William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar


-- Presents the most important 20th-century criticism on major works from The Odyssey through modern literature

-- The critical essays reflect a variety of schools of criticism

-- Contains critical biographies, notes on the contributing critics, a chronology of the author's life, and an index


The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is a very satisfying play, as a play, and is universally regarded as a work of considerable aesthetic dignity. We tend to read it first when we are in school, because it is so clear and simple a drama that our teachers find it suitable for us there. I have seen it only once on stage, once on television, and once as a film, and found none of these three presentations quite adequate, the problem in each case being with the actor who misplayed Brutus. Directors and actors seem to place more of Hamlet in Brutus than Shakespeare himself set there, and Brutus just cannot sustain Hamlet's aura.Hamlet scarcely can speak without extending our consciousness into the farthest ranges, but there is a narcissistic, rather spoiled quality to the perhaps excessively noble Brutus, and he does not achieve ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds, until his fortunes begin to fail.

Modern critics find somewhat problematical Shakespeare's supposed political stance in Julius Caesar. Presumably Shakespeare, as an Elizabethan royalist, is unhappy about the assassination of Caesar, and yet Brutus is the tragic hero.Caesar is in decay, a touch vainglorious, the conqueror dwindled into a ruler who accepts flattery. But however the politics of Julius Caesar are to be resolved, the play seems problematical in no other respect. Its characters, including even Brutus, are not endless to meditation, and its rhetoric does not reverberate so as to suggest a beyond. There is no Marlovian element in Julius Caesar, no hero-villains of Hermetic ambition or Machiavellian intensity, no surpassingly eloquent and outrageous overreachers. Whether from North's Plutarch or from Seneca, or more likely from a strain in his own nature, Shakespeare brings forth a Stoic music with its own dying falls, but without a grudge or bias against our given condition.Brutus essentially is a Stoic, acutely self‐ . . .

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