Imágenes de páginas

had been originally entered in 1594, and perhaps soon afm terwards printeds, was republished in 1607 by Nich. Ling. As it bore the fame title with Shakspeare's play, (which was mot printed till 1623) the hope of getting a sale for it, under the shelter of a celebrated name, was probably the inducement to issue it out at that time: and its publication then, gives weight to the supposition that Shakipeare's play was written and first acted in the latter end of the year 1606. It was entered by John Smythwick, Nov. 19, 1507; from which circumitance, we may conclude, that he had procured a copy of it, and had then thoughts of publishing it. It was not, however, printed by him till 1631, eight years after it had appeared in the edition of the players in folio.

In this play there seems to be an allusion to a comedy of Thomas Heywood's, entitled a Woman Killed with Kindness, which, though not printed till 1617, must have been acted before 1604, being mentioned in an old tract called the Black Book, published in that year.

36. Julius CÆSAR, 1607; A tragedy on the subject, and with the title, of Julius Cælar, written by Mr. William Alexander, who was afterwards Earl of Sterline, was printed in the year 1607. This, I imagine, was prior to our author's performance. Shakspeare, we know, formed seven or eight plays on fables that had been unsuccessfully managed by other poets'; but no contemporary writer was daring enough to enter the lists with him, in his life-time, or to model into a drama a suba ject that had already employed his pen: and it is not likely tirat Lord Sterline, who was then a very young man, and


: From a passage in a tract written by Sir John Harrington, entitled The Metamorphoses of Ajax, 1596, this old play appears to have been printed before that year, though no edition of fo early a date has hitherto been discovered. “ Read the booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a fhrew in our country, save he that hath hir."

h “ This is a way to kill a wife with kindness." The Taming of the Shrew. AA IV. Sc. i.

i See a note on Julius Cæfar, Act I. Sc. i. in which they are enumerated.


had scarcely unlearned the Scottish idiom, should have been more hardy than any other poet of that age.

I am aware, it may be objected, that this writer might have formed a drama on this story, not knowing that Shakspeare had previoufly composed the tragedy of Julius Cæfar; and that, therefore, the publication of Mr. Alexander's play in 1607, is no proof that our author's performance did not then exist.-In answer to this objection, it may, perhaps, be sufficient to observe, that Mr. Alexander had, before that year, very wifely left the bleak fields of Menstrie in Clackmananshire, for a warmer and more courtly residence in London, having been appointed gentleman of the privy chamber to prince Henry; in which situation his literary curiosity must have been gratified by the earliest notice of the productions of his brother dramatists.

Lord Sterline's Julius Cæfar, though not printed till 1607, might have been written a year or two before ; and perhaps its publication in that year was in consequence of our author's play on the same subject being then first exhibited. The famé observation may be made with respect to an anonymous performance, called The Tragedie of Cæfar and Pompey or Cæsar's Revengek, which was likewise printa ed in 1607. The subject of that piece is the defeat of Pompey at Pharsalia, the death of Julius, and the final overthrow of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. The attention of the town being; perhaps, drawn to the history of the booknosed fellow of Rome, by the exhibition of our author's Julius Cafar, the booksellers, who printed these two plays, might have flattered themselves with the hope of an expeditious sale for them at that time, especially as Shakspeare's play was not then published.

We have certain proof that Antony and Cleopatra was composed before the middle of the year 1608. An attentive review of that play and Julius Cafar, will, I think, lead us to conclude that this latter was first written!. Not to insist



* This play, as appears by the title-page, was privately acted by the students of. Trinity College in Oxford. In the running title it is called The Tragedy of Julius Cafar; perhaps the better to impose it on the publick for the performance of Shakspeare.

i The following passages in Antony and Cleopatra, (and others of the same kind may perhaps be found) seem to me to discover such a knowledge of the appropriated characters of the perfons ex.


on the chronology of the story, which would naturally sugo gelt this subject to our author before the other, in Julius Cæsar, Shakspeare does not seem to have been thoroughly possessed of Antony's character. He has indeed marked one or two of the striking features of it, but Antony is not fully delineated till he appears in that play which takes its name from him and Eleopatra. The rough sketch would naturally precede the finished picture.

