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Parnassus, by the author of the Return from Parnaf-
7 The persons represented in this play (which is in my poffeffion) are – Duke; Fidelio; Aspero; Hortenfio; Borgias; Picentio ; Count Gismond; Fernese; Bentivoglio; Cosmo ; Julio ; Captain; Lieutenant; Ancient; two Doctors; an Ambassador; Victoria ; Eleanor; Isabel; Lesbia.-Scene, Florence.
Friend, &c. &c. Soon after the Restoration, one Kirkman, a bookseller printed many dramatick pieces that had remained unpublished for more than sixty years; and in an advertisement subjoined to“
A true, perfect and exact catalogue of all the comedies tragedies, &c. that were ever yet printed and published, till this present year 1671," he says, that although there were, at that time, but eight hundred and fix plays in print, yet many more had been written and acted, and that “ he himself had some quantity in manuscript.”—The resemblance between Macbeth and this newly discovered piece by Middleton, naturally suggests a wish, that if any of the unpublished plays, above enumerated, be yet in being, (beside The Second Maid's Tragedy, the Tell-tale, Timon, and Sir Thomas More, which are known to be extant,) their poffeffors would condescend to examine them with attention; as hence, perhaps, new lights might be thrown on others of our author's plays.
It has been already suggested that it is probable our author about the time of his composing Cymbeline and Macbeth devoted some part of his leisure to the reading of the lives of Cæsar and Antony in North's translation of Plutarch. In the play: before there are two passages which countenance that conjecture. “ Under him," says Macbeth,
“ My genius is rebuk'd, as, it is said,
“ Mark Antony's was by Cæfar." The allusion here is to a passage in the Life of Antony; where Shakspeare also found an account of “the infane root that takes the reason prisoner," which he has introduced in Macbeth,
A passage in the 8th book of Daniel's Civil Wars, seems to have been formed on one in this tragedy. The seventh and eighth books of Daniel's poem were first printed in 1609.
29. Julius CÆSAR, 1607. A tragedy on the subject, and with the title, of Julius Cæfar, written by Mr. William Alexander, who was afterwards earl of Sterline, was printed in the year 1607. This, I imagine, was prior to our author's performance, which was not entered at Stationers-hall, nor printed, till 1623. Shakspeare, we know, formed at least twelve plays on fables that had been unsuccessfully managed by other poets;' but no contemporary writer was daring enough to enter the lists with him, in his life-time, or to model into a drama a subject which had already employed his pen; and it is not likely that Lord Sterline, who was then a very young man, and had scarcely unlearned the Scottish idiom, should have been more hardy than any other poet
I am aware, it may be objected, that this writer might have formed a diama on this story, not knowing that Shakspeare had previously composed the tragedy of Julius Casar; and that, therefore, the publication of Mr. Alexander's play in 1607, is no proof that our author's performance did not then exist.—In answer to this objection, it may, perhaps, be sufficient to observe, that Mr. Alexan
of that age.
8 See Vol. XI. p. 61, n. 5.
• Sée a note on Julius Cafar, A& i. sc. i, in which they are enumerated.
der had, before that year, very wisely left the bleak fields of Menstrie in Clackmananshire, for a warmer and more courtly residence in London, having been appointed gentleman of the privy chamber to prince Henry: in which situation his literary curiosity must have been gratified by the earliest notice of the productions of his brother dramatists.
· Lord Sterline's Julius Cæfar, though not printed till 1607, might have been written a year or two before; and perhaps its publication in that year was in consequence of our author's play on the same subject being then first exhibited. The same observation may be made with respect to an anonymous performance, called The Tragedie of Cajar and Pompey, or Cæsar's Revenge, of which an edition (I believe the second) was likewise printed in 1607. The subject of that piece is the defeat of Pompey at Pharsalia, the death of Julius, and the final overthrow of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. The attention of the town being, perhaps, drawn to the history of the hook-nosed fellow of Rome, by the exhibition of Shakspeare's Julius Cæjar, the booksellers, who printed these two plays, might have flattered themselves with the hope of an expeditious sale for them at that time, especially, as Shakspeare's play was not then published.
It does not appear that Lord Sterline's Julius Ca far was ever acted: neither it nor his other plays
2 There is an edition without date, which probably was the firft. This play, as appears by the title-page, was privately aded by the students of Trinity College in Oxford. In the running title it is called The Tragedy of Julius Cafar; perhaps the better to impose it on the publick for the performance of Shakspeare.
being at all calculated for dramatick exhibition. On the other hand, Shakspeare's Julius Cafar was a very popular piece; as we learn from Digges, a contemporary writer, who in his commendatory verses prefixed to our author's works, has alluded to it as one of his most celebrated performances.'
We have certain proof that Antony and Cleopatra was composed before the middle of the year 1608. An attentive review of that play and Julius Casar, will, I think, lead us to conclude that this latter was first written.“ Not to insist on the chronology
“ Nor fire nor cank’ring age, as Nafo faid
(Though miss’d) untill our bankrout stage be sped
(Impollible!) with some new strain, t’out do
“ Than when thy half-fu'ord parlying Romans Spake.” Verses by L. Digges, prefixed to the first edition of our author's plays, in 1623.
4 The following passages in Antony and Cleopatra, (and others of the same kind may perhaps be found, ) seem to me to discover such a knowledge of the appropriated characters of the persons exhibited in Julius Gafar, and of the events there dilated and enlarged upon, as Shakspeare would necessarily have acquired from having previously written a play on that subject :
Pompey. – I do not know " Wherefore my father should revengers want, " Having a son and friends, fince Julius Cafar, " Who at Philippi the good Brutus ghosted, " There faw you labouring for him. What was't, " That mov'd pale Cailius to confpire? And what " Made thee, all-honour'd, honest, Roman Brutus, " With the arm'd rest, courtiers of beauteous freedom, " To drench the capitol, but that they would " Have one man but a man?"