Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar is one of the tragedies William Shakespeare wrote. I studied it from Mr. Mahendra Illangasinghe, my former English teacher. Julius Caesar is full of power struggles, violence, betrayal, suicide, revenge and war. Though the play is called Julius Caesar, Caesar is not the most prominent character in the play since he happens to die in the beginning of the third act. Mark Antony and Marcus Brutus become more prominent in the play.

Marcus Brutus is Caesar’s close friend and a Roman praetor. Though he loves and respects Julius Caesar he is induced by a group of senators led by Caius Cassius who conspire to kill Caesar to prevent him turning republican Rome into a monarchy under him. Cassius takes great efforts in convincing Brutus that exterminating Caesar is the only answer that is left. Brutus struggles a lot with his own conscience before agreeing to kill Caesar.

Julius Caesar is warned by a soothsayer who warns him to “beware of Ides of March” but Caesar simply ignores him. Caesar’s wife also unsuccessfully discourages Caesar not to go to the Capitol that fateful day. At the Senate, Casca stabs Caesar in the back of the neck when he is least expected such a blow. Other senators join the stabbing game and Brutus is the last to stab him. Caesar utters the famous line “Et tu Brute” (You too, Brutus?) and adds “Then fall, Caesar” implying that he doesn’t want to survive such a betrayal by his own colleagues.

What follows the death of Caesar is interesting. Killers of Caesar are of the view that they killed Caesar for the good of Rome. Brutus too makes a speech to convince the crowd that the killing was done to create a better future for Rome telling that “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” which people accept in the first place.

Subsequently, Mark Antony, still a Caesar loyalist, pleads to make a speech to the crowd and starts his famous speech, one of the most effective speeches in the world history, starting with “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears” and turns public opinion against the murderers. The conspirators flee Rome.

Brutus and Cassius quarrels over killing Caesar but later they are reconciled and get ready for war with Mark Antony and Octavius, the adopted son of Caesar. Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus that night and warns “thou shalt see me at Philippi” hinting Antony’s possible defeat.

At the battle, the triumph swings between Antony’s and Brutus’s sides but the subsequent final thrusts show that Brutus’s end is near and he commits suicide.

(The play ends with a tribute to Brutus by Antony, who proclaims that Brutus has remained “the noblest Roman of them all” because he was the only conspirator who acted for the good of Rome. There is then a small hint at the friction between Mark Antony and Octavius which will characterize another of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra. – Wikipedia)

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