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JULIUS CÆSAR was first published in the Folio of 1623. The Cambridge editors justly emphasise the extreme correctness of the text there given, and conjecture that this play 'may have been (as the preface falsely implied that all were) printed from the original MS. of the author.' It was entered in the Stationers' Register, November 8, 1623, among the plays of Shakespeare 'not formerly entered to other men,' and then first published.
The most important evidence for the date of Julius Cæsar is the following passage in Weever's Mirror of Martyrs, or the Life and Death of Sir John Oldcastle (printed in 1601):
The many-headed multitude were drawn
By Brutus' speech, that Cæsar was ambitious.
His virtues, who but Brutus then was vicious ? Shakespeare's only known source, Plutarch, merely mentions the funeral speech of Brutus; summarises Antony's in three lines of quite a different purport; and knows nothing of the 'many-headed multitude's' ready change of front, exhibited with peculiarly Shakespearean sarcasm in the play. The inference is forcible that Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar was already familiar to the stage when Weever wrote.
Weever, however, tells us that his Mirror was some two years ago [i.e. in 1599] made fit for print.' The style and metre of Julius Cæsar are compatible enough with the date of Henry V. But its close and numerous links between our play and Hamlet speak for the date 1600-1; and the lost play of Cæsar's Fall on which, in 1602, Webster, Middleton, Munday, Drayton, were at work for the rival company would have been a somewhat tardy counterblast to an old piece of 1599. Other signs of the deep impression it made point to the later date. Julius Cæsar was certainly not unconcerned in the revival of the fashion for tragedies of revenge with a ghost in them, which suddenly set in with Marston's Antonio and Mellida and Chettle's Hoffman in 1601. Jonson made his own fashions. But the sudden appearance of the man of little Latin in the arena of Roman tragedy put him on his mettle, and there can be little doubt that his massive Sejanus (1603) conveyed an unavowed challenge.? If Julius Cæsar, however, greatly stimulated tragedy at large, it struck a blight upon the dramas of Cæsar's death, hitherto a very flourishing growth. After the abortive effort of Henslowe's men, and Alexander's probably quite independent tragedy, printed in Scotland in 1604,3 no English poet again attempted to vie with Shakespeare. In rude German prose Julius Caesar was repeatedly acted by the comedians abroad. A puppet-play, doubtless founded on the drama, is mentioned in
1 With which it is in fact form in 1607 (still affirmed in classed, on purely metrical his Life of Shakespeare, p. 214). grounds, by the latest investi- 3 Julius Cæsar, by William gator of Shakespeare's metre, Alexander, afterwards Earl of Goswin König (Der Vers in Stirling. It was republished in Sh.'s Dramen, p. 137).
London, 1607. It is a learned 2 It will suffice to mention work. here Mr. Fleay's belief that 4 First at Dresden, 1626 Jonson abridged and corrected (Creizenach, Schauspiele d.engl. Julius Cæsar into its present Com. p. xlii).
1605. A century later the Duke of Buckingham divided the play into two tragedies, Cæsar and Brutus, neither of which was ever performed. 1 And in Voltaire's Brutus and La Mort de César Shakespeare achieved his first (as yet very qualified) triumphs over the dramatic traditions of the Continent.
The suggestion that Julius Cæsar was prompted by the conspiracy of Essex in January to February 1601 (Furnivall, Acad., September 18, 1875, and Preface to Leopold Shakspere) is interesting, but the links are far too slender to support any inference as to the date.
As has just been stated, the Fall of Cæsar was familiar on English stages before Shakespeare wrote, as well as the kindred subject of Cæsar and Pompey, - a kind of First Part to the History. early (and perhaps mythical) Julius Cæsar recorded to have been performed at Whitehall in 1562 possibly included both. A lost play, Cæsar Interfectus, by Dr. Eedes, was acted at Oxford in 1582. Gosson mentions a Cesar and Pompey in his School of Abuse (1579), and Henslowe another in his Diary (1594). None of these survives, but Shakespeare seems to be cognisant of their existence. His opening scene is addressed to a public familiar with the history of Pompey and Pompey's sons ;2 Polonius' description of his performance of the murdered Cæsar at the University, indicates that that subject was in vogue there; and some apparently purposeless deviations from Plutarch are probably concessions to established dramatic or literary tradition. Thus the famous 'Et tu Brute' had occurred in the True
