The Tragedy of Julius Caesar The Tragedy of Julius Caesar discussion

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message 1: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry This is the December selection for Classics Corner.

message 2: by Misty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:04PM) (new)

Misty Yeah! I just regret that it isn't sooner; this is the unit that I am currently teaching my honors class. We have already had some great discussions based on our pre-reading activities. I'm so excited about this discussion! - Misty

message 3: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim If Brutus is the noblest Roman of them all, the competition isn't very fierce. These guys are all snakes, and for all his idealism, Brutus participated in an assassination in order to put himself in power. He didn't even form an army and go head to head with Caesar in the way Antony did when he decided to oppose Brutus. And when the end comes, he kills himself rather than test himself directly on the field of battle.

He's not my idea of a noble hero, just another thug with pretensions.

Is that a strong enough position to get things stirring?

In a way I am reminded of James Ellroy's American Tabloid, an extraordinarily gritty novel about the Kennedy assasination. Ellroy's thesis is that we are dependent on the work of thugs to protect all the fine ideals we cherish. I may be cynical, but I am not quite there yet.

message 4: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Today is the official day to start our discussion of Shakepeare's play, Julius Caesar. I nominated this after reading Antony and Cleopatra in the last list because I wanted to revisit these characters in the earlier depiction. And, of course, the HBO series Rome has me interested in all of these people once again. Unfortunately, my reach has exceeded my grasp and I'm not very far along in my reading, but I'll join in as I go.

I have the Folger edition and it has an excellent forward to give the reader some historical perspective. I will copy it below, but want to be certain that you know its source. BTW, the Folger Shakespeare Library has my favorite editions of his plays.

Shakespeare may have written Julius Caesar to be the first of his plays to take the stage at his acting company's new Globe theater in 1599. At this important point in his career as a playwright, Shakespeare turned to a key event in Roman history. Many people in the Renaissance were passionately interested in the story of Caesar's death at the hands of his friends and fellow politicians. There was much debate about who were the villains and who were the heroes. According to the fourteenth-century Italian poet Dante, Brutus and Cassius, the foremost of the conspirators who killed Caesar, were traitors who deserved an eternity in hell. But, in the view of Shakespeare's contemporary, Sir Philip Sidney, Caesar was a rebel threatening Rome, and Brutus was the wisest of senators.

Shakespeare's dramatization of Caesar's assassination and its aftermath has kept this debate alive among generations of readers and playgoers. Is Brutus the true hero of this tragedy in his principled opposition to Caesar's ambition to become king of Rome? Or is Caesar the tragic hero, the greatest military and civic leader of his era, struck down by lesser men misled by jealousy and false idealism? By continuing to address these questions, our civilization engages not only in the enjoyment of a great play but also in an examination of the ways it chooses to govern itself, whether through the rule of one (Caesarism, monarchy) or the rule of the many (republicanism).

Interesting questions to bat around as we watch the struggles between our executive and legislative branches in the U.S. I'd be interested to know how it is seen by participants outside the U.S. as well.

Jim, they don't sound much nobler than some of our current politicians, do they?


message 5: by Ruth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth I had two Collected Works of Shakespeare. One was in four volumes, the other was one volume. In the interests of saving space I gave the 4-volume set to the library when I moved.

I am now stuck reading the one-volume collection--struggling through this play printed in 1.5 point type.

I may need a seeing eye dog before I'm through.

Has everybody heard the old joke about the woman who read Shakespeare for the first time and complained, "Why it's nothing but cliches!"

That said, I enjoy finding those cliches. When I was a kid and my mother criticized my father for any reason he often said, "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones." I think I was a teenager before I realized those weren't my father's own words.


message 6: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim I don't think that there is much question that what happens to Brutus before and after the asassination is the main story of the play. As I suggested earlier, whether he is the "hero" depends on how much you demand out of your heroes. As for the other characters, they all have a lean and hungry look from where I sit.

It is interesting that this play seems to have been written at almost the same time that the Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex was challenging Elizabeth for her throne (September 1599- June 1600). This could have been a real political hot potato. I wonder if there was an alternate version just in case.

message 7: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry I need all the help I can get when I read Shakespeare, so I am reading the Folger's version, plus I am following along with a dramatization of the play that I downloaded from iTunes to my iPod. I just finished Act II yesterday, and I can see why it's this play that is usually given to 8th or 9th graders. It's the most accessible one I have read.

message 8: by Ruth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth We're in the midst of watching HBO's Rome, so this ties right in. I googled around yesterday, boning up on Roman history.

