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have been acted before 1603. Knight believes it to be “one of the latest works of Shakespeare." Craik* comes to the conclusion, that it “can hardly be assigned to a later date than the year 1607, but there is nothing to prove that it may not be of considerably earlier date.” White infers from the style that “it was probably brought out between 1605 and 1608.” Gervinus (in his Shakespeare Commentaries) decides that it “was composed before 1603, about the same time as Hamlet ;” and he adds that this is “confirmed not only by the frequent external references to Cæsar which we find in Hamlet, but still more by the inner relations of the two plays." More recently in his folio edition of Shakespeare, 1865), Halliwell has shown that it was written "in or before the year 1601.” This appears “from the following lines in Weever's Mirror of Martyrs, printed in that year—lines which unquestionably are to be traced to a recollection of Shakespeare's drama, not to that of the history as given by Plutarch:
“ “ The many-headed multitude were drawne
By Brutus' speech, that Cæsar was ambitious;
II. THE HISTORICAL SOURCES OF THE PLAY. It appears from Peck’s “ Collection of divers curious historical pieces, etc.” (appended to his Memoirs of Oliver Cromwell), that a Latin play on this subject, entitled “Epilogus Cæsaris interfecti,” had been written as early as 1582, by Dr. Richard Eedes, and acted at Christ Church College, Oxford. This was very likely the drama referred to in Hamlet (iii. 2): “Hamlet. My lord, you play'd once i’ th’ university, you say?
Polonius. That did I, my lord; and was accounted a good actor.
Polonius. I did enact Julius Cæsar : I was kill'd i'th' Capitol ;
* English of Shakespeare, Rolfe's ed., pp. 44-49.
Stephen Gosson also, in his School of Abuse, 1579, mentions a play entitled “The History of Cæsar and Pompey;" and there were doubtless other early English plays based on the story of Cæsar. But the only source from which Shakespeare appears to have derived his materials was Sir Thomas North's version of Plutarch's Lives (translated from the French of Amyot), first published in 1579. He has followed his authority closely, not only in the main incidents, but often in the minutest details of the action. This has been well stated
by Gervinus in his Shakespeare Commentaries :* “The component parts of the drama are borrowed from the biographies of Brutus and Cæsar in such a manner that not only the historical action in its ordinary course, but also the single characteristic traits in incidents and speeches, nay, even single expressions and words, are taken from Plutarch ; even such as are not anecdotal or of an epigrammatic nature, even such as one unacquainted with Plutarch would consider in form and manner to be quite Shakespearian, and which have not unfrequently been quoted as his peculiar property, testifying to the poet's deep knowledge of human nature. From the triumph over Pompey (or rather over his sons), the silencing of the two tribunes, and the crown offered at the Lupercalian feast, until Cæsar's murder, and from thence to the battle of Philippi and the closing words of Antony, which are in part exactly as they were delivered, all in this play is essentially Plutarch. The omens of Cæsar's death, the warnings of the augur and of Artemidorus, the absence of the heart in the animal sacrificed, Calphurnia's dream ; the peculiar traits of Cæsar's character, his superstition regarding the touch of barren women in the course, his remarks about thin people like Cassius ; all the circumstances about the conspiracy where no oath was taken, the character of Ligarius, the withdrawal of Cicero; the whole relation of Portia to Brutus, her words, his reply, her subsequent anxiety and death ; the circumstances of Cæsar's death, the very arts and means of Decius Brutus to induce him to leave home, all the minutest particulars of his murder, the behaviour of Antony and its result, the murder of the poet Cinna; further on, the contention between the republican friends respecting Lucius Pella and the refusal of the money, the dissension of the two concerning the decisive battle, their conversation about suicide, the appearance of Brutus's evil genius, the mistakes in the battle, its double issue, its repetition, the suicide of both friends, and Cassius's death by the same sword with which he killed Cæsar-all is taken from Plutarch's narrative, from which the poet had only to omit whatever destroyed the unity of the action.”
* Bunnett's Translation, London, 1863. This passage immediately precedes the one quoted in the “Critical Comments on the Play” below.
The period of the action of the play extends from the feast of the Lupercalia, in February of the year 44 B.C., to the battle of Philippi, in the autumn of the year 42 B.C.
III. CRITICAL COMMENTS ON THE PLAY.
[From Hazlitt's “ Characters of Shakespear's Plays.”] Shakespear has in this play and elsewhere shown the same penetration into political character and the springs of public events as into those of every-day life. For instance, the whole design of the conspirators to liberate their country fails from the generous temper and overweening confidence of Brutus in the goodness of their cause and the assistance of others. Thus it has always been. Those who mean well themselves think well of others, and fall a prey to their security. That humanity and honesty which dispose men to resist injustice and tyranny render them unfit to cope with the cunning and power of those who are opposed to them. The friends of liberty trust to the professions of others because they are themselves sincere, and endeavour to reconcile the public good with the least possible hurt to its enemies, who have no regard to anything but their own unprincipled ends, and stick at nothing to accomplish them. Cassius was better cut out for a conspirator. His heart prompted his head. His watchful jealousy made him fear the worst that might happen, and his irritability of temper added to his inveteracy of purpose, and sharpened his patriotism. The mixed nature of his motives made him fitter to contend with bad men. The vices are never so well employed as in combating one another. Tyranny and servility are to be dealt with after their own fashion ; otherwise they will triumph over those who spare them, and finally pronounce their funeral panegyric, as Antony did that of Brutus :
“All the conspirators, save only he,
And common good to all, made one of them.” The quarrel between Brutus and Cassius is managed in a masterly way. The dramatic fluctuation of passion, the calmness of Brutus, the heat of Cassius, are admirably described ; and the exclamation of Cassius on hearing of the death of Portia, which he does not learn till after their reconciliation, “How scap'd I killing when I cross'd you so ?” gives double force to all that has gone before. The scene between Brutus and Portia, where she endeavours to extort the secret of the conspiracy from him, is conceived in the most heroical spirit, and the burst of tenderness in Brutus
“You are my true and honourable wife:
That visit my sad heart” — . is justified by her whole behaviour. Portia's breathless impatience to learn the event of the conspiracy, in the dialogue