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It rarely happens, that a theatre is enriched by a number of male performers, equal to the task of representing those great historical characters, which Shakspeare has here pourtrayed with his usual truth of delineation. The theatres of London, at the present era, can boast of actors to set all such difficulties at defiance; and yet it has been thought adviseable, for some years past, that this tragedy should not appear upon the stage. When men's thoughts are deeplyengaged on public events, historical occurrences, of a similar kind, are only held proper for the contemplation of such minds as know how to distinguish, and to appreciate, the good and the evil with which they abound. Such discriminating judges do not compose the whole aadience of a play-house; therefore, when the circumstances of certain periods make certain incidents of history most interesting, those are the very seasons to interdict their exhibition. Till the time of the world’s repose, then, the lovers of the drama will, probably, be compelled to accept of real conspiracies, assassinations, and the slaughter of war, in lieu of such spectacles, ably counterfeited. Dr Johnson has said of this play—“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 true story, and to Roman manners, seem to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius.”
Had Johnson lived in the present time, perhaps this very “adherence to the true story” would have excited that warmth and that interest, of the absence of which he complains. A relish for the food of the mind is to be created by a certain stimulus, the same as an appetite for the nourishment of the body; and in these days, political wonders occur to inspire a more than common concern about all those that are past.
In this admirable drama is a short, and yet exact, narration of the most remarkable crisis in the Roman history. Every character is described by a faithful pen-every virtuous and every wicked design nicely explained, by a penetrating and an impartial commentator upon the heart of man.
Voltaire's tragedy, on the same subject, has a degree of peculiar interest, on account of his representing, though from doubtful authority, the close relationship, which subsisted between Caesar and Brutus, as father and son; but the sympathy awakened by truth, and nothing but known truth, is surely more forcible with the generality of readers, than that which arises from a source, the least tending towards fiction.
nuation of the play after the death of Caesar; supposing that great event would have been more powerful than any other for the catastrophe; but it is hardly possible to read to the end, and wish any thing altered; unless, perhaps, that Caesar’s character had been rendered more prominent in those few scenes where he is introduced. This drama is not, however, designed to represent the life, but solely the death, of Julius Caesar. The poet has not attempted to show in action, even by one important incident, how this conqueror of the world lived,—but merely how he died. In so short a composition as a play some characters must necessarily be compressed; and, in the original editions of this work, Cicero's has been more than any other diminished. That celebrated orator is there placed amongst the dramatis personae, and has scarcely been given a word to say.
The following account from Upton will be of use to the reader:
“The real length of time in ‘Julius Caesar’ is as follows: About the middle of February, A. U.C. 709, a frantic festival, sacred to Pan, was held in honour of Caesar, when the royal crown was offered him by Marc Antony. On the 15th of March, in the same year, he was slain. A. U. C. 711, Brutus and Cassius were defeated near Philippi.”
Port IA CALPHURNIA
Mrs Hartley. Mrs Vincent,
GUARDs and ATTENDANTs.
Casca. Hence; home, you idle creatures, get you home : Is this a holiday ? what! know you not, Being mechanical, you ought not walk Upon a labouring day, without the sign Of your profession ? speak, what trade art thou? 1 Pleb. Why, sir, a carpenter. Casca. Where is thy leather apron, and thy rule : What dost thou with thy best apparel on ? You, sir, What trade are you ? 2 Pleb. Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobler. Casca. But what trade art thou? answer me, directly. 2 Pleb. A trade, sir, that I hope I may use with a o: conscience; which is, indeed, a mender of bad SO16S, n