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CASSIUS: Have not you love enough to bear with me,
When that rash humor which my mother gave me
Makes me forgetful?

W. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, ACT 4 SCENE 3

What is Cassius referring to? Who was his mother? I couldn't find the answer online.

P.S. Modernised text from NoFearShakespeare:

Do you have enough love for me to be patient when my bad temper, which I inherited from my mother, makes me forget how I should behave?

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I would paraphrase "rash humour" as irascible temper or fickle temper. Based on what Brutus said earlier, Cassius does not so much have a persisting angry mood; his character is better described as choleric (emphasis mine):

O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
That carries anger as the flint bears fire;
Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark,
And straight is cold again.

Shakespeare's main source for Julius Caesar is Plutarch's "Life of Brutus" (from the Parallel Lives as translated by Thomas North. Here's the relevant description of Cassius in The Life of Marcus Brutus:

And as for Cassius, a hot, choleric, and cruel man, that would oftentimes be carried away from justice for gain, it was certainly thought that he made war and put himself into sundry dangers, more to have absolute power and authority than to defend the liberty of his country.

Plutarch does not mention Cassius's mother, so it appears that Shakespeare made up the claim that Cassius inherited his irascible temper from her. It is less clear why Shakespeare would add this sort of detail. However, Brutus goes on to say,

(...) from henceforth,
When you are over-earnest with your Brutus,
He'll think your mother chides, and leave you so.

Possibly, the two men use Cassius's mother as a figurative lightning rod, i.e. as a means of diverting blame for Cassius's irascibility to someone else, in order to make their own working relationship less vulnerable to Cassius's temper.


Update: Rand al'Thor wrote in a comment:

I can't find a good source, but I think it's a standard expression in English (especially older English such as Shakespeare's) to say that an attribute was given you by your mother just meaning you had it from birth.

My paraphrase as "inherited" is based on two editions of Julius Caesar: one by Norman Sanders (New Penguin Shakespeare) and one by T. S. Dorsch (Aden Shakespeare, 1965, reprinted 1983). Both editors use the term "inherited". Note that in this context, it is difficult to claim that Cassius did not get his irascible temper from his mother (i.e. that it is a trait he was born with without his mother having anything to do with it), due to Brutus's answer.

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    Wouldn't an alternative interpretation of "which my mother gave me" be simply that he had that temper from birth (it was 'given by his mother' along with everything else he was born with) rather than that she had the same temper? – Rand al'Thor Nov 30 at 19:52
  • @Randal'Thor How would his mother then have "given" him that sort of temper if not by passing it on? Since Shakespeare invented the claim, what would the alternative explanation be based on? – IkWeetHetOokNiet Dec 1 at 19:52
  • I can't find a good source, but I think it's a standard expression in English (especially older English such as Shakespeare's) to say that an attribute was given you by your mother just meaning you had it from birth. Not sure if this is the best example, but cf. "I carry from my mother’s womb / A fanatic heart", which I take to mean "I always had a fanatic heart" rather than "my mother had a fanatic heart and I inherited it". – Rand al'Thor Dec 1 at 19:59
  • @Randal'Thor How would that expression apply in this context, due to Brutus's answer, which says "[he]'ll think your mother chides"? – IkWeetHetOokNiet Dec 2 at 15:45

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