Julius Caesar was my very first attempt to read Shakespeare. Even though it was relatively short, I had a hard time reading this mainly because it was written in old English language. (Thanks to No Fear Shakespeare that I can conquer this!) The play was divided into 5 acts. The story of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, revolves in Roman history, politics, conspiracy, betrayal, Caesar’s assassination, and a bitter end for everyone involved in the conspiracy. Well, it was a tragedy. Julius Caesar was going to be crowned as king of Rome when some people who disliked him gathered in conspiracy to overthrow him. The conspirators feared if Caesar became king, he would be a tyrant. The one who started conspiracy against Caesar was Cassius, and he dragged Brutus, a noble man who was once a close and faithful friend to Caesar.
“Beware of the ides of March.”
The play has interesting twists, especially when slippery Cassius tricked Brutus and turned him against Caesar, and also dragged a whole gang of conspirators with him (Casca, Trebonius, Ligarius, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber, and Cinna). Then there were Brutus’ struggles between his own conscience, patriotism to Rome, honor, and friendship. Even though the play was titled with Julius Caesar’s name, the main character of the play was Brutus. I loved Brutus’ relationship with his wife, Portia, and hated that Brutus did not choose her above anything else and left Portia die in vain.
Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
Is it excepted I should know no secrets
That appertain to you? Am I yourself
But, as it were, in sort or limitation,
To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed,
And talk to you sometimes?
Dwell I but in the suburbs
Of your good pleasure? If it be no more,
Portia is Brutus’ harlot, not his wife.
And then there was the scene where Caesar was assassinated, somewhere in Act 3. (See the image above) This was where he uttered the famous line “Et tu, Brute?” (“And you, Brutus?”) to Brutus who stabbed him the last. After the assassination, Brutus gave a speech that this (the murder of Caesar) was done for the sake of Romans. The crowd agreed with him. Then Brutus did the worst mistake he could have ever done, letting Marc Antony take the pulpit and give a speech. Antony, with the power of kind words, changed the public opinion about Caesar and turned the crowd against the conspirators. Antony’s speech was my favorite part of the whole play:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest— For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men— Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honourable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me.
What happened then? Sorry, I just have to say it. Everybody dies. Because that is what a tragedy is all about. Well, almost everybody, of course Marc Antony didn’t die in this play. Reading a play is a new experience for me, and even though my very first try wasn’t a very pleasing one, I won’t give up on plays just yet. Overall, I liked Julius Caesar for its twists, psychological struggles of the characters, and of course the morals. But I don’t think that tragedy is my thing. I just don’t like to see people kill each other (or themselves). (Maybe I should start with Romeo and Juliet, in which there was fewer characters that died???) Next month I will be reading Twelfth Night, a Shakespeare comedy, which is a huge relief. I really hope I can enjoy his comedies better. Three stars for Julius Caesar.
1st review for Let’s Read Plays event
15th review for The Classics Club Project