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"Julius Caesar", one of the so-called "Roman Tragedies", was probably produced in 1599, and printed in 1623. It deals with the Roman events of the year 44 BC. It ranks among Shakespeare's best plays, and in some passages reaches very high dramatic pitch and intense pathos. There is great rejoicing in Rome in consequence of Caesar's victory over Pompey. Flavius and Marullus, however, warn some Roman artisans from being over satisfied, for Caesar is very likely to destroy all traces of republican rule in Rome.
The festival of the "Lupercalia" is celebrated. Caesar is saluted by the multitude with acclamation. But Roman lovers of liberty, notably Cassius and Casca, are worried about Caesar's popularity as they are well acquainted with his ambitious temper and, therefore, distrust him. They win over to their cause Brutus, a man of unimpeachable integrity and great virtue. He complies from a sense of duty to the Republic, and the conspirators meet at his house.
Cassius suggests that Mark Antony, a "shrewd contriver", should be murdered as well, bur Brutus strongly opposed his view. Meanwhile a thunderstorm breaks out. The augurs advise Caesar no to stir forth; Calphurnia, his wife, entreats him on her knee not to leave the house, for she has seen him in a dream as a statue which "like a fountain with a hundred spouts did run pre blood."
Caesar decides not to go to the Senate-house, but Decius, who has come to fetch him, scoffs at him and reminds him that the senators are waiting to offer him a crown. Fearing to be judges a coward, Caesar changes his mind and goes to meet his fate.
"What fates impose, that men must needs abide;
It boots not to resist both wind and tide." ("Henry VI", 4.3.60)
As an English teacher, I am constantly looking for new challenges both for myself and my pupils. This year I had a lively, yet very bright top set so decided to choose Julius Caesar as the Shakespearian play they should study. I had rest most of his plays but this was one which I had not encountered before. However, this enthralled me throughout and I would now say that this is my favourite play; although my pupils may not agree with this statement!
*** Plot ***
The play is based on true events in Rome - based in 44BC and centres around the assassination of Caesar. The play starts with Caesar returning to Rome as a hero to his citizens after his victorious defeat of Pompey. Conspirators begin to become uneasy as his popularity and therefore power grows. Cassius convinces Brutus to join the conspirators to overthrow Caesar and they murder him in a violent and dramatic scene. At his funeral, his friend Mark Anthony delivers one of the most famous speeches in literature: "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears..." This speech convinces the citizens to rebel against the conspirators and both Cassius and Brutus flee. This is a powerful point in the play - it highlights the power of the mob and the emotional rhetoric of Mark Anthony's words leaves a lasting impression.
*** Characters ***
All four of the main characters are well-developed and interesting. In fact, we learn the least about Julius Caesar himself. He dies halfway throughout the play and we learn more about him through what other characters say then his own words and actions. Shakespeare portrays him as a strong individual, yet often arrogant.
For me, the most interesting character is Brutus. He is seen as being easily persuaded by Cassius but yet he is also an honourable man. He truly believes that the reasons for killing Caesar are justified and that they are all committing this act for the good of the whole nation. He was good friends with Caesar, which could be shocking to the audience but Brutus is even willing to die for this cause.
Cassius for me is in the real instigator of events; jealous of Caesar and ambitious himself he manipulates others and events to suit himself. You end up having little sympathy for this character.
Mark Anthony is under-estimated by the other characters in the play. He is seen as "but a limb of Caesar" and the conspirators see no cause to kill him as well. Yet, it is he who exacts revenge on them. With help from Caesar's son Octavius they defeat them both in battle which begins a new age in Rome. Shakespeare continues his story in 'Anthony and Cleopatra" - another play well worth a read.
*** Language / Style ***
This is not the easiest of Shakespeare's plays to read. Although the plot is fairly straight-forward, there are many long speeches used throughout often littered with imagery. My pupils liked the actual storyline but needed quite a lot of help understanding the complexities in his writing. However, if you are familiar with Shakespeare or like a challenge then I would definitely recommend reading this, or better still, seeing this on stage.
For me the technique which I found most effective was the use of dramatic tension which Shakespeare uses throughout the play. At the beginning Caesar is warned by a soothsayer to "Beware the Ides of March" and his wife has nightmares and premonitions about the day as well. However, Caesar ignores such superstitions and the audience are well-aware of the impending doom hanging over him.
*** Themes ***
This play illustrates many insights into issues such as power, corruption, leadership and friendship. It is amazing how this play is based on events thousands of years ago but yet these themes can still be applied to events both in Elizabethan times and to events happening now all around the world.
*** Historical Context ***
My pupils enjoyed the fact that this was based on true events, they became more engaged in the story knowing that this had actually happened. Obviously events are dramatised but it does offer a fascinating insight into the Romans but this has made me want to learn much more about this historical period.
It is also interesting to note that this was written near the end of Elizabeth's I reign. It is thought that Shakespeare was also writing about the political unrest at the time. This was after the war of the Roses and there were many plots to overthrow the Queen.
