“Caesar, now be still,/I killed not thee with half so good a will.”

Julius Caesar

Act Five

By Dennis Abrams

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Act Five:  As news reaches Antony and Octavius that the enemy is approaching, the two men quarrel.  As the battle commences, Brutus attacks Octavius’s troops but Cassius, believing that his own forces are surrounded, commits suicide with the help of his servant Pindarus.  Titinius arrives from Brutus with news of imminent victory but when he sees Cassius’s body he too kills himself.  Brutus and Young Cato resolve to fight on, but Cato is killed and Brutus realizes that the cause is lost.  Brutus begs his colleagues to kill him and finally dies by falling on Strato’s sword.  When the victorious Antony and Octavius find his corpse, they swear to bury him with honor.

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From Goddard:

“Things draw to a close and the tragedy is finished at the Battle of Philippi fought on Cassius’ birthday, a coincidence he turns to fatal effect:

This day I breathed first; time is come around,

And where I did begin, there shall I end.

The pathos of the parting predicts the outcome:

For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!

For ever, and for ever, farewell, Brutus!

The battle has been fought and decided in the bottom of their hearts before it is even begun.  It is more the conviction of certain defeat than the forces arrayed against them that determines the issue.

…men may construe things after their fashion,

Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.

So Cassius does in mistaking the shouts of joy of friends at the arrival of his messenger for the exultation of enemies at his capture.  Not even waiting to confirm his conjecture, he covers his face and bids a servant run him through with the very sword with which he had assassinated Caesar –

     Caesar, thou art reveng’d,

Even with the sword that kill’d thee.

The advantage the impulsive Brutus had gained over Octavius on the other wing of the battle is thrown away.

O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!

cries Brutus when he gazes down at his dear friend,

Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords

In our proper entrails.

The Ghost promised to meet Brutus again at Philippi.  He has kept his word.  What Brutus did not reckon on was what the Other World would say to his deed.  He realizes at least that he has brought down on Rome in hundred-fold measure the very spirit to exorcise which he sold his soul to the conspiracy.  Alive, Julius Caesar was a feeble epileptic.  Dead, he has become an annihilating tide.

O hateful error, melancholy’s child,

Why doest thou show to the apt thoughts of men

The things that are not?  O error, soon conceiv’d,

Thou never com’st unto a happy birth,

But kill’st the mother that engender’d thee!

The whole plot against Caesar has been such an error.  Brutus returns to the field, but he is soon convinced that there is nothing left him but to follow Cassius.  ‘Caesar, now be still,’ he cries as he runs on his sword held by a servant (after three others have refused that office):

I kill’d not thee with half so good a will.

Those ten words are the Last Judgment of Brutus on a conspiracy the mortality of which other men, strangely, have long debated.

From the level of practical affairs, of politics, of drama, imperialism and a violent hatred of imperialism look like opposites.  But from the level of poetry, of those high pastures of the soul where, as Thoreau once remarked on a famous occasion, the state is nowhere to be seen, the two can have a curious resemblance.  If anything was needed after Henry V to make plain what Shakespeare thought of imperialism, this play supplies it.  Readers of William Blake will remember his habit of using names like Locke, Newton, and Voltaire as symbols for ideas and attitudes of mind that he disapproved of, quite without reference to the men themselves or the details of their thinking.  Caesar and Alexander apparently came to stand for Imperialism in Shakespeare mind in a somewhat similar fashion.  Falstaff speaks of Caesar as ‘the hook-nosed fellow of Rome.’  Rosalind refers to his ‘thrasonical brag.’  Hamlet has him turned to clay and stopping a hole in the wall along with Alexander, who performed the same office for a beer barrel.  And we remember Alexander the Pig.  Fluellen, Falstaff, Rosalind, and Hamlet.  Can anyone imagine Shakespeare having sympathy for what those four scorned?

After the indictment of imperialism in Henry V, Julius Caesar is just the combined confirmation of that indictment and compensation for it that might have been expected.  It makes plain that those who opposed imperialism with force run the risk of being no better than the imperialists themselves.  Bernard Shaw once remarked that Julius Caesar glorifies a murder which Goethe described as ‘the most senseless of deeds.’  A queer way of glorifying it:  to demonstrate that it brought on its perpetrators precisely what the committed it to avert.  No, Shakespeare agreed with Goethe.  The path of violence and the path of the violent opposition to violence can easily be the same.

And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The real opposition, Shakespeare seems to say, is not between the state and the enemies of the state.  It is between those ancestral voices and the voice of the soul.”

