Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Julius Caesar (play)
Julius Caesar (play)
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The Tragedy of Julius Cæsar, more commonly known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare probably written in 1599. It portrays the conspiracy against the Roman dictator, Julius Cæsar, his assassination and its aftermath. It is the first of his Roman plays, based on true events from Roman history.
Although the title of the play is "Julius Caesar", he is not the central character in the action of the play, appearing in only three scenes and dying at the beginning of the third Act. The central protagonist of the play is Marcus Brutus and the central psychological drama is his struggle between the conflicting demands of honour, patriotism, and friendship.
The play reflected the general anxiety of England due to worries over succession of leadership. At the time of its creation and first performance, Queen Elizabeth, a strong ruler, was elderly and had refused to name a successor, leading to worrie Date and text
Allusions in three contemporaneous works support a date of 1599 for Julius Caesar.
1. Ben Jonson's play Every Man Out of His Humour (acted 1599, published 1600) paraphrases Shakespeare's line "O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts" (Julius Caesar, III,ii,114) as "reason long since is fled to animals" in III,i. Jonson's play also includes "Et tu, Brute" in V,iv.
2. The anonymous play The Wisdom of Dr. Dodipoll (published in 1600) gives its own paraphrase, "Then reason's fled to animals, I see."
3. A passage in John Weever's Mirror of Martyrs, published in 1601, makes clear reference to the speeches of Brutus and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. John Weever stated that he'd written his poem two years earlier, which (presumably) fixes the date as 1599.
Julius Caesar was first published in the First Folio in 1623, that text being the sole authority for the play. The Folio text is notable for its quality and consistency; scholars judge it to have been set into type from a theatrical promptbook. The play's source was Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Life of Brutus and Life of Caesar. 
Deviations From Plutarch
• Shakespeare makes Caesar's triumph take place on the day of lupercalia instead of six months earlier
• For greater dramatic effect he has made the Capitol the venue of Caesar's death and not Curia Pomperiana (Pompey's House).
• Caesar's murder, the funeral, Antony's oration, the reading of the will and Octavius' arrival all take place on the same day in the play. However, historically, the assassination took place on March 15 (The ides of March), the will was published three days later on March 18, the funeral took place on March 20 and Octavius arrived only in May.
• Shakespeare makes the Triumvirs meet in Rome instead of near Bolonia, so as to avoid a third locale.
• He has combined the two Battles of Phillipi although there was a twenty day interval between them.
• Shakespeare gives Caesar's last words as "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!" ("And you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar."). Plutarch says he said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators.. However, Suetonius reports his last words, spoken in Greek, as "καί σύ τέκνον" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?"; "You too, child?" in English).
Shakespeare deviated from these historical facts in order to curtail time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged without any kind of difficulty. The tragic force is condensed into a few scenes for the heightened effect.
The play was performed in the Globe Theatre.
Thomas Patter, a Swiss traveller, saw a tragedy about Julius Caesar at a Bankside theatre on September 21, 1599. This was most likely Shakespeare's play. There is no immediately obvious alternative candidate. (While the story of Julius Caesar was dramatized repeatedly in the Elizabethan/Jacobean period, none of the other plays known is as good a match with Patter's description as Shakespeare's play.)
After the theatres re-opened at the start of the Restoration era, the play was revived by Thomas Killigrew's King's Company in 1672. Charles Hart initially played Brutus, as did Thomas Betterton in later productions. Julius Caesar was one of the very few Shakespearean plays that was not adapted during the Restoration period or the eighteenth century.
• Julius Caesar
• Octavius Caesar, Marcus Antonius, M. Aemilius Lepidus: Triumvirs after the death of Julius Caesar
• Cicero, Publius, Popilius Lena: Senators
• Marcus Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Trebonius, Ligarius, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber, Cinna: Conspirators against Julius Caesar
• Flavius and Marullus: Tribunes
• Artemidorus: a Sophist of Cnidos
• A Soothsayer (Also called Fortuneteller)
• Cinna: a poet
• Another poet
• Lucilius, Titinius, Messala, Young Cato, Volumnius: Friends to Brutus and Cassius
• Varro, Clitus, Claudius, Strato, Lucius, Dardanius: Servants to Brutus
• Pindarus: Servant to Cassius
• Calpurnia: wife to Caesar
• Portia: wife to Brutus
Marcus Brutus is Caesar's close friend; his ancestors were famed for driving the tyrannical King Tarquin from Rome (described in Shakespeare's earlier The Rape of Lucrece). Brutus allows himself to be cajoled into joining a group of conspiring senators because of a growing suspicion—implanted by Gaius Cassius—that Caesar intends to turn republican Rome into a monarchy under his own rule. Traditional readings of the play maintain that Cassius and the other conspirators are motivated largely by envy and ambition, whereas Brutus is motivated by the demands of honour and patriotism; other commentators, such as Isaac Asimov, suggest that the text shows Brutus is no less moved by envy and flattery. One of the central strengths of the play is that it resists categorising its characters as either simple heroes or villains.
