Understanding Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

This lively gathering of materials about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar will enrich students' understanding of the historical context of the play and encourage interpretations of its cultural meaning. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar reflects perennial cultural concerns about order and freedom, particularly as they clash in the figures of Caesar and Brutus. This innovative experiment in Shakespeare literacy features a wide variety of materials--from a modernized text of Plutarch's lives of Caesar and Brutus set on facing pages for easy comparison, to historical and contemporary parodies, to a rap version of the play. Most of the materials presented here are available in no other printed form. Study questions, project ideas, and bibliographies provide additional sources for examining the cultural and historical context of the play.

Excerpt

This book displays evidence that Julius Caesar is not dead. The general, statesman, and dictator survived his assassins in fe, even though he did not avoid a premature death. His symbolic vitality began soon after the Ides of March, 44 B.C., when Brutus and fellow Republicans (believers in the freedom of the Roman Republic which flourished from 509 B.C.) killed Caesar, under whose rule the Republic had effectively diminished into an autocratic state. Caesar symbolized the personal rule that undercut a more representative practice of government. His violent removal created opportunities for peace, realized only after a bloody civil war that eventually pitted Antony, Caesar's revenger, against his partner in that movement, Octavian. The survivor, Octavian, renamed himself Augustus Caesar, thus building a peaceful regime in the name of Julius Caesar. Historically, this was the first appearance of Caesar's ghost.

Shakespeare's play arose from a long tradition that glorified and scorned both Caesar and Brutus. The victim and his betrayer received almost equal attention because their friendship struck people's imaginations. What if my friend should become my enemy? Under what conditions does politics destroy loyalty and friendship? Julius Caesar was as pertinent to these human issues when it was first performed in 1599 as it will be in 1999, when the approaching second millennium (in the Christian calendar that Julius Caesar strongly influenced) will stimulate fears and hopes about the future. Shakespeare's Caesar play was almost certainly the one selected to open the new Globe Theater in London at a time when doubts about . . .

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