Julius Caesar by William Shakespear

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It is one of several Roman plays that Shakespeare wrote, based on true events from Roman history, which also include Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra. Although the title of the play is Julius Caesar, Caesar is not the central character in its action; he appears in only three scenes, and is killed at the beginning of the third act. The protagonist of the play is Marcus Brutus, and the central psychological drama is his struggle between the conflicting demands of honour, patriotism, and friendship. The play reflected the general anxiety of England over succession of leadership.

One of the central strengths of the play is that it resists categorizing its characters as either simple heroes or villains. The early scenes deal mainly with Brutus’s arguments with Cassius and his struggle with his own conscience. The growing tide of public support soon turns Brutus against Caesar (this public support was actually faked; Cassius wrote letters to Brutus in different handwritings over the next month in order to get Brutus to join the conspiracy).

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A soothsayer warns Caesar to “beware the Ides of March,”[4] which he ignores, culminating in his assassination at the Capitol by the conspirators that day. Caesar’s assassination is one of the most famous scenes of the play, occurring in Act 3 (the other is Mark Antony’s oration “Friends, Romans, countrymen”. ) After ignoring the soothsayer as well as his wife’s own premonitions, Caesar comes to the Senate. The conspirators create a superficial motive for the assassination by means of a petition brought by Metellus Cimber, pleading on behalf of his banished brother.

As Caesar, predictably, rejects the petition, Casca grazes Caesar in the back of his neck, and the others follow in stabbing him; Brutus is last. At this point, Caesar utters the famous line “Et tu, Brute? “[5] (“And you, Brutus? “, i. e. “You too, Brutus? “). Shakespeare has him add, “Then fall, Caesar,” suggesting that Caesar did not want to survive such treachery. The conspirators make clear that they committed this act for Rome, not for their own purposes and do not attempt to flee the scene.

After Caesar’s death, Brutus delivers an oration defending his actions, and for the moment, the crowd is on his side. However, Mark Antony, with a subtle and eloquent speech over Caesar’s corpse—beginning with the much-quoted “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”[6]—deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the common people, in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus’s speech. Antony rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome. Amid the violence, the innocent poet,Cinna, is confused with the conspirator Lucius Cinna and is murdered by the mob.

The beginning of Act Four is marked by the quarrel scene, where Brutus attacks Cassius for soiling the noble act of regicide by accepting bribes (“Did not great Julius bleed for justice’ sake? / What villain touch’d his body, that did stab, / And not for justice? “[7] The two are reconciled; they prepare for war with Mark Antony and Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian (Shakespeare’s spelling: Octavius). That night, Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus with a warning of defeat (“thou shalt see me at Philippi”[8]).

At the battle, Cassius and Brutus knowing they will probably both die, smile their last smiles to each other and hold hands. During the battle, Cassius commits suicide after hearing of the capture of his best friend, Titinius. After Titinius, who wasn’t really captured, sees Cassius’ corpse, he commits suicide. However, Brutus wins the battle. Brutus, with a heavy heart, battlesagain the next day. He loses and commits suicide. The play ends with a tribute to Brutus by Antony, who proclaims that Brutus has remained “the noblest Roman of them all”[9] because he was the only conspirator who acted for the good of Rome.

The play is not mentioned in the list of Shakespeare’s plays published by Francis Meres in 1598. Based on these two points, as well as a number of contemporary allusions, and the belief that the play is similar to Hamlet in vocabulary, and to Henry V and As You Like It in metre,[10]scholars have suggested 1599 as a probable date. [11] The text of Julius Caesar in the First Folio is the only authoritative text for the play. The Folio text is notable for its quality and consistency; scholars judge it to have been set into type from a theatrical prompt-book. 12] The source used by Shakespeare was Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Life of Brutus and Life of Caesar[13] The play contains many anachronistic elements from the Elizabethan period. The characters mention objects such as hats and doublets (large, heavy jackets) – neither of which existed in ancient Rome. Caesar is mentioned to be wearing an Elizabethan doublet instead of a Roman toga. At one point a clock is heard to strike and Brutus notes it with “Count the clock”. [edit]Deviations from Plutarch Shakespeare makes Caesar’s triumph take place on the day of Lupercalia (February 15) instead of six months earlier.

