The Tragedy of Julius Caesar Essay

William Shakespeare is considered as one of the greatest authors in world literature.  As a playwright, he had written some of most popular and widely read plays, which include “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.”

Summary

            The play is generally about the death of Julius Caesar.  The story revolves around the events that lead to demise of Caesar, as well as the occurrences that take place after his murder.  The play starts with Caesar’s return from a victorious battle against Pompey (Latil & Cheng, n.d.).  The people join the celebration, abandoning their work in the process; this gains the disapproval of the tribunes Flavius and Murellus. During his victory march, Caesar is approached by a soothsayer in Act I Scene ii, telling him to “beware the Ides of March” (as cited in Latil & Cheng, n.d.).  Caesar ignores this warning and proceeds with the festivities.  Meanwhile, Cassius and Brutus speak about Caesar.

Cassius brings to light the unhappiness of the Brutus about Caesar’s position, and the former successfully makes the latter consider Caesar’s death.  On the other hand, Caesar speaks to Antony about his distrust of Cassius.  Cassius is so determined to have Brutus involved in Caesar’s death that he sends forged letters that express alarm over Caesar’s popularity.  Brutus thinks that those letters are really the sentiment of the people, and he takes them as a sign that Caesar should indeed be killed.  Cassius, Brutus and the others proceed with planning the murder; they initially wanted Antony to be killed too, but Brutus objects.

When her dreams reveal that Caesar will be in danger, Caesar’s wife Calpurnia prevents him from going to the Senate on March 15th.  Caesar proceeds anyway, and is killed.  Antony promises to avenge his death.  In turn, Brutus speaks to the public to explain that Caesar was killed because he was a threat to the Republic.  Antony also addresses the public and persuades them that Caesar’s murder was unjustified.

Antony’s speech infuriates the public, forcing Cassius and Brutus to leave the city.  Antony then joins forces with Octavius to fight Cassius and Brutus.  During the battle, Cassius sends Pindarus to assess the situation of their troops.  Pindarus sees Cassius’ friend Titinius in the midst of troops and tells Cassius that Titinius is being held captive by the enemy.  Pindarus delivers the wrong information, as Titinius was not actually captured as he originally thought.  This false statement causes Cassius to take his own life.  Brutus also takes his life after he hears of the news of Cassius’ death (Latil & Cheng, n.d.).

Theme Analysis

            The play has several themes. One of the themes is the distinction of free will and fate (Latil & Cheng, n.d.).  In Act I Scene ii, Cassius states: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings” (as cited in Latil & Cheng, n.d.).  According to Cassius, Caesar’s rise to power was determined by their will; it is the result of their shortcomings.  It was their lack of action that caused Caesar to be famous and powerful.  In contrast, fate was also a major force in the turn of events.  In Act II Scene ii, Caesar says, “It seems to be most strange that men should fear,/ Seeing that death, a necessary end,/ Will come when it will come” (as cited in Latil & Cheng, n.d.).

Read also  The Use of Power in Julius Caesar

In this quote, Caesar acknowledges death as that which cannot be controlled by men, and should therefore be accepted as an end.  Hence, the play is governed by events that are both the result of free will and fate.  Another theme is the private lives of public persons (Latil & Cheng, n.d.).  The play illustrates how public figures are engrossed with their public reputations that it eventually leads to their demise.  Caesar was too preoccupied with his public image that he ignored all the warnings given to him.

In addition, Brutus also allowed his public self to dominate his private self, as he agreed to Caesar’s murder not as a friend, but as a senator.  His private self as Caesar’s friend was overshadowed by his public self as a senator, who would kill for the preservation of the Republic.  Lastly, the play also discusses the influence of rhetoric and language (Latil & Cheng, n.d.).

