Julius Caesar (or How William Shakespeare Hit a Grand Slam)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Last week we took a glimpse into the theatrical life of Julius Caesar as we listened to Mark Antony give his famous oration about the slain ruler of Ancient Rome. After the Assassination of Julius Caesar, we hear Antony exclaim Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!

Today we are going to delve deeper and take a look at what is The Tragedy of Julius Caesar!

The first page of Julius Caesar, printed in the Second Folio of 1632.

Written by William Shakespeare, this aptly named tragedy was believed to have been written in 1599. It is one of several plays written by Shakespeare based on true events from the History of Rome, which also include Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra.

Although the title is Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus (Brutus) speaks more than 4 times as many lines as the title character. Also, the central psychological drama of the play focuses on Brutus’ struggle between the conflicting demands of honor, patriotism, and friendship.

Title page of the First Folio, 1623. Copper engraving of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout.

Julius Caesar was originally published in the First Folio of 1623, but a performance was mentioned as early as September 1599. However, the play was not mentioned in the list of Shakespeare’s plays published by Francis Meres in 1598.

The text of Julius Caesar in the First Folio is the only authoritative text for the play. The Folio text was notable for its quality and consistency.

The play contains many anachronistic elements from the Elizabethan era, such as hats and doublets (large, heavy jackets), neither of which existed in Ancient Rome. Caesar is mentioned to be wearing an Elizabethan doublet instead of a Roman toga, and a clock is heard to strike and Brutus notes it with “Count the clock”.

The Triumphs of Caesar created by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna (1484 – 1492).

The play opens with the people of Rome celebrating Caesar’s Triumphus (Roman Triumph) defeating Pompey‘s sons at the Battle of Munda. Two Tribuni (Tribunes), Lucius Caesetius Flavus (Flavius) and Gaius Epidius Marullus (Marrullus), discover the commoners celebrating, insult them for their change in loyalty from Pompey to Caesar, and break up the crowd.

There are some jokes made by the commoners, who insult them back. The Tribunes also plan on removing all decorations from Caesar’s statues and ending any other festivities.

Beware the Ides of March!

In the next scene, during Caesar’s parade on the feast of Lupercalia, a soothsayer warns Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar disregards the warning, and the action then turns to the discussion between Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus (Cassius).

Cassius has a conspiracy to kill Caesar in the works and desperately wants Brutus to be part of it. In this conversation, Cassius attempts to influence Brutus’s opinions into believing Caesar should be killed.

Caesar rejecting the laurel crown

Brutus and Cassius then hear from Servilius Casca (Casca) that Mark Antony has offered Caesar the crown of Rome 3 times and that each time Caesar refused it, fainting after the last refusal. Later, in Act 2, Brutus eventually joins the conspiracy.

It was after much moral debate that Brutus decided that Caesar, although his friend and never having done anything against the people of Rome, should be killed to prevent him from doing anything against the people of Rome if he were to become Rex Romae (King of Rome). He compares Caesar to a snake that has yet to be hatched, and by killing it now would thusly save the world from the ill deeds the snake is capable of doing.

Caesar’s assassination is one of the most famous scenes of the play, occurring in Act 3, Scene 1. After ignoring the soothsayer, as well as Calpurnia’s (Caesar’s wife) own premonitions, Caesar comes to the Senatus Romanus (Roman Senate). The conspirators create a superficial motive for coming close enough to assassinate Caesar by means of a petition brought by Lucius Tillius Cimber (Metellus Cimber), pleading on behalf of his banished brother.

Caesar predictably rejects the petition, and this is the signal to kill Caesar. Casca grazes Caesar in the back of his neck, and the others follow in stabbing him in the chest, back, arms, hands, and abdomen.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Brutus is last to stab Caesar, and it is at this point Shakespeare has Caesar utter the famous line Et tu, Brute? (And you, Brutus?). Shakespeare has Brutus reply “Then fall, Caesar!” suggesting that such treachery destroyed Caesar’s will to live.

The conspirators make clear that they committed this act for Rome, not for their own purposes, and do not attempt to flee the scene. After Caesar is killed, Brutus delivers an oration defending his actions, and for the moment, the crowd is on his side.

