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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
Transcript of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is believed to have been written in 1599 and firstly performed in September 1599.
The source used by Shakespeare was Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Life of Brutus and Life of Caesar.
Scholars think that the play reflects the general anxiety of Elizabethan England over succession of leadership.
At the time of its creation and 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.
The tragedy portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, his assassination and the defeat of the conspirators at the Battle of Philippi.
It is one of several plays written by Shakespeare based on true events from Roman history, which also include Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra.
Although the title is Julius Caesar he isn’t the most visible character in the play: he appears in only three scenes, and is killed at the beginning of the third act.
Marcus Brutus speaks for many lines and the central theme of the play is his psychological conflict about honor, patriotism, and friendship
• Julius Caesar
• Calpurnia: Wife of Caesar
• Octavius, Mark Antony, Lepidus:
Triumvirs after the death of Julius Caesar
• Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Cinna: Some
conspirators against Julius Caesar
• Portia: Wife of Brutus
• A Soothsayer
Marcus Brutus is Caesar's close friend and a Roman praetor.
Brutus joins a group of conspiring senators because of the suspicion that Caesar intends to turn republican Rome into a monarchy under his own rule.
The early scenes deal mainly with Brutus's arguments with Cassius and his struggle with his own conscience but soon Brutus turns against Caesar.
Caesar's assassination is one of the most famous scenes of the play, occurring in Act 3.
After ignoring the advice of a soothsayer as well as his wife's premonitions, Caesar comes to the Senate. The conspirators create a superficial motive for the assassination of Caesar.
Casca stabs Caesar in the back of his neck, and the others follow him Brutus being the last.
At this point, Caesar utters the famous line "Et tu, Brute?" ( "You too, Brutus?").
The conspirators make clear that they committed this act for Rome, not for their own purposes.
After Caesar's death, Brutus delivers an oration defending his actions, and for the moment, the crowd is on his side.
However, Mark Antony, with a subtle speech over Caesar's corpse, which begins with the famous sentence "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" is able to turn public opinion against the conspirators .
Antony, with the mob on his side, drives the conspirators out of Rome.
The beginning of Act Four is marked by the quarrel between Brutus and Cassius about the noble act of regicide. Then the two are reconciled; they prepare for war with Mark Antony and Caesar's adopted son, Octavian.
That night, Caesar's ghost appears to Brutus with a warning of defeat.
At the battle, Cassius and Brutus knowing they will probably both die, smile their last smiles to each other and hold hands.
During the battle, Cassius and his best friend Titinius commit suicide
However, Brutus wins the first stage of the battle.
Brutus battles again the next day but this time he loses and commits suicide.
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 for the good of Rome.
There is then a small hint to the friction between Mark Antony and Octavius which will characterize another of Shakespeare's Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra.
Major Themes in the Play.
Public Self versus Private Self :
Much of the play’s tragedy comes from the characters’ neglect of private feelings and loyalties in favor of what they believe to be the public good. Brutus puts aside his personal loyalties and friendship to Caesar , his friend, instead he acts on what he believes to be the public’s wishes and kills Caesar
Cassius can be seen as a man who has gone to the extreme in cultivating his public persona. Caesar, describing Cassius, tells Antony that the problem with Cassius is his lack of a private life. Such a man will let nothing interfere with his ambition.
Lastly Caesar , who briefly agrees to stay home from the Senate in order to please Calpurnia, who has dreamed of his murder, gives way to ambition when Decius tells him that the senators plan to offer him the crown. -Caesar’s public self again takes precedence. Tragically he believes that the strength of his public self will protect his private self.
Inflexibility versus Compromise
Both Brutus and Caesar are stubborn, rather inflexible people who ultimately suffer fatally for it.
Antony proves perhaps the most adaptable of all of the politicians: while his speech to the Roman citizens centers on Caesar’s generosity he later turns his words order to raise an army against Brutus and Cassius.
Antony appears as a successful politician but from a moral point of view it seems to be no way to reconcile moral principles with success in politics.