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INTRODUCTION, AND NOTES EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL.
FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND CLASSES.
Rev. HENRY N. HUDSON,
PUBLISHED BY GINN & HEATH.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1879, by
HENRY N. HUDSON,
History of the Play.
US CÆSAR was first printed in the folio of 1623. None of the plays in that inestimable volume have reached us with the text in a sounder and clearer state ; there being few passages that give an editor any trouble, none that are very troublesome.
The Rev. Mr. Fleay, in his Shakespeare Manual, 1876, argues somewhat strenuously to the point that “this play, as we have it, is an abridgment of Shakespeare's play, made by Ben Jonson." In support of his theory he alleges, and truly, that Jonson did in fact exercise his hand more or less in altering and refitting other men's plays. He also points out the fact, - for such it is, that the number of short lines or broken verses in Julius Cæsar is uncommonly large. And he cites several words and phrases, such as " quality and kind,"
.”“bear me hard," "chew upon this,” &c., which do not occur elsewhere in Shakespeare ; while the same words and phrases, or something very like them, are met with in Jonson's plays. Still more to the purpose, he adduces a passage in Act iii., scene 1, which is evidently referred to in Jonson's Discoveries, 1637, and which, in all probability, as I think, — has been altered, perhaps by Jonson's hand, from what Shakespeare wrote. As the question is discussed
at some length in the Critical Notes, it need not be prosecuted further here.
Such are the main particulars urged by Mr. Fleay. His argument shows a good deal of learned diligence ; still it does not, to my mind, carry any great force, certainly is far from being conclusive, and, as the Clarendon Editor observes, is “not such as the readers of Shakespeare have a right to demand.” Nevertheless, as, on comparing the quarto and folio copies, we find that the folio has several other plays more or less abridged; some to the extent of whole scenes ; so I think it nowise improbable that, after Shakespeare's retirement from the stage, perhaps after his death, Julius Cæsar may have been subjected to the same process, and for the same purpose, namely, to shorten the time of representation. If this was done, it is altogether credible that Jonson may have been the man who did it : but I fail to catch any taste of Jonson's style or any smack of his idiom in the play as it stands. So that, while conceding that he may have struck out more or less of Shakespeare's matter, still I am by no means prepared to admit that he put in any thing of his own; though, possibly enough, in a few places, as in that already specified, he may have slightly altered Shakespeare's language.
There were several other plays on the subject of Julius Cæsar, written some before, some after, the composition of Shakespeare's play; but, as no connection has been traced between any of these and Shakespeare's, it seems hardly worth the, while to make any further notice of them.
Date of the Writing. The time when Julius Cæsar was composed has been variously argued, some placing it in the middle period of the Poet's labours, others among the latest; and, as no clear contemporary notice or allusion had been produced, the question could not be positively determined. It is indeed well known that the original Hamlet must have been written as early as 1602 ; and in iii. 2, of that play Polonius says, “I did enact Julius Cæsar : I was killed in the Capitol ; Brutus killed me.” As the play now in hand lays the scene of the stabbing in the Capitol, it is not improbable, to say the least, that the Poet had his own Julius Cæsar in mind when he wrote the passage in Hamlet. And that such was the case is made further credible by the fact, that Polonius speaks of himself as having enacted the part when he “play'd once in the University," and that in the title-page of the first edition of Hamlet we have the words, “ As it hath been divers times acted by his Highness' Servants in the city of London; as also in the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.” Still the point cannot be affirmed with certainty ; for there were several earlier plays on the subject, and especially a Latin play on Cæsar's Death, which was performed at Oxford in 1582.
Mr. Collier argued that Shakespeare's play must have been on the stage before 1603, his reason being as follows. Drayton's Mortimeriados appeared in 1596. The poem was afterwards recast by the author, and published again in 1603 as The Barons' Wars. The recast has the following lines, which were not in the original form of the poem :
Such one he was, of him we boldly say,