For greater dramatic effect he has made the Capitol the venue of Caesar’s death rather than the Theatrum Pompeium (Theatre of Pompey).  Caesar’s murder, the funeral, Antony’s oration, the reading of the will and Octavius’ arrival all take place on the same day in the play. However, historically, the assassination took place on March 15 (The Ides of March), the will was published on March 18, the funeral was on March 20 and Octavius arrived only in May. Shakespeare makes the Triumvirs meet in Rome instead of near Bolonia, so as to avoid a third locale. He has combined the two Battles of Philippi although there was a 20 day interval between them.

Shakespeare gives Caesar’s last words as “Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar! ” (“And you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar. “). Plutarch says he said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. [14]. However, Suetonius reports his last words, which he spoke in Greek, as “? ” (“Kai su, teknon? “; “Even you too, child? “) directed at Brutus. [15]. The Latin words Et tu, Brute? however, were not devised by Shakespeare for this play, since they are attibuted to Caesar in earlier Elizabethan works and had become conventional by 1599. Shakespeare deviated from these historical facts in order to curtail time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged more easily. The tragic force is condensed into a few scenes for heightened effect.

Many have debated whether Caesar or Brutus is the protagonist of the play, because of the title character’s death in 3. 1. But Caesar compares himself to the Northern Star, and perhaps it would be foolish not to consider him as the axial character of the play, around whom the entire story turns. Intertwined in this debate is a smattering of philosophical and psychological ideologies on republicanism and monarchism. One author, Robert C. Reynolds, devotes attention to the names or epithets given to both Brutus and Caesar in his essay “Ironic Epithet in Julius Caesar”.

This author points out that Casca praises Brutus at face value, but then inadvertently compares him to a disreputable joke of a man by calling him an alchemist, “Oh, he sits high in all the people’s hearts,/And that which would appear offence in us/ His countenance, like richest alchemy,/ Will change to virtue and to worthiness” (I. iii. 158-60). Reynolds also talks about Caesar and his “Colossus” epithet, which he points out has its obvious connotations of power and manliness, but also lesser known connotations of an outward glorious front and inward chaos [16].

In that essay, the conclusion as to who is the hero or protagonist is ambiguous because of the conceit-like poetic quality of the epithets for Caesar and Brutus. Myron Taylor, in his essay “Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the Irony of History”, compares the logic and philosophies of Caesar and Brutus. Caesar is deemed an intuitive philosopher who is always right when he goes with his gut, for instance when he says he fears Cassius as a threat to him before he is killed, his intuition is correct.

Brutus is portrayed as a man similar to Caesar, but whose passions lead him to the wrong reasoning, which he realizes in the end when he says in V. v. 50–51, “Caesar, now be still:/ I kill’d not thee with half so good a will” [17]. This interpretation is flawed by the fact it relies on a very odd reading of “good a will” to mean “incorrect judgements” rather than the more intuitive “good intentions. ” Joseph W. Houppert acknowledges that some critics have tried to cast Caesar as the protagonist, but that ultimately Brutus is the driving force in the play and is therefore the tragic hero.

Brutus attempts to put the republic over his personal relationship with Caesar and kills him. Brutus makes the political mistakes that bring down the republic that his ancestors created. He acts on his passions, does not gather enough evidence to make reasonable decisions and is manipulated by Cassius and the other conspirators [18]. The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a strange conspiracy by forty or soRoman senators, self-styled the Liberatores, who, led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, stabbed Julius Caesar to death in the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March(March 15) 44 B.

C. Caesar was the dictator of the Roman Republic at the time having recently been declared dictator perpetuo by the Senate. This declaration had resulted in several senators fearing that Caesar’s ambition was to overthrow the Senate in favour of a tyranny. The ramifications of the assassination led to the Liberators’ civil war, the ascendancy of Caesar’s adopted heir Octavian to the position of emperor, and the dissolution of the Republic leading to the Empire. Ancient biographers describe the tension between Caesar and the Senate, and his possible claims to the title of king.

These events would be the principal motive for Caesar’s assassination by his political opponents in the Senate. Plutarch records that at one point, Caesar informed the Senate that his honors were more in need of reduction than augmentation, but withdrew this position so as not to appear ungrateful. He was given the title Pater Patriae (“Father of the Fatherland”). [1] He was appointed dictator a third time, and then nominated for nine terms as dictator, effectually making him dictator for ten years. He was also given censorial authority as praefectus morum (prefect of morals) for three years.