Antony’s oration of Caesar

It is now that Mark Antony makes a subtle and eloquent speech over Caesar’s corpse, beginning with the much-quoted “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!” In this way, Antony deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the Plebeians, in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus’s speech, yet there is method in his rhetorical speech and gestures.

Antony reminds the people of the good Caesar had done for Rome, his sympathy with the poor, and his refusal of the crown at the Lupercalia, thus questioning Brutus’s claim of Caesar’s ambition. Then Antony shows Caesar’s bloody, lifeless body to the crowd to have them shed tears and gain sympathy for their fallen hero.

The People of Rome riot upon hearing Caesar’s will.

Continuing, Antony reads Caesar’s will, in which every Roman citizen would receive 75 drachmas. Even as he states his intentions against it, Antony rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome.

Amid the violence Cinna, an innocent poet, is confused with the conspirator Lucius Cinna and is taken by the mob. The poet is subsequently torn to pieces for such “offenses” as his bad verses that were supposedly committed against Caesar.

The beginning of Act 4 is marked by the quarrel scene, where Brutus attacks Cassius for supposedly soiling the noble act of regicide by having accepted bribes. The pair then reconcile, especially after Brutus reveals that his beloved wife Porcia Catonis (Portia) had committed suicide under the stress of his absence from Rome.

The ghost of Caesar taunts Brutus about his imminent defeat. Copperplate engraving by Edward Scriven from a painting by Richard Westall (London, 1802).

The conspirators now prepare for a war against Mark Antony and Caesar’s adopted son, Octavius Caesar. That night, Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus with a warning of impending defeat at Philippi.

At the Battle of Philippi, Cassius and Brutus, knowing that they will probably both die, smile their last smiles to each other and hold hands. During the battle, Cassius has his servant Pindarus kill him after hearing of the capture of his best friend, Titinius.

After Titinius, who was not really captured, sees Cassius’s corpse, he commits suicide. Brutus wins that stage of the battle, but his victory is not conclusive however.

Brutus takes his own life

With a heavy heart, Brutus battles again the next day. He loses and commits suicide by running on his own sword, which is held by a soldier named Strato.

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, in his mind, for the good of Rome. There is then a small hint at the friction between Mark Antony and Octavius which characterizes another of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra.

Caesar and Brutus

Critics of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar differ greatly on their views of Caesar and Brutus. Many have debated whether Caesar or Brutus is the protagonist of the play, because of the title character’s death in Act 3, Scene 1.

The logic and philosophies of Caesar and Brutus have even been compared, for Caesar is deemed an intuitive philosopher who is always right when he goes with his instinct. Brutus is portrayed as a man similar to Caesar, but whose passions lead him to the wrong reasoning, which he realizes in the end.

It has been acknowledged that some critics have tried to cast Caesar as the protagonist, but that ultimately Brutus is the driving force in the play and is therefore the tragic hero. Brutus attempts to put the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic) over his personal relationship with Caesar and kills him.

Did Brutus truly help kill Caesar due to his love of Rome?

He acts on his passions, does not gather enough evidence to make reasonable decisions, and is manipulated by Cassius and the other conspirators. Instead of saving the Republic, Brutus makes the political mistakes that ultimately bring down the Republic that his ancestors created.

Caesar compares himself to the Northern Star, and perhaps it would be foolish not to consider him as the character around whom the entire story turns. Intertwined in this debate is a smattering of philosophical and psychological ideologies on republicanism and monarchism.

The Northern Star himself, Gaius Julius Caesar.

It has also been written that the play reflects the general anxiety of Elizabethan England over succession of leadership. At the time of its creation and initial performance, Queen Elizabeth, a strong ruler, was elderly and had refused to name a successor, leading to worries that a civil war similar to that of Rome might break out after her death.

We hope you have enjoyed today’s journey. With so many variations of Julius Caesar that are available, there really is no losing in this game.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Evans, G. Blakemore. The Riverside Shakespeare. Houghton Mifflin Co, 1974.

Shakespeare, William. Arthur Humphreys, ed. Julius SYSR. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-283606-4.