Still haven't finished reading the play.


message 9: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Mary Ellen I read into the 3rd act pretty closely, then skimmed to the end, and now plan to go back and read the 2nd half more attentively.

The edition I got from the library (nice & small for subway reading) has Shakespeare's text on the left-hand page and a commentary on the right written by a director, so much of what he writes is about issues of staging the play. I'm enjoying that perspective.

Jim, my response to Brutus is perhaps not quite a strong as yours, but he doesn't seem outstandingly noble to me, either. Had we seen more of Caesar's power-grabbing, I might have found the conspirators more patriotic and less power-hungry themselves. (Caesar himself seemed almost buffoonish in his self-regard. More like Ted on Mary Tyler Moore than the great conqueror of the known world.)

I didn't interpret Brutus's suicide as an act of cowardice, but as living out a code which held it nobler to take things into one's own hands than to be victimized by another, once defeat is assured. And Brutus & his cohort had been fighting it out for a couple of days, right? (I got this idea from my somewhat foggy memory of "I, Claudius" in which people seemed to be killing themselves off left & right, if they weren't poisoned first.)

Mary Ellen

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 03, 2007 02:07PM) (new)

If our definition of "noble hero" is someone who's willing to enter the fields of war with an adversary with a much larger army instead of assassinating him or her and trying to reinstate a Republican government, well, most heroes--besides Beowulf, et al.--will fail miserably.

Give me the wimpy MURDER of the tyrant ANY day.

message 11: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim I did a little research on the play and found one Shakespearean biographer who sees it as a warning to both Elizabeth and Essex. The potential rebellion was heating up while the play was being written, and this biographer believes that Shakespeare was warning both of them that an open conflict could lead to chaos.

As for Brutus re-instating republican government, is that really what he had in mind? Would Caesar really have more dictatorial? Brendan, don't tell me that you are buying into what Cassius is telling you. I don't like his looks.

Think about Brutus' lines at the beginning of Act Two

"... But 'tis common proof,
That lowliness is young ambitions's ladder
Where to the climber-upward turns his face;
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may:
Then, lest he may, prevent."

Sounds like the rich trying to keep the man of the people down.

And then there is that inspiring section later where Brutus says:

" . . . And, gentle friends
Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds:
And let our hearts, as subtle masters do,
Stir up their servants to an act of rage,
And after seem to chide 'em. This shall make
Our purpose necessary and not envious;
Which so appearing to the common eyes,
We shall be call'd purgers, not murders."

Sounds pretty cynical to me.

message 12: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds:

I loved those lines too. Whew! What a favor he wants to do Caesar.

Thanks for the history, Jim. I think I remember reading that somewhere too, but would never have remembered it without the memory jog.

Re: Cassius, there are also the classic lines from Caesar:

Let me have men around me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.

I was reminded of articles in Atlantic magazine saying that Hillary Clinton was a bit of a mentor to Obama when in the senate before he revealed his presidential ambitions.


message 13: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 03, 2007 06:24PM) (new)

Would you speak kindly of the man who would do away with what's left of representative government in the heart of the Roman Empire? I wouldn't. People speak terribly of a tyrant. Marc Antony's a swell guy if you like somebody who's going to fight, booze, and womanize his way across the Empire.

Sorry, I speak of history, not of Shakespeare. But I think there are reasons to sympathize with the Republicans and curse the Emperor and his lickspittle, Marc.

Yeah, Brutus was out for himself in the assassination, but that's not to say he wasn't doing a good thing.

message 14: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry I just read the part where there are the two speeches at the funeral. All I could think of was how easily manipulated the "people" can be and how not much has changed since Shakespeare's day. I have two acts to go.

message 15: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Brendan, looking at your profile I see that you have an interest in ancient history in general. From what I have been able to find, the jury was out on Brutus. Plutarch thought he was indeed the noblest Roman, and Dante consigned him to hell. What is the current verdict?

My suspicion has always been the the Republican Roman Senate was a group of businessmen/war lords looking out for themselves. Were there really selfless people looking out for the greater good?

