London: Printed by Thomas Harper, and are to be sold by Godfrey Emondson, and Thomas Alchorne, 1631.
Quarto: 17 x 12 cm.  p. Collation: A-I4, K2 (lacking blank leaf A1).
Bound in 19th c. quarter morocco and marbled papers over boards (rubbing to joints and extremities), spine tooled in gold. Contents in good condition, cut close with shaving to a number of headlines and some signature marks but not affecting the text itself. Faint dampstain to t.p. and second leaf, and again in gathering E, verso of final leaf lightly soiled. Woodcut headpieces on leaves A3 and A4; attractive casket woodcut at head of leaf B1. Provenance: ex libris John Clawson, John Scott, Robert Lowry van Dyke, and Kenneth Rapoport, with bookplates.
First edition of George Chapman’s examination of Julius Caesar, one of history’s most complex and influential figures, through a re-telling of the events of the Roman Civil War. The extensive stage directions were likely written by Chapman, making “Caesar and Pompey” the only one of his plays with authorial stage directions (see below).
In “Caesar and Pompey”, Chapman depicts events in the Roman civil war: the battle at Pharsalus, the murder of Pompey, the suicide of Cato, and the consequences of Caesar’s victory for the Roman Republic. “The epigram ‘only a just man is a free man’, taken from Plutarch, is printed on the play’s title page, and everything in the play serves to illustrate it, including Chapman’s characterization of Caesar.” (Bales 63)
“Chapman's Caesar epitomizes the complex literary and dramatic tradition of Caesarism in the Renaissance. He is cruel and merciful, warmonger and peace- maker, Machiavellian politician and political naff, ambitious tyrant and selfless patriot, Fortune's minion and the embodiment of virtù (the personal qualities required for a leader to effectively govern). The conflicting records of classical history bequeathed to the Renaissance a Caesar who was nothing if not enigmatic, and dramatists from Muret to Shakespeare to Sir William Alexander to Chapman carefully nurtured the tradition of the enigma, though each gave it his own individual coloring.
“The Caesar one encounters in act 1 functions as a foil to Cato. Chapman is at pains to portray Caesar as a shrewd, ambitious tyrant in order to set off Cato's republican virtue. In Plutarch, it was Pompey who attempted to bribe Cato and who, with Metellus, tried by force to keep him out of the Senate; in Chapman, it is Caesar who does this, and Metellus is transformed into Caesar's henchman. Moreover, because Caesar's initial aside to Metellus announces the dark motives cloaked by his casuistical rhetoric, Caesar is made to seem devious, while Cato is manifestly a plain dealer. Caesar is also proud, as well as ambitious. Cato's exemplary suicide and the principal illustrative message that only the just man is a free man demand that Caesar again be introduced as a tyrannical slave of Fortune and foil to Cato.
“The Caesar of the central three acts bears little resemblance to the Caesar who is used as a foil to Cato. This ‘new’ Caesar is clement, patriotic, magnanimous, even humble in his willingness to admit mistakes. And he is emphatically not ambitious. Traditionally, Caesar's political naiveté had been dramatized by his juxtaposition with a Machiavellian Antony …. Chapman is careful to differentiate political ambition from a pure aspiration for excellence, reliance on Fortune from inherent virtù.
“Caesar continually asserts the need for human effort and resolve in determining the outcome of events; he is master of his own destiny. Indeed, perhaps Chapman's most telling contribution to the Caesarian tradition is his depiction of Caesar's colossal virtù. The crucial demonstration occurs at the river Anius, after Caesar's initial setback and before the decisive battle at Pharsalia. Although the night is stormy and the sea is infested with Pompey's ships, Caesar determines to set sail for Brundisium to gather reinforcements. No matter that the storm and hellish furies are set ‘in spite of Caesar’; he will advance toward his destiny:
I, that have ransack'd all the world for worth
To form in man the image of the gods,
Must like them have the power to check the worst
Of all t hings under their celestial empire,
Stoop it, and burst it, or break through it all
With use and safety; till the crown be set
On all my actions, that the hand of Nature,
In all her worst works aiming at an end
May in a master-piece of hers be serv'd
With tops and state fit for his virtuous crown;
Not lift arts thus far up in glorious frame
To let them vanish thus in smoke and shame. [2.5.12-23] (Ide 260-262)
In “Caesar and Pompey” Chapman departs from his practice of providing minimal stage direction. In this play they are great in “number and fullness . . . and they have none of the marks of prompt-book origin. There are no notes for actors to be in readiness and the number of entrants is often vague. In the absence of any clear sign that the 'copy' for the 1631 Quarto had passed through the book-keeper's hands, and bearing in mind Chapman's own statement that the play had never touched the stage, it is reasonable to assume that the numerous and full directions are from the author himself. The pageantry of the Roman senate, the organization of battle scenes, and, perhaps, the desire to prepare the play for readers, might have led Chapman to change his usual method of relying on brief directions only.” (Brown 468)
