porcia in “Brutus.” H{UMPHREYS} (OXF4, 1984): “vnkindly” = “unkind(ly), discourteous(ly).”
     879 Stole] F{URNESS} (v1913) cites this as one of two usages of this truncated past participial form with the auxiliary: the other is Mac. 2.3.66-8 (820-2): “Most sacrilegious Murther hath broke ope  / The Lords anoynted Temple, and stole thence / The Life o’th’Building.”
     881 Musing, and sighing, with your armes a-crosse] B{ABB} (1951, p. 122): The mark of a melancholic: “Intent cogitation engenders black bile by consuming spirit. In the man involved in dangerous conspiracy, continual activity of mind may combine with anxiety to produce melancholy.” H{UMPHREYS} (OXF4, 1984): “The traditional posture of one sunk in thought.”
     883 vngentle lookes] Ironic, considering Brutus’s earlier admonition to the conspirators, “Let not our lookes put on our purposes” at 863.
     887 wafter] W{HITE} (ed. 1861): for “wafture.” Compare “rounder” for “rondure,” e.g. Jn. 2.1.259 (565): “the rounder of your old-fac’d walles.” W{RIGHT} (CLN1, 1878) suggests this is a phonetic spelling sometimes found in F1-F4, and compares Sh.’s use of  “rounder” for “rondure” in Jn. 2.1.259 (565).  B{ROOK} (1976, p. 137): “-ure is used to derive nouns from verbs; the nouns then describe an action . . . or its result, as in departure, creature. . . . The suffix is sometimes weakened to –er in Elizabethan English: wafter, climater.”
     891 it] J{OHN} H{UNTER} (ed. 1861) suggests the referent is not “impatience” (889), but “what the matter was” (882), as “it” seems to be later in the speech (893, 895).
           an effect of Humor] an imbalance of the four bodily humours.
     895 condition] V{ALPY} (ed. 1833): “Temper.” C{RAIK} (1857, p. 151): “the general temper or state of mind,” e.g. MV 1.2.129 (320).  F{URNESS} (v1913) cites NED, i.e., OED (condition n.11.a): “Mental disposition, cast of mind; character, moral nature; disposition, temper. Obs.” See 877.
     896 I should not know you Brutus] H{UMPHREYS} (OXF4, 1984): F4 introduces a comma between “you” and “Brutus” that “weakens the effect,” i.e., the name would simply be in the vocative, not the implied object of “know” along with “you,” which would mean “I would not know you as yourself, the man I married.” Cf. 915 and CN.
     900 come by it] F{URNESS} (v1913) compares MV 1.1.3, 5 (6, 8): “But how I caught it, found it, or came by it . . . I am to learne.”
     902 Physicall] S{EYMOUR} (1805, 2:15): medicinal, as in Cor. 1.5.18-19 (591-2): “The blood I drop, is rather physicall / Then dangerous to me.” B{ROOK} (1976, pp. 41-2): “The sense . . . is close to that of physician, i.e., ‘remedial, likely to act as a cure.’”
     903 sucke vp the humours] B{AMBOROUGH} (1952, p. 71): “The quality of the air was important because it entered into the composition of the spirits. . . . Fenny or marshy air was injurious to the health, and bred melancholy.” B{ROOK} (1976, p. 48) suggests that humours means moisture, in contrast with 891.
     904 danke] V{ALPY} (ed. 1833): “Damp.”
     907 Rhewmy] V{ALPY} (ed. 1833): “Moist.” F{URNESS} (v1913) cites NED, i.e., OED, which cites the present line as the earliest example of this usage (rheumy a.3): “Moist, damp, wet; esp. of the air.” Both direct the reader to (rheumatic a.5): “Of weather, places: Inducing or having a tendency to produce catarrhal affections.”
           vnpurged] G{OLLANCZ} (ed. 1896, Glossary): “unpurged by the sun.” H{ILL} (N&H, 1942): “not yet purified by the sun.”
     908 hit] The F1 reading; virtually all editors automatically correct to is. C{RAIK} (1857, pp. 151-2): “It cannot, at any rate, be received as merely a different way of spelling it, deliberately adopted in this instance and nowhere else throughout the volume: such a view of the matter is the very Quixotism of the belief in the immaculate purity of the old text.”
