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Shakespeare's Roman plays may be regarded as forming a group by themselves, less because they make use of practically the same authority and deal with similar subjects, than because they follow the same method of treatment, and that method is to a great extent peculiar to themselves. They have points of contact with the English histories, they have points of contact with the free tragedies, but they are not quite on a line with either class. It seems, therefore, possible and desirable to discuss them separately. In doing so I have tried to keep myself abreast of the literature on the subject; which is no easy task when one lives at so great a distance from European libraries, and can go home only on hurried and infrequent visits. I hope, however, that there is no serious gap in the list of authorities I have consulted. The particular obligations of which I am conscious I have indicated in detail. I should like, however, to acknowledge how much I owe throughout to the late F. A. T. Kreyssig, to my mind one of the sanest and most suggestive expositors that Shakespeare has ever had. I am the more pleased to avow my indebtedness, that at present in Germany Kreyssig is hardly receiving the learned, and in England has never received the popular, recognition that is his due. It is strange that while Ulrici's metaphysical lucubrations and Gervinus's somewhat ponderous commentaries found their translators and [p. xx] their public, Kreyssig's purely humane and literary appreciations were passed over. I once began to translate them myself, but “habent sua fata libelli,” the time had gone by. It is almost exactly half a century ago since his lectures were first published; and now there is so much that he would wish to omit, alter, or amplify, that it would be unfair to present them after this lapse of years for the first time to the English public. All the same he has not lost his value, and precisely in dealing with the English and the Roman histories he seems to me to be at his best. One is naturally led from a consideration of the plays to a consideration of their background; their antecedents in the drama, and their sources, direct and indirect. The previous treatment of Roman subjects in Latin, French, and English, is of some interest, apart from the possible connection of this or that tragedy with Shakespeare's masterpieces, as showing by contrast the originality as well as the splendour of his achievement. For this chapter of my Introduction I therefore offer no apology. On the other hand the sketches of the three ancestors of Shakespeare's Roman histories, and especially of Plutarch, need perhaps to be defended against the charge of irrelevancy. In examining the plays, one must examine their relations with their sources, and in examining their relations with their sources, one cannot stop short at North, who in the main contributes merely the final form, but must go back to the author who furnished the subject matter. Perhaps, too, some of the younger students of Shakespeare may be glad to have a succinct account of the man but for whom the Roman plays would never have been written. Besides, Plutarch, so far as I know, has not before been treated exactly from the point of view that is [p. xxi] here adopted. My aim has been to portray him mainly in those aspects that made him such a power in the period of the Renaissance, and gave him so great a fascination for men like Henry IV., Montaigne, and, of course, above all, Shakespeare. For the same reason I have made my quotations exclusively from Philemon Holland's translation of the Morals (1st edition, 1603) and North's translation of the Lives (Mr. Wyndham's reprint), as the Elizabethan versions show how he was taken by that generation. The essay on Amyot needs less apology. In view of the fact that he was the immediate original of North, he has received in England far less recognition than he deserves. Indeed he has met with injustice. English writers have sometimes challenged his claim to have translated from the Greek. To me it has had the zest of a pious duty to repeat and enforce the arguments of French scholars which show the extreme improbability of this theory. Unfortunately I have been unable to consult the Latin version of 1470, except in a few transcripts from the copy in the British Museum: but while admitting that a detailed comparison of that with the Greek and the French would be necessary for the formal completion of the proof, I think it has been made practically certain that Amyot dealt with all his authors at first hand. At any rate he is a man, who, by rendering Plutarch into the vernacular and in many instances furnishing the first draught of Shakespeare's phrases, merits attention from the countrymen of Shakespeare. Of North, even after Mr. Wyndham's delightful and admirable study, something remains to be said in supplement. And he too has hardly had his rights. The Morall Philosophie and the Lives have been reprinted, but the Diall of Princes is still to be seen only in the great libraries of Europe. [p. xxii] A hurried perusal of it two years ago convinced me that, apart from its historical significance, it was worthy of a place among the Tudor Translations and would help to clear up many obscurities in Elizabethan literature. I at first hoped to discuss in a supplementary section the treatment of the Roman Play in England by Shakespeare's younger contemporaries and Caroline successors, and show that while in some specimens Shakespeare's reconciling method is still followed though less successfully, while in some antiquarian accuracy is the chief aim, and some are only to be regarded as historical romances, it ultimately tended towards the phase which it assumed in France under the influence of the next great practitioner, Corneille, who assimilated the ancient to the modern ideal of Roman life as Shakespeare never did and, perhaps fortunately, never tried to do. But certain questions, especially in regard to the sources, are complicated, and, when contemporary translations, not as yet reprinted, may have been used, are particularly troublesome to one living so far from Europe. This part of my project, therefore, if not abandoned, has to be deferred; for it would mean a long delay, and I am admonished that what there is to do must be done quickly. I have complained of the lack of books in Australia, but before concluding I should like to acknowledge my obligations to the book-loving colonists of an earlier generation, to whose irrepressible zeal for learning their successors owe access to many volumes that one would hardly expect to see under the Southern Cross. Thus a 1599 edition of Plutarch in the University Library, embodying the apparatus of Xylander and Cruserius, has helped me much in the question of Amyot's relations to the Greek. Thus, too, I was able to utilise, among other works not easily met with, the first complete [p. xxiii] translation of Seneca's Tragedies (1581), in the collection of the late Mr. David Scott Mitchell, a “clarum et venerabile nomen” in New South Wales. May I, as a tribute of gratitude, inform my English readers that this gentleman, after spending his life in collecting books and manuscripts of literary and historical interest, which he was ever ready to place at the disposal of those competent to use them, bequeathed at his death his splendid library to the State, together with an ample endowment for its maintenance and extension? For much valuable help in the way of information and advice, my thanks are due to my sometime students and present colleagues, first and chiefly, Professor E. R. Holme, then Mr. C. J. Brennan, Mr. J. Le Gay Brereton, Mr. G. G. Nicholson, Dr. F. A. Todd; also to Messrs. Bladen and Wright of the Sydney Public Library for looking out books and references that I required; to Mr. M. L. Mac- Callum for making transcripts for me from books in the Bodleian Library; to Professor Jones of Glasgow University for various critical suggestions; above all to Professor Butler of Sydney University, who has pointed out to me many facts which I might have overlooked and protected me from many errors into which I should have fallen, and to Professor Ker of University College, London, who has most kindly undertaken the irksome task of reading through my proofs. M. W. MacCallum University of Sydney, 27th April, 1909.
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