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Can there be a subject more worthy of the tragic muse, than the imitation of an action so important in its consequences, and unparrelleled in all its circumstances ? How is our curiosity excited to discover what could engage
the man of virtue in an enterprize of such a terrible kind; and why, after its accomplishment, instead of being stigmatized with the name of conspirator and assassin, the decrees of an august senate, the voice of Rome, unite to place him one of the first on the roll of patriots ; and the successor of the murdered Cæfar, who devoted to destruction the most illustrious men of Rome, durft not offer violation to the statue of Brutus !
To obtain, from the English spectator, the same reverence for him, it was necessary we should be made to imbibe those doctrines, and to adopt the opinion by which he himself was actuated. We must be in the
very capitol of Rome; stand at the base of Pompey's statue, surrounded by the
effigies of their patriots; we must be taught to adore the images of Junius Brutus, the Horatii, Decii, Fabii, and all who had offered dear and bloody facrifice to the liberty of their country, to see this action in the point of view to which it offered itself to the deliberation of Brutus, and by which it was beheld by those who judged of it when done. To the very scene, to the very time, therefore, does our poet transport us : at Rome, we become Romans; we are affected by their manners; we are caught by their enthusiasm. But what a variety of imitations were there to be made by the artist to effect this! and who but Shakespear was capable of such a task? A poet of ordinary genius would have endeavoured to interest us for Brutus, by the means of fome imagined fond mother, or fonder mistress. But can a few female tears wipe out the stains of assassination ?
A base conspirator, a vile assassin, like the wretched Cinna of Corneille, would Brutus have appeared to us, if only the same feeble arts had been exerted for him. It is for the
genuine genuine son of ancient Rome, the lover of the liberty of his country, we are interested. A concern raised for him, from compassion to any other person, would only have excited some painful emotions in the spectator, arising from discordant sentiments. Indeed, the common aim of tragedy writers seems to be merely to make us uneasy, for fome reason or other, during the drama. They take any thing to be a tragedy in which there are great perfons, and much lamentation ; but our poet never represents an action of one fort, and raises emotions and passions of another fort. He excites the sympathies, and the concern, proper to the story. The paffion of love, or maternal affection, may give good subjects for a tragedy. In the fables of Phædra and Merope those sentiments belong to the action ; but they had no share in the resolution taken to kill Cæsar ; and, if they are made to interfere, they adulterate the imitation ; if to predominate, they spoil it. Our author disdains the legerdemain trick of substituting one passion for another.
fort. If they are such as time has destroyed, or custom extinguished, he summons from the dead those souls in which they once existed. Having sufficiently enlarged on the general scope of our author in this play, we will now consider it in the detail.
The first scene is in the streets of Rome. The tribunes chide the people for gathering together to do honour to Cæsar's triumph. As certain decorums did not employ the attention of the writers of Shakespear’s days, he suffers fome poor mechanics to be too loquacious. As it was his business to depress the character of Cæsar, and render his victory over his illustrious rival as odious as possible, he judiciously makes one of the tribunes thus address himself to the people :
MARULLUS. Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome, To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels ? You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless
hard hearts ! you cruel men of Rome ! Knew you not Pompey ? Many a time and oft
climb'd up to walls and battlements,
way, That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood ?
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
The next speech thews the general apprehension of Cæsar's affuming too great a degree of