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Lecture on Julius Caesar

Alexa Huang

Alexa Alice Joubin

on 19 October 2016

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Transcript of Lecture on Julius Caesar



Alexa Huang
First play presented at the newly constructed Globe (1599)

Topical and allusive; audience familiarity

Fall of Roman Republic (monarchy) vs. Elizabethan England?
A pivotal play in Shakespeare's career (Lord Chamberlain's Men)

Beginning of a more mature phase of Shakespeare's writing (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth followed)
Few Shakespeareans plays have been more frequently performed on stage and studied in schools

Religious allegory? (Julius Caesar, C.S. =/= Jesus Christ)

Assassination of Caesar = mythical event of cosmic significance
Why is the Globe's inaugural play entitled Julius Caesar rather than Marcus Brutus (when Caesar dies in the third act)?

Killing Caesar does not dispose of him

In early modern England, Caesar's name was shorthand for the accomplishements of Roman civilization

Failings of an ambitious leader

(Douglas Trevor's Intro to the Pelican edition of the play, xxxv-xxxvi)
Roman Values
Influenced early American leaders

Thomas Jefferson kept a commonplace book that frequently uses Shakespearean passages

Jefferson was drawn to passages "of defiance and rebellion" and characters struggling with issues of authority
Political Drama
Julius Caesar and American History
The assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, was planned and carried out by well-known actor John Wilkes Booth

Booth played Marc Antony at the Winter Garden Theatre for a benefit performance of Julius Caesar on Nov. 25, 1864

The press would call Booth a Brutus.

Furstrated actor confusing art with life?

Read Albert Furtwangler, Assassin on Stage: Brutus, Hamlet, and the Death of Lincoln (U Illinois Press, 1991)




public service

decent acknowledgment in death (burial)

eloquence and oration = self-conscious rhetorical set-pieces displaying language and argument

suicide also a characteristic Roman act (Macbeth refuses to "play the Roman fool, and die / on mine own sword," 5.10.1-2)
Roman Women
Women stand for a special set of values convenient to Roman men in a patriarchal society




Calpurnia and Portia = classic vignettes of the Roman wives

inheriting values from their men: Brutus's wife Portia asserts a dignity that comes from her marriage and from her father Cato's integrity

Caesar ignores his wife Calpurnia and her dreams
a play about people who make costly mistakes?

(according to Montgomery's Intro)
private life
public roles
Calpurnia's barrenness

Calpurnia's dreams

Caesar's pride

public Caesar vs private Caesar
Cassius saves the "tired Caesar" (1.2.117) from drowning in the river Tibert

Caesar shakes with fever on the campaign in Spain (cries out for drink like "a sick girl," 1.2.130)

Public, powerful Caesar ("a god") resented by Cassius
Morte de Cesare (Death of Caesar, 1798) by Italian Neoclassic painter Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1884)
61-60 BC Caesar served as governor of the Roman province of Spain
A group of senators led by Cassius and Brutus, assassinated Caesar on the Ides (15) of March 44 BC.
Prevented the Gallic invasions. 2 expeditions to Britain, in 55 BC and 54 BC.
His family, the prestigious Julian clan, was closely connected with the Marian faction in Roman politics
Caesar now master of Rome: consul and dictator; used his power to carry out much-needed reform. His success and ambition alienated strongly republican senators.
Julius Caesar born in Rome in 100 BC
Common Moves in Research Paper
Establish research question and argument
Establish a niche (what's new)
Occupy and niche (develop argument, cite evidence)
Writing a Literary Studies Paper
Julius Caesar bust, Vatican Museum
Caesar's ghost represents necromantic prophecy when it appears to Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. The ghost of Caesar looks forward in time to the defeat of his foes
Caesar's spirit can only be put to rest by self-slaughter (suicide)

