Author: William Shakespeare
First published: 1599
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For me Shakespeare's tragedies work much better than comedies. He has this sixth sense as to how to make them pathetic and believable, dramatic and realistic at the same time. And no 16-century weird humour, thank you!
Julius Caesar tells about - guess, what? Correct, about the assassination of Julius Caesar. But it's a mistake to think the guy is the main character in the play - the centre of everything is rather Brutus, who is struggling between his love to Caesar and his duty as a citizen. The most interesting part of the plot is all the polemics about the necessity and reasons to kill Caesar. On the one hand, he is a great and very estimated man, but on the other hand he is on the verge of being asked to become an emperor, and this no free citizen can abide. I also really loved how Brutus and Antony in turns bring the mob to their side, people changing their opinions cardinally in a matter of 5 minutes just because of some words they hear. The power of rhetoric!
Brutus is a very well-developed character: principled, valiant and thoughtful. His is a really tragic figure, as he knows all the consequences of his deed, but he still does it because of his beliefs and in spite of personal feelings. Another favourite of mine is Portia, Brutus's wife, who will not be treated as merely a wife and a woman, but rather as an advisor and friend. Her idea of a marriage is sharing not only a bed and a table, but also thoughts, anxieties and plans. Rather modern!
Let's finish, as usual, with some wonderful quotes:
"Cowards die many times before their deaths;"
Portia's greatest phrase:
"I have a man's mind, but a woman's might."
"The ides of March are come.
Ay, Caesar; but not gone."
A great judicial principle for all times:
"What touches us ourself shall be last served."
"<...> How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!"
"Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. <...> As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him."
About historical judgement:
"The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;"
"When love begins to sicken and decay,
It useth an enforced ceremony."
"Words before blows"
And my personal favourite:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries."
In my book:
A beautiful tragedy with a lot of controversial moral loading. Great characters, great dialogues! One of the Shakespeare's best plays!