Roman Plays in the Sixteenth CenturyPlays that dealt with the History of Rome were frequent on the Elizabethan stage, and all portions of it were laid under contribution. Subjects were taken from legends of the dawn like the story of Lucretia, and from rumours of the dusk like the story of Lucina; from Roman pictures of barbarian allies like Massinissa in the South, or barbarian antagonists like Caractacus in the North; as well as from the intimate records of home affairs and the careers of the great magnates of the Republic or Empire. But these plays belong more distinctively to the Stuart than to the Tudor section of the period loosely named after Elizabeth, and few have survived that were composed before the beginning of the seventeenth century. For long the Historical Drama treated by preference the traditions and annals of the island realm, and only by degrees did “the matter of Britain” yield its pride of place to “the matter of Rome the Grand.” Moreover, the earlier Roman Histories are of very inferior importance, and none of them reaches even a moderate standard of merit till the production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in 1600 or 1601. In this department Shakespeare had not the light to guide him that [p. 2] he found for his English Histories in Marlowe's Edward II., or even in such plays as The Famous Victories of Henry V. The extant pieces that precede his first experiment, seem only to be groping their way, and it is fair to suppose that the others which have been lost did no better. Their interest, in so far as they have any interest at all, lies in the light they throw on the gradual progress of dramatic art in this domain. And they illustrate it pretty fully, and show it passing through some of the main general phases that may be traced in the evolution of the Elizabethan Tragedy as a whole. At the outset we have one specimen of the Roman play in which the legitimate drama is just beginning to disengage itself from the old Morality, and another in which the unique Senecan exemplar is transformed rather than translated to suit the primitive art of the time. Then we have several more artistic specimens deriving directly or indirectly from the French imitators of Seneca, which were the most dignified and intelligent the sixteenth century had to show. And lastly we have a specimen of what the Roman play became when elaborated by the scholar-playwrights for the requirements of the popular London stage. A survey of these will show how far the ground was prepared for Shakespeare by the traditions of this branch of the drama when he turned to cultivate it himself.
1. Appius and Virginia. The Translation of Octavia
The crudest if not the earliest of the series is entitled A new Tragicall Comedie of Apius and Virginia, by R.B., initials which have been supposed [p. 3] with some probability to stand for Richard Bower, who was master of the Chapel Royal at Windsor in 1559. It was first printed in 1575, but must have been written some years before. A phrase it contains, “perhaps a number will die of the sweat,”
has been thought to refer to the prevalence of the plague in 1563, and it may be identified with a play on the same subject that was acted at that time by the boys of Westminster. At any rate several expressions show beyond doubt that it was meant for representation, but only on the old-fashioned scaffold which was soon to be out-of-date. Its character and scope belong too, in part, to a bygone age. The prologue proclaims its ethical intention with the utmost emphasis:
You lordings all that present be, this Tragidie to heareIt is written in commendation of chastity and rebuke of vice:
Note well what zeale and loue heerein doth well appeare,
And, Ladies, you that linked are in wedlocke bandes for euer
Do imitate the life you see, whose fame will perish neuer:
But Uirgins you, oh Ladies fair, for honour of your name
Doo lead the life apparent heere to win immortall fame.1
Let not the blinded God of Loue, as poets tearm him so,No Moral Play could be more explicit in its lesson, and the Moral Play has also suggested a large number of the personages. Conscience, Justice, Rumour, Comfort, Reward, Doctrine, Memory, are [p. 4] introduced, and some of them not only in scenes by themselves, but in association with the concrete characters. Occasionally their functions are merely figurative, and can be separated from the action that is supposed to be proceeding: and then of course they hardly count for more than the attributes that help to explain a statue. Thus, when Appius resolves to pursue his ruthless purpose, he exclaims:
Nor Venus with her venery, nor Lechors, cause of wo,
Your Uirgins name to spot or file: deare dames, obserue the life
That faire Verginia did obserue, who rather wish(ed) the knife
Of fathers hand hir life to ende, then spot her chastety.
As she did waile, waile you her want, you maids, of courtesie.
If any by example heere would shun that great anoy,2
Our Authour would rejoyce in hart, and we would leap for joy.
But out, I am wounded: how am I deuided!and the quaint stage direction in the margin gives the comment:
Two states of my life from me are now glided:
Here let him make as thogh he went out, and let Consience and Justice come out of3 him, and let Consience hold in his hande a Lamp burning, and let Justice haue a sworde and hold it before Apius brest.Thus, too, another stage direction runs:
Here let Consience speake within:And he answers: “Whence doth this pinching sounde desende?” Here clearly it is merely the voice of his own feelings objectified: and in both instances the interference of the Abstractions is almost wholly decorative; they add nothing to the reflections of Appius, but only serve to emphasise them. This however is not always the case. They often comport themselves in every respect like the real men and women. Comfort stays Virginius from suicide till he shall see the punishment of the wicked. Justice and Reward (that is, Requital) summoned by the unjust judge to doom the father, pronounce sentence on himself. In the end Virginius enters in company with Fame, Doctrina, and Memory. [p. 5] Other of the characters, again, if more than general ideas, are less than definite individuals. There is a sub-plot not at all interwoven with the main plot, in which the class types, Mansipulus, Mansipula, and their crony, Subservus, play their parts. With their help some attempt is made at presenting the humours of vulgar life. They quarrel with each other, but are presently reconciled in order to divert themselves together, and put off the business of their master and mistress, hoping to escape the punishment for their negligence by trickery and good luck. But we do not even know who their master and mistress are, and they come into no contact with either the historical or the allegorical figures. The only personage who finds his way into both compartments of the Tragicall Comedie is Haphazard the Vice, who gives the story such unity as it possesses. His name happily describes the double aspect of his nature. On the one hand he stands for chance itself; on the other for dependence on chance, the recklessness that relies on accident, and trusts that all will end well though guilt has been incurred. In this way he is both the chief seducer and the chief agent, alike of the petty rogues and of the grand criminal. To the former he sings:
Judge Apius, prince, oh stay, refuse: be ruled by thy friende:
What bloudy death with open shame did Torquin gaine in ende?
Then wend ye on and folow me, Mansipulus,4 Mansipula,To Appius' request for advice he replies:
Let croping cares be cast away; come folow me, come folow me:
Subseruus is a joly loute
Brace5 Haphazard, bould blinde bayarde!6
A figge for his uncourtesie that seekes to shun good company!
Well, then, this is my counsell, thus standeth the case,His distinctive note is this, that he tempts men by suggesting that they may offend and escape the consequences. In the end he falls into the pit that he has digged for others, and when his hap is to be hanged, like a true Vice he accepts the contretemps with jest and jape. Yet despite the stock-in-trade that it takes over from Morality or Interlude, Appius and Virginia has specialties of its own that were better calculated to secure it custom in the period of the Renaissance. The author bestows most care on the main story, and makes a genuine attempt to bring out the human interest of the subject and the persons. In the opening scene he tries, in his well-meaning way, to give the impression of a home in which affection is the pervading principle, but in which affection itself is not allowed to run riot, but is restrained by prudence and obligation. Father, mother, and daughter sing a ditty in illustration of this sober love or its reverse, and always return to the refrain:
Perhaps such a fetche as may please your grace: [p. 6]
There is no more wayes but hap or hap not,
Either hap or els hapless, to knit up the knot:
And if you will hazard to venter what falles,
Perhaps that Haphazard will end all your thralles.
The trustiest treasure in earth, as we see,There is some inarticulate feeling for effect in the contrast between the wholesomeness of this orderly family life and the incontinence of the tyrant who presently seeks to violate it. And the dramatic bent of the author--for it is no more than a bent--appears too in the portraiture of the parties concerned. The mingled perplexity and dread of Virginius, when in his consciousness of right he is summoned to the court, are justly conceived; and there is magnanimity [p. 7] in his answer to Appius' announcement that he must give judgment “as justice doth require” :
Is man, wife, and children in one to agree;
Then friendly, and kindly, let measure be mixed
With reason in season, where friendship is fixed.
My lord, and reason good it is: your seruaunt doth requestSimilarly, the subsequent conflict in his heart between fondness for his daughter and respect for her and himself is clearly expressed. And her high-spirited demand for death is tempered and humanised by her instinctive recoil when he “proffers a blow” :
No parciall hand to aide his cause, no parciall minde or brest.
If ought I haue offended you, your Courte or eke your Crowne,
From lofty top of Turret hie persupetat me downe:
If treason none by me be done, or any fault committed,
Let my accusers beare the blame, and let me be remitted.
The gods forgeue thee, father deare! farewell: thy blow do bend--But the most ambitious and perhaps the most successful delineation is that of Appius. At the outset he is represented as overwhelmed by his sudden yearning. Apelles, he thinks, was a “prattling fool” to boast of his statue; Pygmalion was fond “with raving fits” to run mad for the beauty of his work, for he could make none like Virginia. Will not the Gods treat him as they treated Salmacis, when Hermophroditus, bathing in the Carian fountain near the Lycian Marches, denied her suit?
Yet stay a whyle, O father deare, for fleash to death is fraile.
Let first my wimple bind my eyes, and then thy blow assaile,
Nowe, father, worke thy will on me, that life I may injoy.
Oh Gods aboue, bend downe to heare my crieThis, we may suppose, is intended for a mad outbreak of voluptuous passion, “the nympholepsy of some fond despair” ; and, as such, it is not very much worse than some that have won the applause of more critical ages. It may suggest the style of the Interlude in the Midsummer-Night's Dream, or more forcibly, the “King Cambyses‘ vein” that was then in vogue (for Preston's play of that name, published about a couple of years later than the probable date when this was performed, is in every way the nearest analogue to Appius and Virginia that the history of our stage has to offer). But in comparison with the normal flow of the Moralities, the lines have undoubtedly a certain urgency and glow. And there are other touches that betray the incipient playwright. Appius is not exhibited as a mere monster; through all his life his walk has been blameless, and he is well aware of his “grounded years,” his reputation as judge, and the value of good report. He is not at ease in the course he now adopts; there is a division in his nature, and he does not yield to his temptation without forebodings and remorse.
As once ye7 did to Salmasis, in Pond hard Lyzia by:
Oh that Virginia were in case as somtime Salmasis,
And in Hermofroditus stede my selfe might seeke my blisse!
Ah Gods! would I unfold her armes complecting of my necke?
Or would I hurt her nimble hand, or yeelde her such a checke?
Would I gainsay hir tender skinne to baath where I do washe?
Or els refuse her soft sweete lippes to touch my naked fleshe?
Nay! Oh the Gods do know my minde, I rather would requier
To sue, to serue, to crouch, to kneele, to craue for my desier. [p. 8]
But out, ye Gods, ye bend your browes, and frowne to see me fare;
Ye do not force8 my fickle fate, ye do not way my care.
Unrighteous and unequall Gods, unjust and eke unsure,
Woe worth the time ye made me liue, to see this haplesse houre.
Consience he pricketh me contempnéd,longing for Virginia:
And Justice saith, Judgement wold haue me condemned:
Consience saith, crueltye sure will detest me;9
And Justice saith, death in thend will molest me:
And both in one sodden, me thinkes they do crie
That fier eternall my soule shall destroy. But he always comes back to the supreme fact of his
By hir I liue, by hir I die, for hir I joy or woe,[p. 9] And there are the potentialities of a really powerful effect in the transition from his jubilant outburst when he thinks his waiting is at an end: “O lucky light! lo, present heere hir father doth appeare,
For hir my soule doth sinke or swimme, for her, I swere, I goe.
” to his misgivings when he sees the old man is unaccompanied:
O, how I joy! Yet bragge thou not. Dame Beuty bides behinde.And immediately thereafter the severed head is displayed to his view. Nor was R. B., whether or not he was Richard Bower, Master of the Chapel children, quite without equipment for the treatment of a classical theme, though in this respect as in others his procedure is uncertain and fumbling in the highest degree. The typical personages of the under-plot have no relish of Latinity save in the termination of the labels that serve them as names, and they swear by God's Mother, and talk glibly of church and pews and prayer books, and a “pair of new cards.” Even in the better accredited Romans of Livy's story there are anachronisms and incongruities. Appius, though ordinarily a judge, speaks of himself as prince, king or kaiser; and references are made to his crown and realm. Nevertheless the author is not without the velleities of Humanism. He ushers in his prologue with some atrocious Latin Elegiacs, which the opening lines of the English are obliging enough to paraphrase:
Qui cupis aethereas et summas scandere sedes.[p. 10]
Vim simul ac fraudem discute, care, tibi.
Fraus hic nulla juvat, non fortia facta juvabunt:
Sola Dei tua te trahet tersa fides.
Cui placet in terris, intactae paludis10 instar,
Vivere Virginiam nitere, Virgo, sequi:
Quos tulit et luctus, discas et gaudia magna,
Vitae dum parcae scindere fila parant.
Huc ades, O Virgo pariter moritura, sepulchro;
Sic ait, et facies pallida morte mutat.
Who doth desire the trump of fame to sound unto the skies,In the same way there is throughout a lavish display of cheap boyish erudition. Thus Virginius, reckoning up his services to Appius, soliloquises:
Or els who seekes the holy place where mighty Joue he lies,
He must not by deceitfull mind, nor yet by puissant strength,
But by the faith and sacred lyfe he must it win at length;
And what11 she be that virgins lyfe on earth wold gladly leade,
The fluds that Virginia did fall12 I wish her reade,
Her doller and hir doleful losse and yet her joyes at death:
“Come, Virgins pure, to graue with me,” quoth she with latest breath.
In Mars his games, in marshall feates, thou wast his only aide,We are here indeed on the threshold of a very different kind of art, of which, in its application to Roman history, a sample had been submitted to the English public two years previously in the Octavia ascribed to Seneca. The Latin Tragedy, merely because it was Latin, and for that reason within the reach of a far greater number of readers, was much better known than the Greek at the period of the Renaissance. But apart from its advantage in accessibility, it attracted men of that age not only by its many brilliant qualities but by its very defects, its tendency to heightened yet abstract portraiture, its declamation, its sententiousness, its violence, its unrestfulness. It had both for good and bad a more modern bearing [p. 11] than the masterpieces of Hellenic antiquity, and in some ways it corresponded more closely with the culture of the sixteenth century than with our own. It was therefore bound to have a very decisive influence in shaping the traditions of the later stage; and the collection of ten plays ascribed to Seneca, the poor remainder of a numerous tribe that may be traced back to the third century before Christ, furnished the pattern which critics prescribed for imitation to all who would achieve the tragic crown. And if this was true of the series as a whole, it was also true of the play, which, whatever may be said of the other nine, is certainly not by Seneca himself, the poorest of them all, with most of the faults and few of the virtues of the rest, Octavia, the sole surviving example of the Fabula Praetexta, or the Tragedy that dealt with native Roman themes. The Octavia, however, was not less popular and influential than its companions, and has even a claim to especial attention inasmuch as it may be considered.the remote ancestress of the Modern Historic Play in general and of the Modern Roman Play in particular. It inspired Mussato about 1300 to write in Latin his Eccerinis, which deals with an almost contemporary national subject, the fate of Ezzelino: it inspired the young Muretus about 1544 to write his Julius Caesar, which in turn showed his countrymen the way to treat such themes in French. Before eight years were over they had begun to do so, and many were the Roman plays composed by the School of Ronsard. Certainly Seneca's method would suit the historical dramatist who was not quite at home in his history, for of local colour and visual detail it made small account, and indeed was hardly compatible with them. And it would commend itself no less to men of letters who, without much dramatic sympathy or aptitude, with no knowledge of stage requirements, and little prospect of getting [p. 12] their pieces performed, felt called upon honoris causâ to write dramas, which one of the most distinguished and successful among them was candid enough to entitle not plays but treatises. It is worth while to have a clear idea of the Octavia from which in right line this illustrious and forgotten progeny proceeded. The date of the action is supposed to be 62 A.D. when Nero, who had for some time wished to wed his mistress, Poppaea Sabina, and had murdered his mother, partly on account of her opposition, divorced his virtuous wife, his step-sister Octavia, and exiled her to Pandataria, where shortly afterwards he had her put to death. The fact that Seneca is one of the persons in the piece, and that there are anticipatory references to Nero's death, which followed Seneca's compulsory suicide only after an interval of three years, sufficiently disposes of the theory that the philosopher himself was the author. The text accepted in the sixteenth century suffered much, not only from the corruption of individual expressions, but from the displacement of entire passages. Greatly to its advantage it has been rearranged by later editors, but in the following account, their conjectures, generally happy and sometimes convincing, have been disregarded, as they were unknown to Thomas Nuce, who rendered it into English in 1561. In his hands, therefore, it is more loosely connected than it originally was, or than once more it has become for us; and something of regularity it forfeits as well, for the dislocated framework led him to regard it as a drama in only four acts. Despite these flaws in his work he is a cleverer craftsman than many of his colleagues in Senecan translation, whose versions of the ten tragedies, most of them already published separately, were collected in a neat little volume in 1851.16 [p. 13] An original “argument” summarises the story with sufficient clearness.
The huge Carrebd13 his hazards thou for him hast ofte assaied.
Was Sillas force by thee oft shunde or yet Lady Circe's14 lande,
Pasiphae's15 childe, that Minnotaur, did cause thee euer stande?
Octauia, daughter to prince Claudius grace,This programme the play proceeds to fill in. In the first act Octavia, unbosoming herself to her nurse, relieves her heart of its woe and horror. She recounts the misfortunes of her house, the atrocities of her lord, his infidelities to her, her detestation of him. The nurse is full of sympathy, but admonishes her to patience, consoling her with assurances of the people's love, and reminding her of the truancies that the Empress of Heaven had also to excuse in her own husband and brother:
To Nero espousd, whom Claudius did adopt,
(Although Syllanus first in husbandes place
Shee had receiu'd, whom she for Nero chopt17),
Her parentes both, her Make that should have bene,
Her husbandes present Tiranny much more,
Her owne estate, her case that she was in,
Her brother's death, (pore wretch), lamenteth sore.
Him Seneca doth persuade, his latter loue,
Dame Poppie, Crispyne's wife that sometime was,
And eake Octauias maide, for to remoue.
For Senecks counsel he doth lightly passe18
But Poppie ioynes to him in marriage rites.
The people wood19 unto his pallace runne,
His golden fourmed shapes20; which them sore spytes,
They pull to ground: this uprore, now begunne,
To quench, he some to griesly death doth send.
But her close cased up in dreadful barge,
With her unto Compania coast to wend
A band of armed men, he gave in charge.
Now, madam, sith on earth your powre is pight. [p. 14] The chorus closes the act with a variation on the same themes, passing from praises of Octavia's purity and regrets for the ancient Roman intolerance of wrong, to the contrasted picture of Nero's unchallenged malignity. The second act commences with a monologue by Seneca on the growing corruption of the age, which is interrupted by the approach of his master in talk with the Prefect. His words, as he enters, are:
And haue on earth Queene Junos princely place,
And sister are and wyfe to Neroes grace,
Your wondrous restles dolours great appease.21
Dispatch with speede that we commaunded haue:
Go, send forthwith some one or other slaue,
That Plautius cropped scalpe, and Sillas eke,
May bring before our face: goe some man seeke.
Seneca remonstrates, but his remonstrances are of no avail; and in a long discussion in which he advocates a policy of righteousness and goodwill and the sacredness of Octavia's claims, he is equally unsuccessful. The act, to which there is no chorus, concludes with Nero's determination to flout the wishes of the people and persist in the promotion of Poppaea:
Perage imperata: mitte qui Plauti mihi
Sillaeque caesi referat abscissum caput.
Why do we not appoynt the morrow next
When as our mariage pompe may be context?
The third act is ushered in with one of those boding apparitions of which the Senecan Tragedy is so fond. The shade of Agrippina rises, the bridal torch of Nero and Poppaea in her hand:
Quin destinamus proximum thalamis diem?
Through paunch of riuened earth, from Plutoes raigne
With ghostly steps I am returnd agayne,
In writhled wristes, that bloud do most desyre,
Forguyding23 wedlocke vyle with Stygian fire.
[p. 15] She bewails her crimes on her son's behalf and his parricidal ingratitude, but vengeance will fall on him at last.
Tellure rupta Tartaro gressum extuli
stygiam cruenta praeferens dextra facem
Although that Tyrant proude and scornful wight24
His court with marble stone do strongly dyght,
And princelike garnish it with glistering golde:
Though troupes of soldiours, shielded sure, upholde
Their chieftaynes princely porch: and though yet still
The world drawne drye with taskes even to his will
Great heapes of riches yeeld, themselues to saue;
Although his bloudy helpe the Parthians craue,
And Kingdomes bring, and goods al that they haue;
The tyme and day shall come, when as he shall,
Forlorne, and quite undone, and wanting all,
Unto his cursed deedes his life, and more,
Unto his foes his bared throate restore.
2. The French SenecansThese salient features are transmitted to the Senecan dramas of France, except that the characterisation is even vaguer, the declamation ampler, and the whole treatment less truly dramatic and more obviously rhetorical; of which there is an indication in the greater relative prominence of monologue as compared with dialogue, and in the excessive predilection for general reflections,33 many of them [p. 20] derived from Seneca and Horace, but many of them too of modern origin. At the head of the list stands the Julius Caesar of Muretus, a play which, even if of far less intrinsic worth than can be claimed for it, would always be interesting for the associations with which it is surrounded. Montaigne, after mentioning among his other tutors “Marc Antoine Muret, que le France et l‘Italie recognoist pour le meilleur orateur du temps,” goes on to tell us: “J‘ay soustenu les premiers personnages ez tragedies latines de Buchanan, de Guerente et de Muret, qui se representerent en nostre college de Guienne avecques dignité: en cela, Andreas Goveanus, nostre principal, comme en toutes aultres parties de sa charge, feut sans comparaison le plus grand principal de France; et m'en tenoit on maistre ouvrier.” The Julius Caesar written in 1544 belongs to the year before Montaigne left Bordeaux at the age of thirteen, so he may have taken one of the chief parts in it, Caesar, or M. Brutus, or Calpurnia. This would always give us a kind of personal concern in Muret's short boyish composition of barely 600 lines, which he wrote at the age of eighteen and afterwards published only among his Juvenilia. But it has an importance of its own. Of course it is at the best an academic experiment, though from Montaigne's statement that these plays were presented “avecques dignité,” and from the interest the principal took in the matter, we may suppose that the performance would be exemplary in its kind. Of course, too, even as an academic experiment it does not, to modern taste, seem on the level of the more elaborate tragedies which George Buchanan, “ce grand poëte ecossois”, as Montaigne reverently styles his old preceptor, had produced at the comparatively mature age of from thirty-three [p. 21] to thirty-six, ere leaving Bordeaux two years before. It is inferior to the Baptistes and far inferior to the Jephthes in precision of portraiture and pathos of appeal. But in the sixteenth century, partly, no doubt, because the subject was of such secular importance and the treatment so congenial to learned theory, but also, no doubt, because the eloquence was sometimes so genuinely eloquent, and the Latin, despite a few licenses in metre and grammar, so racy of the classic soil, it obtained extraordinary fame and exercised extraordinary influence. For these reasons, as well as the additional one that it is now less widely known than it ought to be, a brief account of it may not be out of place. The first act is entirely occupied with a soliloquy by Caesar, in which he represents himself as having attained the summit of earthly glory.
Let others at their pleasure count their triumphs, and name themselves from vanquished provinces. It is more to be called Caesar: whoso seeks fresh titles elsewhere, takes something away thereby. Would you have me reckon the regions conquered under my command? Enumerate all there are.34 Even Rome has yielded to him, even his great son- in-law admitted his power,
and whom he would not have as an equal, he has borne as a superior. 36What more is to be done?
My quest must be heaven, earth is become base to me. . . . Now long enough have I lived whether for myself or [p. 22] for my country . . . The destruction of foes, the gift of laws to the people, the ordering of the year, the restoration of splendour to worship, the settlement of the world,--than these, greater things can be conceived by none, nor pettier be performed by me . . . When life has played the part assigned to it, death never comes in haste and sometimes too late.37 The chorus sings of the immutability of fortune. In the second act Brutus, in a long monologue, upbraids himself with his delay.
Does the virtue of thy house move thee nought, and nought the name of Brutus? Nought, the hard lot of thy groaning country, crushed by the tyrant and calling for thine aid? Nought the petitions in which the people lament that Brutus comes not to champion the state? If these things fail to touch thee, thy wife now gives thee rede enough that thou be a man; who has pledged her faith to thee in blood, thus avouching herself the offspring of thine uncle.38 He raises and meets the objections which his understanding offers:
Say you he is not king but dictator? If the thing be the same, what boots a different name? Say you he shuns that name, and rejects the crowns they proffer him: this is pretence and mockery, for why then did he remove the tribunes? True, he gave me dignities and once my life; with me my country outweighs them all. Whoso shows gratitude to a [p. 23] tyrant against his country's interest, is ingrate while he seeks to be stupidly grateful.40 And his conclusion is
The sun reawakening to life saw the people under the yoke, and slaves: at his setting may he see them free.41 To him enters Cassius exultant that the day has arrived, impatient for the decisive moment, scarce able to restrain his eagerness. Only one scruple remains to him; should Antony be slain along with his master? Brutus answers:
Often already have I said that my purpose is this, to destroy tyranny but save the citizens. Cass.
Then let it be destroyed from its deepest roots, lest if only cut down, it sprout again at some time hereafter. Brut.
The whole root lurks under a single trunk. Cass.
Think'st thou so? I shall say no more. Thy will be done: we all follow thy guidance.
Jam saepe dixi, id esse consilium mihi,The chorus sings the glories of those who, like Harmodius with his “amiculus,” destroy the tyrants, and the risks these tyrants run. In the third act Calpurnia, flying in panic to her chamber, is met by her nurse, to whom she discloses the cause of her distress. She has dreamed that Caesar lies dead in her arms covered with blood, [p. 24] and stabbed with many wounds. The nurse points out the vanity of dreams and the unlikelihood of any attempt against one so great and beneficent, whose clemency has changed even foes to friends. Calpurnia, only half comforted, rejoins that she will at least beseech him to remain at home that day, and the chorus prays that misfortune may be averted. In the fourth act Calpurnia tries her powers of persuasion. To her passionate appeal, her husband answers:
Salvis perimere civibus tyrannida.
Perimatur ergo ab infimis radicibus,
Ne quando posthac caesa rursum pullulet.
Latet sub uno tota radix corpore.
Itan‘ videtur? amplius nil proloquar.
Tibi pareatur; te sequimur omnes ducem.
What? Dost thou ask me to trust thy dreams?42 She goes on to enumerate the warning portents, and at length Caesar assents to her prayers since she cannot repress her terrors. But here Decimus Brutus strikes in:
No; but to concede something to my fear. Caes.
But that fear of thine rests on dreams alone. Cal.
Assume it to be vain; grant something to thy wife.
High-hearted Caesar, what word has slipped from thee?43 He bids him remember his glory:
O most shameful plight if the world is ruled by Caesar and Caesar by a woman ... What, Caesar, dost thou suppose the Fathers will think if thou bidst them, summoned at thy command, to depart now and to return when better dreams present themselves to Calpurnia. Go rather resolutely and assume a name the Parthians must dread: or if this please thee not, at least go forth, and thyself dismiss the Fathers; let them not think they are slighted and had in derision.
O statum deterrimum,[p. 25] Caesar is bent one way by pity for his wife, another by fear of these taunts; but, at last, leaving Calpurnia to her misgivings, he exclaims:
Si Caesar orbem, Caesarem mulier regit! ...
Quid, Caesar, animi patribus credis fore,
Si te jubente convocatos jusseris
Abire nunc, redire, cum Calpurniae
Meliora sese objecerint insomnia?
Vade potius constanter, et nomen cape
Parthis timendum ; aut, hoc minus si te juvat,
Prodito saltem, atque ipse patres mittito:
Ne negligi se, aut ludibrio haberi putent.
But yet, since even to fall, so it be but once, is better than to be laden with lasting fear; not if three hundred prophet-voices call me back, not if with his own voice the present Deity himself warn me of the peril and urge my staying here, shall I refrain.44 The chorus cites the predictions of Cassandra to show that it would sometimes be wise to follow the counsel of women. In the fifth act Brutus and Cassius appear in triumph.
Breathe, citizens; Caesar is slain! ... In the Senate which he erewhile overbore, he lies overborne. Cass.
Behold, Rome, the sword yet warm with blood, behold the hand that hath championed thine honour. That loathsome one who in impious frenzy and blind rage had troubled thee and thine, sore wounded by this same hand, by this same sword which thou beholdest, and gashed in every limb, hath spewed forth his life in a flood of gore.
3. English Followers of the French School.
The Wounds of Civil War
The Marc Antoine is the best tragedy on a Roman theme, and one of the best imitations of Seneca that France in the sixteenth century has to show. It deserved to find admirers on the other side of the Channel, and it did. Among the courtly and cultured circles in whose eyes the Latin drama was the ideal and criterion to which all poets should aspire [p. 45] and by which their achievements should be tested, it was bound to call forth no little enthusiasm. In England ere this similar attempts had been made and welcomed, but none had been quite so moving and interesting, above all none had conformed so strictly to the formal requirements of the humanist code. In Gorboduc, the first of these experiments, Sidney, lawgiver of the elect, was pleased to admit the “honest civility” and “skilful poetry,” but his praises were not without qualification:
As it is full of stately speeches and well sounding Phrases, clyming to the height of Seneca his stile, and as full of notable moralitie, which it doth most delightfully teach, and so obtayne the very end of Poesie: yet in troth it is very defectious in the circumstaunces: which greeveth mee, because it might not remaine as an exact model of all Tragedies. For it is faulty both in place, and time, the two necessary companions of all corporall actions. For where the stage should alwaies represent but one place, and the uttermost time presupposed in it, should be, both by Aristotles precept, and common reason, but one day: there is both many dayes, and many places, inartificially imagined.53
Nor in such respects were things much better in the Misfortunes of Arthur, by Thomas Hughes, which was composed in 1587, the year after Sidney's death. But meanwhile France had been blessed with a play at least the equal of these native products in poetry and pathos, and much more observant of the unities that scholars were proclaiming. If the scene was not absolutely unchanged, at least the changes were confined within the area of a single town. If the time was not precisely marked, and in Plutarch's narrative slightly exceeded the orthodox limits, still Garnier had so managed it that the occurrences set forth might easily be conceived to take place in a single day. It seems just the modern play that would have fulfilled the desire of Sidney's heart; and since it was composed in a foreign tongue, what [p. 46] could be more fitting than that Sidney's sister, the famous Countess of Pembroke, who shared so largely in Sidney's literary tastes and literary gifts, should undertake to give it an English form? It may have been on her part a pious offering to his manes, an in 1590, four years after her brother's death, her version was complete.54 She was well fitted for her task, and she has discharged it well. Sometimes she may take her liberties, but generally she is wonderfully faithful, and yet neither in diction nor versification is she stiffer than many contemporary writers of original English verse. Here, for instance, is Diomed's eulogy of Cleopatra's charm:
Nought liues so faire. Nature by such a workethe pervading tone of the original:
Hir selfe, should seeme, in workmanship hath past.
She is all heau'nlie: neuer any man
But seing hir, was rauish'd with hir sight.
The Allablaster couering of hir face,
The corall colour hir two lipps engraines,
Hir beamie eies, two sunnes of this our world,
Of hir faire haire the fine and flaming golde,
Hir braue streight stature and her winning partes
Are nothing else but fiers, fetters, dartes.
Yet this is nothing to th‘ enchaunting skilles,
Of her coelestiall Sp'rite, hir training speache,
Hir grace, hir Maiestie, and forcing voice,
Whether she it with fingers speache consorte,
Or hearing sceptred kings ambassadors
Answer to eache in his owne language make. This excellently preserves many details as well as
Rien ne vit de si beau, Nature semble avoirThe most notable privilege of which the translation makes use is to soften or refine certain expressions that may have seemed too vigorous to the highbred English lady. This, for example, is her rendering of the lines already quoted in which Antony denounces his voluptuous life:
Par un ouvrage tel surpassé son pouvoir: [p. 47]
Elle est toute celeste, et ne se voit personne
La voulant contempler, qu'elle ne passionne.
L‘albastre qui blanchist sur son visage saint,
Et le vermeil coral qui ses deux lévres peint,
La clairté de ses yeux, deux soleils de ce monde,
Le fin or rayonnant dessur sa tresse blonde,
Sa belle taille droitte, et ses frians attraits,
Ne sont que feux ardents, que cordes, et que traits.
Mais encor ce n'est rien aupres des artifices
De son esprit divin, ses mignardes blandices,
Sa maiestie, sa grace, et sa forçante voix,
Soit qu'ell‘ la vueille joindre au parler de ses doigts,
Ou que des Rois sceptrez recevant les harangues,
Elle vueille respondre à chacun en leurs langues.