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Brutus was looking out for himself, but aren't we all? Julius Caesar wasn't being selfless when he not-so-covertly campaigned to be deified. Brutus wasn't being selfless when he quietly campaigned among his wealthy Republican Senators to assassinate this leader-turned-god.

The truth is, nobody was blameless -- except Cicero. He really DID have an honest interest in holding onto tradition and representative government.

Wow, this play is definitely one for the ages.

message 17: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:08PM) (new)

Mary Ellen Jim quoted:

"... But 'tis common proof,
That lowliness is young ambitions's ladder
Where to the climber-upward turns his face;
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may:
Then, lest he may, prevent."

I took this, not as a "let's keep the lower class guy in his place" sentiment, but rather, expressing the fear that Caesar, having moved up the ladder would "scorn[] the base degrees/ by which he did ascend." Those "base degrees"
on his way to "divinity" would include the Senate, no?

I still have to return for my better read of the last half of the play, so I may be off base, but I thought Shakespeare wanted to present Brutus as someone who had been a noble guy, and whose fall is a tragedy. More Othello than Iago. (If that makes sense; I'm not much of a student of Shakespeare.)

Mary Ellen

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I love that take, Mary Ellen.

You have all SHAMED me into re-reading the play. Gimme a week or two. :)

message 19: by Mary Anne (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Anne The Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater (PICT) performed JC last spring, and followed it up with Stuff Happens by David Hare. For those who don't know the latter, it is about the lead-up to our current war within the Bush administration. Actors who played in JC also played in SH. The whole point was to illustrate that JC is about power - who's got it, who wants it, and what people will do to take or keep power.
JC was played in modern garb. Marc Antony first appears in a running outfit, with an iPod & headset, seemingly out of the picture. Of course, later on he steps up. The same actor played W in Stuff Happens. It made for a fascinating comparison.

message 20: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim I think you are right, Mary Ellen. Brutus was intending to suggest that Caesar would lose the common touch rather than keep it once he was in power. I am less sure that Shakespeare really meant the play as a tribute to Brutus or the speech to be taken at face value.

To be completely objective, I would suggest that Shakespeare is throwing open the question of whether someone who is committed to ideals of nobility can survive in the world of practical politics.

I am thinking about the curious exchange in Act IV Scene III where Brutus condemns Cassius for allowing an associate accept bribes and then grandly announces:

"You have done that you should be sorry for.
There is no terror, Cassisus, in your threats;
For I am armed so strong in honesty
That they pass me by as the idle wind,
Which I respect not. I did send to you
For certain sums of gold, which you denied me;
For I can raise no money by vile means:
By heaven, I had rather coin my heart,
And drop my blood for drachmas, than to wring
From the hard hands of peasants their vile trash
By any direction. I did send
To you for gold to pay my legions,
Which you denied me: was that done like Cassius?"

There is quite a shift in mood in the fifth line above. Brutus may be too noble to extort peasants, but where did he think Cassius was going to get money? After all this posturing, Cassius seems to offer the money Brutus wanted, and Brutus makes up with him. Is this money talking?

I have no doubt Brutus meant to be noble. I question whether he succeeded,

message 21: by Ruth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth Sigh. Politics as usual.

But I had rather coin my heart,
And drop my blood for drachmas

Wow, what writing.


message 22: by Liz M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:10PM) (new) - added it

Liz M All these posts have encouraged me to spend quite a bit of time thinking about Brutus. I am not sure the play is focused on the individual characters, or that Brutus is the "hero" whose "tragic flaw" leads to his downfall. The play, after all, is not titled Marcus Brutus.

It seems to me that it is more about politics and power, more about the public sphere than the private sphere. Almost everything that is spoken is public, with few exceptions: Brutus has a brief soliloquy, convincing himself Caesar needs to be murdered & Antony laments Caesar's death without audience. I find it difficult to trust any of the characters because we never hear what they are thinking. Are Cassius & Brutus friends? They call each other friends, but we only see them in the context of plotting assassination and then arguing over money. We only have Casca's word for the manner in which Caesar refused the crown and that the crowd cheered when he refused it. Do we believe anything Cassius says when he shows himself to be an adroit manipulator?

As far as Brutus' nobility, it is difficult to ascertain -- noble compared to an absolute standard? If so, whose? Noble compared to the other characters? Well, again it depends on the definition of noble. I am inclined to think Brutus was relatively noble as stated by both Cassius (the evil catalyst) and Antony (who also referred to Caesar as "the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times.")

