« ПретходнаНастави »
to better advantage than in his handling of the three ‘Lives' on which he drew,—those, namely, of Cæsar, Brutus, and Antony; while his power of poetic and dramatic transformation will appear upon comparing Act III, Scene i with the following typical passage from North:
“For these things, they may seem to come by chance: but the place where the murther was prepared, and where the Senate were assembled, and where also there stood up an image of Pompey dedicated by him selfe amongest other ornaments which he gave unto the Theater: all these were manifest proofes, that it was the ordinaunce of some god that made this treason to be executed, specially in that very place. It is also reported that Cassius (though otherwise hee did favour the doctrine of Epicurus) beholding the image of Pompey, before they entred into the action of their traiterous enterprise; hee did softly call uppon it to aide him. But the instant danger of the present time, taking away his former reason, did sodainly put him into a furious passion, and made him like a man halfe besides him selfe. Now Antonius, that was a faithfull friend to Cæsar, and a valiant man besides of his handes, him Decius Brutus Albinus entertained out of the Senate house, having begunne a long tale of set purpose. So Cæsar comming into the house, all the Senate stood up on their feete to doe him honor. The part of Brutus company
and confederates stoode round about Cæsars chayre, and part of them also came towardes him, as though they made sute with Metellus Cimber, to call home his brother againe from banishment: and thus prosecuting still their sute, they followed Cæsar, till hee was set in his chaire. Who, denying their petitions, and being uffended with them one after an other, because the more they were denied the more they pressed uppon him, and were the earnester with him: Metellus at length, taking his gowne with both his hands, pulled it over his necke, which was the signe given the confederats to set uppon him. Then Casca, behinde him, strake him in the necke with his sword, howbeit the wound was not great nor mortall, because it seemed the feare of such a devilish attempt did amaze him and take his strength from him, that he killed him not at the first blow. But Cæsar turning straight unto him, caught hold of his sword, and held it hard: & they both cried out, Cæsar in Latin: O vile traitor Casca, what doest thou? And Casca in Greeke to his brother, brother, helpe mee. At the beginning of this stur, they that were present, not knowing of the conspiracy, were so amazed with the horrible sight they saw: they had no power to flie, neither to helpe him, not so much, as once to make an outcry. They on the other side that had conspired his death compassed him in on everie side with their swords drawen in their hands, that Cæsar turned him no where but hee was stricken at by some, and still had naked swords in his face, and was hacked and mangled among them, as a wilde beast taken of hunters. For it was agreede among them, that every man should give him a wound, because all their parts should be in this murther: and then Brutus gave him
. Men report also, that Cæsar did still defende him selfe against the rest, running every way with his body: but when he saw Brutus with his sword drawen in his hand, then he pulled his gowne over his head, and made no more resistaunce, and was driven either casually, or purposedly, by the counsell of the conspirators, against the base whereupon Pompeys image stoode, which ran all of a goare bloud till he was slain. Thus it seemed that the image tooke just revenge of Pompeys enemy, being throwen downe on the ground at his feete, and yeelding up his ghost there, for the number of wounds he had upon him. For it is reported, that he had three and twenty wounds upon his body: and divers of the conspirators did hurt themselves, striking one body with so many blowes. When Cæsar was slaine, the Senate (though Brutus stood in the middest amongst them, as though he would have saied somewhat touching this fact) presently ran out of the house, and flying, filled all the city with marvellous feare and tumult.' (From 'The Life of Julius Cæsar,' North's 2d ed., 1595, as quoted by Furness, pp. 300, 301.)