     909 sicke Offence] C{RAIK} (1857, p. 152): “Some pain or grief, that makes you sick.” H{ARRISON} (PEN1, 1937): “a trouble causing sickness.” C{HARNEY} (BOB, 1969): “harmful sickness, a transferred epithet.”
     910 Right and Vertue of my place] C{RAIK} (1857, p. 152): “By the right that belongs to, and . . . in virtue of (that is, by the power or natural prerogative of) my place (as your wife).”
     912 charme you, by] Some 18th c. eds. emend to charge, such as P{OPE} (ed. 1725).  See TN. T{HEOBALD} (ed. 1733) defends F1: “conjure you by the Magick of.” S{TEEVENS} (v1778, 8:41) concurs, citing Cym. 1.6.115-17 (729-31): “your Graces . . . Charmes this report out.” S{EYMOUR} (1805, 2:15) glosses charme as conjure, which may have been Sh.’s original word, “altered by him for scansion.” C{RAIK} (1857, pp. 152-3): traces etymology of charme to L. carmen as incantation or enchantment from L. cano.  He also cites the passage from Cym. as example. C{OLLIER} (ed. 1858): charme perhaps means invoke rather than enchant. J{OHN} H{UNTER} (ed. 1861): “I conjure you; I address to you, as a means for subduing your obstinate spirit of reserve, the consideration of, &c. ‘To charm the tongue,’ that is, to subdue it, to lay a spell, as it were, of silence on it, is an expression often met with in Shakspeare: but here Portia wishes to charm Brutus into communicativeness; she desires to break by a counter-charm the spell of silence under which he seems bound. Pope’s substitution of charge for charm does not harmonise well with Portia’s character.” D{YCE} (ed. 1865) disputes the use of the Cym. passage as parallel, since the sense is different.  K{INNEAR} (1883, pp. 368-9): charme suggests a power Portia does not have. The kneeling and appeal to vows shows that the emendation to charge is warranted. F{URNESS} (v1913) cites NED, i.e., OED (charm v1.6): “To conjure, entreat (a person) in some potent name,” which includes the present line. B{ROOK} (1976, pp. 50-1): “‘entreat, conjure, as if by an invocation’”; charm “keeps a strong element of the original meaning of enchantment running through its various figurative uses.”
     913 that great Vow / Which did incorporate and make vs one] G{RANVILLE}-B{ARKER} (1947, 2:378): Portia’s “appeal at its very height” does not “disturb the even music of the verse. For with her such feelings do not ebb and flow; they lie deep down, they are a faith. She is, as we should say, all all of a piece.” S{HAHEEN} (1987, p. 86): Sh. obviously alludes to doctrine of One Flesh. See Mt. 19.5-6; Gen. 2.24; Eph. 5.31 as source.
     915 to me, your selfe; your halfe] T{HIRLBY} (MS 1747) conj.: “to me, your half, your self.”  Cf. 924, “your Selfe.”  F{URNESS} (v1913) deplores the tendency of 19th c. eds. to emend to “yourself”:  “The later mode of printing ‘your self’ as one word seems to me wrong; it makes Portia ask Brutus, and not another person, to tell her why he is heavy, but is not ‘self’ here in apposition to ‘me’?  Does she not mean that she is his self, just as she goes on to say that she is his ‘half,’ and as, indeed, she does call herself in [924]?” I.e., “Am I your Selfe.” H{UMPHREYS} (OXF4, 1984): “That one’s marriage partner is one’s (other) self or (better) half is proverbial,” e.g., T{ILLEY} (1950, H49). Cf. 896 and CN.
     921 gentle Brutus] Both T{HIRLBY} (MS 1747) and S{TAUNTON} (ed. 1860) bifurcate the two words with a comma. F{URNESS} (v1913) argues that this “detracts somewhat from the force of Portia’s reply. Brutus has called her ‘gentle Portia,’ and she answers that she would not have to kneel if he were gentle also.”
     925 in sort, or limitation] C{RAIK} (1857, p. 153): “Only in a manner, in a degree, in some qualified or limited sense.” J{OHN} H{UNTER} (ed. 1861): “in some sort, or in a qualified sense.”  G{OLLANCZ} (ed. 1896, Glossary): “in a manner, after a fashion. C{HARNEY} (BOB, 1969): “conditionally or with restricted tenure,” legal terms suggested by the contract, or “Bond of Marriage” (922).
