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? Marcus Antonius,
Triumvirs, after the Death of
Conspirators against Julius Casar.
nius; Friends to Brutus and Cassius.
Servants to Brutus. Pindarus, Servant to Cassius.
Calphurnia, Wife to Cæsar.
Senators, Citizens, Guards, Attendants, &c.
Scene, during a great part of the play, at Rome:
afterwards at Sardis; and near Philippi.
Art thou any thing?
THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
From some words spoken by Polonius in Hamlet, I think it pro bable that there was an English play on this subject, before Shakspeare commenced a writer for the stage.
Stephen Gosson, in his School of Abuse, 1579, mentions a play entitled The History of Cæsar and Pompey.
William Alexander, afterwards earl of Sterline, wrote a tragedy on the story and with the title of Julius Cæsar. It may be presumed that Shakspeare's play was posterior to his; for lord Sterline, when he composed his Julius Cæsar, was a very young author, and would hardly have ventured into that circle, within which the most eminent dramatick writer of England had already walked. The death of Cæsar, which is not exhibited but related to the audience, forms the catastrophe of his piece. In the two plays many parallel passages are found, which might, perhaps, have proceeded only from the two authors drawing from the same source. However, there are some reasons for thinking the coincidence more than accidental.
A passage in The Tempest seems to have been copied from one in Darius, another play of lord Sterline's, printed at Edin. burgh in 1603. His Julius Cæsar appeared in 1607, at a time when he was little acquainted with English writers; for both these pieces abound with Scotticisms, which in the subsequent folio VOL. VI.
edition, 1637, he corrected. But neither The Tempest nor the Julius Cæsar of our author was printed till 1623.
It should also be remembered, that our author has several plays, founded on subjects which had been previously treated by others. Of this kind are King John, King Richard II, the two parts of King Henry IV. King Henry V. King Richard III. King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Measure for Mleasure, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and, I believe, Hamlet, Timon of Athens, and The Second and Third Part of King Henry VI.: whereas no proof has hitherto been produced, that any contemporary writer ever presumed to new-model a story that had already employed the pen of Shakspeare. On all these grounds it appears more probable, that Shakspeare was indebted to lord Sterline, than that lord Sterline borrowed from Shakspeare. If this rea-, soning be just, this play could not have appeared before the year 1607. I believe it was produced in that year. MALONE.
The real length of time in Julius Cæsar is as follows : About the middle of February, A.U.C. 709, a frantic festival, sacred to Pan, and called Lupercaliu, was held in honour of Cæsar, when the regal crown was offered to him by Antony. On the 15th of March, in the same year, he was slain. Nov. 27, A.U.C. 710, the triumvirs met at a small island, formed by the river Rhenus, near Bononia, and there adjusted their cruel proscription.-A.U.C. 711, Brutus and Cassius were defeated near Philippi. Upron.
Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it, and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakspeare's plays; his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius.