I do not think there can be any serious doubt about Shakespeare's having consulted the 1578 translation of the Bella Civilia for this play, at any rate for the parts dealing with Sextus Pompeius. The most important passage is the one (A. and C. III. v. 19) which records Antony's indignation at Pompey's death. Now of that death there is no mention at all in the Marcus Antonius of Plutarch; and even in the Octavius Caesar Augustus by Simon Goulard, which was included in the 1583 edition of Amyot and in the 1603 edition of North, it is expressly attributed to Antony. Here is Goulard's statement:1
Whilst Antonius made war with the Parthians, or rather infortunately they made war with him to his great confusion, his lieutenant Titius found the means to lay hands upon Sextus Pompeius; that was fled into the ile of Samos, and then forty years old: whom he put to death by Antonius' commandment.Appian at least leaves it an open question whether Antony was responsible or not, and thus gives his apologist an opportunity:
I do not think indeed that there is any indication that Shakespeare had read, or at all events been in any way impressed by, Goulard's Augustus: no wonder, for compared with the genuine Lives, it is a dull performance. The only other passages with which a connection might be traced, do no more than give hints that are better given in Appian. Thus Sextus Pompeius' vein of chivalry, of which there is hardly a suggestion in Plutarch's brief notices, is illustrated in Goulard by his behaviour to the fugitives from the proscription.
Titius commaunded hys (i.e. Pompey's) army to sweare toThere bee that saye that Plancus, and not Antony did commnaunde hym to dye, whyche beeyng president of Syria had Antonyes signet, and in great causes wrote letters in hys name. Some thynke it [p. 649] was done wyth Antonyes knowledge, he fearyng the name of Pompey, or for Cleopatra, who fauoured Pompey the Great.
Antony, and put hym to death at Mileto, when he hadde lyved to the age of fortye yeares, eyther for that he remembered late displeasure and forgot olde good turnes, or for that he had such commaundemente of Antony.
Some thynke that Plancus dyd it of hymselfe for these causes, and also that Pompey shoulde gyve no cause of dissention between Caesar and Antony, or for that Cleopatra would turn hyr favour to Pompey.(v. cxiv.)
Pompeius had sent certain ships to keep upon the coast of Italy, and pinnaces everywhere, to the end to receive all them that fled on that side; giving them double recompence that saved a proscript, and honourable offices to men that had been consuls and escaped, comforting and entertaining the others with a most singular courtesy.But Appian says all this too in greater detail, and adds the significant touch:
So was he moste profitable to hys afflicted Countrey, and wanne greate glory to hymselfe, not inferioure to that he hadde of hys father. (IV. xxxvi.)Note particularly this reference to his father's reputation, for which there is no parallel in Plutarch or Goulard; and compare
Our slippery people
......... begin to throw
Pompey the Great, and all his dignities
Upon his son.
Rich in his father's honour. (A. and C. I. iii. 50.)Again, Goulard, talking of the last struggle, says:
After certain encounters, where Pompey ever had the better, insomuch as Lepidus was suspected to lean on that side, Caesar resolved to commit all to the hazard of a latter battle.The insinuation in regard to Lepidus might be taken as [p. 650] the foundation for Shakespeare's statement, which has no sanction in Plutarch, that Caesar
But it seems a closer echo of a remark of Appian's about some transactions shortly after Philippi:
accuses him of letters he had formerly wrote to Pompey.
There are, moreover, several touches in Shakespeare's sketch, that he could no more get from Goulard than from Plutarch, but that are to be found in Appian. Thus there is Pompey's association with the party of the “good Brutus” and the enthusiasm he expresses for “beauteous freedom” (A. and C. II. vi. 13 and 17). Compare passages like the following in Appian:
Lepidus was accused to favour Pompey's part.(v. iii.)
Sextus Pompey, the seconde son of Pompey the Great being lefte of that faction, was sette up of Brutus friends. (v. i.)
Pompey's friends hearing of this, did marvellously rejoyce, crying now to be time to restore their Countrey's libertie. (III. lxxxii.)Thus, too, Shakespeare refers to Pompey's command of “the empire of the sea” (A. and C. I. ii. 191), which, if Plutarch were his authority, would be an unjustifiable exaggeration. Yet it exactly corresponds to the facts of the case as Appian repeatedly states them, and perhaps one of Binniman's expressions suggested the very phrase.