I will have to post more random thoughts later, and will close with my favorite quote from the play:

"And it is very much lamented, Brutus, that you have no such mirror as will turn your hidden worthiness into your eye, that you might see your shadow."

message 23: by Dottie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:10PM) (new)

Dottie I bought a Book-of-the Month-Club two volume Complete Shakespeare (a duplicate of the set which lived in our home during high school)JUST to have on hand for CC discussions and then have failed to get with the discussions -- but I pulled it off the desk when I reutrned the short story book (Nabokov's Fialta story) back to its place.

I haven't read far but started off reading bits aloud to Jim over lunch today. And WOW -- it hit me what this crys out for is truly declaiming it out loud -- it is marvelous to hear the sounds and feel the rhythms of this -- it gave me goosebumps. Anyway, I'm reading it -- and will be back.

message 24: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Mary Ellen I've finished reading the play and now I'm not sure what I think of Brutus or what Shakespeare thought of Brutus. He's quite a conflicted character, isn't he? And maybe that's the point of the play, as someone noted above: hard to live up to those ideals when involved in the messy work of politics and power.

Mary Ellen

message 25: by Summer Dawn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Summer Dawn I finished my reread this evening and was reminded why I love Shakespeare to begin with. Reading Shakespeares works fall like music for the eyes.

Ah Caesar poor ambitious Caesar. Truely in his mind he was a god worthy of empires. It does not even take an overly bright man to know that by refusing a crown three times eventually you can take it and place it upon your head without so much as a whisper from anyone else. You can see his true ambition in his refusal.

I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it:
it was mere foolery; I did not mark it. I saw Mark
Antony offer him a crown;--yet 'twas not a crown
neither, 'twas one of these coronets;--and, as I told
you, he put it by once: but, for all that, to my
thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he
offered it to him again; then he put it by again:
but, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his
fingers off it. And then he offered it the third
time; he put it the third time by: and still as he
refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their
chapped hands and threw up their sweaty night-caps
and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because
Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked
Caesar; for he swounded and fell down at it: and
for mine own part, I durst not laugh, for fear of
opening my lips and receiving the bad air

Yet Caesar knew himself to be ambitious, thought himself Rome. He thought himself invincible. He was handed signs everywhere and ignored them all. Even his imploring wife could not sway him from showing his larger than life persona. And I say again at least he knew this about himself, he did not lie to himself. What a blow though to this man that he was unable to have offspring and ofcourse this all rested with the woman and no with any of his own short comings (no pun intended)

There has been much discussion about Brutus. There was somthing said a few posts up by Liz that the name of the play is Julius Caesar and not Marcus Brutus. This may be explained simply that more people will come and see a play with Caesar in the title than Brutus. It was the smarter choice no matter who the tragic hero winds up being.

Brutus and his character. I think him the most loathsome of "heros" if you can call him one at all. What kind of personality is so easily swayed by words of others? Oh yes he is so noble and loves Rome so much that he was hesitant with the entire plot until "Rome" was signing His praises, though is was Cassius all the way. THat simple ambition would not make him so vile and so loathsome. What makes Brutus the worst sort of man is that he lies to himself through the entire play. He swears he is doing everything for the good of his country and NOT for his own ambitions.

Oh he loves his friend well enough, yet he "loves" Rome more. I think it did show the climate of the time. Essex was sure he was acting in the best interest of England. How easliy that line between personal ambition and working for the greater good gets blurred.

(The play can apply to even now we have someone that sits up on high and swears that everything is being done for the "greater good" self martyring claptrap, completely blind to the wants and needs of the people)

Jim mentioned something about Brutus not pummeling money out of people and coming by it in vile ways. Yet he was willing to take it from Cassius, knowing he had done the dirty work to aquire the money. He did not care whether Cassius did deeds by less then noble means, as long as Brutus could justify in his own mind that he had always acted noble by accpeting money from his "friend" instead of taking it elsewhere. What a peice of work Brutus is, at least Cassius knew himself to be power hungry and deceitful. And Caesar knew himself to be ambitious.

