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Julius Caesar

Written: c. 1599; Text: First Folio 1623 (Tragedy); no quarto editions
Source: Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North's English translation in 1579)
Characters: Brutus, Mark Antony, Cassius, Julius Caesar, Portia, Calpurnia
Setting: Rome, and other locations in Italy
Time:  c. 44-42 BC

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The Snare of Vanity

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In Act 2, Scene 1 of Julius Caesar, Decius Brutus uses “betrayed” to mean fooled, tricked or misled. A person can escape a unicorn by hiding behind a tree; a bear can be misled by seeing itself in a mirror; an elephant can be tricked into falling into a hole; a lion caught in a trap; and men seduced by flatterers.
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Wives and Troubled Husbands

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Lady Percy’s plea to Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1, is similar to Portia’s plea to Brutus in Julius Caesar. In both a wife is pleading with her husband to disclose the thoughts that seem to trouble him deeply. A difference, however, is that some psychologists consider Lady Percy’s speech a clinical description of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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Pandering, Contempt and the Masses

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Many of Shakespeare’s plays deal with political intrigue at court between political leaders. However, in Julius Caesar and Coriolanus, more than in other plays, the themes address the relationships between political leaders and the masses. Since both plays are set in historic Rome and not in Shakespeare’s England, they can deal with the themes of democracy and the wisdom of the populace to govern themselves through a republican form of representation.
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Political Rhetoric and the Masses

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Brutus’s tour de force of interwoven rhetorical devices in Julius Caesar (3.2.14) sways the crowd away from their anger at the assassins to cheering them. This speech, however, is outdone by Mark Antony’s masterpiece of manipulation (3.2.82), which whiplashes the crowd back to outrage and riot. But, in fact, Brutus had failed in his speech even before Mark Antony opened his mouth.
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Video: Friends, Romans, Countrymen

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Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in the 1953 film of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.


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Video: Romans, countrymen, and lovers

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James Mason as Brutus in the 1953 film of  Julius Caesar directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.


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Video: Thou bleeding piece of earth

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Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in the 1953 film of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.


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Richard III and the Sonnet

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“Now is the winter of our discontent” is nearly as familiar as Hamlet’s, “To be, or not to be” and Mark Antony’s, “Friends, Romans, countrymen”. Not one of these three passages is a dramatic dialogue. Mark Antony addresses a large Roman crowd in an extended speech. Hamlet muses to himself in a soliloquy while we the audience listen in. Richard, however,
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Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?

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Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?
What tributaries follow him to Rome,
To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?Quaesitio

You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
Knew you not Pompey?Anaphora
Many a time and oftHendiadys
Have you climb’d up to walls and battlements,
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 36

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Pandering, Contempt and the Masses

Brutus, I do observe you now of late

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Cassius
Brutus, I do observe you now of late;
I have not from your eyes that gentleness
And show of love as I was wont to have.
You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
Over your friend that loves you.
Brutus
Cassius,
Be not deceiv’d. If I have veil’d my look,
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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 37

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Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

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Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a ColossusSimile
, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.Adynaton

Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves,
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That you do love me, I am nothing jealous

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Brutus
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, and of these times,
I shall recount hereafter.Parallelism
For this present,
I would not (so with love I might entreat you)
Be any further mov’d. What you have said
I will consider;

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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 171

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Let me have men about me that are fat

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Caesar
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.
Mark Antony
Fear him not, Caesar, he’s not dangerous,
He is a noble Roman, and well given.
Julius Caesar
Would he were fatter!
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Act 1
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Line 202

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Such men as he be never at heart’s ease

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Such men as he be never at heart’s ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.
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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 218

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Well, Brutus, thou art noble

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Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet I see
Thy honorable mettle may be wrought
From that it is dispos’d; therefore it is meet
That noble minds keep ever with their likes;
For who so firm that cannot be seduc’d?Rhetorical Question and Ellipsis
Caesar doth bear me hard, but he loves Brutus.
If I were Brutus now and he were Cassius,
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Act 1
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Line 320

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Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time

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Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time;
But men may construe things after their fashion,
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
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Act 1
Scene 3
Line 33

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You are dull, Casca

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You are dull, Casca; and those sparks of life
That should be in a Roman you do want,
Or else you use not. You look pale, and gaze,
And put on fear, and cast yourself in wonder,Polysyndeton

To see the strange impatience of the heavens;
But if you would consider the true cause
Why all these fires,
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Act 1
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Line 60

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I know where I will wear this dagger then

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I know where I will wear this dagger then;
Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius.
Therein, ye gods, you make the weak most strong;
Therein, ye gods, you tyrants do defeat;Anaphora

Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron,Polysyndeton

Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;
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Act 1
Scene 3
Line 92

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