THE HISTORY OF THE PLAY
The earliest extant version of Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar is that found in the famous First Folio collected edition of his plays, published in 1623, which therefore necessarily forms the basis of all modern texts; for the only known Quarto editions belong to the late Restoration period and so, unfortunately, have little critical value for the solution of the problems presented by the original text. It seems fairly certain now that Julius Cæsar was written and first produced in 1599, for on the twenty-first of September in that year a German traveller witnessed a performance of what was presumably Shakespeare's play at the Globe Theatre (cf. 'Londoner Theater und Schauspiele im Jahre 1599, G. Binz, Anglia, xxii, 456, 1899). The next performance that we can date seems to have taken place at court early in 1613, the next at St. James', January 31, 1636-7, and the next at the Cockpit, November 13, 1638; but that the popularity of the play was far greater than these meagre records suggest is attested by various kinds of evidence, from Henslowe's effort to capitalize its success by producing a rival Cæsar play, in 1602, to Digges' striking tribute prefixed to the First Folio.1
After the Restoration, Julius Cæsar is one of the three Shakespearean dramas listed by Downes (“Roscius Anglicanus,' 1708) among the 'Principal old Stock Plays' given by Killigrew's company in the 1660's. Charles Hart (d. 1683), grandson of Shakespeare's sister Joan, was the great Brutus of this period, and was succeeded by the famous Thomas Betterton (1635 ?-1710); it is Betterton's cast (see the frontispiece to the present volume) that is given in the six Quarto editions published between 1684 and 1691, evidently printed as playgoers' guides (cf. “Quarto Editions of Julius Cæsar,' by Miss H. C. Bartlett, The Library, 1913).
It is worthy of note that Julius Cæsar is one of the few Shakespearean plays that escaped mutilation at the hands of so-called adapters or revisers, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for the abortive efforts in 1719 and 1722 had no success or significance (cf. F. W. Kilbourne's 'Alterations and Adaptations of Shakespeare, Boston, 1906). A plausible sketch by Miss C. Porter ('How Shakespeare Set and Struck the Scene for Julius Cæsar in 1599,' Mod. Lang. Notes, 1916) gives a pleasant glimpse into Elizabethan stage procedure, and William Winter's 'Shakespeare on the Stage' (Second Series, 1915) supplies many illuminating hints about the stage 'business' in succeeding and modern productions; while Brander Matthews (“Shaksperian Stage Traditions' in 'Shaksperian Studies, Columbia Univ. Press, 1916) gives a spirited picture of the Meiningen company's remarkable presentation of the Forum scene and Antony's oration.
1 'The Shakspere Allusion-Book' lists ten (should be eleven ? Digges, p. 318, is not indexed) references to Julius Cæsar down to 1649, and twenty-five more between 1650 and 1700.
In the early eighteenth century Robert Wilks (1665 ?-1732), the friend of Farquhar, was a brilliant Antony, while Barton Booth (1681-1733) and James Quin (1693-1766) excelled as Brutus. Garrick never acted in Julius Cæsar, but his rival, Spranger Barry (1719-1777), was a most moving Antony. The famous Peg Woffington (1714 ?-1760) appeared as Portia in several performances about 1750, but because the part is such a minor one it has not been taken by many great actresses since then. Coming down to the nineteenth century, we find all the greatest actors appearing in the play. The Kembles and Young, Macready and Davenport, Wallack, Charles Kean, J. B. Booth, Samuel Phelps, and Beerbohm Tree have all presented one or more of the four leading rôles. The first American performance was given at Charleston, S. C., April 20, 1774. Edwin Forrest and John Edward McCullough are also associated with the play, as are Tyrone Power, William Faversham, and Robert Bruce Mantell in our own time; but the crowning achievement in America's production of Julius Cæsar will always be the magnificent double triumph of Edwin Booth and Lawrence Barrett, in the '60's, '70's, and '80's, with honorable mention, perhaps, of Richard Mansfield's sombre portrayal of Brutus' tragic loneliness, beginning October 14, 1902. It is not easy nowadays to realize the power and effectiveness attributed by tradition to these great players of the past, but fortunately it is still possible to gain some impression of Edwin Booth's thrilling personal magnetism and manifest genius from the inspired portrait by John S. Sargent in the Players' Club, New York City.