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1S6 '. CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Fficizd, Scc. Scc. Soon after the Refloration, one Kirkman, a bookfeller printed many dramatick pieces that had remained unpublished for more than sixty years; and in an advertisement subjoined to "A true, jzcrfcft and exaft catalogue of all the comedie-s tragedies, tbc. that were ever yctprintcd and published, till this present year 1671," he says, that although there were, at that time, but eighthundred and fix plays in print, yet many more had been written and afted, and that " he himself hadsomc quantity in nzanuscrijgt."--The resemblance between Macbctlz and this newly discovered piece by Middleton, naturally suggefis a wish, that if any of the unpublilhed plays, above enumerated, be yet in being, (befide The Second Maid's Tragedy, the Tclt-tale, Timon, and Sir Tlwmas More, which are known to be extant,) their polselsors would condescend to examine them with attention; as hence, perhaps, new lights might be thrown on others of our author's plays. i
It has been already suggefied thatit is probable our author about the time of- his compofing Cymbclincand Macbeth devoted some part of his leifure to the reading of the lives of Cxsar and Antony in North's translation of Plutarch. In the play before there are two passages which countenance that conjefture. " Under him," says Macbeth,
A tragedy on the subject, and with the title, of julius Czsar, written by Mr. William Alexander, who was afterwards earl of Sterline, was printed in the year 1607. This, I imagine, was prior to our auchor's performance, which was not entered at Stationers-hall, nor printed, till 1623. Shak7 speare, we know, formed at least twelve plays on fables that had been unsuccessfully managed by other poets;"' but no contemporary writer was dating enough to enter the lifls with him, in his life-time, or to model intoa drama a subject which had already employed his pen; land it is not likely that Lord Sterline, who was then a very young man, and had scarcely unlearned the Scottish idiom, should have been more hardy than any other poet of that age.
I am aware, it may be objefled, that this writer might have formed a (lrama on this story, not knowing that Shakfpeare had previoully composed the tragedy ofjulizls Cazsar; and that, therefore, the publication of Mr. Ale:-:ander's play in 1607, is no proof that our auth0r"s performance did not then exist.-ln answer to this objection, it may, perhaps, be sufficient to observe, that Mr. Alexan
3 There is an edition without date, which probably was the firsl. This play, as appears by the title-page, was privately aeled by the students of Trinity College in Oxford. In the running title it is called The Tragedy osjulius Czsar; perhaps the better to impose it on the publick for the performance of Shakspeare. '
being at all calculated for dramatick exhibition. On the other hand, Shakspeare's julius Crrsar was
a very popular piece; as we learn from Digges, a.
contemporary writer, who in his commendatory verses prefixed to our author's works, has alluded to it as one ofhis most celebrated performances' We have certain proof that Antony and Cleopatra was composed-before the middle of the year 1608. An attentive review of that play andjulius Casar, will, I think, lead us to conclude that this latter was firfi written." Not to insifi on the chronology