Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s most compelling Roman plays. The plot against Caesar and the infamous assassination scene make for unforgettable listening. Brutus, the true protagonist of the play, is mesmerizing in his psychological state of anguish, forced to choose between the bonds of friendship and his desire for patriotic justice.
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I think that reading Shakespeare's plays does not do them justice - they aren't meant to be read, they are meant to be performed, and seen performed. However, you also miss a lot if you aren't already familiar with the context and the Shakespearean language, because of course ol' Will packs a lot into every single line.
So, this is the famous play about the conspirators who assassinated Julius Caesar, fearing his ambition to become king. Among the famous lines to which we owe this play: "Et tu, Brutus?" "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!" "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." And "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
Mark Antony's speech is probably the highlight of the play. Having just been informed of Caesar's death, and with the assassins having convinced the Roman public that they'd saved Rome from a tyrant, Mark Antony gives his famous speech which is a masterpiece of mob manipulation, turning them against the conspirators and in favor of the slain Caesar.
The conflicts are patriotism versus friendship, loyalty versus ideals, and the taint of self-interest always present in one's motives. As a tragedy, this is one of those Shakespearean plays where almost everyone ends up falling on a sword one way or the other.
Brutus is clearly the protagonist, but I think Mark Antony wins it.
Performances were clear and dramatic in this production. Not quite as good as seeing the play, but all the action is clear enough with minimal sound effects.
“What a terrible era in which idiots govern the blind.” ― William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 1
Julius Caesar was one of my first Shakespeare loves. I remember in Jr High memorizing (and I still can remember most of it) Mark Anthony's eulogy to Caesar ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..." It was powerful and was an early indicator for me of language's potential energy. Within those lines there were several messages, foreshadowing, etc. It turned me onto both Shakespeare and the Classics. I'm now coming back to Julius Caesar 25+ years later. Hopefully a bit more mature. With a bit more body hair. Certainly, with more experience with Shakespeare, the Classics, and politics and the original JC. I've now read considerably Livy, Edward Gibbon, Suetonius, and probably most importantly Plutarch. But even with all of this 'source' material, the play itself still seems to capture the imagination in ways that history (both modern and ancient) can't. Shakespeare can tease out and nuance things (obviously made up) that gives live to Brutus, Caesar, Anthony.
It was ironic too that I was reading Julius Caesar right after (unplanned) the June controversy with the New York Public Theatre's production where they used a Trump-like character to play the part of Julius Caesar. The brouhaha could easily have been predicted. The closer our contemporary leaders become to actual tyrants, the harder it becomes for their supporters to digest their images being used to portray an assassinated Julius Caesar. The closer we edge to the end of the Republic, the more relevant and less popular Julius Caesar will be with those in tyrannical camps.
It all holds up. It still feels relevant and even a bit dangerous.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” (Act 1, Scene 2)
"But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.” (Act 1, Scene 2)
“...for the eye sees not itself, but by reflection, by some other things.” (Act 1, Scene 2)
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” (Act 2, Scene 2)
“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!” (Act 3, Scene 1)
“Of your philosophy you make no use, If you give place to accidental evils.” (Act 4, Scene 3)