The early scenes deal mainly with Brutus' arguments with Cassius and his struggle with his own conscience. The growing tide of public support soon turns Brutus against Caesar (This public support was actually faked. Cassius wrote letters to Brutus in different handwritings over the next month in order to get Brutus to join the conspiracy). A soothsayer warns Caesar to "beware the Ides of March," which he ignores, culminating in his assassination at the Capitol by the conspirators that day.
Caesar's assassination is perhaps the most famous part of the play, about halfway through. After ignoring the soothsayer as well as his wife's own premonitions, Caesar comes to the Senate. The conspirators create a superficial motive for the assassination by means of a petition brought by Metellus Cimber, pleading on behalf of his banished brother. As Caesar, predictably, rejects the petition, Casca grazes Caesar in the back of his neck, and the others follow in stabbing him; Brutus is last. At this point, Caesar utters the famous line "Et tu, Brute?" ("And you, Brutus?", i.e. "You too, Brutus?"). Shakespeare has him add, "Then fall, Caesar," suggesting that Caesar did not want to survive such treachery. The conspirators make clear that they did this act for Rome, not for their own purposes and do not attempt to flee the scene but act victorious.
After Caesar's death, however, Mark Antony, with a subtle and eloquent speech over Caesar's corpse—the much-quoted Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears...—deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the common people, in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus's speech. Antony rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome. Amid the violence, the innocent poet, Sinna, is confused with the conspirator Cinna and is murdered by the mob.
The beginning of Act Four is marked by the quarrel scene, where Brutus attacks Cassius for soiling the noble act of regicide by accepting bribes ("Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake? / What villain touch'd his body, that did stab, / And not for justice?", IV.iii,19-21). The two are reconciled, but as they prepare for war with Mark Antony and Caesar's adopted son, Octavian (Shakespeare's spelling: Octavius), Caesar's ghost appears to Brutus with a warning of defeat ("thou shalt see me at Philippi", IV.iii,283). Events go badly for the conspirators during the battle; both Brutus and Cassius choose to commit suicide rather than to be captured. The play ends with a tribute to Brutus by Antony, who has remained "the noblest Roman of them all" (V.v,68) and hints at the friction between Mark Antony and Octavius which will characterise another of Shakespeare's Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra.
See also Shakespeare on screen (Julius Caesar)
• Julius Caesar (1950), starring Charlton Heston as Antony and Harold Tasker as Caesar.
• Julius Caesar (1953), starring Marlon Brando as Antony and Louis Calhern as Caesar.
• Julius Caesar (1970), starring Charlton Heston as Antony and John Gielgud as Caesar.
John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth and Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1864.
• 1864: Junius, Jr., Edwin and John Wilkes Booth made their only appearance onstage together in a benefit performance of Julius Caesar on November 25, 1864. Junius, Jr. played Cassius, Edwin played Brutus and John Wilkes played Marc Antony.
• 1926: By far the most elaborate performance of the play was staged as a benefit for the Actors' Fund of America at the Hollywood Bowl. Caesar arrived for the Lupercal in a chariot drawn by four white horses. The stage was the size of a city block and dominated by a central tower eighty feet in height. The event was mainly aimed at creating work for unemployed actors. Three hundred gladiators appeared in an arena scene not featured in Shakespeare's play; a similar number of girls danced as Caesar's captives; a total of three thousand soldiers took part in the battle sequences.
• 1937: Orson Welles' famous production at the Mercury Theatre drew fervoured comment as the director dressed his protagonists in uniforms reminiscent of those common at the time in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, as well as drawing a specific analogy between Caesar and Mussolini. Opinions vary on the artistic value of the resulting production: some see Welles' mercilessly pared-down script (the running time was around 90 minutes without an interval, several characters were eliminated, dialogue was moved around and borrowed from other plays, and the final two acts were reduced to a single scene) as a radical and innovative way of cutting away the unnecessary elements of Shakespeare's tale; others thought Welles' version was a mangled and lobotomised version of Shakespeare's tragedy which lacked the psychological depth of the original. Most agreed that the production owed more to Welles than it did to Shakespeare. However, Welles's innovations have been echoed in many subsequent modern productions, which have seen parallels between Caesar's fall and the downfalls of various governments in the twentieth century. The production was most noted for its portrayal of the slaughter of Cinna (Norman Lloyd). It is the longest-running Broadway production at 157 performances.
• 1950: John Gielgud played Cassius at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre under the direction of Michael Langham and Anthony Quayle. The production was considered one of the highlights of a remarkable Stratford season, and led to Gielgud (who had done little film work to that time) playing Cassius in Joseph L. Mankiewicz' 1953 film version.
• 1977: John Gielgud made his final appearance in a Shakespearean role on stage as Julius Caesar in John Schlesinger's production at the Royal National Theatre.
• 2005: Denzel Washington played Brutus in the first Broadway production of the play in over fifty years. The production received universally terrible reviews, but was a sell-out because of Washington's popularity at the box office.
Adaptations and cultural references
The Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster parodied Julius Caesar in their 1958 sketch Rinse the Blood off My Toga. Flavius Maximus, Private Roman I, is hired by Brutus to investigate the death of Caesar. The police procedural combines Shakespeare, Dragnet, and vaudeville jokes and was first broadcast on the Ed Sullivan Show. 
s that a civil war similar to that of Rome's might break out after her death.
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