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IT appears from Peck's Collection of divers curious historical Pieces, &c. (appended to his Memoirs, &c. of Oliver Cromwell,) p. 14, that a Latin play on this subject had been written: Epilogus Cæsaris 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, whose Wit's Commonwealth was published in 1598, enumerates Dr. Eedes among the best tragick writers of that time. STEEVENS.
From some words spoken by Polonius in Hamlet, I think it probable that there was an English play on this subject, before Shakspeare commenced a writer for the stage.
Stephen Gosson, in his School of Abuse, 1579, mentions a play entitled The History of Cæsar and Pompey.
See this topick further discussed in An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ii.
William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Sterline, wrote a tragedy on the story and with the title of Julius Cæsar. It may be presumed that Shakspeare's play was posterior to his; for Lord Sterline, when he composed his Julius Cæsar was a very young author, and would hardly have ventured into that circle, within which the most eminent dramatic writer of England had already walked. The death of Cæsar, which is not exhibited, but related to the audience, forms the catastrophe of his piece. In the two plays many parallel passages are found, which might, perhaps, have proceeded only from the two authors drawing from the same source. However, there are some reasons for thinking the coincidence more than accidental.
A passage in The Tempest, " (The cloud-capt towers," &c.) seems to have been copied from one in Darius, another play of Lord Sterline's, printed at Edinburgh, in 1603. His Julius Cæsar appeared in 1607, at a time when he was little acquainted with English writers; for both these pieces abound with scotticisms, which, in the subsequent folio edition, 1637, he corrected. But neither The Tempest nor the Julius Cæsar of our author was printed till 1623.
It should also be remembered, that our author has several plays, founded on subjects which had been previously treated by others. Of this kind are King John, King Richard II. the two parts of King Henry IV. King Henry V. King Richard III. King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and, I believe,
Hamlet, Timon of Athens, and The Second and Third Part of King Henry VI. 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. On all these grounds it appears more probable, that Shakspeare was indebted to Lord Sterline, than that Lord Sterline borrowed from Shakspeare. If this reasoning be just, this play could not have appeared before the year 1607. I believe it was produced in that year. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ii. MALONE.
The real length of time in Julius Cæsar is as follows: About the middle of February A. U. C. 709, a frantick festival, sacred to Pan, and called Lupercalia, was held in honour of Cæsar, when the regal crown was offered to him by Antony. On the 15th of March in the same year, he was slain. November 27, A. U. C. 710, the triumvirs met at a small island, formed by the river Rhenus, near Bononia, and there adjusted their cruel proscription. —A. U. C. 711, Brutus and Cassius were defeated near Philippi.
FLAVIUS and MARULLUS, Tribunes.
ARTEMIDORUS, a Sophist of Cnidos.
LUCILIUS, TITINIUS, MESSALA, young CATO, and VOLUMNIUS; Friends to Brutus and Cassius. VARRO, CLITUS, CLAUDIUS, STRATO, LUCIUS, DARDANIUS; Servants to Brutus.
PINDARUS, Servant to Cassius.
CALPHURNIA, Wife to Cæsar.
PORTIA, Wife to Brutus.
Senators, Citizens, Guards, Attendants, &c.
SCENE, during a great Part of the Play, at Rome: afterwards at Sardis; and near Philippi.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Rome. A Street.
Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS1, and a Rabble of
FLAV. Hence: home, you idle creatures, get you home;
Is this a holiday? What! know you not,
Of your profession ?-Speak, what trade art thou? 1 CIT. Why, sir, a carpenter.
MAR. Where is thy leather apron, and thy rule ? What dost thou with thy best apparel on ?You, sir; what trade are you?
2 CIT. Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobler.
MAR. But what trade art thou? Answer me directly.
1 CIT. A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe conscience; which is, indeed, sir, a mender of bad soals 2.
Marullus.] Old copy-Murellus. I have, upon the authorito of Plutarch, &c. given to this tribune his right name, Marullus. THEobald.
a mender of bad SOALS.] Fletcher has the same quibble in his Woman Pleas'd:
mark me, thou serious sowter,
"If thou dost this, there shall be no more shoe-mending;
MAR. What trade, thou knave; thou naughty knave, what trade?
2 CIT. Nay, I beseech you, sir, be not out with me yet, if you be out, sir, I can mend you.
MAR. What meanest thou by that? Mend me, thou saucy fellow ?
2 CIT. Why, sir, cobble you.
FLAV. Thou art a cobbler, art thou?
2 CIT. Truly, sir, all that I live by is, with the awl: I meddle with no tradesman's matters, nor women's matters, but with awl5. I am, indeed, sir,
3 Mar. What trade, &c.] This speech in the old copy is given to Flavius. The next speech but one shows that it belongs to Marullus, to whom it was attributed, I think, properly, by Mr. Capell. MALONE.
4 Mar. What meanest thou by that ?] As the Cobler, in the preceding speech, replies to Flavius, not to Marullus, 'tis plain, I think, this speech must be given to Flavius. THEOBALD.
I have replaced Marullus, who might properly enough reply to a saucy sentence directed to his colleague, and to whom the speech was probably given, that he might not stand too long unemployed upon the stage. JOHNSON.
I would give the first speech to Marullus, instead of transferring the last to Flavius. RITSON.
Perhaps this, like all the other speeches of the Tribunes, (to whichsoever of them it belongs) was designed to be metrical, and originally stood thus:
"What mean'st by that? Mend me, thou saucy fellow?" STEEVENS.
5 I meddle with no TRADESMAN's matters, nor women's matters, but with AWL.] This should be: I meddle with no trade,man's matters, nor woman's matters, but with awl." FARMER. Shakspeare might have adopted this quibble from the ancient ballad, intitled, "The Three Merry Coblers:
"We have awle at our command,
"And still we are on the mending hand." STEEVENS. I have already observed in a note on Love's Labour's Lost, vol. iv. p. 348, that where our author uses words equivocally, he imposes some difficulty on his editor with respect to the mode of exhibiting them in print. Shakspeare, who wrote for the stage, not for the closet, was contented if his quibble satisfied the ear. I have, with the other modern editors, printed here— with awl, though in the first folio, we find withal; as in the pre