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ON THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION (F
JULIUS CASA R.
Ir appears from Peck's Collection of divers curious Hitorical Pieces, &c. (appended to his Memoirs, &c. of Oliver Cromwell,) p. 14, that a Latin play on this fubject had been written. “ Epilogus Cæfaris interfecti, quomodo in scenam prodiit ea res, acta in Ecclefia Christi, Oxon. Qui Epilogus a magiftro Ricardo Eedes et scriptus et in proscenio ibidem diétus fuit, A. D. 1582.” Meres, whose Wit's Commonwealth was pub. lished in 1598, enumerates Dr Eedes among the best tragic writers of that time. STEEVENS.
William Alexander, afterwards earl of Sterline, wrote a tragedy on the story and with the title of Julius Cæfar. It may be presumed that Shakespeare's play was poiterior to his; for lord Sterline, when he composed his Julius Cæfar, was a very young author, and would hardly have ventured into that circle, within which the most eminent dramatic writer of England had already walked. The death of Cæfar, 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 fome realons for thinking the coincidence more than accidental.
Mr Steevens has produced from Darius, another play of this writer's, fome lines fo like a celebrated paisage of Shakespeare in the Tampefl, Act II, that the one muft, I apprehend, have been copied from the other. Lord Sterline's Darius was printed at Edinburgh in 1603, and his Julius Crfar in 1607, at a time tuben he was but little acquainted with English writers;
for they abound with Scoticisms, which, in the subfe. quent folio edition, 1637, he corrected. But neither the Tempesi, nor the Julius Cæjar of our author, was printed till 1623.
It must also be remembered, that our author has several plays, founded on subjects which had been unfuccessfully treated by others. Of this kind are King Fohn, King Henry V, King Lear, Measure for Measure, the Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Eleopatra, the Merchant of Venice, and perhaps Macbeth *: 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 Shakespeare. On all these grounds it appears more probable that Shakespeare was indebted to lord Sterline, than that Jord Sterline borrowed from Shakespeare. If this reasoning be just, this play could not have appeared before the year 1607.
The real length of time in Julius Cæfar, Mr Upton obferves, is as follows: About the middle of February A. U. C. 709, the festival of Luperci was held in hoc nour of Cæsar, when the regal crown was offered to him by Antony. On the 15th of March in the same year he was killed. Nov. 27, A.U. C. 710, the triumvirs met at a small island, formed by the river Rhenus, near Bononia, and there adjusted their savage proscrips tion.--A. U.C. 711. Brutus and Cassius were defeated near Philippi. MALONE.
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 fomewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakespeare's plays; his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius. JOHNSON.
* See Dr Farmer's observations on Macbet).
M E N.
Triumvirs, after the Death of
Conspirators against Julius LIGARIUS,
Cæfar. Decius BRUTUS, METĖLLUS CIMBER, CINNA. Flavius, } Tribunes. MARULLUS, S ARTEMIDORUS, a Sophift of Cnidos. A Soothsayer. Cinna, a Poet : Another Poet. Lucilius, TITINIUS, Messala, Young Cato, and
VOLUMNIUS, Friends to Brutus and Caffius. VARRO, CLITUS, CLADIUS, STRATO, LUCIUS DAR
DANIUS, Servants to Brutus. PINDARUS, Servant to Caffius.
WOMEN. CALPHURNIA, Wife to Cæfar. Portia, Wife to Brutus.
Plebeians, Senators, Guards, Attendants, &c. Scene, for the first three Aas, at Rome : afterwards at
an Island near Mutina; at Sardis; and near Philippi.
Is this a holiday? What! know you not, : Being mechanical, you ought not walk,
Upon a labouring day, without the fign
Car. Why, fir, a carpenter.
Mar. Where is thy leather apron, and thy rule?.
Cob. Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobler.
Mar. But what trade art thou? Answer me directly.
Cob. A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe conscience; which is indeed, sir, a mender of bad foals. Flav. What trade, thou knave? thou naughty
knave, what trade?
you be out, fir, I can mend you.