Pompey being Lorde of the Sea . . . caused famine in the cittie all victuall beyng kepte away. (v. xv.)
The Citie in the meane time was in great penurie, their provision of come beyng stopped by Pompey. (v. xviii.)
In the meane time the cytie was oppressed with famine, for neyther durst the Merchauntes bring any corn from the East bicause of Pompeis beeing in Sicelie, nor from the Weast of Corsica and Sardinia, where Pompeis ships also lay: nor from Africa, where the navies of the other conspiratours kepte their stations. Being in this distresse, they (i.e. the people) alleaged that the discorde of the rulers was the cause, and therefore required that peace might be made with Pompey, unto the whiche when Caesar woulde not agree, Antonie thought warre was needefull for necessitie. (v. lxvii.)Then there are the frequent references of Antony (A. and C. I. ii. 192, , I. iii. 48） of the messenger (I. iv. 38, I. iv. 52), of Pompey himself (II. i. 9), to Pompey's popularity and the [p. 651] rush of recruits to his standard. Neither Goulard nor Plutarch makes mention of these points, but Appian does often, and most emphatically in the following passage: “Out of Italy all things were not quiet, for Pompey by resorte of condemned Citizens, and auntient possessioners was greatly increased, both in mighte, and estimation: for they that feared their life, or were spoyled of their goodes, or lyked not the present state, fledde all to hym. And this disagreemente of Lucius augmented his credite: beside a repayre of yong men, desirous of gayne and seruice, not caring under whome they went, because they were all Romanes, sought unto him. And among other, hys cause seemed most just. He was waxed rich by booties of the Sea, and he hadde good store of Shyppes, with their furniture. . . . Wherefore me thynke, that if he had then inuaded Italy, he might easily have gotte it, which being afflicted with famine and discord loked for him. But Pompey of ignorance had rather defend his owne, than inuade others, till so he was ouercome also. (v. xxv.)” It should be noted too that Menas, to whom Appian always gives his full formal name of Menodorus, not only as in Plutarch proposes to make away with the Triumvirs after the compact, but as in the play (II. vi. 84 and 109) and not as in Plutarch, disapproves the cessation of hostilities.
All other persuaded Pompey earnestly to peace, only Menodorus wrote from Sardinia that he should make open warre, or dryve off,2 whyles the dearth continued, that he might make peace with the better conditions. (v. lxxi.)I have not noticed any other points of importance in which there is an apparent connection between the drama and the Roman History: unless indeed Antony's passing compunction for Fulvia's death may be so regarded.
Newes came that Antonies wyfe was dead, who coulde not bear his unkyndenesse, leavyng her sicke, & not bidding hyr farewell. Hir death was thought very commodius for them both. For Fulvia was an unquiet woman, & for ielousie of Cleopatra, raysed suche a mortall warre. Yet the matter vexed Antony bicause he was compted the occasion of her death. (v. lix.)Here, however, the motive of Antony's regret differs from that which Shakespeare attributes to him; and on the whole the references to Fulvia in the play deviate even more from Appian's account than from Plutarch's. So far as I am in a position to judge, Shakespeare derived all his other historical data, as well as the general scheme into which he fitted these trifling loans, from Plutarch's Life, [p. 652] and can be considered a debtor to Appian only in the points that are illustrated in my previous extracts. But there are two qualifications I should like to make to this statement. In the first place, I have not seen the 1578 version of Appian, the passages I have quoted being merely transcripts made by my direction. I have had only the original text to work upon, and it is possible that the Tudor Translation might offer verbal coincidences that of course would not suggest themselves to me. In the second place, the book is not merely a translation of Appian. The descriptive title runs: “An auncient historie and exquisite chronicle of the Romanes warres, both civile and foren . . . with a continuation . . . from the death of Sextus Pompeius to the overthrow of Antonie and Cleopatra.” Appian's History of the Civil Wars, as now extant, concludes at the death of Sextus Pompeius. The Tudor translator's continuation till the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra may be responsible for some of the later deviations from Plutarch, which I have described as independent modifications of Shakespeare's. The matter is worth looking into. Meanwhile, from my collation I draw two conclusions, the first definitive, the second provisional: (1) That Shakespeare laid Appian under contribution to fill in the details of his picture. (2) That he borrowed from him, that is, from his English translator, only for the episode of Sextus Pompeius. [p. 653]