ePub 版

and to the irresolute blood-avenger. Shakespeare recognized the kinship of the two characters, and it would seem, from internal evidence, that his mind was busy with the two conceptions at about the same time. Polonius, as has already been pointed out, prides himself on his personation of Julius Cæsar, while at the University ; Horatio, who is "more an antique Roman than a Dane," sees in the apparition of “the buried majesty of Denmark” the precurse of fierce events, even as

“In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead

Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets”; Hamlet, in the graveyard, moralizes on "Imperious Cæsar, dead and turned to dust” ; when the King, watching “the poison of deep grief” in poor Ophelia, reproaches himself for having done but greenly "in hugger-mugger" to inter her father, who can doubt that the strange phrase is a reminiscence of North's Life of Brutus?



If, as is most probable, Julius Cæsar preceded Hamlet, it is not altogether surprising to find in the latter play these striking references to the former subject. It would, however, prove a matter of greater interest and importance were we to discover in Julius Cæsar some direct connection with the subject of Hamlet. The present writer ventures to think that he may have found some such connection. Brutus' famous address to the assembled Romans (Act III, sc. ii) has an irresistible fascination for the student of the play. Its curtness is said to be in imitation of the speaker's "famed laconic brevity," whereof Shakespeare found a vivid account in North's Life of Brutus, but one looks

1 “Antony thinking good that Cæsar's body should be honorably buried, and not in hugger-mugger.”

2 “When the war began he wrote unto the Pergamenians in this sort: 'I understand you have given Dolabella money; if you have

in vain for any suggestion of the speech in any of the Lives.1

The original of the speech, according to the theory here hazarded, is perhaps to be found in Belleforest's History of Hamlet. Chapter VI (in the earliest extant English version) tells, “How Hamlet, having slain his Uncle, and burnt his Palace, made an Oration to the Danes to shew them what he had done"; etc. The situation of Hamlet is almost identical with that of Brutus after he has dealt the blow, and the burden of Hamlet's too lengthy speech finds an echo in Brutus' sententious utterance. The verbose iteration of the Dane has been compressed to suit “the brief compendious manner of speech of the Lacedæmonians."

» 2

done so willingly, you confess you have offended me; if against your wills, shew it then by giving me willingly.' Another time again unto the Samians: 'Your councils be long, your doings be slow, consider the end' ” (Life of Brutus).

1 Similarly, no direct source for Antony's speech to the citizens (Act III. Scene ii.) is to be found in Plutarch. It is just possible that a few bare hints were derived from Appian's History of the Civil War, which had been translated, from Greek, into English before 1578.

2 I draw attention to the following sentences taken at random from the English translation (dated 1608), without entering into the question of Shakespeare's acquaintance with Belleforest in the original French:—“If there be any among you, good people of Denmark, that as yet have fresh within your memories the wrong done to the valiant King Horvendile, let him not be moved, etc.

If there be any man that affecteth fidelity let him not be ashamed beholding this massacre.

The hand that hath done this justice could not effect it by any other means.

And what mad man is he that delighteth more in the tyranny of Fengon than in the clemency and renewed courtesy of Horvendile? And what man is he, that having any spark of wisdom, etc. I perceive you are attentive, and abashed for not knowing the author of your deliverance.” (The whole speech should be read in Collier's Reprint of the History of Hamlet, Shakespeare Library.)


The time of Julius Cæsar is six days represented on the stage, with intervals, arranged as follows:

[merged small][ocr errors]

The historical period extends from Cæsar's Triumph, October, 45 B.C., to the Battle of Philippi, in the autumn of the year 42 B.C.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

(i) There is no doubt as to the popularity of the subject of Julius Cæsar on the English stage before the appearance of Shakespeare's play, though it is extremely doubtful whether the latter owes anything to its predecessors, unless it be the phrase Et tu, Brute,which may indirectly have been derived from Dr. Eedes' play of Cæsaris Interfecti, acted at Oxford in 1582. Gosson, in his School of Abuse, 1579, mentions Cæsar and Pompey; while from Machyn's Diary it is inferred that Julius Cæsar was represented at Whitehall as early as 1562, but this is somewhat doubtful.

According to Henslowe's Diary, the Tragedy of Cæsan and Pompey; or Cæsar's Revenge" was produced in 1594.

(ii) The present play evidently called forth rival productions, and gave a fresh interest to the subject, for we find that a play entitled Cæsar's Fall was, in 1602, being prepared by Munday, Drayton, Webster, Middleton, and others. In 1604 William Alexander, Lord Stirling, published in Scotland his "Julius Cæsar," which was re-published in England some three years later.

1 The popularity of Shakespeare's play is in all probability attested by Leonard Digges' verses prefixed to the First Folio (1623) :

“Or till I hear a scene more nobly take
Than when thy half sword parlying Romans spake,” etc.

A droll or puppet-show on the same subject is mentioned by Marston in 1605, and by Jonson in 1609.

Cæsar's Tragedy acted at Court, April 10, 1613, was possibly Shakespeare's play (vide Note, supra).

(In Fletcher's Maid's Tragedy (circa 1608) the quarrel between Brutus and Cassius is imitated).

(iii) After the publication of the First Folio we have Thomas May's Latin Play, 1625, and George Chapman's Cæsar and Pompey: a Roman Tragedy, declaring their wars, out of whose events is evicted this proposition that only a just man is a free man."

(iv) In 1719 Davenant and Dryden published their alteration of Shakespeare's play, adapting it to the tastes of their day. To about the same period belongs Voltaire's Le Brutus, an interesting document illustrative of the slow appreciation of Shakespeare on the Continent; its introductory essay on "Tragedy” is almost as instructive as the text. No play of Shakespeare's has been more popular, and probably none has become more widely known, translated into strangest dialects, so that the words spoken by Cassius have a prophetic significance in a sense other than that intended by their inspired author :

“How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown.”


« 上一頁繼續 »