The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (First Folio title: The Tragedie of Ivlivs Cæsar) is a history play and tragedy by William Shakespeare first performed in 1599. Although the play is named Julius Caesar, Brutus speaks more than four times as many lines as the title character, and the central psychological drama of the play focuses on Brutus.
Brutus joins a conspiracy led by Cassius to murder Julius Caesar, to prevent Caesar becoming a tyrant. Antony stirs up hostility against the conspirators. Rome becomes embroiled in civil war.
Triumvirs after Caesar's death
Conspirators against Caesar
Roman Senate Senators
Loyal to Brutus and Cassius
The play opens with two tribunes discovering the commoners of Rome celebrating Julius Caesar's triumphant return from defeating the sons of his military rival, Pompey. The tribunes, insulting the crowd for their change in loyalty from Pompey to Caesar, attempt to end the festivities and break up the commoners, who return the insults. During the feast of Lupercal, Caesar holds a victory parade and a soothsayer warns him to "Beware the ides of March", which he ignores. Meanwhile, Cassius attempts to convince Brutus to join his conspiracy to kill Caesar. Although Brutus, friendly towards Caesar, is hesitant to kill him, he agrees that Caesar may be abusing his power. They then hear from Casca that Mark Antony has offered Caesar the crown of Rome three times. Casca tells them that each time Caesar refused it with increasing reluctance, hoping that the crowd watching would insist that he accept the crown. He describes how the crowd applauded Caesar for denying the crown, and how this upset Caesar. On the eve of the ides of March, the conspirators meet and reveal that they have forged letters of support from the Roman people to tempt Brutus into joining. Brutus reads the letters and, after much moral debate, decides to join the conspiracy, thinking that Caesar should be killed to prevent him from doing anything against the people of Rome if he were ever to be crowned.
After ignoring the soothsayer, as well as his wife Calpurnia's own premonitions, Caesar goes to the Senate. The conspirators approach him with a fake petition pleading on behalf of Metellus Cimber's banished brother. As Caesar predictably rejects the petition, Casca and the others suddenly stab him; Brutus is last. At this point, Caesar utters the famous line "Et tu, Brute?"("And you, Brutus?", i.e. "You too, Brutus?"), concluding with "Then fall, Caesar!"
The conspirators make clear that they committed this murder for the good of Rome, in order to prevent an autocrat. They prove this by not attempting to flee the scene. Brutus delivers an oration defending his own actions, and for the moment, the crowd is on his side. However, 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, he deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the common people, in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus's speech, yet there is method in his rhetorical speech and gestures: he reminds them of the good Caesar had done for Rome, his sympathy with the poor, and his refusal of the crown at the Lupercal, thus questioning Brutus's claim of Caesar's ambition; he shows Caesar's bloody, lifeless body to the crowd to have them shed tears and gain sympathy for their fallen hero; and he reads Caesar's will, in which every Roman citizen would receive 75 drachmas. Antony, even as he states his intentions against it, rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome. Amid the violence, an innocent poet, Cinna, is confused with the conspirator Lucius Cinna and is taken by the mob, which kills him for such "offenses" as his bad verses. Brutus next attacks Cassius for supposedly soiling the noble act of regicide by having accepted bribes. ("Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake? / What villain touch'd his body, that did stab, / And not for justice?" ) The two are reconciled, especially after Brutus reveals that his beloved wife committed suicide under the stress of his absence from Rome; they prepare for a civil war against Mark Antony and Caesar's adopted son, Octavius, who have formed a triumvirate in Rome with Lepidus. That night, Caesar's ghost appears to Brutus with a warning of defeat. (He informs Brutus, "Thou shalt see me at Philippi." )
At the battle, 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 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. However, Brutus wins that stage of the battle, but his victory is not conclusive. With a heavy heart, Brutus battles again the next day. He loses and commits suicide by running on his own sword, held for him by a loyal soldier.
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 characterises another of Shakespeare's Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra.
The main source of the play is Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives .
Shakespeare deviated from these historical facts to curtail time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged more easily. The tragic force is condensed into a few scenes for heightened effect.
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. The play is not mentioned in the list of Shakespeare's plays published by Francis Meres in 1598. Based on these two points, as well as 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.
The text of Julius Caesar in the First Folio is the only authoritative text for the play. The Folio text is notable for its quality and consistency; scholars judge it to have been set into type from a theatrical prompt-book.
The play contains many anachronistic elements from the Elizabethan era. The characters mention objects such as doublets (large, heavy jackets) – which did not exist in ancient Rome. Caesar is mentioned to be wearing an Elizabethan doublet instead of a Roman toga. At one point a clock is heard to strike and Brutus notes it with "Count the clock".
