Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

PREFACE.

The aim in the present volume, as in the others of the series, is to present a satisfactory text with as full an equipment of introduction and notes as is necessary for thorough intelligibility. The section of the introduction dealing with Shakspere and the drama is intended to give the student a clear idea of the place of the play in literary history. The treatment of the relation of Shakspere's Julius Caesar to North's Plutarch is an attempt to solve a difficulty which meets the editor of any of the Roman plays. A mere statement of indebtedness fails to convey a true idea of the real facts of the case; and the reprinting of the whole text of which Shakspere availed himself does not explain the situation without much detailed study. The comparative table given 01. pp. 40-42 tells much at a glance; and the teache: who wishes to illustrate further Shakspere's use of his material will find it easy to do so by means of the references to Skeat’s Shakespeare's Plutarch, a book which every teacher of the play should have at hand. The sections on language and metre present some of the peculiarities of Shakspere's English and versification in a more systematic fashion than is possible in separate notes.

863500

The task of aesthetic interpretation has been, for the most part, left to the teacher; yet it may he pointed out that this play offers exceptionally good opportunities for explaining the elements of dramatic construction. The action in Julius Caesar is less complicated than in most of Shakspere's other tragedies; there is no under plot; and the rise and fall of the action, up to the climax in Caesar's death and down to the catastrophe at Philippi, is easily traced. If we regard the tragedy as a conflict between the party of conspirators and the party of Caesar, we see that the movement which culminates in the assassination deals with the triumph of the former; while in the second part, the friends of Caesar, deprived of his presence but animated by his spirit, avenge his death on his murderers. This final triumph of Caesar's faction, the acknowledgement by Brutus that it is the spirit of Caesar that brings disaster on the conspirators, and the obvious advertising value of the name of Caesar in a title, seem sufficient to answer the much debated question as to why Shakspere called the play Julius Caesar and not Marcus Brutus.

The admirably conceived contrasts of character, and the elaboration of these from Plutarch's hints, should give rise to suggestive discussion, oral or written. The play as a whole, while not reaching the pitch of intensity in feeling and expression of the greatest of Shakspere's trag

edies, is less concentrated and difficult in style than, for example, Hamlet or Lear, while its rhetorical brilliance easily arouses the enthusiasm of even the younger students.

Attention might profitably be drawn to the political significance of the play. The hopelessness of curing national degeneracy by the removal of any one man, and the total failure of the populace to see the aim of the conspirators' action, are most pointedly expressed in the shout of the Third Citizen after the republican speech of Brutus,-"Let him be Caesar."

For further details on the life and works of Shakspere, the following may be referred to: Dowden's Shakspere Primer and Shakspere, His Mind and Art; Sidney Lee's Life of William Shakespeare; William Shakspere, by Barrett Wendell; Shakspere and His Predecessors, by F. S. Boas. The most exhaustive account of the English Drama is the new three-volume edition of A.W. Ward's History of English Dramatic Literature. Both this work and that of Sidney Lee are rich in bibliographical information. For questions of language and grammar, see A. Schmidt's Shakes. peare Lexicon; J. Bartlett's Concordance to Shakespeare; E. A. Abbott's Shakespearian Grammar; and, for philological commentary on the present play in particular, Rolfe's edition of Craik’s English of Shakespeare. For general questions of dramatic construction, see Gustav Frey.

tag's Technik des Dramas, translated into English by E. J. MacEwan, and Dr. Elisabeth Woodbridge's The Drama, its Law and its Technique. HARVARD UNIVERSITY

May, 1903

« VorigeDoorgaan »