I think it is considered a tragedy because of all the deaths, not that any one person had to be the one "tragic figure". What I can remember from studing Shakespeare before, that is what defined his tragedies from comedies body count lol

I think I am rambling now so I am going to wrap up this all to long post. I have tons more swimming though my brain but I believe this is enough for now, until I can truely collect my thoughts. And I am not going to reread so please excuse any spelling errors, I am always full of them. Oh and nasty run on sentences. I do those very well too ;)


message 26: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Mary Ellen The little commentary in the version I read noted that Brutus is self-deluded throughout the play, and it is his major flaw. (that and the occasional conspiracy to murder?) He may have been the "noblest Roman of them all," but he wouldn't have made it under the classic Greek dictum, "know thyself." But I don't see him as "loathsome."

Actually I think this whole lot of conspirators incredibly inept. Exactly what reaction did they expect to the very public murder of Caesar? Perhaps that an indication of how righteous they thought there cause was. And how stupid was Brutus, giving Antony an introduction and walking away to let him stir up the mob?! Was that a sign of Brutus's true nobility, that he took Antony at his word because he, Brutus, would have kept his word in similar circumstances?

Anyway, enough of Brutus. What do people think of Antony?

Mary Ellen

message 27: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim I wonder if there was a way to be noble in this situation or if when you choose to play the game you choose not to be noble.

As for Antony's character, I would say that he is more than a little treacherous.

message 28: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Antony's speech to the crowd after Caesar is murdered is one of my favorite pieces of writing. The rhythm in that section pulls me in and the wonderful irony--"But Brutus is an honorable man."

And, I love the way Shakespeare handles the crowd. They sway from one extreme to the other and seem to have no memory of their prior convictions.


message 29: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:18PM) (new)

Mary Ellen That is a great speech, and his little couplet once the crowd is gone lets us know just how calculating and cold-blooded it was. I don't know if Antony "knows himself," but I think he has a real actor's sense of the impression he makes on others.

Mary Ellen

message 30: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Apologies to those who had to read through 2 versions of my Antony note. The board said it wasn't posted so I wrote another one, since deleted.


message 31: by Summer Dawn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Summer Dawn I think I have a biased view which is why I see people or politicians like Brutus loathsome. People who lie to themselves and proclaim their actions as noble, for the greater good, for country, well these people usually cause bloodshed in the wake of their causes. Instead of being truthful with themselves, they are ready to lead men/woman into wars to lose their lives over their own vanity.

Having an active duty husband I guess makes me biased against those sort of character flaws. Too many innocent lives are lost and all the while the person is self deluding in thinking they are performing for the greater good.

Barbara I also enjoy Antony stressing what an honorable man Brutus is, I can almost imagine I can hear the deep underlined snarkiness in his voice.


Barbara My head cold has quieted down enough that I could finish this play tonight and reread the notes here. Jim's comments that this was a warning to Elizabeth and Essex about the chaos that could reign from their infighting resonated with me. From the murder of Caesar on, it seems to be to be a litany of mistakes and poor judgement. Why else emphasize those factors so much?

The "modern perspective" article in the Folger's edition has a reminder that Brutus' noble ancestry refers to his ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, who led a rebellion against the rulers in Rome, abolished kingship and established the ideals of the Roman republic. But, the author emphasizes that Rome rarely functioned with those ideals and that they were more myth than reality. Shakespeare appeared to be portraying Brutus as someone who longed to be connected with and respected for his ancestor's lofty ideals, but for his own ego, but not truly for the greater good.


message 33: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal Showing up late to the party again, because I've got too many books out!

Jim--regarding Brutus, as I mentioned in my review of the play, Shakespeare makes sure we don't like anyone in this book. Brutus is so busy trying to convince everyone he made a moral act, we can't help but think he had to convince himself--and never does. His vanity is his downfall, and that's made plain in how Shakespeare structures the text.


message 34: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal Mary Ellen--I think the fact that we don't see more of Caesar's power grab is intentional. If we see him grab the reins of power, then the play tips too far to Brutus and Cassius, and the audience would be left booing the victors. By keeping everything ambiguous, he allows the audience to make their own decision. However, like Antony as he nods and winks to himself while pretending Caesar was a good man, I think Shakespeare knew that most viewers would see that Caesar was going to make a major power grab.


message 35: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal Ah, but Brendan, do you really think that Cassius (and to a lesser extent, Brutus) were really think of the people and the Republic, or was it merely so much rhetoric? Because I think, at least in the context of the play, that Cassius was not truthful in his words and might have tried to be a Caesar himself!


message 36: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal "He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous."