“Caesar and Pompey was written in c. 1605 but the idea that the text was actually performed is called into question in Chapman’s own dedication of the play’s quarto, first published in 1631: ‘this martial history . . . never touched it at the stage’.” (Dimitrova 11)
The 1653 edition states that the play had been performed at the Blackfriars, but it is probable that this claim is fraudulent. “The reissues (of 1652-53) were attempts to clear the stock of a play no longer in demand; both falsely claim to be printed in the 1650's, and neither gives the name of the responsible printer, publisher, or book seller. It seems likely that the reference is an irresponsible statement to promote sales; it was more than ten years after the closing of the theatres so the statement might well be risked. On these grounds, there is no reason to doubt Chapman's statement that the play had not been performed before 1631, and furthermore, it is doubtful whether there was a performance after that date.” (Brown 466-67)
“Chapman completed Marlowe's ‘Hero and Leander’ in 1598, dedicating the work to Lady Walsingham, who, with her husband, was one of Marlowe's benefactors. In the late 1590s Chapman began to establish himself as one of the chief dramatists for the Admiral's Men (a company which supported dramatic novelty), paid by Philip Henslowe and writing plays that were performed at the Rose Theatre. His earliest dramatic work, ‘The Blind Beggar of Alexandria’ (composed 1596, published 1598). These years also saw the first stirrings of Chapman's epic poetic ambitions. By turning to Homer and classical history, he was refining his poetic abilities as well as attempting to win a secure source of patronage. ‘The Seven Books of the Iliads’, a free translation of the Iliad published in 1598, features a dedication to the earl of Essex in which Chapman speaks of his difficult monetary circumstances.
“Chapman became sewer-in-ordinary to Henry, prince of Wales, possibly through the assistance of the earl of Suffolk, with the promise of £300 per annum and a pension. His plays from this point have a keener political edge … ‘Eastward Ho’ (1605) made a particularly trenchant critique. Co-written with Jonson and Marston as a reply to Dekker's and Webster's ‘Westward Ho’, the play subjects bourgeois manners and beliefs to ironic treatment. Expeditions to Virginia are mocked; apprentices are either sanctimonious or wasteful; and livery company structures are seen in disrepair. Although comment on James's knighting policies and northern accent remained in the printed copies, allusions to the Scots were deleted, and it was these, almost certainly, that led to the imprisonment of the dramatists in September 1605. For a while, at least, it looked as if Jonson and Chapman were to have their ears and noses cut, a state of affairs which no doubt prompted three letters from Chapman—one, to the king. Controversy was exacerbated, too, by the fact that the play was staged, unlicensed, while the court and the lord chamberlain were away from London. Ultimately, after two months, Chapman and Jonson (but not Marston, who appears to have escaped punishment) were released.
“After Chapman had gained release from gaol in November 1605 he wrote no more satiric comedy, ceasing all dramatic activity for the next two years. In 1609 Chapman had published an edition of ‘Twelve Books of the Iliad’ with a dedication to Prince Henry. This reveals that 356 lines had been changed from Chapman's 1598 edition, suggesting a scrupulous and refining attitude on his part. To the last Chapman was an exacting craftsman. The ‘Twelve Books of the Iliad’ are also of interest for what they reveal of Chapman's aristocratic connections. Sonnets are included addressing, among others, the duke of Lennox, Lord Ellesmere, the earl of Salisbury, and the earl of Suffolk (to whom Chapman was multiply indebted). Additional sonnets are directed to members of the Sidney–Pembroke family, and it is tempting to speculate that these reflected new patronage opportunities for a writer who, earlier, may have found favour with the Walsinghams (to whom the Sidney–Pembroke group was related).
“The period from 1614 onwards discovers a Chapman more centred on the world of learning and less anxious to carve out for himself a place in the metropolitan scene. ‘The Complete Odysseys’ was published in two parts between 1614 and 1615, while ‘The Whole Works of Homer’ was published 1616-1634. But Chapman was no straightforward translator. Although he taught himself Greek, referring as he worked to Spondamus's parallel Latin translations and to Scapula's Greek–Latin lexicon, he did not provide literal English versions of his originals; rather, he personalized the epic, appropriating his source and making Homer a writer of the early modern moment.
“Chapman died in London on 12 May 1634. He was buried in St Giles-in-the-Fields in a tomb designed and paid for by Inigo Jones. There is no evidence of surviving family.” (ODNB).
STC 4993; Greg II 444 (A1*); Pforzheimer 146; ESTC S107722