Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Julius Caesar: Melancholic Political Intrigue

The first Shakespeare's play that I choose to read is Julius Caesar. It's actually a re-read, since I have always loved it and since I have read it times before, paying more attention to the scenes that I love such as Antony's speech and Brutus' quarrel with Cassius.

Julius Caesar is one of the most well-known Shakespearean play. It is so interesting because it brings the audience of the play into fantastic thrill and anticipation of Caesar's murder.

When will Caesar Die?

Early in the play, that is Act 1 Scene 2, a soothsayer says to Caesar, “Beware the ides of march.” It's a prophecy that must come true in the play. Besides, everybody knows that he's going to die anyway. But one thing is still unclear – when.

Then Cassius appears, persuades Brutus to join the conspirators. He says yes, but not yet feels resolved about it. After thinking it through, and not without some doubt, Brutus makes his decision. The conspirators then meet in Brutus' house and plan to kill Caesar the next day at the Capitol. But the drama isn't over yet.

At Caesar's house, Calpurnia insists that Caesar should not go to the Capitol. The priests confirm her anxiety by saying that when they try to look for a sign, they cannot “find a heart within the beast”. At this point, I must confess, I always mutter, “Please Caesar, don't go.” Ceasar goes to the Capitol all the same, being provoked by one of the conspirators, Decius.

Even at this point, Shakespeare hasn't given up in his attempt to preserve Caesar's life. Artemidorus tries to warn Caesar, but fails. That's why we call the play a tragedy.

Rome without His Hart (or Heart)

The best part of the play, however, comes after Caesar's death. Mark Antony's meeting with the conspirators is one of the most interesting scenes in the play. I can safely say that he's trying to trick Brutus and his friends, but he is so touched by the death of Caesar that he sometimes talks off the topic.

“That I did love thee, Caesar, O, 'tis true!
If then thy spirit look upon us now,
Shall it not grieve thee dearer than thy death
To see thy Antony making his peace,
Shaking the bloody fingers of thy foes,
Most noble! In the presence of thy corse?

O world, thou wast the forest to this hart,
And this, indeed, O world, the heart of thee.”

As if those lines weren't enough to express his feelings, he speaks some more after he is left alone with Caesar's corpse.

“O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!”

Antony then proves his words by giving a speech in Caesar's funeral, inflames people's hearts to drive the conspirators out of Rome. He also speedily fetch Octavius and talks upon political matters with him (and Lepidus). Antony, who has been very quiet before Caesar's death, suddenly proves himself to be a man of action.

Another interesting scene is Brutus' quarrel with Cassius. Brutus is more a scholar than a politician, at least from Cassius' point of view. He has his idealism, and lives up to it. That's something to be proud of, but it's not practical in that situation. Brutus accuses Cassius of corruption, and Cassius is enraged.

One thing to note, though, that during their conversation, Brutus again states his reason for killing Caesar.

“Remember March, the ides of March remember.
Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?
What villain touch'd his body, that did stab,
And not for justice?”

Meanwhile, we can see the signs of disagreement between Antony and Octavius.

“ANTONY. Octavius, lead your battle softly on,
Upon the left hand of the even field.
OCTAVIUS. Upon the right hand I, keep thou the left.
ANTONY. Why do you cross me in this exigent?
OCTAVIUS. I do not cross you, but I will do so.”

Aha! They don't fit each other after all. I must say I like better Cassius – Brutus' partnership than Antony – Octavius'. No offense, Octavius, but I like Julius and Antony better.

Overall, Julius Caesar is one of the best plays written by Shakespeare. For em personally, the language is not as hard as other plays (e.g: Romeo and Juliet and also Hamlet) and it's pretty fun to read. The lines are dramatic, the story is excellent, and there are so many things to talk about when you read the play.

I have written too much now. So, for those who join the Let's Read Play event, have fun with your reading, and share your experience with us. 


  1. I'm already looking forward to reading Caesar! I don't usually like historical things, but this one seems to be quite lively. Thanks for the review!

    1. You're welcome. Caesar is sure lively and interesting, better than most historical plays. I like it so much.

  2. this play is not on my LRP list, but then I cram Antony&Cleopatra into the list this month, and Antony without Caesar seems odd :p so, perhaps I'll take on Julius Caesar also :)

    1. Haha, you don't do it chronologically then, but I think it will still be fine. Enjoy the play. :D

  3. I enjoyed reading your review -- wonderful as usual! I'm glad to know the language is easier than some of the other plays -- that will be a nice break! :)

    1. Thanks.

      JC is not as difficult as Hamlet or Merchant of Venice, I think. But it still has its depth - as expected from Shakespeare.