Julius Caesar Essay


Julius Caesar Essay

The following Julius Caesar essay sample is written by the qualified custom essays' team from the perspective of Shakespeare.  You may use any part of the following essay for your own purposes. Warning!  Do not copy it as your teacher may be using plagiarism detecting software while this sample is posted online.

Julius Caesar Essay Sample

In Plutarch "Caesar" Shakespeare found a portrait that emphasized the man's courage, his ambition, his vanity, and his superstition but did scant justice to his greatness as a statesman. Beginning his play in the last days of Caesar's life further emphasized this bias of his source. The conquests were passed, and Plutarch gives no adequate indication of the statesmanlike schemes for the government of Rome that we know Caesar to have formulated during his last months. Shakespeare found only one element in his source that he recognized as commensurate with the greatness of Caesar's influence--namely, the omens which marked his approaching death. To these, he gave maximum emphasis. There is no reason to doubt that Shakespeare, like his contemporaries, accepted these details in classical writers as historically accurate. Read another essay sample: The achievement of pagan gods and of oracles Christian theory explained by assuming that the fallen angels had masqueraded as gods to work the further damnation of man. But Shakespeare perhaps had no need to rely upon such an explanation of these omens, for subsequent history amply demonstrated Caesar's place in the divine scheme of things; Providence might be expected to intervene directly to foretell his death. As Calphurnia tells him: "The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes" (II, ii, 31). Shakespeare, therefore, seized upon these details and emphasized them as properly indicating Caesar's surpassing greatness. Furthermore, he was careful to rule out specifically the possibility, mentioned by Pandulph in King John, that they might be manifestations of the normal operation of nature. His use of omens is deliberately and explicitly given the greatest possible significance by being worked out in terms of the learning of his day…

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When Caesar bids Calphurnia station herself in Antony's way among women who would "shake off their sterile curse" (I, ii, 9), Wilson remarks that "Elizabethans would be quick to set their own interpretation" on his words.  Perhaps. But the less carnally minded among the audience might also see in them the very proper foresight of a newly established ruler worried about a stable succession. That subject was in everyone's mind when the play first appeared.

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Wilson, like other critics who stress Caesar's weakness, also minimizes an even greater body of evidence that Shakespeare tried to make Caesar a model ruler. Antony's testimony that Caesar wept over the poor is perhaps suspect, but the will, which is Shakespeare's invention, displays a similar solicitude for them. In Plutarch Caesar, who is himself superstitious, is frightened by the prodigies of nature and by Calphurnia's dream, whereas she "until that time was never given to any fear or superstition."

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