The Senate named Caesar dictator perpetuo (“dictator in perpetuity”). Roman mints printed a denarius coin with this title and his profile on one side, and with an image of the goddess Ceres and Caesar’s title of Augur Pontifex Maximus on the reverse. While printing the title of dictator was significant, Caesar’s image was not, as it was customary to print consuls and other public officials on coins during the Republic. According to Cassius Dio, a senatorial delegation went to inform Caesar of new honors they had bestowed upon him in 44 BC.

Caesar received them while sitting in the Temple of Venus Genetrix, rather than rising to meet them. According to Dr. Schnucker, this was a chief excuse for the offended senators to plot his assassination. He wrote that a few of Caesar’s supporters blamed his failure to rise on a sudden attack of diarrhoea, but his enemies discounted this in observing that he had walked home unaided. [citation needed] Suetonius wrote that Caesar failed to rise in the temple either because he was restrained by Cornelius Balbus or that he baulked at the suggestion he should rise. 2] Suetonius also gave the account of a crowd assembled to greet Caesar upon his return to Rome. A member of the crowd placed alaurel wreath on the statue of Caesar on the Rostra. The tribunes Gaius Epidius Marcellus and Lucius Caesetius Flavus ordered that the wreath be removed as it was a symbol of Jupiter and royalty. Caesar had the tribunes removed from office through his official powers. [3] According to Suetonius, he was unable to dissociate himself from the royal title from this point forward. [4] Suetonius also gives the story that a crowd shouted to him “rex”, the Latin word for king.

Caesar replied, “I am Caesar, not Rex”. [4] Also, at the festival of the Lupercalia, while he gave a speech from the Rostra, Mark Antony, who had been elected co-consul with Caesar, attempted to place a crown on his head several times. Caesar put it aside to be used as a sacrifice to Jupiter Opitimus Maximus. [3] Plutarch and Suetonius are similar in their depiction of these events, but Dio combines the stories writing that the tribunes arrested the citizens who placed diadems or wreaths on statues of Caesar.

He then places the crowd shouting “rex” on the Alban Hill with the tribunes arresting a member of this crowd as well. The plebeian protested that he was unable to speak his mind freely. Caesar then brought the tribunes before the senate and put the matter to a vote, thereafter removing them from office and erasing their names from the records. Suetonius adds that Lucius Cotta proposed to the Senate that Caesar should be granted the title of “king” for it was prophesied that only a king would conquer Parthia. 5] Caesar intended to invade Parthia, a task which would later give considerable trouble to Mark Antony during the second triumvirate. Brutus began to conspire against Caesar with his friend and brother-in-law Gaius Cassius Longinus and other men, calling themselves the Liberatores (“Liberators”).

Some suggested that they should make the attempt as he was going along the Sacred Way, which was one of his favorite walks. Another idea was for it to be done at the elections during which he had to cross a bridge to appoint the magistrates in the Campus Martius; they should draw lots for some to push him from the bridge and for others to run up and kill him. A third plan was to wait for a coming gladiatorial show. The advantage of that would be that, because of the show, no suspicion would be aroused if arms were seen prepared for the attempt.

However, the group of senators intercepted Caesar just as he was passing the Theatre of Pompey, located in the Campus Martius (now adjacent to the Largo di Torre Argentina), and directed him to a room adjoining the east portico. Had Antony arrived while the assassination was ongoing, he would certainly have come to Caesar’s aide, and as a trained veteran of the 13th Legion, which fought the Gallic soldiers for 9 years, Antony, much younger, at 39, than most of the senators, would have proven a very formidable adversary in Caesar’s defense. 8] The senators encircle Caesar. According to Plutarch, as Caesar arrived at the Senate Tillius Cimber presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother. [9] The other conspirators crowded round to offer their support. Both Plutarch and Suetonius say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed Caesar’s shoulders and pulled down Caesar’s tunic. Caesar then cried to Cimber, “Why, this is violence! ” (“Ista quidem vis est! “). [10] At the same time, Cascaproduced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator’s neck.

