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of the story, which would naturally suggest this subject to our author before the other, in Julius Cafar Shakspeare does not seem to have been thoroughly possessed of Antony's character. He has indeed marked one or two of the striking features of it, but Antony is not fully delineated till he appears in that play which takes its name from him and Cleopatra. The rough sketch would naturally precede the finished picture.
Shakspeare's making the capitol the scene of Cæsar's murder, contrary to the truth of history, is easily accounted for, in Hamlet, where it afforded an opportunity for introducing a quibble; but it is not easy to conjecture why in Julius Cæfar he should have departed from Plutarch, where it is expressly said that Julius was killed in Pompey's portico, whose statue was placed in the centre. I suspect he was led into this deviation from history by some former play on the subject, the frequent repetition of which before his own play was written probably induced him to insert these lines in his tragedy: How many ages
So, in another place :
" When Antony found Julius Cæsar dead,
" When at Philippi he found Brutus saiu. Again :
" Ant. He at Philippi kept
" The accents yet unknown" could not allude to Dr. Eedes's Latin play exhibited in 1582, and therefore may be fairly urged as a presumptive proof that there had been some English play on this subject previous to that of Shakspeare. Hence I suppose it was, that in his earlier performance he makes Polonius say that in his youth he had enacted the part of the Roman Dictator, and had been killed by Brutus in the capitol; a scenick exhibition which was then probably familiar to the greater part of the audience.
From a passage in the comedy of Every Woman in her Humour, which was printed in 1609, we learn, that there was an ancient droll or puppetfhew on the subject of Julius Cæsar. " I have feen (says one of the personages in that comedy,) the city of Nineveh and Julius Cæfar acted by mam
I formerly supposed that this droll was formed on the play before us: but have lately observed that it is mentioned with other“ motions, (Fonas, Ninevie, and the Deflruclion of Jerusalem,) in Marston's Dutch Courtesan, printed in 1605, and was probably of a much older date.
In the prologue to The False One, by Beaumont and Fletcher, this play is alluded to;' but in what year that tragedy was written, is unknown.
5.6. New titles warrant not a play for new,
" The subject being old; and 'tis as true,
If the date of The Maid's Tragedy by the same authors, were ascertained, it might throw some light on the present inquiry; the quarrelling scene between Melantius and his friend, being manifestly copied from a fimilar scene in Julius Cæfar. It has already been observed that Philaster was the first play which brought Beaumont and Fletcher into reputation, and that it probably was represented in 1608 or 160g. We may therefore presume that the Maid's Tragedy did not appear before that year; for we cannot suppose it to have been one of the unsuccessful pieces which preceded Philaster. That the Maid's Tragedy was written before 1611, is ascertained by a MS. play, now extant, entitled The Second Maid's Tragedy, which was licensed by Sir George Buck, on the 31st of October, 1611. I believe it never was printed.'
If, therefore, we fix the date of the original Maid's Tragedy in 1610, it agrees sufficiently well with that here assigned to Julius Cæsar.
It appears by the papers of the late Mr. George Vertue, that a play called Casar's Tragedy was acted at court before the 10th of April, in the year 1613. This was probably Shakspeare's Julius Cæfar, it being much the fashion at that time to alter the titles of his plays.
“ In the Capitol, can never be the same
“ To the judicious.” Prologue to The False One. 5 This tragedy (as I learn from a MS. of Mr. Oldys) was formerly in the poffeffion of John Warburton, Efq. Somerset Herald, and is now in the library of the Marquis of Landsdown. It had no authors name to it, when it was licensed, but was afterwards afcribed to George Chapman, whose name is erased by another hand, and that of Shakspeare inserted. 30. ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, 1608. Antony and Cleopatra was entered on the Stationers' bqoks, May 2, 1608 ; but was not printed till 1623.
In Ben Jonson's Silent Woman, Act IV. sc. iv. 1609, this play seems to be alluded to:
“ Morose. Nay, I would fit out a play that were nothing but fights at sea, drum, trumpet and target.”
31. TIMON OF ATHENS, 1609.
32. CORIOLANUS, 1610. These two plays were neither entered in the books of the Stationers' company, nor printed, till 1623. Shakspeare, in the course of somewhat more than twenty years, having produced thirtyfour or thirty-five dramas, we may presume that he was not idle any one year of that time. Most of his other plays have been attributed, on plausible grounds at least, to former years. As we have no proof to ascertain when the two plays under our confideration were written, it seems reasonable to ascribe thein to that period, to which we are not led by any particular circumstance to attribute any other of his works; at which, it is supposed, he had not ceased to write; which yet, unless these pieces were then composed, must, for aught that now appears, have been unemployed. When once he had availed himself of North's Plutarch, and had thrown any one of the lives into a dramatick form, he probably found it so easy as to induce him to proceed, till he had exhausted all the subjects which he imagined that book would afford. Vol. II.
Hence the four plays of Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, Timon, and Coriolanus, are supposed to have been written in fucceffion. At the time he was writing Cymbeline and Macbeth there is reason to believe he began to study Plutarch with a particular view to the use he might inake of it on the stage.' The Lives of Cæsar and Antony are nearly connected with each other, and furnished him with the fables of two plays ; and in the latter of these lives he found the subject of a third, Timor of Athens.
There is a MS. comedy now extant, on the subject of Timon, which, from the hand-writing and the style, appears to be of the age of Shakspeare. In this piece a steward is introduced, under the name of Laches, who, like Flavius in that of our author, endeavours to restrain his master's profufion, and faithfully attends him when he is forsaken by all his other followers.--Here too a mock-ban. quet is given by Timon to his false friends; but, instead of warm water, stones painted like artichokes are served up, which he throws at his guests. From a line in Shakspeare's play, one might be tempted to think that something of this fort was introduced by him; though, through the omission of a marginal direction in the only ancient copy of this piece, it has not been customary to exhibit it :
- Second Senator. Lord Timon's mad.
7 See p. 173, and p. 186.