Careless of uertue, careless of all praise,expression, “mon ame vomissant,” yields to a gentler and not less poetical equivalent:
Nay, as the fatted swine in filthy mire,
With glutted heart I wallow'd in delights,
All thoughts of honor troden under foote. Similarly, in Cleopatra's closing speech, the original
A thousand kisses, thousand thousand moreAs the deviations are confined to details, it is not necessary to repeat the account of the tragedy as a whole. These extracts will show that Garnier's Marc Antoine was presented to the English public in a worthy dress; and the adequacy of the workmanship, the appeal to cultivated taste, the prestige [p. 48] of the great Countess as “Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother,” her personal reputation among literary men, procured it immediate welcome and lasting acceptance. Fifteen years after its first publication it had passed through five editions, and must have been a familiar book to Elizabethan readers who cared for such wares. Moreover, it directly evoked an original English play that followed in part the same pattern and treated in part the same theme. In 1594 appeared the Cleopatra of Samuel Daniel, dedicated to Lady Pembroke with very handsome acknowledgments of the stimulus he had received from her example and with much modest deprecation of the supplement he offered. His muse, he asserts, would not have digressed from the humble task of praising Delia,
Let you my mouth for honor's farewell give:
That, in this office, weake my limmes may growe
Fainting on you, and fourth my soule may flowe.
had not thy well graced AntonyThese words suggest that it was not written at once after the Countess's translation: on the other hand there can have been no very long delay, as it was entered for publication in October, 1593. The first complete and authorised edition of Delia along with the Complaint of Rosamond, which Daniel does not mention, had been given to the world in 1592; and we may assume from his own words that the Cleopatra was the next venture of the young author just entering his thirties, and ambitious of a graver kind of fame than he had won by these amatorious exercises. He had no reason to be dissatisfied with the result, and perhaps from the outset his selfdis- paragement was not very genuine. His play was reprinted seven times before his death, and these editions show one complete revision and one thorough recast of the text. Poets are not wont [p. 49] to spend such pains on works that they do not value. The truth is that Daniel's Cleopatra may take its place beside his subsequent Philotas among the best original Senecan tragedies that Elizabethan England produced. Its claims, of course, are almost exclusively literary and hardly at all theatrical, though some of the changes in the final version of 1607 seem meant to give a little mobility to the slow-paced scenes. But from first to last it depends on the elegiac and rhetorical qualities that characterise the whole school, and in its undivided attention to them recalls rather Jodelle's Cleopatre Captive than Garnier's Marc Antoine. The resemblance to the earlier drama is perhaps not accidental. The situation is precisely the same, for the story begins after the death of Antony, and concludes with the account of Cleopatra's suicide. Thus, despite Daniel's statement, his play is not in any true sense a sequel to the one which the Countess had rendered, nor is it the case, as his words insinuate, that in the Antonius Cleopatra still delayed to join her beloved: on the contrary we take leave of her as she is about to expire upon his corpse. So though his patroness's translation may very well have suggested to him his heroine, it could not possibly prescribe to him his argument. And surely after Garnier had shown the more excellent way of treating the subject so as to include both the lovers, this truncated section of the history would not spontaneously occur to any dramatist as the material most proper for his needs. It seems more than likely that Daniel was acquainted with Jodelle's play, and that the precedent it furnished, determined him in his not very happy selection of the final episode to the exclusion of all that went before. A careful comparison of the two Cleopatras supports this view. No doubt in general treatment they differ widely, and most of the coincidences in [p. 50] detail are due to both authors having exploited Plutarch's narrative. But this is not true of all. There are some traits that are not to be accounted for by their common pedigree, but by direct transmission from the one to the other. Thus, to mention the most striking, in Jodelle Seleucus is made to express penitence for exposing the Queen's misstatement about her treasure. There is no authority for this: yet in Daniel the new motif reappears. Of course it is not merely repeated without modification. In Jodelle it is to the chorus that the culprit unbosoms himself; in Daniel it is to Rodon, the false governor who has betrayed Caesarion, and who similarly and no less fictitiously is represented as full of remorse for his more heinous treason. But imitators frequently try in this fashion to vary or heighten the effect by duplicating the roles they borrow; and Daniel has done so in a second instance, when he happened to get his suggestion from Garnier. In the Marc Antoine, as we saw, there is the sententious but quite superfluous figure of the philosopher Philostratus; Daniel retains him without giving him more to do, but places by his side the figure of the equally sententious and superfluous philosopher Arius. In Rodon we have just such another example of gemination. It is safe to say that the contrite Seleucus comes straight from the pages of Jodelle; and his presence, if there were any doubt, serves to establish Daniel's connection with the first French Senecan in the vernacular. But the Countess's protégé differs from her not only in reverting to an elder model: he distinctly improves on her practice by substituting for her blank verse his own quatrains. The author of the Defence of Ryme showed a right instinct in this. Blank verse is doubtless the better dramatic measure, but these pseudo-Senecan pieces were lyric rather [p. 51] than dramatic, and it was not the most suitable for them. The justice of Daniel's method is proved by its success. He not only carried the experiment successfully through for himself, which might have been a tour de force on the part of the “welllanguaged” poet, but he imposed his metre on successors who were less skilled in managing it, like Sir William Alexander. Such, then, is the Cleopatra of Daniel, a play that, compared even with the contemporary classical dramas of France, belongs to a bygone phase of the art; a play that is no play at all, but a series of harangues interspersed with odds and ends of dialogue and the due choric songs; but that nevertheless, because it fulfils its own ideal so thoroughly, is admirable in its kind, and still has charms for the lover of poetry. The first act is occupied with a soliloquy of Cleopatra,55 in which she laments her past pleasure and glory, and proclaims her purpose of death.
(Who all alone, having remained long)
Requir'd his Cleopatra's company.
Thinke, Caesar, I that liu'd and raign'd a Queene,She has hitherto lived only to temporise with Caesar for the sake of her children, but to her late-born [p. 52] love for Antony her death is due. She remembers his doting affection, and exclaims:
Do scorne to buy my life at such a rate,
That I should underneath my selfe be seene,
Basely induring to suruiue my state:
That Rome should see my scepter-bearing hands
Behind me bound, and glory in my teares;
That I should passe whereas Octauia stands,
To view my misery, that purchas'd hers.56
And yet thou cam'st but in my beauties waine,Cleopatra's capture, and describes her apparent submission, to Caesar, who suspects that it is pretence. In the first scene of the third act Philostratus and Arius philosophise on their own misfortunes, the misfortunes of the land, and the probable fate of Cleopatra's children. The next scene presents the famous interview between Caesar and Cleopatra, with the disclosures of Seleucus, to which are added Dolabella's avowal of his admiration, and Caesar's decision to carry his prisoner to Rome. In the fourth act Seleucus, who has betrayed the confidence of his mistress, bewails his disloyalty, to Rodon, who has delivered up Caesarion to death; but they depart to avoid Cleopatra, whom Dolabella has informed of the victor's intentions, and who enters, exclaiming:
When new appearing wrinckles of declining
Wrought with the hand of yeares, seem'd to detaine
My graces light, as now but dimly shining . . .
Then, and but thus, thou didst loue most sincerely,
O Antony, that best deseru'd it better,
This autumn of my beauty bought so dearely,
For which in more then death, I stand thy debter. In the second act Proculeius gives an account of
What, hath my face yet powre to win a louer?In the first scene of the fifth act Titius tells how Cleopatra has sent a message to Caesar, and in the second scene we learn the significance of this from the Nuntius, who himself has taken her the asps. [p. 53]
Can this torn remnant serue to grace me so,
That it can Caesar's secret plots discouer,
What he intends with me and mine to do?
Why then, poore beauty, thou hast done thy last
And best good seruice thou could'st doe unto me:
For now the time of death reueal'd thou hast,
Which in my life didst serue but to undoe me.
Well, in I went, where brighter then the Sunne,Her words to the asp are not without a quaint pathetic tenderness, as she contrasts the “ugly grimness” and “hideous torments” of other deaths with this that it procures:
Glittering in all her pompeous rich aray,
Great Cleopatra sate, as if sh‘ had wonne
Caesar, and all the world beside, this day:
Euen as she was, when on thy cristall streames,
Cleare Cydnos, she did shew what earth could shew:
When Asia all amaz'd in wonder, deemes
Venus from heauen was come on earth below.
Euen as she went at firste to meete her loue,
So goes she now againe to finde him.
But that first, did her greatnes onely proue,
This last her loue, that could not liue behind him.
Therefore come thou, of wonders wonder chiefe,And her dallying with the accepted and inevitable end is good:
That open canst with such an easie key
The doore of life: come gentle cunning thiefe
That from our selues so steal'st our selues away.
Looke how a mother at her sonnes departing,But this is little more than by-play and make-believe. She does the deed, and when Caesar's messengers arrive, it is past prevention.
For some farre voyage bent to get him fame,
Doth entertaine him with an ydle parting
And still doth speake, and still speaks but the same:
Now bids farewell, and now recalles him backe,
Tels what was told, and bids againe farewell,
And yet againe recalles; for still doth lacke
Something that Loue would faine and cannot tell:
Pleased he should goe, yet cannot let him goe.
So she, although she knew there was no way
But this, yet this she could not handle so
But she must shew that life desir'd delay.