     926 To keepe with you at Meales, comfort your Bed] P{LUTARCH} (1579, “Brutus,” p. 1060): “perceiuing her husbande was maruelouslie out of quiet, and that he coulde take no rest: euen in her greatest payne of all [i.e. from the self-inflicted wound], she spake in this sorte vnto him. I being, O Brutus, (sayed she) the daughter of Cato, was maried vnto thee, not to be thy beddefellowe and companion in bedde and at borde onelie, like a harlot: but to be partaker also with thee, of thy good and euill fortune.” T{HEOBALD} (1730) in  N{ICHOLS} (1817, 2:494) suggests emending “comfort” to “consort.” I{DEM} (ed. 1733): “This is but an odd Phrase, and gives as odd an idea. The Word, I have substituted, seems much more proper; and is one of our Poet’s own Usage.” U{PTON} (1746, pp. 172-3) disagrees: “this good old word, however disused thro’ modern refinement, was not so discarded by Shakespeare.” He cites as evidence Henry VIII’s use of  “comfortable” in commendation of his first wife’s obedience in Cavendish’s Life of Wolsey (1557) and also the wording of the Marriage Service, which C{OLLINS} (apud v1778) later cites, a man’s promise to comfort his wife, as well as Baret’s Alvearie [1578, 1580, s.v. Comfort]: “to recreate, to solace, to make pastime.” M{ALONE}(ed. 1790) cites Alexander’s JC: “I was not, Brutus, match’d with thee, to be / A partner only of thy board and bed, / Each servile whore in those might equal me.” C{RAIK} (1857, p. 154): “keepe with you” = “keep company with you”; “comfort” = “relieve, assist, or encourage.”  F{URNESS} (v1913): both Sh. and Alexander rely heavily on Plutarch for this thought.
     927 to you . . . in the] C{RAIK} (1857, p. 154) and W{ALKER} (1860, 1:221) suggest elisions to “t’you” and “i’th’.” F{URNESS} (v1913): “Prosodically, this line is obviously wrong; the rhythm is, however, really smooth, and rather than mutilate it, would it not be better to divide the line into two impassioned sentences? And yet, after all, in the mouth of an accomplished actress it could be uttered musically and no discord felt.”
     927-9 Suburbs . . . Harlot] S{TEEVENS} (v1778, 8:43): “Perhaps here is an allusion to the place in which the harlots of Shakespeare’s age resided.” J{ACKSON} (1819, pp. 278-9): “Portia compares the heart of Brutus to an enclosed city, wherein, if she dwells not, she considers herself  as merely an object of dalliance for his amorous moments; and that, without his confidence, she is as far removed from his heart as is the house of a courtezan from the city.” See MM 1.2.104-6 (190-3): “But shall all our houses of resort in the Suburbs be puld downe? To the ground, Mistris.” J{OHN} H{UNTER} (ed. 1861): “outside the walls of the citadel, the heart.”  F{URNESS} (v1913) cites several examples of that associate suburbs with prostitution, yet emphasizes Sidney’s usage in Arcadia, which “shows, moreover, that the idea is not as extraordinary as at first it might seem, and may be used without the slightest reference to a dissolute life.” C{OLMAN} (1974, p. 65):  Plutarch is Sh.’s source for the lines, including the word “Harlot.”  By supplying “the connotations of suburbs, associated with brothelry, the dramatist is intensifying Portia’s sarcasm to a degree which is fully characteristic of her as she appears in the play.”  OED (suburb n.1) uses some examples that associate this outlying part of a city with prostitution, but relegates this type of meaning primarily to a less common usage (suburb n.4b): “Belonging to or characteristic of the suburbs (of London) as a place of inferior, debased, and esp. licentious habits of life. . . . Obs.”
     930 You are my true and honourable Wife] B{OAS} (1896, p. 467): “This absolute communion of soul is in designed contrast to the shallow relation of Cæsar and Calpurnia. The dictator treats his wife as a child to be humoured or not according to his caprice, but Portia assumes that, ‘by the right and virtue of her place,’ she is entitled to share her husband’s inmost thoughts. Brutus discloses to her the secret which lies so heavily upon his breast, and we know that this secret is inviolably safe in her keeping.” G{RANVILLE}-B{ARKER} (1947, 2:355): “let no one imagine that the effect of this lies in the lines themselves. It has been won by his long impassiveness; by his listening, as we listen to Portia, till he and we too are overwrought.”
