Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 August 2010
This tragedy, there can be no reasonable doubt, was first published in the folio collection of 1623, where it is printed with, for that volume, a remarkable exemption from typographical inaccuracies. The date of its production is less certain. Malone, in his “Attempt to ascertain the order in which the Plays of Shakespeare were written,” concludes that it could not have been composed before 1607; but, as his argument mainly rests upon the fact that a tragedy with the same title by William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Sterline, was printed in London that year, from which he conjectured Shakespeare had derived one or two ideas, it cannot be regarded as satisfactory. Upon safer grounds, we think, Mr. Collier believes that Shakespeare's “Julius Cæsar” was written and acted before 1603. In Act V. Sc. 5, it will be remembered, Antony pays a beautiful tribute to the character of Brutus,—
“His life was gentle; and the elements
So max'd in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, This was a man!”
Referring to this passage, Mr. Collier observes, “In Drayton's ‘Barons' Wars,’ Book III. edit. 8vo. 1603, p. 61, we meet with the subsequent stanza.