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From Harold Bloom:

“Brutus is such a puzzle that he is wonderfully interesting, to Shakespeare as to us.  To call Brutus a sketch for Hamlet destroys poor Brutus:  he hasn’t a trace of wit, insouciance, or charisma, though everyone within the play clearly regards him as the Roman charismatic, after Caesar.  Mark Antony has considerably more zest, and Cassius rather more intensity; who and what is Brutus?  His own reply would be that Brutus is Rome, Rome Brutus, which tells us at once too much and much too little.  Roman ‘honor’ is incarnated in Brutus; is it not at least as massively present in Julius Caesar?  Caesar is a politician; Brutus becomes the leader of a conspiracy, which is politics at an extremity.  And yet Brutus has no capacity for change; his curious blindness dominates him until the end:

     –Countrymen,

My heart doth joy that yet in all my life

I found no man but he was true to me.

These twenty monosyllabic words are very moving, yet they compel the audience to the question:  Were you true to Julius Caesar?  Evidently, Brutus is more troubled than he admits; his dying words are:

     –Caesar, now be still,

I killed not thee with half so good a will.

Cassius dies, hardly in the same spirit, but with a parallel declaration:

–Caesar, thou art reveng’d,

Even with the sword that kill’d thee.

The Ghost of Caesar identifies himself to Brutus, quite wonderfully, as ‘Thy evil spirit, Brutus,’ and indeed Caesar and Brutus share one spirit.  Shakespeare perhaps did not consider the spirit of Caesarism evil, yet he left that quite ambiguous.  ‘We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,’ Brutus stirringly tells his subordinate conspirators in Act II, but to they?  Can they?  Shakespeare’s politics, like his religion, forever will be unknown to us.  I suspect that he had no politics, and no religion, only a vision of the human, or the more human.  Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is at once human-all-too-human and, as he suspects, more than human, a mortal god.  His genius – in history, Plutarch, and Shakespeare – was to merge Rome into himself.  Brutus vainly attempts to merge himself into Rome, but he necessarily remains Brutus; since Caesar has usurped Rome forever.  I think part of Shakespeare’s irony, in the play, is to suggest that no Roman, in good faith, could stand up against the spirit of Caesar, even as no Englishman could stand up against the spirit of Elizabeth.  Rome was overripe for Caesarism, as England and then Scotland were for Tudor-Stuart absolutism.  Harold Goddard charmingly enlisted Falstaff, Rosalind, and Hamlet as Shakespeare’s surrogates on Caesar; Falstaff refers to ‘the hook-nosed fellow of Rome,’ Rosalind speaks of the ‘thrasonical brag,’ the boastful ‘I came, I saw, I conqured,’ and Hamlet in the graveyard composes an irreverent epitaph:

Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,

Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.

If Shakespeare identified himself with any of his characters, it might have been with these three, but that takes us no closer to Caesar and to Brutus.  Still, I do not trust the scholars on Shakespeare’s politics, and no one emerges from Julius Caesar looking very admirable.  Caesar is coming apart, Brutus is dangerously confused, and there is little to choose between Cassius on the one side and Mark Antony and Octavius on the other:  scurvy politicians all.  Supposedly Brutus and Cassius stand for the Roman republic, but their actual plans seem to culminate in the butchery of Caesar; their subsequent outcries of ‘Liberty, freedom, and enfranchisement!’ are ludicrous.  Brutus, the noblest Roman of them all, is notoriously inept in his funeral oration, particularly when he tells the mob:  ‘As Caesar loved me, I weep for him, ‘rather than ‘As I loved Caesar.’  Mark Antony’s masterpiece of an oration may be the most famous sequence in Shakespeare, yet it is a half step on the road to Iago.  I never quite get out of my ears Antony’s finest rhetorical flourish:

O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!

Than I, and you, and all of us fell down.

There is Caesar’s greatest triumph:  the promulgation of his myth by Antony’s dangerous eloquence.  In death, Caesar devours all of Rome.

By the play’s end, Brutus, with ambivalent yet ‘noble’ motives, has murdered Caesar.  Antony, in vengeance and in quest for power, creates an Iago-like furor:  ‘Mischief, thou art afoot,/Take what course thou wilt!’

Shakespeare, always wary of a state power that had murdered Marlow and tortured Kyd into another early grave, makes a find joke of the raging mob’s dragging off the wretched Cinna for having the wrong name:  ‘Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses,’ even as Cinna the poet suffers the same fate of Marlowe and of Kyd.  Shakespeare, whatever his nonpolitics, did not want to be torn for his good verses, or even for his great ones.  Julius Caesar was, and is, a deliberately ambiguous play.

