« PreviousContinue »
perhaps to be found in Belleforest's History of Hamlet. Chapter VI. (in the earliest extant English version) tells, “ How Hamlet, having slain his Uncle, and burnt his Palace, made an Oration to the Danes to shew them what he had done”; &c. The situation of Hamlet is almost identical with that of Brutus after he has dealt the blow, and the burden of Hamlet's too lengthy speech finds an echo in Brutus' sententious utterance. The verbose iteration of the Dane has been compressed to suit 6 the brief compendious manner of speech of the Lacedæmonians."*
References to Julius Cæsar in Shakespeare's Notes. Scattered throughout the plays there are many other striking references to "mighty Cæsar.” The following is a fairly full list of the more important allusions :- As You Like It (V. ii. 34-35); 2 Henry IV. (1. i. 20-24; IV. iii. 45-46); Henry V. (Chorus Act V.); 1 Henry VI. (1. i. 55-56; I. ii. 138-139); 2 Henry VI. (IV. i. 136-138 ; IV. vii. 65); 3 Henry VI.(V. v.53); Richard III. (III. i. 69); Measure for Measure (III. ii. 45-46); Cymbeline (II. iv. 20-23 ; III. i. 49-52). The catastrophe of the play finds, of course, its real culmination in the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra ; two direct allusions to Julius Cesar are noteworthy :-Act II. vi. 14-18, Act III. ii. 53-56. Observe, also, the reference to " Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia," in Merchant of Venice (I. i. 165-166).
Duration of Action. The time of Julius Cæsar is six days represented on the stage, with intervals, arranged as follows:
Day 1, Act I. Sc. i., ii. Interval. Day 2, Act I, Sc. iii. Day 3, Acts II., III. Interval. Day 4, Act IV. Sc. i. Interval. Day 5, Act IV. Sc. ii., iii. Interval. Day 6, Act V. The historical period extends from Cæsar's Triumph, October, 45 B.C., to the Battle of Philippi, in the autumn of the year 42 B.C.
Plays on “Julius Cæsar." (i) There is no doubt as to the popularity of the subject of Julius Cæsar on the English stage before the
* I draw attention to the following sentences taken at random from the English translation (dated 1608), without entering into the question of Shakespeare's acquaintance with Belleforest in the original French (vide Preface to Hamlet) :—" If there be any among you, good people of Denmark, that as yet have fresh within your memories the wrong done to the valiant King Horvendile, let him not be moved, etc. . . . If there te any man that affecteth fidelity ... let him not be ashamed beholding this massacre.
The hand that hath done this justice could not affect it by any other means. . . And what mad man is he that delighteth more in the tyranny of Fengon than in the clemency and renewed courtesy of Horvendile ? And what man is he, that having any spark of wisdom, etc. I perceive you are attentive, and abashed for not knowing the author of your deliverance." (The whole speech should be read in Collier's Reprint of the History of Hamlet, Shakespeare Library.)
appearance of Shakespeare's play, though it is extremely doubtful whether the latter owes anything to its predecessors, unless it be the phrase “ Et tu, Brute," which may indirectly have been derived from Dr Eedes' play of Cæsaris Interfecti, acted at Oxford in 1582. Gosson, in his School of Abuse, 1579, mentions Cæsar and Pompey'; while from Machyn's Diary it is inferred that • Julius Cæsar' was represented at Whitehall as early as 1562, but this is somewhat doubtful.
According to Henslowe's Diary, " the Tragedy of Cesar and Pompey; or Cæsar's Revenge" was produced in 1594.
(ii) The present play evidently called forth rival productions, and gave a fresh interest to the subject,* for we find that a play entitled Cæsar's Fall was, in 1602, being prepared by Munday, Drayton, Webster, Middleton, and others. In 1604 William Alexander, Lord Stirling, published in Scotland his “ Julius Cæsar," which was re-published in England some three years later.
A droll or puppet-show on the same subject is mentioned by Marston in 1605, and by Jonson in 1609.