For there they found stretcht on a bed of gold,One more example of the influence of the French Senecans remains to be mentioned, and though, as a translation, it is less important than Daniel's free reproduction, the name of the translator gives it a special interest. The stately rhetoric of the Cornélie caught the fancy of Thomas Kyd, who from the outset had found something sympathetic in Garnier's style, and, perhaps in revolt from the sensationalism of his original work, he wrote an English version which was published in 1594. When this was so, it need the less surprise us that the Senecan form should still for years to come be cultivated by writers who had seen the glories of the Elizabethan stage, above all for what would seem the peculiarly appropriate themes of classic history: that Alexander should employ it for his Julius Caesar and the rest of his Monarchic Tragedies even after Shakespeare's Julius Caesar had appeared, and that Ben Jonson himself should, as it were, cast a wistful, backward glance at it in his Catiline, which he supplies, not only with a chorus, but with a very Senecan exposition by Sylla's ghost. If this style appealed to the author of The Spanish Tragedy, it might well appeal to the more fastidious connoisseurs in whom the spirit of the Renaissance was strong. It was to them Kyd looked for patronage in his new departure and he dedicates his Cornelia to the Countess of Suffolk, aunt of the more memorable lady who had translated the Marc Antoine. In execution it hardly equals the companion piece: the language is less flexible and graphic, and the whole effect more wearisome; which, however, may [p. 55] be due in part to the inferior merit of the play Kyd had to render, as well as to the haste with which the rendering was made. But he aims at preserving the spirit of the French, and does preserve it in no small degree. The various metres of the chorus are managed with occasional dexterity; the rhyme that is mingled with the blank verse of the declamation relieves the tedium of its somewhat monotonous tramp, and adds point and effectiveness. A fair specimen of his average procedure may be found in his version of the metaphorical passage in Cassius' speech, that, as has been pointed out, can be traced back to Grévin and Muretus.
Dead Cleopatra; and that proudly dead,
In all the rich attire procure she could;
And dying Charmion trimming of her head, [p. 54]
And Eras at her feete, dead in like case.
“Charmion, is this well done?“ sayd one of them.
“Yea, well,“ sayd she, “and her that from the race
Of so great Kings descends, doth best become.“
And with that word, yields to her faithfull breath
To passe th‘ assurance of her loue with death.
The stiff-neckt horses champe not on the bit57 Kyd was certainly capable of emphasis, both in the good and the bad sense, which stands him in good stead when he has to reproduce the passages adapted from Lucan. These he generally presents in something of their native pomp, and indeed throughout he shows a praiseworthy effort to keep on the level of his author. The result is a grave and decorous performance, which, if necessarily lacking in distinctive colour, since the original had so little, is almost equally free from modern incongruities. It can hardly be reckoned as such that Scipio grasps his “cutlass,” or that in similar cases the equivalent for a technical Latin term should have a homely sound. Perhaps the most serious anachronism [p. 56] occurs when Cicero, talking of “this great town” of Rome, exclaims:
Nor meekely beare the rider but by force:
The sturdie Oxen toyle not at the Plough
Nor yeeld unto the yoke, but by constraint.
Shall we then that are men and Romains borne,
Submit us to unurged slauerie?
Shall Rome, that hath so many ouerthrowne
Now make herselfe a subject to her owne?
Neither could the flaxen-haird high Dutch,Garnier is not responsible: he writes quite correctly:
(A martiall people, madding after Armes),
Nor yet the fierce and fiery humord French . . .
Once dare t'assault it.
Ny les blons Germains, peuple enrage de guerre,This, however, is a very innocent slip. It was different when another scholar of the group to which Kyd belonged treated a Roman theme in a more popular way. But before turning to him it may be well to say a word concerning the influence which these Senecan pieces are sometimes supposed to have had on Shakespeare's Roman plays that dealt with kindred themes. And in the first place it may be taken as extremely probable that he had read them. They were well known to the Elizabethan public, the least famous of them, Kyd's Cornelia, reaching a second edition within a year of its first issue. They were executed by persons who must have bulked large in Shakespeare's field of vision. Apart from her general social and literary reputation, the Countess of Pembroke was mother of the two young noblemen to whom the first folio of Shakespeare's plays was afterwards dedicated on the ground that they had “prosequutted both them and the author living with so much favour.” Some of Daniel's works Shakespeare certainly knew, for there are convincing parallelisms between the Complaint of Rosamond on the one hand, and the Rape of Lucrece and Romeo and Juliet on the other; nor can there be much question about the indebtedness of Shakespeare's Sonnets to Daniel's Delia. Again, with Kyd's acting dramas Shakespeare was [p. 57] undoubtedly acquainted. He quotes The Spanish Tragedy in the Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear; and the same play, as well as Solyman and Perseda, if that be Kyd's, in King John: nor is it to be forgotten that many see Kyd's hand and few would deny Kyd's influence in Titus Andronicus, and that some attribute to him the losthe lost Hamlet. All these things considered, ShakespShakespeare's ignorance of the English Senecans would be much more surprising than his knowledge of them. Further, though his own method was so dissimilar, he would be quite inclined to appreciate them, as may be inferred from the approval he puts in Hamlet's mouth of Aeneas' tale to Dido, which reads like a heightened version of the narratives that occur so plentifully in their pages. So there is nothing antecedently absurd in the conjecture that they gave him hints when he turned to their authorities on his own behalf. Nevertheless satisfactory proof is lacking. The analogies with Garnier's Marc Antoine not accounted for by the obligation of both dramatists to Plutarch are very vague, and oddly enough seem vaguer in the translation than in the original. Of this there is a good example in Antony's words when he recalls to his shame how his victor
Ny le Gaulois ardent.
There is similarity of motif, and even the suggestion of something more, in his outburst in Garnier:
Dealt on lieutenantry, and no practice had
In the brave squares of war.
Un home effeminé de corps et de courageBut only the motif is left in the Countess of Pembroke's rendering:
Qui du mestier de Mars n'apprist oncque l'usage.
A man, a woman both in might and minde,[p. 58] The alleged parallels are thus most apparent when Shakespeare is collated with the French, and of these the chief that do not come from Plutarch have already been quoted in the description of the Marc Antoine. They are neither numerous nor striking. Besides Antony's disparagement of his rival's soldiership there are only three that in any way call for remark. In Garnier, Cleopatra's picture of her shade wandering beneath the cypress trees of the Underworld may suggest, in Shakespeare, her lover's anticipation of Elysium, “where souls do couch on flowers” (A. and C. IV. xiv. 5 ); but there is a great difference in the tone of the context. Her dying utterance:
In Marses schole who neuer lesson learn'd.
Que de mille baisers, et mille et mille encoreAntony:
Pour office dernier ma bouche vous honore: is in the wording not unlike the dying utterance of
but there is more contrast than agreement in the ideas. Above all, Cleopatra's horror at the thought of her children being led in triumph through Rome and pointed at by the herd of citizens is close akin to the feeling that inspires similar passages in Shakespeare (A. and C. IV. xv. 23, V. ii. 55, v. ii. 207); but even here the resemblance is a little deceptive, since in Shakespeare she feels this horror for herself. The correspondences between Shakespeare and Daniel are equally confined to detail, but they are more definite and more significant. It is Daniel who first represents Cleopatra as scorning to be made a spectacle in Rome; and her resentment at Caesar's supposing
Of many thousand kisses the poor last
I lay upon thy lips;
That I should underneath my selfe be seene,[p. 59] might have expressed itself in Shakespeare's phrase,
Noteworthy, too, in the same passage, is her reluctance to pass before the injured Octavia, for there is no mention of this point in Plutarch, but Shakespeare touches on it twice. Further, her very noticeable references to her waning charms, her wrinkles, her declining years have their analogies in Shakespeare and in Shakespeare alone; for Plutarch expressly says that she was “at the age when a woman's beawtie is at the prime.” The tenderness in tone of her address to the asp is common and peculiar to both English poets; and her adornment in preparation for death suggests to each of them, but not to Plutarch, her magnificence when she met Antony on the Cydnus.58 These coincidences are interesting, but they are not conclusive. They are none of them such as could not occur independently to two writers who vividly realised the meaning of Plutarch's data; for he, as it were, gives the premises though he does not draw the inference. Thus he says nothing of Cleopatra's disdain for the Roman populace, but he does make the knowledge that she must go to Rome determine her to die. He says nothing of her recoil from the thought of Octavia seeing her in her humiliation, but he does tell us of her jealousy of Octavia's superior claims. He never hints that Cleopatra was past her bloom, but his praise of her as at her prime belongs to 41 B.C., and the closing incident to 30 B.C., when she was in her thirtyninth year. He does not attribute to her any kindly greeting of the asp, but he does report that she chose it as providing the easiest and gentlest [p. 60] means of death. And though in describing her suicide he makes no reference to the meeting on the Cydnus, he dwells on the glorious array on both occasions, and the fancy naturally flies from one to the other. Each of these particulars separately might well suggest itself to more than one sympathetic reader. The most that can be said is that in their mass they have a certain cogency. In any case, however, characteristic and far-reaching as some of them are, they bear only on details of the conception. The possible connection of Julius Caesar with the Cornélie is of a somewhat different kind. It is restricted almost entirely to the conversations between Cassius and Decimus Brutus on the one hand, and between Cassius and Marcus Brutus on the other. It is thought to show itself partly in particular expressions, partly in the general situation. So far as the former are concerned, it is neither precise nor distinctive; and it is rather remarkable that, as in the case of the Marc Antoine, more is to be said for it when Shakespeare's phraseology is compared with that of the original than when it is compared with that of the translation.59 In regard to the latter M. Bernage, the chief advocate of the theory, writes:
He words me, girls, he words me, that I should not
Be noble to myself.