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is a beautifully made play, and magnificent in its poetry, and yet it seems cold to many good critics.  The greatest of all critics, Samuel Johnson, shrewdly remarked that Shakespeare subdued himself to his subject:

‘Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally celebrated, but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it; and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, comparing with some other of Shakespeare’s plays; his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigor of his genius.’

Johnson was massively right; something inhibited Shakespeare, though I cannot believe that it was North’s Plutarch or Roman stoicism.  We must look elsewhere, perhaps to the tyrannicide debate, as Robert Miola has suggested.   By the time Shakespeare was at work on the play, the popes had excommunicated Elizabeth, and Catholics had plotted to murder her.  Shakespeare’s Caesar is at most a benign tyrant, certainly in comparison with the terror afterward practiced as policy by Antony and Octavius.  It may be that Shakespeare subtly marks the limits of judgment on tyranny:  who is to decide which monarch is or is not a tyrant?  The people are mob, and both sides in the civil war after Caesar’s death seem worse than Caesar, which does suggest a pragmatic support for Elizabeth.  Yet I am uncertain that the tyrannicide controversy was a prime inhibitor for Shakespeare in this play, wary as he always was of alarming state power.

I suspect that there is a curious gap in Julius Caesar, we want and need to know more about the Caesar-Brutus relationship than Shakespeare seems willing to tell us.  Caesar accepts death when Brutus, his Brutus, inflicts the final wound:  ‘Then fall Caesar!’  Plutarch repeats the gossip of Suetonius that Brutus was Caesar’s natural son. Shakespeare surprisingly makes no use of this superb dramatic possibility, and surely we need to ask why not.  So far is Shakespeare from invoking the father-son relationship (known to all in his audience who, like himself, had read North’s Plutarch) that he refuses to allow Caesar and Brutus any significant contact until the murder scene.  In their only meeting before that, we get the outrageously banal exchange of Caesar’s asking the time, Brutus’s saying that it is eight in the morning, and Caesar’s thanking Brutus ‘for your paints and courtesy!’  Their very next exchange is their last:  Brutus kneels and kisses Caesar’s hand (‘not in flattery,’ he fatuously insists) as part of the fraudulent petition to bring Publius Cimber back from exile.  Caesar is shocked enough to cry out, ‘What, Brutus?’ and later to note that even Brutus cannot sway him.  ‘Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?’  The Caesar-Brutus relationship is thus for Shakespeare a nonstarter; the playwright evades it, as though it would needlessly complicate the tragedy of Caesar, and the tragedy of Brutus.

Unfortunately, this may have been a rare Shakespearean error, for the audience, if it reflects, will sense a missing foreground in the play, as I think Dr. Johnson did.  Brutus, in his orchard soliloquy and elsewhere, betrays ambivalence toward Caesar, which Shakespeare nowhere adumbrates.  If the dramatist fears to add patricide to regicide, then he should have given some alternative account of the special relationship between Caesar and Brutus, but he gives absolutely none.  Antony, in his funeral oration, says that Brutus was ‘Caesar’s angel!’ (his darling, perhaps even his genius), and adds that the populace knows this, but gives no hint as to why Brutus was so well beloved by Caesar.  Evidently the mob, like the audience, was supposed to know.  It is as though Edmund in King Lear himself were to gouge out Gloucester’s eyes.

Shakespeare perhaps frustrated himself even as he baffles us by this evasion, and I wonder if the absence of the Caesar-Brutus complication does not help account for the baffled quality of the play.  As things stand, the mysterious special relationship between Caesar and Brutus makes it seem as though Brutus and not Octavius is the authentic heir to Caesar.  Certainly Brutus has a very high self-regard, and a sense of destiny that transcends his own official descent from the Brutus who expelled the Tarquins.  If he knows that truly he is not a Brutus but a Caesar, he would possess both a double pride and a double ambivalence.  Though Brutus, after the murder, says that ‘ambition’s debt’ has been paid, he seems to be thinking of quite another debt.  Shakespeare excludes none of this, and includes nothing of it.  But the explanation of a father-son relationship would illuminate the ambiguities of Brutus as nothing else does.  I turn again to the question:  Why did Shakespeare choose not to write this relationship into his play?

