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Group Readings > Julius Caesar Act 1, October 29

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Discussion of Act may begin here.

No spoilers please!

message 2: by James (new)

James Hartley | 23 comments Hi everyone,

Looking forward to this. As I said to Cindy, I´m writing a book for young adults based on Julius Caesar right now - third book in the Shakespeare´s Moon series. Really looking forward to all your comments and being enlightened as usual!

Hope everyone had a good summer,

message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Hey James great!!!

I hope we get a couple folks. Let's have some fun!

message 4: by Bobby (new)

Bobby | 57 comments I would like to participate in this too, and I'll try really hard to keep up!

message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer DuBose (jenndubose) | 16 comments This play made me love Shakespeare during my sophomore year of high school. I’d love to give it a reread!

message 6: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Great Good to hear from you Bobby and Jennifer. Let's see if we can stir up some excitement around here!

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 27, 2017 03:36PM) (new)

Hi, I'm Doug. At the top of my bucket list is a goal to see every one of Shakespeare's plays acted live at least one time. I've made a lot of progress on this since I retired in January. Currently at 27.

I joined the group a few months ago but I've just been a lurker. Looking forward to joining the conversation this month. Love this play.

message 8: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Hey Doug!!! I’m so glad you’ve come out of lurking mode lol

I think a lot of people read along but are afraid to make comments.
We don’t bite! At least not very hard!

message 9: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
I loved these first three scenes in Act 1.

I think the Cobbler is adorable and reminds me of a Dickens character.

The jealousy is shocking between Cassius and Brutus. And it's quite funny to contrast their snobbery towards the Cobbler...they dismiss him and assume he is ignorant yet his language and wordplay suggest he is very intelligent. Their class system is something they take quite it is a contrast when they feel that they are equal to Caesar. Are they? Are the nobel or royal leaders?

I thought this bit by Cassius was very interesting a kind of "to be or not to be" of jealously...


" I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,
As well as I do know your outward favour.
Well, honour is the subject of my story.
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.
I was born free as Caesar; so were you:
We both have fed as well, and we can both
Endure the winter's cold as well as he:
For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me 'Darest thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood,
And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plunged in
And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
The torrent roar'd, and we did buffet it
With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
And stemming it with hearts of controversy;
But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'
I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
Did I the tired Caesar. And this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature and must bend his body,
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him."

message 10: by James (new)

James Hartley | 23 comments Good points Candy!

I love this play because it was such a surprise to me the first time I read it. The fact that Julius Caesar himself is not the main character (although, in some ways, of course, he is) and the way every important character is so incredibly drawn.

Re-reading it now I´m struck by the way the scene is drawn so effortlessly: we are straight into Rome, the multitude, the differing opinions, the popular taste. Prophecy - brilliantly done - raises its voice - and we are also whisked backstage and are flies on the wall of careful, guarded, hushed, almost coded conversations. The tone of the speeches - like the one you highlighted - is fantastic, somewhere between fatalism and anti-fatalism: the characters don´t want to do what they think they should.

All this with a storm thrown in and the inevitable coming. As usual, it´s impressive stuff - and still so very relevant to our day and age. I really think it´s the concise, speedy plotting of the play (as well as the brilliant language) which moves it along. Shakespeare has a way of staging the scenes in such a way that through the words alone you feel the gravitas and you can´t help picturing, in your mind´s eye (of course), the scenes.

message 11: by Bobby (new)

Bobby | 57 comments Candy wrote: "I loved these first three scenes in Act 1.

I think the Cobbler is adorable and reminds me of a Dickens character.

At first I didn't like this scene with the Cobbler at all! (Or should I say "at awl"?) It seemed like an irrelevant gag stalling the action before it even starts. Then I realized I'm taking the same attitude of being condescending toward this common person, who is certainly more clever than some may give him credit for.

Shakespeare likes to start of many of his plays with a short scene that sets the atmosphere and tone before he starts setting up the crucial plot points, and this scene is put together like a piece of music. We open with a bang as this crowd fills the stage, then Flavius states the theme very clearly and succinctly. Next we have this charming little scherzo involving the cobbler. This is another favorite technique Shakespeare uses when he wants to introduce some dramatic tension into a scene that would otherwise be tedious exposition. He has one character trying to get information (why is everyone on the streets today?) and another character dawdling and generally playing the first character for a fool before getting to the point. (He also uses the technique to create interest in a scene where one character conveys information that the audience already knows, but another character does not, as when the Nurse goes on about her aching feet before breaking the news to Juliet that Romeo is ready to marry her.)

When the Cobbler finally reveals that they are gathered to celebrate Caesar's triumph, this triggers the main event of the scene, which is Marcellus's eloquent encomium of Pompey. There is a brief transitional passage to get the crowd off the stage, and the scene ends with a short coda between Flavius and Marcellus in which they evaluate what has happened and make plans for what to do next, setting up the following scene.

The other two scenes in the act are also very musically constructed: You have the two grand processions of Julius Caesar framing the conversation between Cassius and Brutus, which in turn is interrupted dramatically by the offstage noises of Caesar being offered the crown. [Question: We are told there are three shouts, but I only count two during the conversation—am I missing something?] Casca joins Cassius and Brutus for a trio, which dwindles to a duet and then to a solo to cap off the scene.

The last scene is so evocatively creepy with all the references to miraculous portents. It obviously captured Shakespeare's imagination, because he also makes reference to these events in the opening scene of Hamlet:

"A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets:
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse:
And even the like precurse of fierce events. . ."

