Caesar and Pompey

or, Caesar's Revenge

an anonymous tragedy

first published c. 1607


About the Play

The Roman civil war of the first century B.C.E., between Caesar and Pompey, the two surviving members of the First Triumvirate, was a popular subject for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century playwrights, and “Caesar and Pompey” a popular title for these plays. This anonymous play, published in 1607 and in one other early edition, is one of the few that survives.

To avoid confusion, the following is a list of plays on the subject of Pompey published or attested to before 1700:

  • Stephen Gosson’s 1579 anti-theatre pamphlet, The School of Abuse, mentions a play Gosson calls Ptolemy, which Gosson feels imparts a good moral about the dangers of betrayal and rebellion. Based on this description, the Ptolemy of the title is likely Ptolemy XIII, who betrayed Pompey to his death in the hopes of pleasing Rome, but was ultimately defeated by the combined armies of Caesar and Ptolemy’s own wife and sister, Cleopatra.
  • A play referred to as A Story of Pompey is listed in the account of the Master of the Revels for January of 1581.
  • Anthony Munday’s 1580 follow-up to The School of Abuse, A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theaters, discusses playwrights’ treatment of the lives of Caesar and Pompey. This may be the a reference to the same play discussed by Gosson in 1582, or listed in the Revels Account for 1580.
  • Stephen Gosson’s 1582 anti-theatrical pamphlet, Playes Confuted, discusses, among other plays, one he calls Caesar and Pompey..
  • The Revels’ Accounts for 1583 lists a play called Telomo, which may also refer to Ptolemy XIII.
  • One edition of Cornelia, Thomas Kyd’s 1594 translation of Robert Garnier’s closet drama, gives it the title Pompey the Great, his Fair Cornelia’s Tragedy. The play tells the story of the civil war and its aftermath from the perspective of Cornelia, Pompey’s wife.
  • A play in two parts called Caesar and Pompey is listed by several sources as having been played by Henslowe’s company at the Rose Theatre, with Part One produced in 1594 and Part Two in 1595.
  • This play, The Tragedy of Caesar and Pompey; or Caesar's Revenge. It survives in two editions, one dated 1607 and the other undated.
  • The Wars of Pompey and Caesar, by George Chapman, was first published in 1631 and survives in this edition and a later edition of 1653. One early edition lists the title as Caesar and Pompey: A Roman Tragedy, declaring their Wars.
  • A play entitled Cornelia, by W. Bartley, is recorded as having been performed in 1662. Nothing else is known about this play, which was never printed, but it may, like Kyd’s 1594 work, have been about Pompey’s wife.
  • In 1663, the playwright Katherine Philips published Pompey, her well-received translation of Corneille’s French tragedy, La Mort de Pompée.
  • The following year 1664, another translation of La Mort de Pompée, entitled Pompey the Great, was published by “certain persons of honour.”
  • Dryden’s 1674 pamphlet Notes and Observations on the Empress of Morocco, mentions a rhyming farce, of which nothing else is known, entitled Mock Pompey. This could be a joke by Dryden or one of his collaborators, the meaning of which has been lost, or it could simply be an unknown and otherwise unattested farce on a subject usually treated as a tragedy.

Known Editions

This play exists in two editions, one of which is undated. Some commentators have speculated that the undated version is earlier than the 1607 publication date of the other.

  • The tragedie of Cæsar and Pompey or Cæsars reuenge: Priuately acted by the students of Trinity Colledge in Oxforde Imprinted for Nathaniel Fosbrooke and Iohn Wright and are to be sold in Paules Church-yarde at the signe of the Helmet 1607

  • The tragedie of Caesar and Pompey or Caesars reuenge At London : Imprinted by G.E. for Iohn Wright, and are to bee sould at his shop at Christ-church Gate

    This edition is undated; the running title is “The tragedy of Iulius Caesar.”


References from Secondary Sources

  • Walter Wilson Gregg, A List of English Plays (1900)

    The Tragedie of Caesar and Pompey. Or Caesars Reuenge. Priuately acted by the students of Trinity College in Oxford. for Nathaniel Fosbrooke and Iohn Wright. 1607. B.M. (C. 34 b. 7). Bodl.

    The Tragedie of Caaesar and Pompey or Caesars Reuenge. G.E. for Iohn Wright. Dyce. Devon.

  • James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays (1860)

    CESAR AND POMPEY. The Tragedy of Caesar and Pompey; or Caesar's Revenge. Acted by the Students of Trinity College, in Oxford. 4to. 1607. Of this play there is, in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire, another edition, apparently an earlier one, without a date, and with no mention of its having been acted by the students of Trinity College. There was also a very ancient play on this subject, entitled, the History of Caesar and Pompey, exhibited before 15S0. See Gosson's School of Abuse. A new play, under the same title, was produced by Henslowe's company in 1594, and a second part in the following year.

  • William Carew Hazlitt, The Play-Collector's Manual (1892)

    Caesar and Pompey: The Tragedy of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar's Revenge. Acted by the students of Trinity College, in Oxford. 4to, n.d., 1607.

    In the edition without a date, there is no mention of it having been acted by the students of Trinity College.