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Julius Caesar - Themes revision for GCSE EnglishLiterature

Analysis of themes and advice for writing essays in the GCSE exam.

Jennifer Webb

on 15 November 2012

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Transcript of Julius Caesar - Themes revision for GCSE EnglishLiterature

Julius Caesar "sacred blood..." "sacrificers, not butchers..." "honourable men..." For the exam, you will answer two mini essay questions. One will give you an extract to analyse and the other will ask you to choose another part of the play to write about. Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
For Antony is but a limb of Caesar: Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius. And for Mark Antony, think not of him;
For he can do no more than Caesar's arm
When Caesar's head is off. We shall be call'd purgers, not murderers. And let our hearts, as subtle masters do,
Stir up their servants to an act of rage,
And after seem to chide 'em. This shall make
Our purpose necessary and not envious:
Which so appearing to the common eyes, Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds: We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar;
And in the spirit of men there is no blood:
O, that we then could come by Caesar's spirit,
And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends,
Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully; Act 2, Scene 1. Lines 161 - 182 Caesar:

She dreamt to-night she saw my statua,
Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts,

And these does she apply for warnings, and portents,
And evils imminent; and on her knee
Hath begg'd that I will stay at home to-day.

Decius Brutus:

This dream is all amiss interpreted;
It was a vision fair and fortunate:
Your statue spouting blood in many pipes,
In which so many smiling Romans bathed,

This by Calpurnia's dream is signified. Did run pure blood: and many lusty Romans
Came smiling, and did bathe their hands in it: Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
Reviving blood, and that great men shall press
For tinctures, stains, relics and cognizance. Act 2, Scene 2. Lines 76 - 90 "Caesar was ambitious..." The play contrasts the images of 'sacrifice' and 'butchery' throughout. The conspirators are desperate to maintain that the murder is necessary and honourable; a sacrifice for the good of Rome. Antony turns this around when he describes them as 'butchers' and shows Caesar's bloody robe to the crowd,
"the well-beloved Brutus stabbed,
And as he plucked the cursed steel away, Mark how the blood of Caesar followed it" (3.2, L 174-176) Sacrifice was an important part of the religion of Ancient Rome. Priests used to sacrifice animals before significant events such as battles and marriages. The Romans were VERY superstitious. In Act 2, Scene 2, Caesar asks for an animal to be sacrificed so that he knows whether or not to go to the Senate House. The priests say they cannot find a heart in the animal, and Caesar wrongly interprets this. If he had heeded the warning, he may not have died. Caesar's blood is constantly referred to as being cleansing and purifying. His death and the spilling of his blood are seen as sacred because they save Rome from tyranny... The conspirators wash themselves in his blood to show that they are proud of the deed... Antony calls Caesar's blood "rich" and says that the very weapons which bear it are now precious... ...he describes the conspirators' hands as being "purple"; the colour of royalty. There are MANY images of people dipping hands and "napkins" and "tinctures" in Caesar's blood to gain "a rich legacy". He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;

He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. And Brutus is an honourable man. Act 3, Scene 2. Lines 86 - 95. Remember March, the ides of March remember:
Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?
What villain touch'd his body, that did stab,
And not for justice? What, shall one of us
That struck the foremost man of all this world
But for supporting robbers, shall we now

For so much trash as may be grasped thus?
I had rather be a dog, and bay the moon,
Than such a Roman. Contaminate our fingers with base bribes,
And sell the mighty space of our large honours Act 4, Scene 3. Lines 18 - 28 The word "honour" has many meanings in this play; there is a fine line between honour and self-seeking brutality. Cassius wants "the noble Brutus" to join the conspirators because he is known as honourable and might add respectability to the plan. Brutus kills Caesar for "honourable" reasons, but Cassius does it because he is jealous... Antony plays on the word "honourable" in his speech at Caesar's funeral, and makes the crowd believe that the conspirators are, in fact, NOT honourable. The conspirators are worried that Caesar will be crowned king and become a tyrant. At the time, Rome was a republic and the people took pride in ruling themselves. At the start of the play Caesar is offered a crown three times; an ominous number... Caesar speaks about himself as if he is greater than other men. Some of his final words suggest he thinks he is a god,
"Hence! Wilt thou lift up Olympus?" The ambitions of others such as Cassius and Antony become clear in the power vacuum which is created by Caesar's death.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that 'Caesar'?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with 'em,
Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar. Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed!
Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!
When went there by an age, since the great flood,
But it was famed with more than with one man?

Now is it Rome indeed and room enough,
When there is in it but one only man.
O, you and I have heard our fathers say,
There was a Brutus once that would have brook'd
The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
As easily as a king. Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves. When could they say till now, that talk'd of Rome,
That her wide walls encompass'd but one man? Act 1, Scene 2. Lines 134 - 160

Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities: It must be by his death: and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general.
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;
And that craves wary walking. Crown him?--that;--
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him,
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,

Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round. That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, He then unto the ladder turns his back,Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may. And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,And kill him in the shell. He would be crown'd: Act 2, Scene 1. Lines 10 - 34 Here, Brutus explains why they should only kill Caesar and no-one else. Note the brutal imagery of hacking a body to pieces... Here, Cassius describes Caesar as having grown too powerful, and suggests that his position will mean that other men lose out. Note the imagery related to giants and gods... Here Brutus convinces himself that only Caesar's murder will suffice. He says that Caesar has the potential to do great wrong. Note the imagery related to ascension (climbing higher) and snakes. Here, Caesar tells Decius Brutus about Calphurnia's dream, and Decius Brutus interprets is favourably in order to manipulate Caesar into going to the Senate House. Note the imagery describing drinking and being healed/purified by Caesar's blood... Here, Brutus is angry with Cassius because he has been involved with corruption and selling bribes. Brutus says that by doing this he has besmirched the honour of all the conspirators. Note the imagery of dirty fingers echoes the bloody hands in Act 3 Scene 1... Here, Antony turns the crowd at Caesar's funeral so that they hate the conspirators. Note the repetition of "honourable", used to build tension and momentum. The best way to succeed is to have a good understanding of the key themes and images which run through the play, and to know how the characters' fears and ambitions affect what happens... These notes should give you a clear overview of some of the key ideas and give you some hints for language analysis. POWER and AMBITION HONOUR and LOYALTY A GOOD deed or an EVIL one? Caesar's BLOOD is PRECIOUS To revise, think of other themes in the play and find extracts which exemplify them... Part (a)

In the exam:
1. Read the question and underline the key words (this will be a theme or a character)
2. Read the extract , underlining any words or phrases which might answer the question (look for things which are good for analysing)
3. Choose four of these words or phrases and write an analytical paragraph about each one. You do NOT need to write an introduction or conclusion for part (a)
Try to spend no more than 20 minutes on this question. Part (b)

In the exam:
1. Read the question and underline the key words (this will be linked to the theme or character from part (a))
2. Choose a short section of the play to write about - make sure it's one which you know well and has some 'juicy' stuff to analyse!
3. Write a BRIEF introduction which places the extract in context and states clearly how it answers the question.
4. Write four paragraphs, ensuring that you analyse in depth and talk about themes, imagery, structure and form. Good
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