Melissa Rudder's Reviews > Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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Feb 18, 09

bookshelves: teach-it
Read in February, 2009, read count: 11

Reviewing William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at this point just feels wrong, because when I read the play, I'm no longer reading Shakespeare's version, I'm hearing and creating Ms. R--'s sophomore English class version, complete with arrogant jerk Caesar--"See, this is what happens when you don't listen to your wife and when you talk in third person"--and with breaks every fifty lines to ask question after question and stuff the richness of Shakespeare's text into a nice digestible package for tenth graders.

Instead of looking at the complexity of Shakespeare's characters, I've worked hard to make them memorable caricatures--from manipulative Cassius whispering poison into Brutus' ear (and boy does Hamlet's father know the danger of that!) to Casca who plays dumb to Brutus who is too good for his own good. And now I hardly know where Shakespeare's version ends and mine begins. I do know that, since I've read the play seven times in just over a year doing this, it's probably never going to be the same for me.

I also know that Act Three is pure magic. At the heart of the play is its fantastic rhetoric. The speeches are amazing, but the play as a whole is a testimony to the power of words. I love, in two very separate activities, to mock the fickle nature of the plebians and then to have my students chart which character they favor in each act. Their favorite character inevitably changes. Frequently. We are forced to conclude that we are as fickle as the plebians at the hands of artful writing. And Julius Caesar is about as artful as it gets.

P.S. - I still think Marc Antony is one of the hottest male characters ever created. Even if he is a bit sadistic.
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