And likewise a series of unnatural events are used to symbolize the crimes of Macbeth—an eclipse turns day into night, an owl hunts down a falcon, and Duncan's horses break out of their stalls and eat each other.

message 12: by Bobby (new)

Bobby | 57 comments James wrote: "I love this play because it was such a surprise to me the first time I read it. The fact that Julius Caesar himself is not the main character (although, in some ways, of course, he is)..."

Doesn't it remind you a little of Psycho? (I won't go into more detail at this point!)

message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael (henry_spock) Evenin' everyone. I haven't used Goodreads to it's full potential, but as I'm currently in the middle of a Sheakepeare read through, this seemed like a good group.

The cobbler belongs there in that first scene to immediately give the common viewer someone to relate to in the everyday periphera of the action. Granted, I'm not of the opinion of some that he was writing "the pulp fiction of the day", but he had to include people not involved in the main action to make the world of the play seem alive - even if it meant Roman commoners somehow acquiring a cockney accent. It's hard to say without being there, but this scene also plays up to the pride of the ruling class - something that a playright who wanted favor in the eyes of the court may have been keen to do.

message 14: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
If Corolonius and Julius Caesar are considered Shakespeare's Roman plays....why isn't Antony and Cleopatra considered Roman plays I wonder? Maybe it is more more international?

I think the reason this play feels so relatable is because we quickly learn that class and social life are part of grasping for power. And we see our leaders grasping for power and it's terrible bankruptcy all the time. We see leaders in politics being chaos-making, inappropriate, we see Hollywood artists being decadent and spoiled, we hear about disenfranchised persons using bombs and vehicles to attack us on the news. We are living in societies that are based on power...especially top to the bottom power structures.

message 15: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Isn't it interesting how many storms occur in Shakespeare? I can think of all kinds of reasons why storms would be useful in a play....but I started looking into what might have been written about storms in his work and found a book by Gwllym Jones. Jones argues that three theaters were in the same neighborhood and having state-of-the-art special effects like a brilliant storm would draw audiences in a competitive market.

Jones also suggests that spectacle being a good marketing tool....for a building that was fairly new and producing spectacles. So a storm is natures spectacle to arts spectacle...the theatre.

"The play as I mentioned in beginning, is being invested in the interpretation and re-interpretation of spectacle, especially as a means to gaining or consolidating power and authority. In the storm, Shakespeare takes this process one level further, both in terms of the meta theatrical and the the theme interpretation. The language of the play brazenly refers to the stage effects of the new playhouse. The audience is given a spectacle the like of which, the implication is, they could not have seen elsewhere: the authority of the new playhouse is foregrounded. But alongside this advertisement the storm is taken up as something to interpret." Gwilym Jones

message 16: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Shakespeare's Storms:

message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael (henry_spock) Hi Candy -
In my Kindle Shakespeare I have been highlighting every time I see the word "tempest." It indeed seems like every play. :) Another thing he really likes is the hidden identity, or the character playing an actor playing yet another character, Matryoshka style.

My wife and I saw "The Tempest" last year at an outdoor production, and as Prospero gave his opening lines, a storm was blowing in and the play had to halt for 45 minutes as we watched lightning pass by in the not-too distant landscape. We got out much later than anticipated, but that was truly a memorable way to experience the play.

message 18: by Phil (last edited Nov 02, 2017 03:18AM) (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments I read this play with middle schoolers (ages 12-14) in Spring of 2016, which was the height of the US Primary election, in which Trump was edging out the other candidates one by one.

We're not supposed to talk politics in the classroom, but it was impossible to stop the students from drawing parallels.

message 19: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Hi Michael,

Very interesting observation about the characters seeming to be like Marryoshka dolls. What would be the literary and metaphor uses for such characters? Are many people hiding a different person inside themselves...getting smaller and smaller of an ego or identity when they are opened up? Shakespeare's bad guys seem to be build like that...where the core is a shrinking identity of pure selfish motive.

The opposite of an expanding identity or consciousness (like many of the heroes in Shakespeare.

Does this relate to the peeling back of an onion?

Riffing on the dolls....

"The larger purpose of Lunacharsky's essay was to describe a kind of moral movement from a collective mentality to an individualistic one during the Renaissance, personified, in his estimation, by Francis Bacon and dramatized by Shakespeare in his plays, specifically through development of certain character trypes. Bacon for Lunacharsky, represented an amoral type of person who had thrown off all limitation of faith and morality, which Lunacharsky ascribed to a reaction against the Medieval hegemony of the Church. This "freedom" served only reason and self-interest, which Lunacharsky characterized as Machivalian and saw most clearly embodied by Richard III, Edmund and Iago."
Kozintsev's Shakespeare Films: Political Protest in Hamlet and King Lear. by Tiffany Ann Conroy Moore.

message 20: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2635 comments Mod
Phil, I think that must have been quite a great classroom experience!

It's hard for me t not see contemporary politics in Shakespeare...the motives and minds of people may not have changed much since the Renaissance.

The human can be such a selfish person....and the customs and rituals we used to adhere to to counter such selfish motives are not as revered it's like we are Shakespearean society on steroids...seeming constant drama and histrionics from leaders. In many cultures anger and acting out is seen as we just obsess over every tantrum on twitter. A lot of the popularity of reality shows I think is a need to find our moral core least in the United States...there is a spiritual bankruptcy and it is being mirrored/played out on tv.

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