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"The Tragedie of Julius Cæsar" was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it occupies twenty-two pages; viz. from p. 109 to p. 130 inclusive, in the division of "Tragedies." The Acts, but not the Scenes, are distinguished; and it appeared in the same manner in the three later folios.
No early quarto edition of "Julius Cæsar" is known, and there is reason to believe that it never appeared in that form. The manuscript originally used for the folio of 1623 must have been extremely perfect, and free from corruptions, for there is, perhaps, no drama in the volume more accurately printed.
Malone and others have arrived at the conclusion that "Julius Cæsar" could not have been written before 1607. We think there is good ground for believing that it was acted before 1603.
We found this opinion upon some circumstances connected with the publication of Drayton's "Barons' Wars," and the resemblance between a stanza there found, and a passage in "Julius Cæsar," both of which it will be necessary to quote. In Act v. sc. 5, Antony gives the following character of Brutus :
"His life was gentle; and the elements
So mix'd in him, that Nature might stand up
In Drayton's "Barons' Wars," book iii. edit. 8vo., 1603, we meet with the subsequent stanza. The author is speaking of Mortimer :-"Such one he was, of him we boldly say,
In whose rich soul all sovereign powers did suit,
In whom in peace th' elements all lay
So mir'd, as none could sovereignty impute;
As all did govern, yet all did obey:
His lively temper was so absolute,
That 't seem'd, when heaven his model first began,
In him it shew'd perfection in a man.”
Italic type is hardly necessary to establish that one poet must have availed himself, not only of the thought, but of the very words of the other. The question is, was Shakespeare indebted to Drayton, or Drayton to Shakespeare? We shall not enter into general probabilities, founded upon the original and exhaustless stores of the mind of our great dramatist, but advert to a few dates, which, we think, warrant the conclusion that Drayton, having heard "Julius Cæsar" at the theatre, or seen it in manuscript before 1603, applied to his own purpose, perhaps unconsciously, what, in fact, belonged to another poet.
Drayton's "Barons' Wars" first appeared in 1596, quarto, under the title of "Mortimeriados." Malone had a copy without date, and