Caesar and Pompey, Parts 1 and 2

Anon. (1594) and (1595)

Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 10v (Greg I.20):
ye 8 of novembʒ 1594
Res at seser & pompie
iijll ijs

ye 14 of novembʒ 1594
Res at sesor & pompie

ye 25 of novembʒ 1594
Res at seser & pompey

ye 10 of desembʒ 1594
Res at seser

Fol. 11 (Greg I.21):
ye 18 of Jenewary 1594
Res at seaser

ye j of febreary 1594
Res at seaser

Fol. 11v (Greg I.22):
ye 6 of marche 1594
Res at seaser

Fol. 12v (Greg I.24):
ye 18 of June 1595
ne Res at the 2 pte of sesore
ye 25 of June 1595
Res at the j pte of seaser
ye 26 of June 1595
Res at the 2 pte of seaser

Theatrical Provenance

Part 1 was performed as new by the Admiral's Men at the Rose on Friday 8 November 1594. Afterwards, three more performances are recorded in 1594, four in 1595.

Part 2 was performed as new by the Admiral's Men at the Rose on Wednesday 18 June 1595 and staged again on 26 June 1595, the day after the company had revived Part 1.

Probable Genre(s)

Classical history (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The civil war between Caesar and Pompey was available to early modern playwrights through a plethora of sources such as Appian's Civil Wars, Plutarch's Lives, Lucan's Civil War, Suetonius's Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Cassius Dio's Roman History and Caesar's own Civil War. However, it is impossible to determine which source (or sources) may have been chosen for this two-part play.

For a summary of the main events of the conflict between Caesar and Pompey, see "Caesar and Pompey".

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Malone has no opinion on the current play but does note that Stephen Gosson had mentioned "a play entitled The History of Caesar and Pompey, which was acted before 1580" (p. 296, n.3). Collier expands on the number and dates of plays treating the conflicts between Caesar and Pompey; looking forward, he cites one by George Chapman (which he says Chapman said "was never acted") and another by Anonymous; he has in mind for the latter the play printed in 1607 and for the former the "Roman Tragedy" printed in 1631 (p. 44, n.2). Fleay, BECD) refers readers to Chapman's Caesar and Pompey (2.303 #159). There, he conjectures that the "prose parts" of the 1631 play belonged to an "early play," not being very clear whether his opinion is based on Chapman's comments (1.65, #18). Greg II interprets Fleay's comments to link the two-part 1594 play and Chapman's possible authorship with the play in 1631, but he is not persuaded; further, he rejects connections with other previous dramatic treatments of the subject matter (#59, #74, p. 171).

Within the context of a discussion of the academic Tragedy of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar's Revenge (c. 1595, publ. 1606) privately acted by the students of Trinity College, Oxford, Parrott (p. 440) conjectures as follows:

The Admiral's Company in 1594 stood under the leadership of Alleyn, and were, in their choice of tragedies, dominated by the tradition of Marlowe. A glance through the pages of Henslowe's Diary for 1594 shows us what sort of tragedies they preferred; from June 3, 1594, to March 14, 1595 we have an unbroken series of plays. . . . Seser and pompie stands well up among other plays, with a record of seven performances between Nov. 8, 1594, and March 14, 1595, and was revived once more in connection with a less successful second part on June 25, 1595. . . . Now, if we may argue from the known to the unknown, have we not reason to suppose that the Admiral's play was a vigorous chronicle of the wars of Caesar and Pompey with plenty of action to tickle the groundlings, and, I fancy, a fine mouth-filling part for Alleyne [sic] as Caesar?

Sharpe mentions that the lost "Caesar" plays "may have influenced [Shakespeare's] Julius Caesar ... at considerable distance" but he did not think it "impossible" that "Chapman rewrote in his later style some early work of his for Henslowe" (p. 41).

Gentili (p. 18) contends that the presence of the two-part "Caesar and Pompey" in the Admiral's Men's repertory in the mid-1590s suggests that the company wanted to go back to the themes already developed in Thomas Lodge's The Wounds of Civil Wars, this time focusing on far more popular personalities than either Gaius Marius or Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

For Feldmann and Tetzeli von Rosador's intriguing discussion of the Admiral's Men's two-part "Caesar and Pompey", "Catiline's Conspiracy (Catiline)" (by Robert Wilson and Henry Chettle) and "Caesar's Fall" (by Michael Drayton, Thomas Middleton, Anthony Munday and John Webster) as a remarkable multi-Caesarean project, see "Caesar's Fall".

Wiggins, Catalogue #972 is convinced that the play ended with Pompey's death, as the title of the sequel suggests that "Part 2" "evidently saw a shift of emphasis away from Pompey". He suggests that part 2 (Catalogue #1004) covered the years "between 48 and 44 BC."

For What It's Worth

There is absolutely no reason to assume that the two-part "Caesar and Pompey" may have been an enlarged version of the likewise lost "Caesar and Pompey" (1580), that it may have been revised by George Chapman as Caesar and Pompey (c. 1604, publ. 1631) or by William Shakespeare as Julius Caesar (1599, publ. 1623), or that it may have had any kind of connection with the anonymous Caesar's Revenge (c. 1595, publ. 1606), as critics variously speculated at the beginning of the twentieth century -- a consequence of the era's tendency to lump title of plays together on no legitimate grounds.

If Feldmann and Tetzeli von Rosador are right in conjecturing that the Admiral's Men sought to produce a Caesarean dramatic cycle, then it is tempting to wonder how the two parts of "Caesar and Pompey" may have ended. If "Part 1", as Wiggins reasonably suggests (see above), finished with Pompey's death, "Part 2" may have followed Caesar in Egypt with Cleopatra and then dramatized his forays into Africa and Spain, concluding with Cato's suicide in Thapsus and Caesar's victory over Pompey's sons in Munda.

If this was the case, then the events shown in "Caesar's Fall" would have to have been essentially the same as those chronicled in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. This would also lend credibility to the hypothesis that "Caesar's Fall" may have been commissioned by Henslowe to an ensemble of accomplished playwrights in order to try both to rival and to capitalize on the success of Lord Chamberlain's Men's Caesarean dramatic offering. "Caesar's Fall" might even have been a later addition to the cycle, insofar as this might have originally ended on Caesar's final victory rather than his murder (as occurs with Chapman's Caesar and Pompey).

Works Cited

Feldmann, Doris, and Kurt Tetzeli von Rosador. "Lost Plays: A Brief Account." Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works. Ed. Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007. 328-333.
Gentili, Vanna. La Roma antica degli elisabettiani. Bologna: il Mulino, 1991.
Parrott, Thomas Marc. "The 'Academic Tragedy' of Caesar and Pompey." Modern Language Review 5 (1910), 435-444.
Sharpe, Robert B. The Real War of the Theaters. Boston: Heath & Co., 1935.

Site created and maintained by Domenico Lovascio, University of Genoa; updated 27 July 2015.