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Maria Wyke has written that the play reflects the general anxiety of Elizabethan England over succession of leadership. At the time of its creation and first 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.
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 Three, Scene One. But Caesar compares himself to the Northern Star, and perhaps it would be foolish not to consider him as the axial character of the play, around whom the entire story turns. Intertwined in this debate is a smattering of philosophical and psychological ideologies on republicanism and monarchism. One author, Robert C. Reynolds, devotes attention to the names or epithets given to both Brutus and Caesar in his essay "Ironic Epithet in Julius Caesar". He points out that Casca praises Brutus at face value, but then inadvertently compares him to a disreputable joke of a man by calling him an alchemist, "Oh, he sits high in all the people's hearts,/And that which would appear offence in us/ His countenance, like richest alchemy,/ Will change to virtue and to worthiness" (I.iii.158–160). Reynolds also talks about Caesar and his "Colossus" epithet, which he points out has its obvious connotations of power and manliness, but also lesser known connotations of an outward glorious front and inward chaos.
Myron Taylor, in his essay "Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and the Irony of History", compares the logic and philosophies of Caesar and Brutus. Caesar is deemed an intuitive philosopher who is always right when he goes with his instinct; for instance, when he says he fears Cassius as a threat to him before he is killed, his intuition is correct. Brutus is portrayed as a man similar to Caesar, but whose passions lead him to the wrong reasoning, which he realises in the end when he says in V.v.50–51, "Caesar, now be still:/ I kill'd not thee with half so good a will".
Joseph W. Houppert acknowledges 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 republic over his personal relationship with Caesar and kills him. Brutus makes the political mistakes that bring down the republic that his ancestors created. He acts on his passions, does not gather enough evidence to make reasonable decisions and is manipulated by Cassius and the other conspirators.
Traditional readings of the play may maintain that Cassius and the other conspirators are motivated largely by envy and ambition, whereas Brutus is motivated by the demands of honour and patriotism. Certainly, this is the view that Antony expresses in the final scene. But one of the central strengths of the play is that it resists categorising its characters as either simple heroes or villains. The political journalist and classicist Garry Wills maintains that "This play is distinctive because it has no villains".
It is a drama famous for the difficulty of deciding which role to emphasise. The characters rotate around each other like the plates of a Calder mobile. Touch one and it affects the position of all the others. Raise one, another sinks. But they keep coming back into a precarious balance.
The play was probably one of Shakespeare's first to be performed at the Globe Theatre.Thomas Platter the Younger, a Swiss traveller, saw a tragedy about Julius Caesar at a Bankside theatre on 21 September 1599, and this was most likely Shakespeare's play, as there is no obvious alternative candidate. (While the story of Julius Caesar was dramatised repeatedly in the Elizabethan/Jacobean period, none of the other plays known are as good a match with Platter's description as Shakespeare's play.)
After the theatres re-opened at the start of the Restoration era, the play was revived by Thomas Killigrew's King's Company in 1672. Charles Hart initially played Brutus, as did Thomas Betterton in later productions. Julius Caesar was one of the very few Shakespeare plays that was not adapted during the Restoration period or the eighteenth century.
One of the earliest cultural references to the play came in Shakespeare's own Hamlet . Prince Hamlet asks Polonius about his career as a thespian at university, Polonius replies "I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i' th' Capitol. Brutus killed me." This is a likely meta-reference, as Richard Burbage is generally accepted to have played leading men Brutus and Hamlet, and the older John Heminges to have played Caesar and Polonius.
In 1851, the German composer Robert Schumann wrote a concert overture Julius Caesar , inspired by Shakespeare's play. Other musical settings include those by Giovanni Bononcini, Hans von Bülow, Felix Draeseke, Josef Bohuslav Foerster, John Ireland, John Foulds, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Manfred Gurlitt, Darius Milhaud, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
The Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster parodied Julius Caesar in their 1958 sketch Rinse the Blood off My Toga. Flavius Maximus, Private Roman Eye, is hired by Brutus to investigate the death of Caesar. The police procedural combines Shakespeare, Dragnet , and vaudeville jokes and was first broadcast on The Ed Sullivan Show .
In 1984, the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City produced a modern dress Julius Caesar set in contemporary Washington, called simply CAESAR!, starring Harold Scott as Brutus, Herman Petras as Caesar, Marya Lowry as Portia, Robert Walsh as Antony, and Michael Cook as Cassius, directed by W. Stuart McDowell at The Shakespeare Center.
In 2006, Chris Taylor from the Australian comedy team The Chaser wrote a comedy musical called Dead Caesar which was shown at the Sydney Theatre Company in Sydney.
The line "The Evil That Men Do", from the speech made by Mark Antony following Caesar's death ("The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.") has had many references in media, including the titles of ...