In the English play (Julius Caesar), as in our own, Brutus and Cassius have an interview before the arrival of the Dictator; the subject of their conversation is the same; it is Cassius too “who strikes so much show of fire” (“fait jaillir l'etincelle”) from the soul of Brutus. . . . These characters are painted by Garnier in colours quite similar (to Shakespeare's), and he is momentarily as vigorous and great. In like manner. . . Caesar crosses the stage after the interview of the two conspirators; he is moreover accompanied by Antony.60In the whole tone and direction of the dialogue, too, Shakespeare resembles Garnier and does not [p. 61] resemble Plutarch. The Life records one short sentence as Brutus' part of the colloquy, while Cassius does nothing more than explain the importance of the anonymous letters and set forth the expectations that Rome has formed of his friend. There is no denunciation in Plutarch of Caesar either for his overgrown power or for his “feeble temper”; there is no lament for the degeneracy of the Romans; there is no reference to the expulsion of the kings or appeal to Brutus' ancestry; all of these matters on which both the dramatists insist. And at the end the two friends are agreed on their policy and depart to prosecute their plans, while in Garnier as in Shakespeare Brutus comes to no final decision. It would be curious if this conjecture were correct, and if this famous scene had influenced Shakespeare as it was to influence Alexander. There would be few more interesting cases of literary filiation, for, as we have seen, there is no doubt that here Garnier bases and improves on Grévin, and that Grévin bases and improves on Muretus; so the genealogy would run Muretus, Grévin, Garnier, Kyd, Shakespeare. Here the matter may rest. The grounds for believing that Shakespeare was influenced by Garnier's Marc Antoine are very slight; for believing that he was influenced by Daniel's Cleopatra are somewhat stronger; that he was influenced by Garnier's Cornélie are stronger still; but they are even at the best precarious. In all three instances the evidence brought forward rather suggests the obligation as possible than establishes it as certain. But it seems extremely likely that Shakespeare would be acquainted with dramas that were widely read and were written by persons none of whom can have been strange to him; and in that case their stateliness and propriety may have affected him in other ways than we can trace or than he himself knew. [p. 62] Meanwhile the popular play had been going its own way, and among other subjects had selected a few from Roman history. We may be certain that slowly and surely it was absorbing some of the qualities that characterised the imitations of the classics; and this process was accelerated when university men, with Marlowe at their head, took a leading share in purveying for the London playhouse. The development is clearly marked in the general history of the drama. Of the Roman play in this transition phase, as treated by a scholar for the delectation of the vulgar, we have only one specimen, but it is a specimen that despite its scanty merit is important no less for the name of the author than for the mode of the treatment. That author was Thomas Lodge, so well known for his songs, novels, pamphlets, and translations. As dramatist he is less conspicuous, and we possess only two plays from his hand. In one of them, A Looking Glass for London and England, which gives a description of the corruption and repentance of Nineveh, and was acted in 1591, he co-operated with Robert Greene. Of the other,61 The Wounds of Civill War: Lively set forth in the true Tragedies of Marius and Scilla: As it hath beene publicquely plaide in London, by the Right Honourable the Lord High Admirall his Servants, he was sole author, and it is with it that we are concerned. It was printed in 1594, but was probably composed some years earlier.62 In [p. 63] any case it comes after the decisive appearance of Marlowe; but Lodge was far from rivalling that master or profiting fully by his example, and indeed is inferior to such minor performers as Peele or Greene. Moreover, in the present case he adds to his general dramatic disabilities, the incapacity to treat classical history aright. In this respect, indeed, he improves on the Senecan school by borrowing graphic minutiae from Plutarch, such as the prefiguration of Marius' future glory in his infancy by the seven eagles, the account of the Gaul's panic in Minturnae, or the unwilling betrayal of Antonius by the slave. But on the other hand he astonishes us by his failure to make use of picturesque incidents which he must have known; like Sulla's flight for shelter to his rival's house, the relief of Marius by the woman whom he had sentenced, the response of the exile from the ruins of Carthage. And even [p. 64] when he utilises Plutarch's touches, Lodge is apt to weaken or travesty them in his adaptation. The incident of the eagles, though it furnishes two of the best passages in the play, illustrates the enfeeblement. Plutarch had said:
When Marius was but very young and dwelling in the contry, he gathered up in the lappe of his gowne the ayrie of an Eagle, in the which were seven young Eagles; whereat his father and mother much wondering, asked the Sooth-sayers, what that ment? They answered, that their sonne one day should be one of the greatest men in the world, and that out of doubt he should obtain seven times in his life the chiefest office of dignity in his contry.Plutarch is not quite sure about the trustworthiness of this story, for the characteristic reason that “the eagle never getteth but two younge ones,” and his hesitation may have led Lodge to modify the vivid and improbable detail. Favorinus the Minturnian tells the story thus:
Yonder Marius in his infancyAnd this version, with only another slight variation, is repeated rather happily in the invented narrative of the presage of Marius' death:
Was born to greater fortunes than we deem:
For, being scarce from out his cradle crept,
And sporting prettily with his compeers,
On sudden seven young eagles soar'd amain,
And kindly perch'd upon his tender lap.
His parents wondering at this strange event,
Took counsel of the soothsayers in this:
Who told them that these seven-fold eagles' flight
Forefigurèd his seven times consulship.
Bright was the day, and on the spreading treesBut the other two passages Lodge modernises beyond recognition and beyond decency. Of the attempt on Marius' life at Minturnae, Plutarch narrates very impressively:
The frolic citizens of forest sung
Their lays and merry notes on perching boughs;
When suddenly appeared in the east
Seven mighty eagles with their talons fierce,
Who, waving oft above our consul's head,
At last with hideous cry did soar away:
When suddenly old Marius aghast,
With reverend smile, determined with a sigh
The doubtful silence of the standers-by. [p. 65]
“Romans,“ he said, “old Marius must die:
These seven fair eagles, birds of mighty Jove,
That at my birthday on my cradle sat,
Now at my last day warn me to my death.“
Now when they were agreed upon it, they could not finde a man in the citie that durst take upon him to kill him; but a man of armes of the Gaules, or one of the Cimbres (for we finde both the one or the other in wryting) that went thither with his sword drawen in his hande. Now that place of the chamber where Marius lay was very darke, and, as it is reported, the man of armes thought he sawe two burninge flames come out of Marius eyen, and heard a voyce out of that darke corner, saying unto him: ‘O, fellowe, thou, darest thou come to kill Caius Marius?’ The barbarous Gaule, hearing these words, ranne out of the chamber presently, castinge his sworde in the middest of the flower,63 and crying out these wordes onely: ‘I can not kill Caius Marius.’Here is Lodge's burlesque with the Gaul nominated Pedro, whose name is as unsuitable to his language as is his language to his supposed nationality.
Pedro.[p. 66] Things are scarcely better in the episode of Antonius' betrayal. Plutarch has told very simply how the poor man with whom the orator took refuge, wishing to treat him hospitably, sent a slave for wine, and how the slave, by requiring the best quality for the distinguished guest, provoked the questions of the drawer. In Lodge the unsuspecting serving man becomes a bibulous clown who blabs the secret in a drunken catch that he sings as he passes the soldiers:
Marius tu es mort. Speak dy preres in dy sleepe, for me sal cut off your head from your epaules, before you wake. Qui es stia? 64 What kinde of a man be dis? Favorinus.
Why, what delays are these? Why gaze ye thus? Pedro.