     931-2 the ruddy droppes / That visit my sad heart] S{TEEVENS} (v1793) contends that Thomas Gray borrows these lines: “Dear, as the ruddy drops that warm my heart” (“The Bard: A Pindaric Ode,” 41).  N{IMMO} (1844) apud F{URNESS} (v1913): The lines may be evidence that Sh. obtained Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood from personal acquaintance; it was not published until 1628, based on his dissections in 1616.  “There appears to me to run through the whole play a more medical spirit than is to be found in any other of his works.”  Blood is frequently invoked in the play. P{ETTIGREW} (1839, p. 8): Harvey was abroad between 1592-1604 and could not have served as Sh.’s tutor.  Other anatomists were “on the confines of the discovery” although Harvey alone deserves credit for making it, albeit long after JC.  The theologian and physician Michael Servetus was the first European to describe the circulation of the blood, in his treatise Christianismi Restitutio (1553). S{INGER} (ed. 1856): “Shakespeare anticipates Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood.” B{UCKNILL} (1860, pp. 213-15): Sh. held the Galenic doctrine that blood visits the right side of the heart, but is impelled by the liver.  The heart’s function is to distribute the vital spirits.  See 2H4 4.4.58 (2437): “The blood weepes from my heart.” It does not necessarily demonstrate that Sh. knew the theory of circulation. D{A} C{OSTA} (1879, p. 36): although there are several passages in Sh. that are similar, there is no evidence that he knew Harvey or was acquainted with his concept, although he was “as far-seeing a physiologist as any of  his age.” B{ILLSON} (1887, p. 26): “a manifest allusion to the circulation of the blood” which Sh. must have learned from Harvey after 1603.
     936 I graunt I am a Woman] G{RANVILLE}-B{ARKER} (1947, 2:379): in this line and the three following, “The repeated phrase and the stressed consonants give the verse a sudden vigor.”
     937 well reputed:] W{ARBURTON} (ed. 1747): “This false pointing should be corrected thus, A woman well reputed Cato’s daughter. i.e. worthy of my birth, and the relation I bear to Cato. This indeed was a good reason why she should be intrusted with the secret. But the false pointing, which gives a sense only implying that she was a woman of good character, and that she was Cato’s daughter, gives no good reason:  For she might be Cato’s daughter, and yet not inherit his firmness; and she might be a woman well reputed, and yet not the best at a secret. But if she was well reputed Cato’s daughter, that is, worthy of her birth, she could neither want her father’s love to her country, nor his resolution to engage in its deliverance.” C{APELL} (1783, 1:2:103): Portia is well reputed because of her parentage, not for “general goodness.” Sh. meant for the following epithet, “Cato’s Daughter,” to stand in a causal relationship to the phrase it follows.  H{ENLEY} (apud v1793): well reputed because she is Brutus’ wife. The addition of the epithet suggests that she also claims her father’s patriotic virtues. She pairs the two men again in 938-9,  i.e.,  “It is with propriety, therefore, that she immediately asks: ‘Think you, I am no stronger than my sex / Being so fathered and so husbanded?’” C{RAIK} (1857, p. xxvi) notes the other occurrence of this allusion in the canon in MV 1.1.165-6 (174-5): “Her name is Portia, nothing vndervallewd / To Cato’s daughter, Brutus Portia.” He suggests that the JC passage is the “germ” of the one in MV, a play written by 1598. S{TAUNTON} (ed. 1860) supports a CE to well-reputed.  Cf. also 2614 and CN.
     939 Being so Father’d, and so Husbanded?] H{UMPHREYS} (OXF4, 1984) notes these are the first examples cited of these participial adjectives in OED, the latter in the sense of  “having a husband.”
     940 Counsels] J{ERVIS} (1868, p. 75,  Counsel): “A secret.”  See Rom. 2.2.53 (848): “What man art thou, that thus bescreen’d in night / So stumblest on my counsell?”; Wiv. 467 (2351): “I will (at the least) keepe your counsell”; Ham. 4.2.11 (2641): “That I can keepe your counsell and not mine owne.”