The 2008 movie Me and Orson Welles , based on a book of the same name by Robert Kaplow, is a fictional story centred around Orson Welles' famous 1937 production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre. British actor Christian McKay is cast as Welles, and co-stars with Zac Efron and Claire Danes.
The 2012 Italian drama film Caesar Must Die (Italian : Cesare deve morire), directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, follows convicts in their rehearsals ahead of a prison performance of Julius Caesar.
In the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451 , some of the character Beatty's last words are "There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am armed so strong in honesty that they pass me as an idle wind, which I respect not!"
The play's line "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves", spoken by Cassius in Act I, scene 2, is often referenced in popular culture. The line gave its name to the J.M. Barrie play Dear Brutus, and also gave its name to the best selling young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and its film adaptation. The same line was quoted in Edward R. Murrow's epilogue of his famous 1954 See It Now documentary broadcast concerning Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. This speech and the line were recreated in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck . It was also quoted by George Clooney's character in the Coen brothers film Intolerable Cruelty .
The line "And therefore think him as a serpent's egg / Which hatch'd, would, as his kind grow mischievous; And kill him in the shell" spoken by Brutus in Act II, Scene 1, is referenced in the Dead Kennedys song "California über alles".
The titles of Agatha Christie novel Taken at the Flood, titled There Is a Tide in its American edition, refer to an iconic line of Brutus: "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." (Act IV, Scene III).
Julius Caesar has been adapted to a number of film productions, including:
Modern adaptions of the play have often made contemporary political references,with Caesar depicted as resembling a variety of political leaders, including Huey Long, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair. Professor A. J. Hartley, the Robinson Chair of Shakespeare Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, states that this is a fairly "common trope" of Julius Caesar performances: "Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the rule has been to create a recognisable political world within the production. And often people in the title role itself look like or feel like somebody either in recent or current politics." A 2012 production of Julius Caesar by the Guthrie Theater and The Acting Company "presented Caesar in the guise of a black actor who was meant to suggest President Obama." This production was not particularly controversial. In 2017, however, a modern adaptation of the play at New York's Shakespeare in the Park (performed by The Public Theater) depicted Caesar with the likeness of then-president Donald Trump and thereby aroused ferocious controversy, drawing criticism by media outlets such as The Daily Caller and Breitbart and prompting corporate sponsors Bank of America and Delta Airlines to pull their financial support. The Public Theater stated that the message of the play is not pro-assassination and that the point is that "those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save." Shakespeare scholars Stephen Greenblatt and Peter Holland agreed with this statement. Pallotta stated that "I have never read anyone suggesting that 'Julius Caesar' is a play that recommends assassination. Look what happens: Caesar is assassinated to stop him becoming a dictator. Result: civil war, massive slaughter, creation of an emperor, execution of many who sympathized with the conspiracy. Doesn't look much like a successful result for the conspirators to me." The play was interrupted several times by right-wing protesters, who accused the play of "violence against the right", and actors and members of theatres with Shakespeare in the name were harassed and received death threats, including the wife of the play's director Oskar Eustis. The protests were praised by American Family Association director Sandy Rios who compared the play with the execution of Christians by damnatio ad bestias.
Gaius Julius Caesar is a Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating Pompey in a civil war and governing the Roman Republic as a dictator starting in 49 BC.
Marcus Junius Brutus, often referred to simply as Brutus, was a Roman politician, orator, and the most famous of the assassins of Julius Caesar. After being adopted by an uncle, he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, which was retained as his legal name.
Gaius Cassius Longinus, often referred to as simply Cassius, was a Roman senator and general best known as a leading instigator of the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC. He was the brother-in-law of Brutus, another leader of the conspiracy. He commanded troops with Brutus during the Battle of Philippi against the combined forces of Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar's former supporters, and committed suicide after being defeated by Mark Antony.
Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus was a Roman general and politician of the late republican period and one of the leading instigators of Julius Caesar's assassination. He had previously been an important supporter of Caesar in the Gallic Wars and in the civil war against Pompey. Decimus Brutus is often confused with his distant cousin and fellow conspirator, Marcus Junius Brutus.
Publius Servilius Casca Longus was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. He and several other senators conspired to kill him, a plan which they carried out on 15 March, 44 BC. Afterwards, Casca fought with the liberators during the Liberators' civil war. He is believed to have died by suicide after their defeat at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC.
Gaius Helvius Cinna was an influential neoteric poet of the late Roman Republic, a little older than the generation of Catullus and Calvus. He was lynched at the funeral of Julius Caesar after being mistaken for an unrelated Cornelius Cinna who had spoken out in support of the dictator's assassins.