Notre dame! Jésu! Estiene! O my siniors, der be a great diable in ce eyes, qui dart de flame, and with de voice d‘un bear cries out, “Villain, dare you kill Marius?” Je tremble; aida me, siniors, autrement I shall be murdered. Pausanins.
What sudden madness daunts this stranger thus? Pedro.
O me no can kill Marius; me no dare kill Marius! adieu, messieurs, me be dead, si je touche Marius. Marius est un diable. Jesu Maria, sava moy! exit fugiens.
O most surpassing wine,Lodge is not more fortunate with his additions. Thus, after Sylla's final resignation, two burghers with the very Roman names of Curtall and Poppy are represented as tackling the quondam dictator.
The marrow of the vine!
More welcome unto me
Than whips to scholars be.
Thou art, and ever was,
A means to mend an ass;
Thou makest some to sleep,
And many mo to weep,
And some be glad and merry.
With heigh down derry, derry.
Thou makest some to stumble
A many mo to fumble
And me have pinky neyne.65
More brave and jolly wine!
What need I praise thee mo,
For thou art good, with heigh-ho! . . . (To the Soldiers):
You would know where Lord Antony is? I perceive you.
Shall I say he is in yond farm-house? I deceive you.
Shall I tell you this wine is for him? The gods forfend.
And so I end.
CurtallEven more impertinent, because they violate the truth of character and misrepresent an historical person, are some of the liberties Lodge takes with Marius. Such is the device with the echo, which he transfers from the love scenes of poetical Arcady, where it is quite appropriate, to the mountains of Numidia, where it would hardly be in place even if we disregarded the temperament and circumstances of the exile.
And are you no more master-dixcator, nor generality of the soldiers? Sylla.
My powers do cease, my titles are resign'd. [p. 67]
Have you signed your titles? O base mind, that being in the Paul's steeple of honour, hast cast thyself into the sink of simplicity. Fie, beast! Were I a king, I would day by day
Suck up white bread and milk,
And go a-jetting in a jacket of silk;
My meat should be the curds,
My drink should be the whey,
And I would have a mincing lass to love me every day.
Nay, goodman Curtall, your discretions are very simple; let me cramp him with a reason. Sirrah, whether is better good ale or small-beer? Alas! see his simplicity that cannot answer me; why, I say ale. Curtall.
And so say I, neighbour. Poppy.
Thou hast reason; ergo, say I, ‘tis better be a king than a clown. Faith, Master Sylla, I hope a man may now call ye knave by authority.
Marius.[p. 68] Yet Lodge was a competent scholar who was by and by to translate The Famous and Memourable Workes of Josephus, a Man of Much Honour and Learning among the Jewes, and the Works both Moral and Natural of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. And already in this play he makes Sylla's genius, invisible to all, summon him in Latin Elegiacs audible only to him. If then the popular scenes in Shakespeare's Roman plays do not make a very Roman impression, it should be remembered that he is punctilious in comparison with the University gentleman who preceded him. Nor did the fashion of popularising antique themes with vulgar frippery from the present die out when Shakespeare showed a more excellent way. There is something of very much the same kind in Heywood's Rape of Lucrece which was published in 1608. But these superficial laches are not the most objectionable things in the play. There is nothing organic in it. Of course its neglect of the unities of time and place is natural and right, but it is careless of unity in structure or even in portraiture. The canvas is crowded with subordinate figures who perplex the action without producing a vivid impression of their own characters. A few are made distinct by insistence on particular traits, like Octavius with his unbending civic virtue, or Antonius with his “honey-dropping” and rather ineffectual eloquence, or Lepidus with his braggard temporising. The only one of them who has real individuality is the younger Marius, insolent, fierce, and cruel, but full of energy and filial affection, and too proud to survive his fortunes. He perhaps is the most consistent and sympathetic person in the piece; which of itself is a criticism, for he occupies a much less important place than the two principals, expressly announced as the heroes in the title-page. It is difficult even to guess the intention of the [p. 69] author in this delineation of them, and in any case the result is not pleasing. Marius, despite a certain amount of tough fortitude--which for the rest is not so indomitable as in Plutarch-and a rude magnanimity displayed in the imaginary scene with Sylla's daughter and wife, is far from attractive; and it comes as a surprise that after all his violence and vindictiveness he should meet his death “with a reverend smile” in placid resignation. But with Sylla matters are worse. He would be altogether repulsive but for his courage, and Lodge seems to explain him and his career only by appealing to his own adopted epithet of Felix or Fortunate. His last words are:
Thus Marius lives disdain'd of all the gods,
With deep despair late overtaken wholly.
And will the heavens be never well appeased?
What mean have they left me to cure my smart?
>Nought better fits old Marius' mind then war.
Then full of hope, say, Echo, shall I go?
Is any better fortune then at hand?
Then farewell, Echo, gentle nymph, farewell.
O pleasing folly to a pensive man!
Fortune, now I bless thee That both in life and death would'st not oppress me.And when, “to conclude his happiness,” his sumptuous funeral is arranged, Pompey expresses the same idea in the lines that close the play:
Come, bear we hence this trophy of renownThe problem of his strange story is not so much stated as implied, and far less is there any attempt at a solution. After all his blood-guiltiness, he too, like Marius, passes away in peace, but with him the peacefulness rises to the serenity of a saint or sage. To his friend he exclaims:
Whose life, whose death was far from Fortune's frown.
My Flaccus, worldly joys and pleasures fade;To his wife, who soon after asks:
Inconstant time, like to the fleeting tide
With endless course man's hopes doth overbear:
Now nought remains that Sylla fain would have
But lasting fame when body lies in grave.
How fares my lord? How doth my gentle Sylla?he replies still more devoutly:
Free from the world, allied unto the heavens;[p. 70] There is thus no meaning in the story. The rival leaders are equally responsible for the Wounds of Civil War, but end as happily as though they had been benefactors of society. And this is by no means presented as an example of tragic irony, in which case something might be said for it, but as the natural, fitting, and satisfactory conclusion. Yet Plutarch tells of Marius' sleeplessness, drunkenness, and perturbation, and of Sylla's debaucheries and disease. These were hints, one might have thought, that would have suited the temper of an Elizabethan dramatist; but Lodge passes them over. It is the same with the public story. If Rome is left in quiet it is only because Sylla's ruthlessness has been “fortunate” ; it is not represented as the rational outcome of what went before, nor is there any suggestion of what was to follow after. The merit of the play, such as it is, lies in its succession of stirring scenes-but not the most stirring that might have been selected--from the career of two famous personalities in the history of a famous State. It is almost incredible that in barely more than half a dozen years after its publication London playgoers were listening to Julius Caesar with its suggestive episodes, its noble characterisation, and full realisation of what the story meant. Yet Lodge's play is probably as good as any of those based on Roman History till Shakespeare turned his attention to such subjects. The titles of a number of others have come down to us. Some of these are of early date and may have approximated to the type of Apius and Virginia. Others would attempt the style of Seneca, either after the crude fashion of Gorboduc or subsequently under the better guidance of the French practitioners; and among these later Senecans were distinguished men like Lord Brooke, who destroyed a tragedy on [p. 71] Antony and Cleopatra in 1601, and Brandon, whose Vertuous Octavia, written in 1598, still survives.66 In others again there may have been an anticipation or imitation of the more popular manner of Lodge. But the fact that they were never published, or have been lost, or, in one or two cases where isolated copies are extant, have not been thought worth reprinting, affords a presumption that their claims are inferior, and that in them no very characteristic note is struck. It is pretty safe to suppose that they did not contain much instruction for Shakespeare, and that none of them would bridge the gap between Lodge's medley and Shakespeare's masterpiece. The progress made since the middle of the century was, of course, considerable. A pioneer performance, like Apius and Virginia, had the merit of pushing beyond the landmarks of the old Morality, and of bringing Roman story within the ken of English playgoers, but it did nothing more. It treated this precisely as it might have treated any other subject, and looked merely to the lesson, though, no doubt, it sought to make the lesson palatable with such dramatic condiments as the art of the day supplied. The Senecans, inspired by the Octavia, make a disinterested effort to detach and set forth the conception of old Roman greatness, as it was given that age to understand it, and these productions show no impropriety and much literary skill, but the outlines and colours are too vague to admit of reality or life. Lodge is realistic enough in his way, but it is by sacrificing what is significant and characteristic, and submerging the majesty of ancient Rome in the banalities and trivialities of his own time. No dramatist had been able at once to rise to the [p. 72] grandeur of the theme and keep a foothold on solid earth, to reconcile the claims of the ideal and the real, the past and the present. That was left for Shakespeare to do. [p. 73]
Not curious of incertain chances now.