Brutus (possessed): "O Julius Caesar thou art mighty yet! / Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords / To our own proper entrails" (5.3.93-6)
Dichotomy between the Public and Private Caesars
Self-reference in the third person as though he has become a god (an obsession of later Roman emperors in fact)
"Julius Caesar" is a concept (an institution) as well as a person
Brutus obsessively uses the word "I" (subjective, introspective, private)
Shall Caesar send a lie? ...
Decius, go tell them Caesar will not come (2.2.65-68).
Caesar should be a beast without a heart
If he should stay at home today for fear.
No, Caesar shall not. Danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he.
We are two lions littered in one day,
And I the elder and more terrible.
And Caesar shall go forth (2.2.42-48).
That you do love me I am nothing jealous.
What you would work me to I have some aim.
How I have thought of this of of these times
I shall recount hereafter. For this present,
I would not, so with love I might entreat you,
Be any further moved. What you have said
I will consider. What you have to say
I will with patience hear ... (1.2.163-170)
Oratory: Three Main Categories
1. Deliberative oratory -- used to persuade an audience such as a legislative assembly to approve or disapprove of matters of public policy (e.g. clerics at the beginning of Henry V: meaning and application of the "Salic law"
2. Forensic oratory -- used to achieve condemnation or approval of an individual's actions (usually at a judicial trial). Example: courtroom scene in the Merchant of Venice
3. Epideictic oratory (display rhetoric) -- used on ceremonial occasions to dilate upon the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of a person. Examples: eulogy of Hero's supposed death in Much Ado About Nothing; funeral orations after Caesar is murdered
Caesar vs. Macbeth
Calpurnia: do not go

Caesar: Caesar shall go forth
Plutarch vs. Shakespeare
"barren" Calpurnia -- hidden hostility toward Caesar who has humiliated her publicly
her active sleep-talking replaces more passiave fears regarding hostile, murderous impulses toward her husband (Terrence N. Tice)
Plutarch: Calpurnia dreams she holds the slain Caesar "in her arms" (wife, mother, fantasized murderer?)

This is omitted by Shakespeare
deep structure of a "simple" dream
Caesar is a play full of omens and dreams that are without exception misinterpreted
But the "dream material" itself does not produce disasters; reactions--both deliberate (Decius Brutus) and unconsidered (Caesar)--to the material do
dreams in the play are morally neutral elements "incapable of effect without interpretation" (Marjorie Garber)
we are invited to scrutizie the characters who read the signs, to witness the tragedy of misconstruction (Harold Bloom)
Macbeth: We will proceed no further in this business ...

Lady Macbeth: When you durst do it, then you were a man

Macbeth: If we should fail?
Decius Brutus' Interpretation of Calpurnia's Dream
fails to see the revengeful quality of Caesar's ensuing immortality
interpretation ironically accurate (Caesar's blood offering revitalizing substance to Rome)
parallel: heirless Caesar vs. childless, aging Queen Elizabeth (over 65 years old in 1599)
Structural Devices
vitality vs disorder (sickness / infirmity)
cold-blooded resolve vs sympathizing tears
reason vs unruly passion
(plus the consequences of self-deception and misjudgment)
continuing dread disturbances of the night
In Macbeth, Banquo is murdered because of patrilinearity

Banquo's ghost stands for the dead; the appearance of his ghost as a silent spectacle indicates that the discontinuity of patrilinearity is reversible.
Ghosts of the play "Richard III" look back to tell the stories of their own deaths
Caesar's ghost brings back what Brutus and Cassius had hoped to conceal
The woman's body is used to mitigate the crisis of masculine self-representation that is the play's narrative focus

-- Brutus’s wife kills herself by swallowing fire (in Julius Caesar)
-- silent, mutilated, raped Lavinia in Titus Andronicus
-- Coriolanus's mother Volumnia pleads with him: "our raiment / And state of bodies" (5.3.95-96)
JULIUS CAESAR (dir. Craig Rich), Salt Lake Shakespeare, Babcock Stage, Pioneer Memorial Theatre, Aug. 2004

Marcus Brutus (Paul Kiernan, left, kneeling), Casca (Emily Sandack, top), Julius Caesar (Tony Larimer, center) and Cassius (Enid Atkinson, right)

Bodies on Display in Shakespeare's Roman Plays
human bodies regularly on display

Caesar's corpse = a sign of his unstoppable force
Caplurnia dreams of Caesar's statue running blood

Antony imageins his wounds as pleading mouths (3.1.262-264)
Assassination in Time
Rome caught between a dying republic and a stillborn monarchy --> no workable political institutions
Let's consider the TEMPORALITY of the action and its consequences
On the morning of the assassination, Brutus's wife Portia hears "a bustling rumor, like a fray, / And the wind brings it from the Capitol" (2.4.19-20)

The event projects itself backward in time from the future (Portia hears it before it happens)
Caesar dies spekaing Latin (rather than Greek as in Plutarch)
--> making the moment a past action breaking through time and re-creating itself in the present

He then returns to English to make his death an act of his own WILL
--> this is the Elizabethan present
The conspirators stoop and wash in Caesar's blood, they also project themselves forward in time ("How many ages hence ..." 3.1.112-119)

They speak in a language (Elizabethan English) that does not yet exist (for the Romans) in a country that for them would be an obscure northern island
Your Turn!
Richard Westall, Brutus and the Ghost of Caesar (1802)
Copperplate engraving by E. Scriven for The Boydell Shakespeare Prints vol. II; caption on the engraving reads "XXX. JULIUS CAESAR. ACT IV. SCENE III. BRUTUS'S TENT, IN THE CAMP NEAR SARDIS. Brutus and the Ghost of Caesar."

