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SHAKESPEARE'S Julius Cæsar was not printed before it appeared in the first folio, of 1623, but there is good reason for believing it to have been written in or before the year 1601. Its date of production might be, therefore, between King Henry V. and Hamlet; but Shakespeare more frequently produced two plays than one in a year.
Mr. Halliwell-Phillips has pointed out that in a book published in 1601-Weaver's "Mirror of Martyrs "there is distinct reference to the Forum Scene in the Third Act of Shakespeare's play:
"The many-headed multitude were drawne
By Brutus' speech, that Cæsar was ambitious;
His vertues, who but Brutus then was vicious?"
This allusion places beyond question the fact that the stanza in Drayton's "Barons' Wars," published in 1603, which gives a character of Mortimer resembling Antony's character of Brutus in the last
scene of Julius Caesar, was suggested by a passage in Shakespeare's play. This was the stanza :
"Such one he was, of him we boldly say,
In whose rich soul all sovereign powers did suit,
So mixed, as none could sovereignty impute;
His lively temper was so absolute
That 't seemed, when Heaven his model first began.
Revision of the poem for the edition of 1619 made the resemblance even more distinct, its last couplet being corrected into:
"As that it seemed, when Nature him began,
She meant to show all that might be in man.
Shakespeare had made Antony say of Brutus :
"His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar is a play of government, but it is not enough merely to say that it represents government in its chief forms. The sweep of the story brings before us-in Rome the old centre of rule-unstable populace, democratic tribunes, republicans in their two main types, as the practical republican whose thought is for hin
self, and the philosophical whose thought is for the world; it paints in feeble man the greed of empire, and tyrannicide as worse than fruitless; shows oligarchy risen from the ruins with a tyranny far greater than that from which the bare mistrust had caused escape to be sought by murder; it paints civil war, and includes foreshadowings of the disunion between chiefs of equal power. Their strife is shown in the play of Antony and Cleopatra, that continues the sequence of events to the final triumph of Octavius.
There is all this, no doubt, furnishing material for the two stories; and Shakespeare, as in preceding plays, made use of the historical groundwork as a parable against sedition and a warning of the ills of civil war, while the direct human interest, the centre of action, might lie in something else. So in this pair of plays, one, Antony and Cleopatra, has its centre in the house of the strange woman by whom many strong men have been slain. But in Julius Cæsar the centre of human interest is the centre also of the question of government. Religious men, opposed to her in faith, had more than once plotted the assassination of Elizabeth; and that the death of the childless queen might, whenever it happened, bring on another contest for the crown,