Taylor, Myron. “Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the Irony of History”. Shakespeare Quarterly Vol. 24, No. 3, 1973.

Wells, Stanley and Dobson, Michael eds. The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wills, Garry. Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Yale University Press, 2011.

No Fear Shakespeare – Includes the play line by line with interpretation.

Julius Caesar – The British Library

Julius Caesar – from Project Gutenberg

Book 5; Thought 15

None of these things ought to be called a man’s, which do not belong to a man, as man. They are not required of a man, nor does man’s nature promise them, nor are they the means of man’s nature attaining its end. Neither then does the end of man lie in these things, nor yet that which aids to the accomplishment of this end, and that which aids towards this end is that which is good. Besides, if any of these things did belong to man, it would not be right for a man to despise them and to set himself against them; nor would a man be worthy of praise who showed that he did not want these things, nor would he who stinted himself in any of them be good, if indeed these things were good. But now the more of these things a man deprives himself of, or of other things like them, or even when he is deprived of any of them, the more patiently he endures the loss, just in the same degree he is a better man.

Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in France to uncover the Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments.

Today we’re headed back to France as we check out the Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne!

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defenses encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral.

Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation. The Committee decided to inscribe this property on the basis that the historic town of Carcassonne is an excellent example of a medieval fortified town whose massive defenses were constructed on walls dating from Late Antiquity.

It is of exceptional importance by virtue of the restoration work carried out in the second half of the 19th  Century by Viollet-le-Duc, which had a profound influence on subsequent developments in conservation principles and practice.

How This Relates to Rome:

Carcassonne became strategically identified when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC and eventually made the colonia of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum (by the process of swapping consonants known as metathesis). The main part of the lower courses of the northern ramparts dates from Gallo-Roman times.

In 462 the Romans officially ceded Septimania to the Visigothic king Theodoric II who had held Carcassonne since AD 453. He built more fortifications at Carcassonne, which was a frontier post on the northern marches; traces of them still stand.

Theodoric is thought to have begun the predecessor of the basilica that is now dedicated to Saint Nazaire. In AD 508, the Visigoths successfully foiled attacks by the Frankish king Clovis.

Saracens from Barcelona took Carcassonne in 725, but King Pepin the Short (Pépin le Bref) drove them away in 759-60. Though he took most of the south of France, he was unable to penetrate the impregnable fortress of Carcassonne.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures to discover more Roman antiquities.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Book 5; Thought 13

My son born 11/29/15

I am composed of the formal and the material; and neither of them will perish into non-existence, as neither of them came into existence out of non-existence. Every part of me then will be reduced by change into some part of the universe, and that again will change into another part of the universe, and so on forever. And by consequence of such a change I too exist, and those who begot me, and so on forever in the other direction. For nothing hinders us from saying so, even if the universe is administered according to definite periods of revolution.

Book 5; Thought 12

What kind of things those are which appear good to the many, we may learn even from this. For if any man should conceive certain things as being really good, such as prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, he would not after having first conceived these endure to listen to anything which should not be in harmony with what is really good. But if a man has first conceived as good the things which appear to the many to be good, he will listen and readily receive as very applicable that which was said by the comic writer. Thus even the many perceive the difference. For were it not so, this saying would not offend and would not be rejected in the first case, while we receive it when it is said of wealth, and of the means which further luxury and fame, as said fitly and wittily. Go on then and ask if we should value and think those things to be good, to which after their first conception in the mind the words of the comic writer might be aptly applied- that he who has them, through pure abundance has not a place to ease himself in.

Anya Rose’s Animated ‘Julius Caesar’

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

John Wilkes Booth (left), Edwin Booth and Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1864.

I don’t know if it’s my lack of time for original ideas, or the fact I love things that are mainstays in history across the board from people to literature to film but I feel the need to share this now. Feeling inspired from yesterday’s post, Mark Antony’s Speech in “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, I feel the need to share both Shakespeare‘s play and connect with a younger audience at the same time.

When I came across this video I just couldn’t resist, so we now present Anya Rose’s Animated ‘Julius Caesar‘!

Believed to have been written in 1599, this is one of several plays written by Shakespeare based on true events from Roman history that also include Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra.