Et tu, Brute? is a Latin phrase literally meaning "and you, Brutus?" or "also you, Brutus?", often translated as "You as well, Brutus?", "You too, Brutus?", or "Even you, Brutus?". The quote appears in Act 3 Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, where it is spoken by the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, at the moment of his assassination, to his friend Marcus Junius Brutus, upon recognizing him as one of the assassins. The first known occurrences of the phrase are said to be in two earlier Elizabethan plays; Henry VI, Part 3 by Shakespeare, and an even earlier play, Caesar Interfectus, by Richard Edes. The phrase is often used apart from the plays to signify an unexpected betrayal by a friend.
Julius Caesar is a 1953 American film adaptation of the Shakespearean play, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by John Houseman for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It stars Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Edmond O'Brien as Casca, Louis Calhern as Caesar, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia.
Lucius Tillius Cimber was a Roman senator. He was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar, creating the diversion that enabled the conspirators to attack.
Empire is an American historical television series for ABC. It is an historical drama set in 44 BC Rome, and covers the struggle of a young Octavius, the nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, to become the first emperor of Rome. Octavius is helped in his quest by a fictitious gladiator called Tyrannus.
Imperium: Augustus is a 2003 joint British-Italian production, and part of the Imperium series. It tells of the life story of Octavian and how he became Augustus. Half the film takes place in the past and the other half takes place in the later life of Augustus.
Cleopatra is a 1999 miniseries adaptation of Margaret George's 1997 historical fiction novel The Memoirs of Cleopatra. Produced by Hallmark Entertainment, it stars Leonor Varela as the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, Timothy Dalton as Julius Caesar, Billy Zane as Mark Antony, Rupert Graves as Octavius, Sean Pertwee as Brutus and Bruce Payne as Cassius. Cleopatra was shown first on the ABC television network in two parts on two consecutive evenings in May 1999 and then released on videotape and DVD. Judy Farr, Martin Hitchcock and Frank Walsh were nominated for an Emmy in 1999 for outstanding art direction for a miniseries or a movie for their work on Cleopatra.
Julius Caesar is a 1970 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play of the same name, directed by Stuart Burge. It stars Charlton Heston as Mark Antony, Jason Robards as Brutus, Richard Johnson as Cassius, John Gielgud as Caesar, Robert Vaughn as Casca, Richard Chamberlain as Octavius, and Diana Rigg as Portia. It was an independent production of Commonwealth United Entertainment, filmed in England and Spain. It is the first film version of the play made in colour.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" is the first line of a speech by Mark Antony in the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. Occurring in Act III, scene II, it is one of the most famous lines in all of Shakespeare's works.
Die Ermordung Cäsars, Op. 32, is an opera in one act by Giselher Klebe who also wrote the libretto based on the translation by August Wilhelm von Schlegel of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar.
Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator, was assassinated by a group of senators on the Ides of March of 44 BC during a meeting of the Senate at the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. The senators stabbed Caesar 23 times. The senators claimed to be acting over fears that Caesar's unprecedented concentration of power during his dictatorship was undermining the Roman Republic, and presented the deed as an act of tyrannicide. At least 60 senators were party to the conspiracy, led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and Decimus Junius Brutus. Despite the death of Caesar, the conspirators were unable to restore the institutions of the Republic. The ramifications of the assassination led to the Liberators' civil war and ultimately to the Principate period of the Roman Empire.
Caesar is the title of Orson Welles's innovative 1937 adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a modern-dress bare-stage production that evoked comparison to contemporary Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Considered Welles's highest achievement in the theatre, it premiered November 11, 1937, as the first production of the Mercury Theatre, an independent repertory theatre company that presented an acclaimed series of productions on Broadway through 1941.
The Spread of the Eagle is a nine-part serial adaptation of three sequential history plays of William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra, produced by the BBC in 1963. It was inspired by the success of An Age of Kings (1960), which it was unable to rival. The episodes also aired in West Germany in 1968-69 and in 1972.
The last words of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar are disputed. Ancient chroniclers reported a variety of phrases and post-classical writers have elaborated on the phrases and their interpretation. The two most common theories – prevalent as early as the second century AD – are that he said nothing or that he said, in Greek, καὶ σύ, τέκνον kaì sý, téknon 'you too, child'.
Heil Caesar is a 1973 BBC television drama. It was an adaptation by John Bowen of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar which was produced by Ronald Smedley. The production designer was Humphrey Jaeger. The adaption is listed as one of Bowen's achievements in his obituary in The Guardian newspaper It was originally made in three parts for use with schools and colleges but it was shown again a year later on BBC 2 on 21 October 1974 in a single 90 minute slot. In 1975, the BBC made a further introductory programme for schools to add to the original three episodes which examined the series in more detail for schools and which included comments from the original cast.
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