From a passage in the comedy of Every Woman in her Hus mour, which was printed in 1609, we learn, that a droll on the subject of Julius Cæsar, had been exhibited before


“ I have seen, (fays one of the personages in that comedy) the City of Nineveh, and Julius Cafar, acted by mammets.” Most of our ancient drolls and puppet-fhew's are known to have been regular abridgments of celebrated plays, or particular scenes of them, only. It does not appear that lord Sterline's Julius Cafar was ever celebrated, or even acted; neither that nor his other plays being at all calculated for dramatick representation. On the other hand, we know that Shakspeare's Julius Cæfar was a very popular piece; Digges, a contemporary writer, having, in his com

that year.


hibited in Julius Cæfar, and of the events there dilated and en-
larged upon, as Shakspeare would necessarily have acquired froin
having previously written a play on that subject :

" I do not know
Wherefore my father should revengers want,
Having a son and friends, fince Julius Cafar,
Who at Philippi the good Brutus ghofted,
There faw you labouring for him. What was't
That mov'd pale Cassius to conspire? And what
Made all-honour'd, honest, Roman Brutus,
With the arm’d rest, courtiers of beauteous freedom,
To drench the capitol, but that they would

Have one man but a man?"
So, in another place,

" When Antony found Julius Cæsar dead,
He cry'd almost to roaring; and he wept

When at Philippi he found Brutus flain.”

Ant. He at Philippi kept
His sword ev'n like a dancer, while I struck
The loan and wrinkled Casilus; and 'awas I
That the mad Brutus ended."


mendatory verses on our author's works, particularly alluded to it, as one of his most applauded performances The droll here mentioned, was therefore, probably formed out of Shakspeare's play: and we may presume that it had been in pofleflion of the stage at least a year or two, before it was exhibited in this degraded form. Though the term mammets, in the passage above quoted, should be confidered as contemptuously applied to the children of Paul's or those of the Chapel", (an interpretation which it will commodiously enough admit) the argument with respect to the date of Julius Cæfar will still remain in its full force.

In the prologue to The False One, by Beaumont and Fletcher, this play is alluded to; but in what


tragedy was written, is unknown.

If the date of The Maid's Tragedy by the same authors, were ascertained, it might throw some light on the prefent enquiry; the quarreling scene between Melantius and his friend, being manifestly copied from a similar scene in Julius César. Dryden mentions a tradition (which he might have received from Sir William D'Avenant) that Pbilater


on " Nor fire nor cank’ring age, as Naso said
Of his, thy wit-fraught book thall once invade:
Nor shall I e'er believe or think thee dead
(Though mifs'd) untill our bankrout itage be sped
(Impossible!) with some new strain, t'out do
Passions of Juliet and her Romeo;
Or till I hear a scene more nobly take

Than wben thy half-sword-parlying Romans (pake.Verses by L. Digges, prefixed to the first edition of our author's plays, in 1623.

By a fimilar figure these children are in Hamlet called little Ezafes."

“ New titles warrant not a play for new,
The subject being old; and 'tis as true,
Fresh and neat matter may with ease be fram'd
Out of their stories that have oft been nam'd
With glory on the stage. What borrows he
From him that wrought old Priam's tragedy,
That writes his love for Hecuba ? Sure to tell
Of Cæsar's amorous heats, and how he feil
In the Capitc!, can never be the same
To the judicious,"

Prologue to the False One.


was the first play that brought Beaumont and Fletcher into reputation. That play, as has been already mentioned, was acted about the year 1609. We may therefore presume that the Maid's Tragedy did not appear before that year; for we cannot suppose it to have been one of the unsuccessful pieces that preceded Philafter. That the Maid's Tragedy was written before 1611, is ascertained by a Mf. play, now extant, entitled The SECOND Maid's Tragedy, which was licensed by Sir George Buck, on the 31st of Oct. 1611. I believe it never was printed p.

If, therefore, we fix the date of the original Maid's Tra. gedy in 1610, it agrees sufficiently well with that here affigned to Julius Cæfar.

It appears by the papers of the late Mr. George Vertue, that a play called Cæsar's Tragedy was acted at court before the roth of April, in the year 1613. This was probably Shakspeare's Julius Cæfar, it being much the fashion at that time to alter the titles of his plays.

37. A Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608. A Yorkshire Tragedy, (whoever was the author of it) could not have been written before August 1604, when the murder, on which it was founded, was committed 9. It was entered at Stationers' hall May 2, 1608, and printed in

It is observable, that, in the title-page of this play, the name of Shakspeare is spelt in the same manner as he has himself fubfcribed it to his Will; and the piece is said to have been atted by his majestie's players at the Globe; the theatre in which almost all our author's plays were originally performed.

The very name, however, of the publisher of this piece, (independent of other circumstances) is sufficient to create a doubt concerning its authenticity; for it is printed for Thomas Pavier, who appears, from the Stationers' books, to

that year:

NOTES p This tragedy (as I learn from a Mf. of Mr. Oldys) was for merly in the pofletion of John Warburton, Esq. Somerset Herald. It had no author's name to it, when it was licensed, but was afterwards ascribed to George Chapman, whose name is erased by another hand, and that of Shakspeare inserted. 9 See Dr. Farmer's Esay on the Learning of Shakespeare.

« AnteriorContinuar »