Review: Julius Caesar

Posted 13 March, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

Julius Caesar
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Ebook; my copy

In this striking tragedy of political conflict, Shakespeare turns to the ancient Roman world and to the famous assassination of Julius Caesar by his republican opponents. The play is one of tumultuous rivalry, of prophetic warnings—“Beware the ides of March”—and of moving public oratory—“Friends, Romans, countrymen!” Ironies abound and most of all for Brutus, whose fate it is to learn that his idealistic motives for joining the conspiracy against a would-be dictator are not enough to sustain the movement once Caesar is dead.

I was reading another blogger’s post when she mentioned the Ides of March. It occurred to me then that this was the perfect time to read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (not nerdy at all xP). This book is part of the William Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.

I really enjoyed reading Julius Caesar. On the one hand, it was interesting to see a lot of the familiar themes, tropes and phrases we’ve come to associate with Julius Caesar here in this play (“Beware the ides of March!”, “Et tu, Brutus?”, “Friends, Romans, countrymen!”). It’s hard not to imagine the actors from HBO’s Rome in their roles here and reciting these lines (wouldn’t that be grand if they did?), there’s a lot of drama going on in this play as Brutus and Cassius plans the assassination of Julius Caesar in the name of the Republic, only for their cause to collapse at Caesar’s funeral. This is especially the case with the character of Brutus, who claims he loves Caesar but “loves Rome more”; basically it’s a “Sorry, nothing personal” with regards to Caesar’s assassination. While Caesar doesn’t have very many scenes in this play, it’s interesting to see him in his scenes sort of defying fate and the gods and going about his business even though everything is warning him of his death.

Beyond the characterisation, the plot and the intrigue, I really loved the speeches here. There are so many fantastic monologues, especially in the first half of the play. I’m not sure which one is my favourite, they were all rather brilliant in their own ways. Here are a few of my favourites:

And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf,
But that he sees the Romans are but sheep:
He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.
Those that with haste will make a mighty fire
Begin it with weak straws: what trash is Rome,
What rubbish and what offal, when it serves
For the base matter to illuminate
So vile a thing as Caesar! – Act I, Scene iii (I think)

Gah, there was another segment from Cassius that I really liked but I can’t seem to find it at the moment; alas, should have written it straight away…

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come. – Act II, Scene ii

Not sure what else to add in this review at this point except that I really enjoyed reading this play, it was quite intriguing and engaging 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆

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6 Responses to “Review: Julius Caesar”

  1. Fun review! I read Julius Caesar in high school and enjoyed it. I didn’t try reading Shakespeare again until a few years ago when I read Macbeth in advance of seeing a theatrical production. Reading the play first really enhanced my enjoyment because I could anticipate all the best lines.

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