The play is proof of the inherent power of words.  In the The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare showed how language can both express and conceal the truth.  In Act III Scene ii, Antony repeatedly states: “Brutus says he was ambitious,/ And Brutus is an honourable man” (as cited in Latil & Cheng, n.d.).  Though the words seem to work for Brutus’ favor in the beginning, its repetition renders the statement false.  Antony successfully redeems Caesar in his speech, but he damages the reputation of Brutus in the process.  Hence, the speech of Antony is an example of how powerful rhetoric and language are.

Strengths and Weakness of the Play

The play has multiple strengths, one of which is the numerous themes embedded in it.  The issues addressed in the play transcend its historical narrative.  However, ambiguity proves to be both the strength and weakness of the play.  Shakespeare did not take a stand on Caesar’s murder, which makes the play open to interpretations.  It is a positive thing because it gives room for readers to decide for themselves what the play is about.

At the same time, its ambiguity makes the readers wonder what Shakespeare really wants to say.  The play seems to present the murder as both just and unjust.  On one hand, it conveys the message that leaders should not be consumed by power, or else it will lead to their demise; on the other hand, it states that a powerful leader is necessary for any institution, and should not be overthrown.

Conclusion

            The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is one of great plays from William Shakespeare.  It is a historical play about the fall of Julius Caesar and the consequences of his murder.  In addition, it gives its readers many lessons, on the likes of power, free will and fate.  It is therefore no surprise that it is one of the most loved plays in world literature.

Reference

Latil, F., & Cheng, W. (n.d.). SparkNote on Julius Caesar. Retrieved February 22, 2008, from http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/juliuscaesar/

More Essays

  • Marc Antony Speech

    Antony's skillful ways To be a good public speaker, a person needs a very specific set of skills to deliver a powerful speech. In the play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, a group of men conspire to assassinate Julius Caesar. Throughout the play, they succeed in killing Caesar by...

  • The Tragic Hero of Julius Caesar

    Works of tragedy have been around since the earliest times of Greece, if not longer. In these tragedies, the downfall of the "tragic hero", or the main character destined to fall, is portrayed to the audience. In one of the most famous tragic plays ever written, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare gives...

  • Distinct Characterization in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

    William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar works convincingly for audiences today not only because of its truth historically, but because of its truth of character, historically.  As with the rest of the English bard's canon, it is the character driven aspect of the writing that continually reminds you of the...

  • William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar

    William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564. Records show that Shakespeare was baptized three days after he was born, on April 26, 1564. He grew up in a town called Stratford upon Avon. During his lifetime, Shakespeare had three jobs. He was a playwright, a businessman, and an actor. Shakespeare not...

  • A Raisin in the Sun Vs. Julius Caesar

    In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun themes, symbols, and characters can be compared. Both A Raisin in the Sun and Julius Caesar were written for the stage; therefore their characters become more obvious and more thoroughly portrayed than in a book, for...

  • Literary Essay – Julius Caesar

    As humans, none of us are entirely good or entirely evil. It is the same with the characters in the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. While many are portrayed as good or evil, none really are. This can be more easily explained through the characters Brutus, Marc Antony and Julius Caesar. From the...

  • Twelfth Night

    My internal assessment is a review of the sixteenth century comedy, "Twelfth Night or What You Will" by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he...

  • Brutus in the Play Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

    Marcus Brutus is a character in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar which is based on the true story of events in Rome more than 2,000 years ago. Caesar's loyal friend, Portia's loving husband, and a noble Roman. However, he leads other conspirators and murders Caesar. People often question, is Brutus a...

  • Shakespeare’s _julius Caesar_

    Julius Caesar is murdered, and the public wants justification. Act III Scene ii of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar begins with Brutus' speech that attempts to validate his murderous act. He claims that Caesar was a tyrant and his place in power was only hurting Rome. However, his speech has several flaws: it is...

  • Thumbs Up or Down on Shakespeare

    Shakespeare is famous for variety of good reasons. He is a clever writer who presented his works with depth and purpose. He deserves all the thumbs up he could possibly get. Here are three reasons for those thumbs ups. First, like what I've pointed out earlier, his works were cleverly written and very deep...

Read also  The Merchant of Venice and Shylock Offering