     941 Constancie] C{RAIK} (1857, p. 149): “Constancy in outward form or aspect; the appearance, at any rate, of perfect freedom from anxiety and the weight of our great design.” C{LARKE} & C{LARKE} (1879, 3:643): This word appears with its derivatives seven times in JC (941, 1151, 1228, 1268, 1280, 1281), each time expressing “self-possession,” “firmness,” “steadiness.”
     942 Giuing my selfe a voluntary wound] This is a vexed issue in the intermingled critical and performance histories of the play.  It is by no means clear whether Portia shows her husband a wound that she has already inflicted on herself, or if the actress is supposed to stab her thigh onstage. Both approaches have been used and seem equally effective as theater. 18th and 19th c. commentators and eds. tend to be silent on the issue, no doubt because of the anatomical proximity to “the woman’s part,” as well as the implicit psychosexual associations that the wound itself, or the very giving of it, creates.  At least some 18th c. productions changed the location, since the line reads in D{RYDEN} & D{AVENANT} (1719, p. 27): “Giving my self a voluntary Wound / Here, in the Arm.” Even into the early 20th c., critics tend not to mention the thigh, simply the wound—again, almost certainly, because of the conventions of women’s clothing before the rising of hemlines and the indecency to Victorians and Edwardians of even using the word “leg,” as opposed to “limb.”  The 1953 Mankiewicz film production cuts the lines entirely, doubtless for the same reasons. The Baroque painter Elisabetta Sirani’s Portia Wounding Her Thigh (1664), at Cornell University, depicts a small gash, although fairly high up.   P{LUTARCH} (1579, “Brutus,” p. 1060): “This young Ladie being excellentlie well seene in Philosophie, louing her husbande well, and being of a noble courage, as she was also wife: bicause she woulde not aske her husbande what he ayled before she had made some proofe by her selfe, she tooke a litle rasor suche as barbers occupie to pare mens nayles, and causing all her maydes and women to goe out of her chamber, gaue her selfe a great gashe withall in her thigh, that she was straight all of a goare bloode, and incontinentlie after, a vehement feuer tooke her, by reason of the payne of her wounde.”  J{AMESON} (1833, p. 330): Brutus is a Stoic, and “In Portia there is the same profound and passionate feeling, and all her sex’s softness and timidity, held in check by that self-discipline, that stately dignity, which she thought became a woman ‘so fathered and so husbanded.’ The fact of her inflicting on herself a voluntary wound to try her own fortitude is perhaps the strongest proof of this disposition.” H{UDSON} (1872, 2: 238): “Portia gives herself that gash without flinching, and bears it without a murmur, as an exercise and proof of manly fortitude; and she translates her pains into smiles, all to comfort and support her husband.  So long as this purpose lends her strength, she is fully equal to her thought, because here her heart keeps touch perfectly with her head.”  G{RANVILLE}-B{ARKER} (1947, 2:379): “To this, with imperceptibly accumulating force, with that one flash of pride for warning, the whole scene has led. A single stroke, powerful in its reticence, as fine in itself as it is true to Portia.” M. D. F{ABER} (1965-66, p. 111): Portia’s wounding behavior closely resembles masochism, pathologically self-destructive and self-abnegating. It is “rooted in an exaggerated dependence upon her spouse.” B{ROOKE} (1968, p. 154): This provides an odd contrast with Brutus’ reluctance to shed blood.  The “emblem” in the action suggests “the physical brutality of the society,” but it seems “a striking incident in Plutarch for which Shakespeare has not discovered a sufficiently explicit relevance.” B{ROWER} (1971, p. 212): the wound is “her grand Stoic gesture.” M{IOLA} (1983, p. 94): “The wound in the thigh, so proximate to the genitals as to become a metonym for them, is a misogynic self-mutilation that negates [her] earlier arguments.  To his discredit (and to Rome’s), Brutus finds this Roman display of constancy more persuasive than the appeals based on shared love and the great vow of marriage.” P{ASTER} (1993, pp. 284-98): Women are involuntary bleeders, incontinent leakers, which makes them shameful and inferior, very much the Weaker Vessel.  Therefore, if a man bleeds, and it’s not voluntary, it feminizes him. This especially true of the murdered Caesar.  Religious associations, esp. Christ, can masculinize, but important to remember, esp. according to Caroline Walker Bynum’s book Jesus as Mother, that the nurturing quality of Christ’s sacramental blood is a kind of nursing, mothering.  