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A LIFE OF THE POET,
ORIGINAL AND SELECTED.
PHILLIPS, SAMPSON AND COMPANY.
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It appears from the Appendix to Peck's Memoirs of Oliver Cromwell, &c. p. 14, that a Latin play on this subject had been written:-“ Epilogus Cæsari interfecti, quomodo in scenam prodiit ea res acta, in Ecclesia Christi, Oxon. Qui epilogus a Magistro Ricardo Eedes, et scriptus, et in proscenio ibidem dictus fuit, A. D. 1582.” Meres, in his Wits' Commonwealth, 1598, enumerates Dr. Eedes among the best tragic writers of that time.
From what Polonius says in Hamlet, it seems probable that there was also an English play on the story before Shakspeare commenced 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 of the story of Julius Cæsar: the death of Cæsar, which is not exhibited, but related to the audience, forms the catastrophe of his piece, which appeared in 1607, when the writer was little acquainted with English writers : it abounds with Scotticisms, which the author corrected in the edition he gave of his works in 1637. There are parallel passages in the two plays, which may have arisen from the two authors drawing from the same source; but there is reason to think the coincidences more than accidental, and that Shakspeare was acquainted with the drama of lord Sterline. The celebrated passage, “ The cloud-capt towers," &c., had its prototype in Darius, another play of the same author.
It should be remembered that Shakspeare has many plays founded on subjects which had been previously treated by others; 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. If the conjecture that Shakspeare was indebted to lord Sterline be just, his drama must have been produced subsequent to 1607, or at latest in that: year; which is the date ascribed to it, upon these grounds, by Malone.
Upton has remarked that the real duration 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 Lupercalia, was held in honor of Cæsar, when