The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

Appearance and Nature of Caesar's Ghost
What might Freud say?
Thy Evil Spirit?
Another example of anachronism: Brutus reading and turning pages of a book in 4.2 --> condex book with turning pages had not yet been invented in Roman times
stage direction: Enter the Ghost of Caesar (4.2) at Brutus's camp near Sardis (now western Turkey)
Unlike medieval dream visions (e.g. Chaucer's Book of the Duchesse), Brutus meets this specter while awake rather than asleep
Most Shakespearean ghosts appear with all their wounds upon them (the "blood-baltered" Banquo (ghost) shakes "gory locks" at Macbeth (his murderer)

The Ghost in Hamlet appears "in his habit as he lived" (murdered by poison in the ear --> his body has no wounds)
But is Caesar's ghost torn by wounds?

Audience has already seen the bloody robe of Caesar and his body "marred ... by traitors"
Brutus finds that the "thing" he killed is unable to be slain

Now appearing in his tent, this specter reflects the blame back on Brutus ("Thy evil spirit, Brutus")
Freud's notion of the uncanny (uncertainty as to whether something is alive or dead

Das Unheimliche -- familiar yet foreign at the same time
cognitive dissonance

... taught today in classes on drama, political theory, business leadership, and negotation
Cassius, overcome by "hateful error, melancholy's child," has Pindarus kill him (5.3.67-68)

Cassius's last words: "Caesar, thou art reveng'd,/ Even with the sword that kill'd thee" (5.3.45-46)

Where's Caesar's ghost?

It's in Brutus's interepretation: "O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!/ Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords/ In our own proper entrails" (5.3.94-96)

What is the specter? Brutus's "evil spirit" or Caesar's avenging spirit?
Is Caesar's Ghost seeking or effecting revenge?
Brutus mentions "the Ghost of Caesar" appeared to him last night at Philippi (5.5.17)
Brutus addresses Caesar: "Caesar, now be still, / I kill'd not thee with half so good a will" (5.5.60-51) before running upon his sword held by Strato and dies
Avenue of Self-Knowledge?

The text is old; the orator too green.

Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis (1593)
Now Thrive the Armorers
audio tour available on Folger's website
Conspirators' Action
Plays about Caesar (before Shakespeare's) in Latin, French, and English:

-- Caesar Interfectus at Oxford, 1582

-- 2-part Caesar play in 1594 recorded by Philip Henslowe

--Thomas Kyd's Cornelia in 1594
Orson Welles's anti-Fascist New York production (1937)
Julius Caesar
Sources, Legacy, Adaptations

Julius Caesar
Ancient Times
Plutarch's Lives (Brutus, Caesar, Antony)
Climax: Death of Brutus + Antony's eulogy
Antony's counter-action
Murder of Caesar
Funeral Orations
Thomas North's translation of Amyot's French translation of a
Latin translation of Plutarch
Dante put Brutus and Cassius (with Judas) in the deepest part of hell
Michelangelo idealized Brutus in a famous bust
Shakespeare's England
Modern Times
Transition to Modernity
haunted the French Revolution and its aftermath

rewritten by Bertolt Brecht

appropriated by Karl Marx

the first Shakespearean play to be translated in Japan

1884 Japanese translation: The Strange Tale of Caesar or the Lingering Taste of Sharpness of the Sword of Freedom (by Tsubochi Shoyo)
John Gielgud: There is always the danger of the effect of a lot of gentlemen sitting on marble benches in a Turkish bath.
Joseph Mankiewicz's 1953 film evoking modern history
Producer John Houseman: Hitler in Nurenberg; Mussolini on his balcony (docile mob massed below)
Giulio Cesare, dir. Andrea Baracco of Teatro di Roma
World Shakespeare Festival, London Globe, 2012
Caesar Must Die, dir. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.
Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale
NY Times story http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/movies/paolo-and-vittorio-taviani-direct-caesar-must-die.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Full transcript