Political intrigue and war hang in the air around Rome in the year 44 B.C. Conspirators, spearheaded by Cassius, a senator, plan to perform an act that would change the course of history and inspire even a play to be written. These bloodthirsty monsters plot to kill Julius Caesar. In the end, their goals are accomplished, but their actions bring about some unexpected consequences, as a civil war breaks out between them and the allies of Caesar. William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar entertained me with a tale of deception and retribution.
One of the characteristics that I most enjoyed about this read was the sheer amount of hidden themes within. For example, Shakespeare tried to convey a message stating that destiny exists by use of supernatural occurrences. Near the beginning of the play, a soothsayer approaches Caesar telling him to “beware the ides of March.” His wife dreams hinting that he will die that day, and even a scholar attempts to warn him of his safety. Through everything though, Caesar still goes to the Senate, and is assassinated there. No one could do anything to change his fate, just as Shakespeare intended. Another way this theme is illustrated is in Caesar’s ghost appearing to Brutus. His ghost says that they will meet again in Philippi. Brutus could have gone anywhere, but ended up in Philippi, where he saw the ghost again, and later committed suicide. In both examples, Shakespeare attempts to convey a message about his belief in destiny, which was shared by the majority of the populous at the time.
As with most of Shakespeare’s books, each character comes alive with variety seldom seen elsewhere. Julius Caesar obviously behaves like a spoiled, cocky brat, whereas Cassius seems like a sly snake slithering through the grass stalking his prey. Brutus’ utterances always carry gravity for they rarely occur out of turn. Mark Anthony’s oratorical skills are ever present in his speech to the common people at Caesar’s funeral. He begins by playing on their interest. They all believed that Caesar was a threat to the people, so the clever Antony mentions that he “has come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Later he begins to use logic and the element of pity on the common people, “When the poor hath cried, Caesar hath wept; Ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and sure he is an honorable man.” He knows how to play people’s emotions, and I feel as though I never get to see the real Mark Anthony in this play. As they say though, “It takes all kinds.”
Shakespeare’s subtle use of theme imbedding, coupled with his vivid characterizations make Julius Caesar a must read for nearly every person. However, I have my fair share of qualms with the book. The play owes the poetic format it was written in to the beautiful sixteenth century iambic pentameter, yet this boon also becomes a shortcoming because of the actual words Shakespeare used. Many are not used with the same meaning, and some have not been used for hundreds of years. This can add difficulty to any reader’s life, so discretion is advised. Other than that, I have no problems with this book, and recommend the play highly.