1 The Tragedy of Cæsar and The Tragedy of Brutus, both printed 1722.
Their relation to Similarly v. I. 102 implies the original has been elaborately familiarity with the suicide of handled by O. Mielck, J.B. xxiv. Cato,
Tragedy (1595); and Chaucer already placed the murder in the Capitol instead of in Pompey's Curia, though Shakespeare still makes Cæsar's bleeding body lie along the base of Pompey's statue.
But Shakespeare undoubtedly drew his materials substantially from Plutarch's lives of Cæsar, Brutus, and Antony, as translated by Sir Thomas North." The translations had probably become as early familiar to him, and interested him as keenly, as the nearly contemporary folio of Holinshed. In now closing his Holinshed and opening his Plutarch Shakespeare turned from a homely though picturesque annalist to a philosophic and sentimental biographer, from a naïve chronicler of events to a literary and self-conscious exponent of men. For Plutarch personality was, if not the supreme, certainly the most attractive and intelligible factor in history; public events interested him by their bearing upon character, and his peculiar art and charm lay in following his heroes among the intimacies of their private life, and allowing them to reveal themselves in their familiar converse, their table-talk, their memorable epigrams and repartees. He had, moreover, the moralist's eye for ethical problems, for conflicts of motive and passion and conscience. And neither of these traits can have been
1 The Lives of the Noble tions, and the Lives in question Grecians, compared together by in Hazlitt's Shakspeare's Library. that grave learned philosopher There is an exhaustive study of and historiographer PLUTARKE Shakespeare's use of Plutarch OF CHAERONIA, As the title. by Delius in J.B. xvii. 67. page candidly states, North had 2 Bassanio's comparison of translated the French translation Portia to her namesake 'Cato's of Amyot, to which his own daughter, Brutus' Portia' (Mer. owes something of its relative of Ven. i. 1. 166); Portia's accomplishment, as prose, and own name ; and the deep admira few errors (e.g. Decius for ation for Cæsar betrayed by a Decimus Brutus). North is re- host of earlier allusions all printed in the Tuder Transla. indicate this.
without relish for an intellect ripening towards the profounder psychology and the graver questionings of Measure for Measure, Hamlet, and Cæsar. Hence, while Holinshed had furnished little more than the outline of the action to Richard III. or Richard II., the far subtler tragic conflict of Brutus, with almost every detail of the action, and a hundred vivid traits of character, are already clearly foreshadowed in Plutarch. But it is in the drama that the implicit eloquence of the subject is first revealed. The means by which this effected are, however, wonderfully simple. The language, though charged with poetry, is of a pellucid simplicity which Shakespeare had rarely approached; and through large tracts of it Plutarch's pedestrian narrative survives, only lifted to a higher potency and purged of the last suggestion of banality and rhetoric. But at a few decisive points Shakespeare intervenes. Brutus' monologue in ii. 1. is wholly original. Of his oration after Cæsar's death, Plutarch records merely that it was designed “to win the favour of the people and to justify that they had done.'1 Shakespeare gives him a speech strikingly unlike any of his other speeches in style, though full of his character;2 a speech
1 Even these words strictly willingly.' The model of such describe a previous harangue on a speech, in a parallel situation, the Capitol.
Shakespeare had at hand, as 2 The style of Brutus' speech Mr. Gollancz has plausibly sug. was evidently adopted on Plu- gested, in the harangue of Belletarch's hint that in writing forest's Hamlet to the people Greek he affected 'the brief com- after killing the king (cf. also pendious manner of speech of Kuno Fischer, Hamlet, p. 104). the Lacedæmonians'; writing One more of the inexhaustible e.g. to the Pergamenians : 'I points of contact between the understand you have given Dola- two plays, and one niore indicabella money; if you have done tion that Belleforest was known it willingly, you confess you
have to Shakespeare, though the first offended me; if against your attested English edition is of wills, show it then by giving me 1608.