So, Caesar’s feminization in relationship to the conspirators and must be contrasted with Portia’s masculine, self-willed wounding. M{ARSHALL} (1994, pp. 471-98): the wound should be portrayed onstage, not ex post facto.  Moreover, the traditional, masculinist type of psychoanalytic interpretation “serves to bolster a male order,” and so Freudian readings of Portia’s wound are in some ways sexist as well as naive. Though her “behaviour may be pathological, it has identifiable social and cultural causes. She rebels against a social contract that relegates her to the private sphere of inaction, and that breaks the emotional bonds between her and Brutus.”  Therefore, it is not necessarily masochism. Instead, “she converts psychic suffering into physical.”  She invokes Julia Kristeva’s theory of female terrorists who make themselves agents of violence in order to combat their own frustration with their lot. So Portia.  Her “suicide, as well as her ‘voluntary wound,’ manifest the unacknowledged violence with which she has been thrust aside by Brutus personally and the male order more generally.  Staging herself as both agent and victim of violence, she attempts to close the circle of a significant violence within herself. These two acts of personal violence indicate an apparently obsessive need to literalise, to embody, conflict and suffering.” M{ILES} (1996, p. 132): “Portia makes ‘strong proof of [her] constancy’ by giving herself ‘a voluntary wound’ and concealing her pain . . . proving herself more constant than Brutus, who has been unable to hide his perturbation from her.”  K{AHN} (1997, p. 101): “It is above all by wounding herself that she imitates a man’s constancy. That wound destabilizes the gendered concept of virtue in several ways. First, that this virtue might be imitated by a woman de-naturalizes it and suggests that it isn’t native to the male gender; it is learned behaviour.  . . . the site . . . in her thigh, hints ambiguously at a genital wound—what psychoanalysis would take to be the wound of castration, signifying that she as a woman lacks the phallus, symbol of power in a patriarchal society.”  It fortells the suicides of Cassius and Brutus. All of these wounds “demonstrate the fleshly vulnerability, the capacity to be penetrated, that marks woman.”
     946 Render me worthy of this Noble Wife] P{LUTARCH} (1579, “Brutus,” p. 1061): “she shewed him her wounde on her thigh, and tolde him what she had done to proue her selfe. Brutus was amazed to heare what she sayd vnto him, and lifting vp his hands to heauen, he besought the goddes to geue him the grace he might bring his enterprise to so good passe, that he might be founde a husband, worthie of so noble a wife as Porcia: so he then did comfort her the best he coulde.” M{AC}C{ALLUM} (1910, p. 326): “What insight Shakespeare shows even in his omissions!  This is the prayer of Plutarch’s Brutus too, but he lifts up his hands and beseeches the gods that he may ‘bring his enterprise to so goode passe that he mighte be founde a husband worthy of so noble a wife as Porcia.’ Shakespeare’s Brutus does not view his worthiness as connected with any material success. And these words are also an evidence of his humblemindedness. However aggressive and overbearing he may appear in certain relations, we never fail to see his essential modesty. If he interferes, as often enough he does, to bow others to his will, it is not because he is self-conceited, but because he is convinced that a particular course is right; and where right is concerned a man must come forward to enforce it.”
     950 All my engagements] H{UMPHREYS} (OXF4, 1984): “all I am pledged to do.”
     951 All the Charractery of my sad browes] C{APELL} (1783 [1774], 1:glos., charactery): “Writing, the Characters us’d in it.” S{TEEVENS} (v1778): “i.e., all that is character’d on.” See Wiv. 5.5.73 (2555): “Faeries vse Flowres for their characterie.” S{INGER} (ed. 1826): “Charractery” should be  “defined ‘writing by characters or strange marks.’ . . . Brutus therefore means that he will divulge to her the secret cause of the sadness marked on his countenance.”  H{UDSON} (ed. 1855) repeats Singer verbatim without credit. C{RAIK} (1857, p. 155): “All that is charactered or expressed by my saddened aspect.” He notes that the same word occurs in Wiv.  5.5.73 (2654). F{URNESS} (v1913) cites NED, i.e., OED (charactery n.1), which quotes the present line to help define Charractery: “Expression of thought by symbols or characters; the characters or symbols collectively.”OED (n.1.b): shorthand, as in the title of Timothy Bright’s Characterie, an Arte of Short, Swifte, and Secrete Writing (1588).