Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

UPON THE

1

DEATH OF JULIUS CÆSAR.

T

HE tragedies of Cinna, and Julius Cæfar, are each of them the representation of a confpiracy; but it cannot be denied that our countryman has been by far more judicious in his choice of the story. An abortive scheme, in which fome people of obfcure fame were engaged, and even in whom, as they are represented, the enterprize was pardoned, more from contempt of their abilities and power, than the clemency of the Emperor, makes a poor figure in contrast with that confpiracy, which, formed by the first characters in Rome, effected the deftruction of the greatest man, the world ever produced, and was fucceeded by the most memorable confequences. Hiftory furnishes various examples of men of base and treacherous natures, of diffolute manners, ruined fortunes, and loft reputations, uniting in horrid affociation to deftroy their prince. Q 2 Ambition

Ambition often cuts itself a bloody way to greatness. Exafperated mifery sometimes plunges its defperate dagger in the breast of the oppreffor. The Cabal of a Court, the Mutiny of a Camp, the wild Zeal of Fanatics, have too frequently produced events of that nature. But this confpiracy was formed of very different elements. It was the Genius of Rome, the Rights of her Constitution, the Spirit of her Laws, that rofe against the Ambition of Cæfar; they fteeled the heart, and whetted the dagger of the mild, the virtuous, the gentle Brutus, to give the mortal wound, not to a Tyrant, who had fastened fetters on his fellow-citizens, but to the Conqueror, who had made almost the whole world wear their chains: and who was then preparing to fubdue the only Empire that remained unsubjected to them.

[ocr errors]

Can there be a fubject more worthy of the Tragic Muse, than an action fo important in its consequences, and unparalleled in all its circumstances? How is our curiofity excited to discover what could engage the man of virtue in an enterprize of such a terrible

terrible kind; and why, after its accomplishment, instead of being stigmatized with the name of Confpirator and Affaffin, the decrees of an auguft Senate, and the voice of Rome, unite to place him one of the first on the roll of Patriots; and the Succeffor of the murdered Cæfar, who devoted to deftruction the most illuftrious men of Rome, durft not offer violation to the Statue of. Brutus !

To create, in the English spectator, the fame reverence for him, it is necessary we should be made to imbibe thofe doctrines, and to adopt thofe opinions, by which he himself was actuated. We must be in the very Capitol of Rome; stand at the base of Pompey's ftatue, furrounded by the effigies. of their patriots; we must be taught to adore the images of Junius Brutus, the Horatii, Decii, Fabii, and all who had offered dear and bloody facrifice to the liberty of their country, in order to fee this action in the point of view in which it offered itself to the deliberation of Brutus, and in which it was beheld by thofe, who judged of it Q3

when

when done. To the very fcene, to the very time, therefore, does our Poet transport us: at Rome, we become Romans; we are affected by their manners; we are caught by their enthusiasm. But what a variety of imitations were there to be made by the Artist to effect this! and who but Shakespear was capable of fuch a task? A Poet of ordinary genius would have endeavoured to interest us for Brutus, by the means of fome imagined fond mother, or fonder miftrefs. But can a few female tears wipe out the stains of Affaffination? A bafe confpirator, a vile affaffin, like the wretched Cinna of Corneille, would Brutus have appeared to us, if the fame feeble arts only had been exerted for him. It is for the genuine fon of ancient Rome, the lover of the liberty of his country, that we are interested. A concern for him, mixed with compaffion for any other perfon, would only, from thefe difcordant Sentiments, have excited fome painful Emotions in the Spectator. Indeed, the common aim of tragedy writers feems to be merely to make us uneafy, for fome reafon or other, during the drama. They take any thing

thing to be tragedy, in which there are great perfons, and much lamentation; but our Poet never represents an action of one fort, and raises emotions and paffions of another fort. He excites the fympathies, and the concern, proper to the ftory. The paffion of love, or maternal affection, may afford good fubjects for a tragedy. In the fables of Phedra and Merope, those sentiments belong to the action; but they had no fhare in the refolution taken to kill Cæfar; and, if they are made to interfere, they adulterate the imitation; if to predominate, they spoil it. Our author difdains the legerdemain trick of fubftituting one paffion for another. He is the great magician who can call forth paffions of any fort. If they are fuch as time has destroyed, or custom extinguished, he fummons from the dead thofe fouls in which they once exifted. Having fufficiently enlarged on the general fcope of our Author in this play, we will now confider it in the detail.

The first scene is in the streets of Rome. The Tribunes chide the people for gathering

Q4

together

« AnteriorContinua »