Julius Caesar was originally published in the First Folio of 1623, but a performance was mentioned by Thomas Platter the Younger in his diary in September 1599. Based on a number of contemporary allusions, and the belief that the play is similar to Hamlet in vocabulary, and to Henry V and As You Like It in metre, scholars have suggested 1599 as a probable date of creation.

With so many versions, both on stage and on the big screen, having taken place there is no doubt of the significance of this piece. Granted Shakespeare has put out lots of quality work, few works maybe aside from Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet stand out more than Julius Caesar.

If we have inspired you here to take a peek at either the written, stage, or film version of Julius Caesar then we have been successful. If you don’t care at all, we’re shocked you even made it to this sentence.

No matter what, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

Mark Antony’s Speech in “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

So much we get caught up with the people that made history, that we forget the messages that made these folks famous. Apparently we’ve fallen for the adage of actions speaking louder than words.

Today that is not going to be the case as we take a quick glimpse into Mark Antony‘s funeral speech for Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare‘s play Julius Caesar.

So Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!

In the turmoil surrounding the assassination, Antony escaped Rome dressed as a slave, fearing Caesar’s death would be the start of a bloodbath among his supporters. When this did not occur, he soon returned to Rome.

The conspirators, who styled themselves the Liberatores (The Liberators), had barricaded themselves on the Capitoline Hill for their own safety. Though they believed Caesar’s death would restore the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic), Caesar had been immensely popular with the Roman middle and lower classes, who became enraged upon learning a small group of aristocrats had killed their champion.

Antony has been allowed by Brutus and the other conspirators to make a funeral oration for Caesar on condition that he not blame them for Caesar’s death. However, while Antony’s speech outwardly begins by justifying the actions of Brutus and the assassins (“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”), Antony uses rhetoric and genuine reminders to ultimately portray Caesar in such a positive light that the crowd are enraged against the conspirators.

Throughout his speech, Antony calls the conspirators “honourable men” with his implied sarcasm becoming increasingly obvious. Antony begins by carefully rebutting the notion that his friend, Caesar deserved to die because he was ambitious, instead claiming that his actions were for the good of the Roman people, whom he cared for deeply.

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

Mark Antony giving Caesar’s funeral speech in the Forum.

Antony then teases the crowd with Caesar’s will, which they beg him to read, but he refuses. Antony tells the crowd to “have patience” and expresses his feeling that he will “wrong the honourable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar” if he is to read the will.

The crowd, increasingly agitated, calls the conspirators “traitors” and demands that Antony read out the will. After that Antony deals his final blow by revealing to the crowd Caesar’s will, in which it states:

To every Roman citizen he gives, To every several man seventy-five drachmas as well as land.

He ends his speech at which point the crowd begin to riot and search out the assassins with the intention of killing them. Pleased, Antony knows the course that will be played out.

If you have not yet seen, nor read, the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar we highly suggest you do so ASAP. We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Story of Cleopatra – An Animated Movie (Great for Kids)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s been a busy time with our little boy growing up and running around everywhere, along with my studying for my teacher’s certification. It feels as if there’s no time for anything else.

Because there’s no time, and this got me thinking about any of our friends out there who may have younger children, we thought today we’d share a video geared towards any youngsters.

Today we present to you an animated story of Cleopatra!

We hope you enjoyed this animated presentation and look forward to having more time to provide new, exciting content in the future. Thanks for understanding.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in Austria to uncover the Hallstatt -Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape.

Today we’re headed to France as we check out Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments!

Arles is a good example of the adaptation of an ancient city to medieval European civilization. It has some impressive Roman monuments, of which the earliest – the arena, the Roman theatre and the cryptoporticus (subterranean galleries) – date back to the 1st Century BC.

During the 4th  Century AD, Arles experienced another golden age, as attested by the Thermae Constantinianae (Baths of Constantine) and the necropolis of Alyscamps. In the 11th and 12th Centuries, Arles once again became one of the most attractive cities in the Mediterranean.

Within the city walls, Saint-Trophime, with its cloister, is one of Provence’s major Romanesque monuments.

 

How This Relates to Rome:

The protected area covers 161 acre. The following buildings are located within this area:

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!