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Can there be a fubject more worthy of the tragic muse, than the imitation of an action fo important in its confequences, and unparrelleled in all its circumstances? How is our curiofity excited to discover what could engage the man of virtue in an enterprize of fuch a terrible kind; and why, after its accomplishment, instead of being ftigmatized with the name of confpirator and affaffin, the decrees of an auguft fenate, the voice of Rome, unite to place him one of the first on the roll of patriots; and the fucceffor of the murdered Cæfar, who devoted to deftruction the most illuftrious men of Rome, durft not offer violation to the ftatue of Brutus !
To obtain, from the English spectator, the fame reverence for him, it was neceffary we should be made to imbibe thofe doctrines, and to adopt the opinion by which he himself was actuated. We must be in the very capitol of Rome; ftand at the base of Pompey's ftatue, furrounded by the
effigies of their patriots; we must be taught
genuine fon of ancient Rome, the lover of the liberty of his country, we are interested. A concern raised for him, from compaffion to any other perfon, would only have excited fome painful emotions in the spectator, arifing from difcordant fentiments. Indeed, the common aim of tragedy writers seems to be merely to make us uneasy, for some 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 paffions of another fort. He excites the fympathies, and the concern, proper to the story. The paffion of love, or maternal affection, may give good fubjects for a tragedy. In the fables of Phædra and Merope those sentiments belong to the action; but they had no fhare in the refolution taken to kill Cæfar; and, if they are made to interfere, they adulterate the imitation ; if to predominate, they spoil it. Our author difdains. the legerdemain trick of fubftituting one paffion for another. He is the great magi
cian that can call forth paffions of any fort. If they are fuch as time has destroyed, or custom extinguished, he fummons from the dead thofe fouls in which they once exifted. Having fufficiently enlarged on the general fcope of our author in this play, we will now
confider 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 Cæfar's triumph. As certain decorums did not employ the attention of the writers of Shakespear's days, he fuffers fome poor mechanics to be too loquacious. As it was his business to depress the character of Cæfar, and render his victory over his illuftrious rival as odious as poffible, he judiciously makes one of the tribunes thus address himself to the people:
Wherefore rejoice? What conqueft brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome,
To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels?
You blocks, you ftones, you worse than fenfeless things!
And do you now put on your best attire?
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
The next speech fhews the general apprehenfion of Cæfar's affuming too great a degree