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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010
  • First published in: 1889

2 - JULIUS CÆSAR

Summary

INTRODUCTION

LITERARY HISTORY

This play was first published, so far as we know, in the Folio of 1623, where it occupies pages 109–130 in the division of “Tragedies.” At the beginning of the play, and at the head of each page, it is entitled “The Tragedie of Julius Caesar;” but in the Table of Contents (or, as it is called, “A Catalogve of the seuerall Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies contained in this Volume”) it is set down as “The Life and Death of Julius Caesar.” No play in the Folio is printed with greater accuracy, and none presents fewer textual difficulties for the editor or critic.

The date of composition has been the subject of considerable discussion. Malone believed that the play “could not have appeared before 1607;” and Chalmers, Drake, and the earlier commentators generally, were unanimous in accepting his conclusions. There was a natural disposition at first to associate it chronologically with the other Boman plays, neither of which can be placed earlier than 1607; but, though Knight considers it “one of the latest works of Shakespeare,” the great majority of recent editors are inclined to put it five years or more earlier than Antony and Cleopatra. Collier argues that it must have been performed before 1603; and Gervinus also decides that it “was composed before 1603, about the same time as Hamlet.” He adds that this is “confirmed not only by the frequent external references to Cæsar which we find in Hamlet, but still more by the inner relations of the two plays.” Halliwell, in his folio edition, 1865, takes the ground that it was written “in or before the year 1601.”

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