*** Conclusion ***
I could not stop reading this and this is highly recommended. My only slight criticism is that the reader is left with many questions at the end. We are left wondering whether Mark Anthony and Octavius will lead the country well and I feel it is essential to read the next installment in Shakespeare's Roman Historical plays. I would also recommend watching the 1953 film version of this play - with Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony.
Julius Caeser is a play by William Shakepeare and is one of his more famous plays, it sits firmly in the tragedy canon of shakespeares work and for me is one of his greatest pieces of work.
JC is a brave play because rather than use the assassination of Julius Caeser as an end point for the play instead places the assassination early in the piece, this act rather fools the unwary and shows Shakespeare as a settled strong writer with the bravery to do the unexpected.
Shakespeare wrote the play in and around 1599, when he was a well established playwright, he uses the technique of killing the named character very early on in the play but focuses not on Caeser but his killer Brutus. Caeser as a ghost keeps popping up warning Brutus of his fate, Shakespeare obviously likes this idea as he uses the same tactic in MacBeth, and to an extent in Hamlet.
This positioning of Caeser as a ghost through out the play gives a great actor a chance to be the classic roving turn, he can appear and change the course of the play but doens't have many lines or appear in too many scenes. This works well especially as the actor has a chance to appear as a live man for 3 scenes before being portrayed as a ghost for the rest. I expect the make up department have fun changing the actor.
Gaius Julius Caeser to give him his full name is going to declare himself permanent Dictator of Rome, the position of Dictator was a real position in Rome but only used when Rome itself was in danger and the city had to be placed under the rule of just one man (remember that Rome at the time was a republic). This was a role which only covered when Rome was in danger as soon as the danger receeded then the dictator gave up his powers and Rome became a republic again. Its a bit like the President of the US running the US without the senate until a crisis passed before the senate reforming again. Anyway Caeser was going to declare himself Dictator not for a short period but for life, and he was only in his early 50's so that life could have been for a few decades.
So on the Ides (15th) of March Caeser was in effect going to become a totalitarian power and untouchable, so his enemies fronted by Brutus had him assassinated just before he arrived at the senate. The collaborators thought they would be feted by the Roman public but they misunderstood the love of the great general and they had to flee for their lives. Brutus wasn't the leader of the band but was Caeser's adopted son and much beloved by Caeser meaning the betrayal was all the more hurtful.
Thats the background and the play centres on Brutus rather than Caeser, and gives us some of the most memorable scenes from any Shakespeare play. The play has two really famus scenes, Caeser's assassination with his line et tu Brutus when he finds out one of the assassins identity and Marc Antony's famous Friends, Romans and Countryman speech. The assassination in particular is one of the finest piece of Shakespearean theatre, its sticks very closely to real events, Caeser is warned by a soothsayer, there is the famous prediction about the Ides of March and Caeser's arrogance by arriving at the senate largely unprotected. The scene gives a director a great chance to bring tension into the play, we all know whats going to happen and a great director can crank up the tension through use of set design, top acting and the moment when the assassins in their senatorial robes circle Caeser before the first strikes down the great man. The scene ends with the famous line and the curtain falls.
There are bigger fish on display here than a simple bald play about the assasination of Caeser, England at the time of writing was waiting for the aged Elizabeth to die, she didn't have any direct heirs so th question of accession was spoken through out london. A play about the fate of an empire after the death of a strong leader? Strangely apt for an English nation waiting to see what would happen post elizabeth.
This is one of Shakespeares great plays written when the playwright was at the height of his powers, it has tragedy, death, destruction and as with all his better plays a ghost.
Julius Caesar is a book written by Shakespeare. This book deals with the main character of the story Julius Caesar who was now going to be crowned as the King of Rome. But all is not well with him. While he tries to achieve his goal, a pair of conspirators who feel that Julius Caesar is an ambitious fellow with a bad consequence and that they need to kill him eventually. The story revolves around Burtus and Casiisu who are the leaders of the conspiracy.
Julius Caesar is constantly warned about the bad omens that were going to occur, but dues to his proudish and selfish self, he didnt care about them. He felt that danger, if it sees his face will run away. Julius Caesar is eventually killed by the conspirators, if he had listened or believed the omens maybe he could have lived. Aftert his incident Marc Anthony a loyal friend of Caesar and Octavius Caesar who is the nephew of Julius come together and wage a war against the army of Brutus and Cassius.
In the end, due to some misunderstanding, Cassius commits suicide and then later Brutus decides to do it as well. Brutus ends his life by saying 'Caesar, thou art revenged'.
Shakespeare in this book has made proper use of drama, suspence and irony. He has dwelled all these features in the story in a marvellous way. He makes the plot of the story such that it arises every ones interest.
One of Shakespeare's most political plays, Julius Caesar continued Shakespeare's interest in Roman history, first developed in Titus Andronicus. Drawing on Plutarch, the great historian of Rome, Shakespeare dramatises one of the most crucial moments in Roman history--the assassination of Julius Caesar.