Cesar's Tragedy acted at Court, 10th April, 1613, was possibly Shakespeare's play (vide Note, supra).
(In Fletcher's Maid's Tragedy (circa 1608) the quarrel between Brutus and Cassius is imitated.)
(iii) After the publication of the First Folio we have Thomas May's Latin play, 1625, and George Chapman's “ Cesar ana Pompey: a Roman Tragedy, declaring their wars, out of whose events is evicted this proposition that only a just man is a free man."
(iv) In 1719 Davenant and Dryden published their alteration of Shakespeare's play, adapting it to the tastes of their day. To about the same period belongs Voltaire's “ Le Brutus," an interesting document illustrative of the slow appreciation of Shakespeare on the Continent; its introductory essay on • Tragedy' is almost as instructive as the text. No play of Shakespeare's has been more popular, and probably none has become more widely known, translated into strangest dialects, so that the words spoken by Cassius have a prophetic significance in a sense other than that intended by their inspired author :
“bow many ages bence
* The popularity of Shakespeare's play is in all probability attested by Leonard Digges' verses prefixed to the First Folio (1623) :
" Or till I hear a scene more nobly take
Than when thy half-sword parlying Romans spake,'' etc.
The piece of Julius Cæsar,' to complete the action, requires to be continued to the fall of Brutus and Cassius. Cæsar is not the hero of the piece, but Brutus. The amiable beauty of his character, his feeling and patriotic heroism, are portrayed with peculiar care. Yet the poet has pointed out with great nicety the superiority of Cassius over Brutus in independent volition and discernment in judging of human affairs ; that the latter, from the purity of his mind, and his conscientious love of justice, is unfit to be the head of a party in a state entirely corrupted ; and that these very faults give an unfortunate turn to the cause of the conspirators. In the part of Cæsar, several ostentatious speeches have been censured as unsuitable. But as he never appears in action, we have no other measure of his greatness than the impression which he makes upon the rest of the characters, and his peculiar confidence in himself. In this, Cæsar was by no means deficient, as we learn from history and his own writings; but he displayed it more in the easy ridicule of his enemies than in pompous discourses. The theatrical effect of this play is injured by a partial falling off of the last two acts, compared with the preceding, in external splendour and rapidity. The first appearance of Cæsar in festal robes, when the music stops, and all are silent whenever he opens his mouth, and when the few words which he utters are received as oracles, is truly magnificent; the conspiracy is a true conspiracy, which, in stolen interviews and in the dead of night, prepares the blow which is to be struck in open day, and which is to change the constitution of the world ;--the confused thronging before the murder of Cæsar, the general agitation even of the perpetrators after the deed, are all portrayed with most masterly skill; with the funeral procession and the speech of Antony, the effect reaches its utmost height. Cæsar's shade is more powerful to avenge his fall than he himself was to guard against it. After the overthrow of the external splundour and greatness of the conqueror and ruler of the world, the intrinsic grandeur of character of Brutus and Cassius is all that remains to fill the stage and occupy the minds of the spectators : suitably to their name, as the last of the Romans, they stand there, in some degree alone; and the forming of a great and hazardous determination is more powerfully calculated to excite our expectation, than the supporting the consequences of the deed with heroic firmness.
conspirators against Julius Cesar.
friends to Brutus and Cassius.
servants to Brutus.
PINDARUS, servant to Cassius.
CALPURNIA, wife to Cæsar.
Senators, Citizens, Guards, Attendants, &c. SCENE: Rome; the neighbourhood of Sardis ; the neighbourhood of Philippie
The Tragedy of Julius Cæsar.
Rome. A street.
Enter Flavius, Marullus, and certain Commoners. Flav. Hence ! home, you idle creatures, get you home :
Is this a holiday? what! know you not,
Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou ?
What dost thou with thy best apparel on?
You, sir, what trade are you?
I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.
safe conscience, which is indeed, sir, a mender
of bad soles. Mar. What trade, thou knave? thou naughty knave, what
be out, sir, I can mend you. Mar. What mean'st thou by that? mend me, thou