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THE A R D E N S H A K E SPE A RE
THE TRAGEDY OF
D. C. HEATH AND COMPANY
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In this edition of SHAKESPEARE an attempt is made to present the greater plays of the dramatist in their literary aspect, and not merely as material for the study of philology or grammar. Criticism purely verbal and textual has only been included to such an extent as may serve to help the student in the appreciation of the essential poetry. Questions of date and literary history have been fully dealt with in the Introductions, but the larger space has been devoted to the interpretative rather than the matter-of-fact order of scholarship. Æsthetic judgments are never final, but the Editors have attempted to suggest points of view from which the analysis of dramatic motive and dramatic character may be profitably undertaken. In the Notes likewise, while it is hoped that all unfamiliar expressions and allusions have been adequately explained, yet it has been thought even more important to consider the dramatic value of each scene, and the part which it plays in relation to the whole. These general principles are common to the whole series ; in detail each Editor is alone responsible for the play or plays that have been intrusted to him.
Every volume of the series has been provided with a Glossary, an Essay upon Metre, and an Index; and Appendices have been added upon points of special interest which could not conveniently be treated in the Introduction or the Notes. The text is based by the several Editors on that of the Globe edition.
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1. LITERARY HISTORY OF THE PLAY
The earliest known edition of Julius Cæsar is that of the First Folio, 1623, in which the plays were for the first time collected. We have no knowledge of the text on which it was based; but the passages that show distinct signs of corruption are few: the readings are rarely open to serious question.
The date of the earliest performance of the play can be determined with close approximation. Julius Cæsar is not mentioned in the list of Shakespeare's plays given by Meres in his Palladis Tamia, Wit's Treasury, published in September, 1598, and was therefore almost certainly not then in existence. Evidence for its existence in 1599 comes from three independent sources.
(1) In Weever's Mirror of Martyrs (1601) are the lines —
“The many-headed multitude were drawne
By Brutus speech, that Cæsar was ambitious.
His vertues, who but Brutus then was vicious ?” These lines, for which sufficient basis cannot be found in Plutarch, or in any other historian, are evidently a reminiscence of Shakespeare's scene (iii. 2). In his Dedication, Weever declares that his work “some two years ago was made fit for the press.”i While not conclusive, for Weever may none the less have inserted the allusion as an afterthought, this passage points strongly to a date not later than 1599.
(2) In Ben Jonson's Every Man out of His Humour (1599), iii. 1, the character Clove, in a mock-philosophical speech, begins a sentence with the words, “Then coming to the pretty animal, as reason long since is fled to animals,” plainly with allusion to iii. 2. 109 of our play. The phrase "Et tu, Brute,” which occurs in the
1 Cited by Elze, William Shakespeare (1876), p. 351.