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that attempts to explain the rudiments of NVS editing, with a brief passage from our edition as an example, the climax of the confrontation between Portia and Brutus, 2.1.298-303 (TLN 941-6).*

This powerful moment, of considerable emotional import and therefore crucial to any production of Julius Caesar, has garnered prodigious commentary on matters such as Portia’s wound. Therefore, it provides a useful example for illustrating some basic components of any NVS edition: the copy text (CT); the Plan of the Work (PW); the Textual Notes (TN); the list of unadopted conjectural emendations (UCE); the commentary notes (CN); and the Performance Index (PI).

For a fuller explanation of each element, click on the corresponding link. Each linked page sets the passage in the larger context of the entire exchange between the couple, between Portia’s entrance and ensuing exit (TLN 873-952).

The citations in ALL CAPS in the TN and UCE and in S{MALL} C{APS} in the CN refer to elements in the Plan of the Work (PW).

*Note: for all lineation in the commentary and textual notes, we use the NVS system of Through Line Numbers, (TLN), notation that represents the complete lineation of a text, including, for example, stage directions and act or scene divisions.

This is the copy text (CT), the First Folio of 1623 (F1):
I haue made strong proofe of my Constancie,
Giuing my selfe a voluntary wound
Heere, in the Thigh: Can I beare that with patience,
And not my Husbands Secrets?
  Bru. O ye Gods!                                                              945
Render me worthy of this Noble Wife.                Knocke.
These are the textual notes (TN), a list of significant emendations and a record of the historical collation of variants in other editions:
944-5 One line mCAP2, v1793+ (-RANN, CRK)
These are the unadopted conjectural emendations (UCE), preserved as part of the history of emending the text. They occupy this place for demonstration purposes only. In a New Variorum edition, they would be relegated to an appendix:
944  Secrets]  secret  CAPN (V.R. p. 17, item 32.16)
946 Knocke]  Om.  m{FL}
These are the commentary notes (CN), which 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).
     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.”
This is the same passage annotated by our predecessor, H. H. Furness, in the1913 Variorum edition.
The Performance Index (PI) accounts for the major productions of Julius Caesar from 1599 to the present day, and provides an authoritative theatrical history of the play.