« ElőzőTovább »
Julius Cæsar occupies twenty-two pages in the folio of 1623, viz., from p. 109 to p. 130 inclusive, in the division of Tragedies. It is there divided into Acts, but not into Scenes (and is so accurately given that the Cambridge Editors have thought it might have been set from a manuscript of the Author). A list of the Dramatis Persone was first supplied by Rowe.
HAKESPEARE himself has left us evidence that he
knew of at least one tragedy based upon the conspiracy against Julius Cæsar earlier than his own. For in Hamlet (III. ii.) Polonius says that he "did enact Julius Cæsar," and was “killed in the Capitol” by Brutus. And as he also says that he did this “in the University,” and Steevens cites a passage in an Appendix to Peck's Memoirs of Oliver Cromwell, which shows that a Latin tragedy upon this subject was written by Richard Eades, and played at Oxford in 1582, we know almost with absolute certainty the play that Shakespeare had in mind. The allusions to the story of Julius Cæsar in our early literature are very numerous, and early English plays were doubtless written upon it; but it appears that Shakespeare was indebted for his materials only to the lives of Cæsar, Brutus, Antony, and Cicero in North's Plutarch. Selecting the events to be dramatised with admirable judgment, and arranging [and compressing) them with consummate skill, he followed his authority even to the detail of the little Scene in which Cinna the poet is slain for his name and his bad verses, and often adopted its very language.
[Some have fancied that they discern in Julius Cæsar, as it stands, the condensation of two plays : (1) The Tragedy of Julius Cæsar and (2) Cæsar's Revenge. That there were double plays of this sort, we know from Marston's Antonio and Mellida and Antonio's Revenge ; but there is no real proof of the truth of the supposition.
As to the time when Julius Cæsar was written, it is now generally agreed that Weever's Mirror of Martyrs, printed in 1601,' contains an allusion to this play, as does the revision of
1 There are even lines of argument for as early a date as 1599. (R)
Drayton's Barons' Wars, printed in 1603. The date is therefore placed about 1601. Internal evidence would further classify it with Hamlet, placing it a little before, as Dowden and Furnivall do in their tables.] It was first printed in the folio of 1623, and with remarkable accuracy. The period of its action is from the feast of Lupercal, B. c. 45, to the battle of Philippi, B. C. 42.
(In writing Julius Cæsar Shakespeare chose for the first time a “classical " subject, and so might be thought to have trenched
Ben Jonson's special ground. Cæsar was conceived as far from an heroic figure, the finest characterisation being spent upon Brutus, Cassius, and Marc Antony. This probably stirred up rare Ben's critical sense. In his Timber, he said of Shakespeare: “hee fell into those things which could not escape laughter: As when hee said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him [i. e. Cæsar]: Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.
Hee [i. e. Cæsar] replyed : Cæsar did never wrong, butt with just cause." There are no words in the play exactly equivalent to these expressions, but in III. i. 47, 48, Cæsar remarks:
Know, Cæsar doth not wrong, nor without cause
Will he be satisfied.” Sidney Lee thinks the words cited by Jonson may have been in the original acting version of the play, and, owing to this criticism, have been removed from the copy used afterwards as the basis of the folio text. (Cf. Life, p. 220, note.) The contrast between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson is clearly seen both in the treatment of Julius Cæsar and in the later play of Troilus and Cressida.
A contemporary, Leonard Digges, contrasts the two playwrights in his comments on two of their plays, Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar and Ben Jonson's Catiline :
“ So have I seen when Cæsar would appear,
(Cited by Sidney Lee, Life, p. 220.)
When we consider the feeling of rivalry necessarily existing; when we know that the war of the Theatres was then going on between Dekker, Marston, and Shakespeare's company of adult actors on one side, and Ben Jonson and the boy actors on the other, and that Shakespeare's sympathies were with the former; when we see the adverse references in Hamlet (II. ii. 349–364) to these boy actors, "an aery of children, little eyases" (nest of young hawks); when we read in The Return of Parnassus (1601-2) of the "purge" given by Shakespeare to Ben Jonson; and find in Troilus and Cressida other “ classical” heroes and heroines treated as ordinary men and women with obvious foibles and follies, it is hard to resist the conclusion that these plays have some direct connection with the controversies of this period. See the Introduction to Troilus and Cressida.]
1 For other references in more or less contemporary works and for previous and subsequent plays dealing with Cæsar's career, cf. Ward II, 138–142. (R)
Conspirators against Julius Cæsar.
Friends to Brutus and Cassius.
Servants to Brutus.
Senators, Citizens, Guards, Attendants, &c.
Sardis, and near Philippi.