This is apparently how Americans pick presidents. And I'm not just thinking of the current President, either.


message 37: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal Sherry--I think there's an essay (or maybe even a book) in the discussion of how Shakespeare deals with mob mentality. Like Twain's scene in Huckleberry Finn, Shakespeare condemns it--and not just in this play. Wish I could think of a few offhand, but I can't.

And the scene with Cinna could be written as a contemporary action just be changing his religion to Islam without missing a beat. Sad but true, we've not changed for the better when we get in angry group. :(

(working his way through comments)

message 38: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal Mary Ellen asked about Antony. I think in any other Shakespeare play, he'd be the villain. Look at he preens about the edges of the play, then comes on to stir up the crowd, then falls back to the background and tries to cut the triumvirate into a duopoly! Look at how he crows over his "mischief" at the funeral. These are the things that Shakespeare gives to his villain to do.

However, in the context of a play where no one is really good, Antony just looks like one of the players. In fact, the way Antony is portrayed leads me to think that Shakespeare wants us to, just a bit, sympathize with poor, clueless (when it comes to people) Brutus.


message 39: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob McMonigal Okay, my turn without a prompting. For those who aren't on my friend list and want to see my longer thoughts, you can see them here:

The short hits:

Brutus is the world's worst conspirator. He can't judge anyone and doesn't accept that those who kill popular men can't be picky about their funding sources.

Shakeapeare does a wonderful job of making the politics interesting but making sure that no one comes off as being better than anyone else. A pox on all of 'em, he seems to say.

This play has very little female interaction in it, which I'm surprised no one mentioned yet. Does anyone have any thoughts on the women we *do* see and how they're all against their husband's wishes?


message 40: by Ruth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth Thanks for your perceptive comments, Rob. I really enjoyed reading them.


message 41: by Barbara (last edited Dec 22, 2007 12:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Rob, I particularly loved your point about Shakespeare making sure that we don't like anyone in the play--no heroes and no true villians, just reality. Once again, he feels ahead of his time to me. And, you also make a wonderful point about why the character of Caesar is not more developed.

Re: the relative low profile of the women in this play, in the "modern perspective" article at the end of the Folder edition, the author points out that in his other plays on Roman history, WS gives woman much more prominence. But: terms of the Republic, to be a Roman means to be gendered male. Our word "virtue" comes from the Latin word virtus, meaning both manliness and valor...The virtues promoted by the social and political life of the Republic are also gendered masculine and considered proper to men alone, as is made clear in the two scenes in which Portia is onstage.

Perhaps, Shakespeare was merely being more historically accurate in this play?

message 42: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Lots of interesting ideas, Rob.

I am not sure that I buy into the notion that the women were just quiet servants, either in Rome or in Shakespeare's time considering who was Queen. I keep thinking of the malicious poisoner (Livinia?) in I, Claudius.

Which leaves the question of why women don't figure prominently here. Admittedly, Portia is not featured. Still she makes a point that she is a tough number and commits suicide when it appears that Brutus's cause is lost.

Perhaps it was something as simple as the women not showing up as leading characters in Plutarch, which Shakespeare was using as a reference. I think the next play Shakespeare wrote was Hamlet where the women contribute their fair share to the mayhem. And then there is Macbeth, which seems to be suspciously popular with Ruth.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

Naureen Regarding the question as to "who were the villains and who were the heroes" in message 4: Brutus and his fellow conspirators are branded traitors by Dante, the Italian and heroes by the Englishman, Sir Philip Sidney. Caesar's demise was certainly beneficial for Britain since Caesar had Britain in his sights after the successful invasion of Gaul. Ultimately, Britain did fall into Roman hands but if not for Caesar's death the invasion would probably have occurred a century earlier.

"The rule of one (Caesarism, monarchy) or the rule of the many (republicanism)"?
This question's relevance is greater in international(the current friction between Russia and the West) rather then America's domestic politics. Caesar's conquests filled the coffers of Rome just like Vladimir Putin's tenure at the Kremlin has seen the creation of immense wealth in a country that was facing an economic and political crisis a decade back. The West might be unhappy with Putin and the continuance of his sway over Russian politics till 2020 but I do not think it matters to ordinary Russians who are grateful that he has brought them stability and wealth.

message 44: by Ruth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ruth And made the trains run on time...


message 45: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Good observation Naureen. This is a literally classic example of the adage that where you stand depends on where you sit.

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