Caesar was stabbed 23 times. [12] According to Suetonius, a physician who performed the autopsy on Caesar later established that only one wound (the second one to his chest) had been fatal. Suetonius’ autopsy report (the first recorded post-mortem report in history) describes that Caesar’s death was mostly attributed to blood loss from the multiple stab wounds. [13] The dictator’s last words are a contested subject among scholars and historians and people alike. Suetonius reports that others have said Caesar’s last words were the Greek phrase “?;”[14] (transliterated as “Kai su, teknon? “: “You too, child? ” in English). However, Suetonius himself says Caesar said nothing. [10] Plutarch also reports that Caesar said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. [15]

The version best known in the English-speaking world is the Latin phrase “Et tu, Brute? ” (“You too, Brutus? “);[16][17] this derives from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1599), where it actually forms the first half of a macaronic line: “Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar. It has no basis in historical fact and Shakespeare’s use of Latin here is not from any assumption that Caesar would have been using the language, but because the phrase was already popular at the time the play was written. [18] Senators abandon Caesar’s corpse, as depicted by Jean-Leon Gerome. According to Plutarch, after the assassination, Brutus stepped forward as if to say something to his fellow senators not involved in the plot; they, however, fled the building. [19] Brutus and his companions then marched to the Capitol while crying out to their beloved city: “People of Rome, we are once again free!”.

They were met with silence, as the citizens of Rome had locked themselves inside their houses as soon as the rumour of what had taken place had begun to spread. Caesar’s dead body lay where it fell on the Senate floor for nearly three hours before other officials arrived to remove it. A wax statue of Caesar was erected in the Forum displaying the 23 stab wounds. A crowd who had amassed there started a fire, which badly damaged the Forum and neighboring buildings. In the ensuing chaos Mark Antony, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought a series of five civil wars, which would end in the formation of the Roman Empire.

The result unforeseen by the assassins was that Caesar’s death precipitated the end of the Roman Republic. [20] The Roman lower classes, with whom Caesar was popular, became enraged that a small group of aristocrats had killed Caesar. And according to Shakespeare, especially after Antony gave a dramatic eulogy that appealed to the common people,[citation needed] a reflection of public opinion following Caesar’s murder. Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalised on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the Optimates, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself.

But, to his surprise and chagrin, Caesar had named his grandnephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, bequeathing him the immensely potent Caesar name as well as making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic. [21] Gaius Octavian became the son of the great Caesar, and consequently also inherited the loyalty of much of the Roman populace. Octavian, aged only 18 at the time of Caesar’s death, proved to have considerable political skills, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavian consolidated his tenuous position.

Bust of Octavian, later known to history as Emperor Augustus. In order to combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an enormous army in Greece, Antony needed soldiers, the cash from Caesar’s war chests, and the legitimacy that Caesar’s name would provide for any action he took against them. With the passage of the Lex Titia on November 27, 43 BC,[22] the Second Triumvirate was officially formed, composed of Antony, Octavian, and Caesar’s Master of the Horse Lepidus. [23]It formally deified Caesar as Divus Iulius in 42 BC, and Caesar Octavian henceforth became Divi filius (“Son of a god”). 24] Seeing that Caesar’s clemency had resulted in his murder, the Second Triumvirate brought back the horror of proscription, abandoned since Sulla. [25] It engaged in the legally-sanctioned murder of a large number of its opponents in order to secure funding for its forty-five legions in the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius. [26] Antony and Octavius defeated them at Philippi. [27] Afterward, Mark Antony married Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra, intending to use the fabulously wealthy Egypt as a base to dominate Rome.

A third civil war broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war, culminating in the latter’s defeat at Actium, resulted in the final ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus, a name that raised him to status of a deity. [28] Caesar Dead| Julius Caesar was a noble Roman who participated in many activities dealing with his community. Not only was he a respected man of the community, but he was a role model for many men of the era.

With his reputation around the city he was one man whom many people were jealous which is a reason one would murder Caesar. Caesar became so popular by gaining power in the three areas which were the center of Roman life: politics and government, religion, and military. Many thought the power would get to Caesar’s head and he would be able to overthrow anyone else in the area. Caesar was warned to ‘Beware the Ides of March. ‘ Low and behold he was in the Senate House that day and a group of conspirators- his closest friends- murdered him.

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Julius Caesar by William Shakespear. (2019, May 02). Retrieved from


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