At the least, such a relationship would have given Brutus too personal a motive for letting himself be seduced into Cassius’s conspiracy, a motive perhaps endless to speculation.  Patriotism is Brutus’s dominant theme, his function is to save an older and nobler Rome from Caesarism.  Shakespeare refuses to foreground why Brutus should be ‘Caesar’s angel,’ even though, as I will later attempt to show, foregrounding is one of the great Shakespearean originalities, and is the most elliptical element in Shakespeare’s art.  By refusing to foreground or give any hint as to why Brutus should be ‘Caesar’s angel,’ the dramatist allows at least an elite in the audience to assume that Brutus is Caesar’s natural son.  Since Cassius is Brutus’s brother-in-law, he can be presumed to know this also, which gives a particular edge to his famous speech that is pivotal in winning over Brutus:

Cassius:

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.

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?’

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 sham’d!

Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!

When went there by an age, since the great flood,

But it was fam’d with more than with one man?

When could they say, till now, that talk’d of Rome,

That her wide walks encompass’d but one man?

Now it is 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

Th’ eternal devil to keep his state in Rome

As easily as a king.

In a play weighted with magnificent ironies, the most ironical line may be “‘Brutus’ will start a spirit as soon as ‘Caesar,’” since the Ghost of Caesar will identify himself as ‘Thy evil spirit, Brutus.’  And there would be a shrewd irony, an audacious one, when Cassius speaks of ‘our fathers,’  Brutus is an unfinished character because Shakespeare exploits the ambiguity of the Caesar-Brutus relationship without in any way citing what may be its most crucial strand.  Julius Caesar has an implicit interest as a study in what shades upon patricide, but Shakespeare declines to dramatize this implicit burden in the consciousness of Brutus.

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Continuing from Frank Kermode’s Shakespeare’s Language:

“…But the second act opens with Brutus’s soliloquy.

The context is designed to make Brutus gentle; the presence of the boy Lucius, fetching a taper and a book, telling his master the date, falling asleep at his instruments, all suggest a domestic calm at odds with the associations of the fatal day to come and with the ‘exhalations whizzing in the air,’ though the calm is uneasy.  Coleridge declares that the soliloquy belies Brutus the ‘Stoic-Platonic tyrannicide,’ because it gives him no motive to kill Caesar; if Caesar remained as good a monarch as he now seemed, there was no reason to remove him.  But, says Coleridge, there were many reasons to kill him:  Caesar had crossed the Rubicon and entered Rome as a conqueror (as we saw in the first scene).  He wants to know why Shakespeare did not ‘bring these things forward’; of course he did bring the triumphal entry forward, but not very far, and obliquely.

It must be by his death; and for my part,

I know no personal cause to spurn at him,

But for the general.  He would be crown’d:

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.

Th’ 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

That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,

Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;

But when he once attains the utmost round,

He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend.  So Caesar may;

Then lest he may, prevent.  And since the quarrel

Will bear no color for the thing he is,

Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,

Would run to these and these extremities;

And therefore think him a serpent’s egg,

Which, hatch’d, would as his kind grow mischievous,

And kill him in the shell.

The truth is that the soliloquy, which has the appearance of being spoken by a man who has already virtually made up his mind, proves, on examination, to be more opaque than one at first supposes.  ‘No personal cause’; that is, no cause that relates to Caesar as a person rather than as an official of the state. He has not abused his power by failing to show mercy (‘remorse’).  He has not (as tyrants do) allowed his passions to evade the control of his reason.  The sole positive reason Brutus gives for wanting Caesar dead is that ‘He would be crown’d.’  It is the rite of coronation that might ‘change his nature.’

The other reasons proposed are implausible:  when men become great they kick away the ladder; but Caesar has shown no signs of doing so.  Only the prospect of kingship, his desire for it, and the complicity of the mob make him dangerous.  We are reminded that Brutus’s ancestor and namesake helped to drive out the kings long ago; Romans were suspicious of

Orson Welles’ legendary stage production of “Julius Caesar,” starring Welles as Brutus.

kings.  We are also obliged to reflect that ceremonies mean a lot for almost everybody concerned, not least Brutus, who wants the murder to be a sacrificial ritual act, a demonic opposite of coronation.  We remember that coronations and crowns were not mere empty shows to Shakespeare’s contemporaries.  He himself had dramatized coronations, and said much about crowns.  Coleridge was right to find the passage more difficult than it looked, but his explanation was wrong; he seemed to have hoped for a more explicit expression of Brutus’s state of mind.  But that cannot have been what Shakespeare wanted to provide.

We come to understand, as we approach the plays of the great period, that simple clarity was less and less Shakespeare’s way.  Even when the point seems simple, there is often a kind of aura of obscurity, enough strain on the language to tax the reader’s mind.  When Brutus has committed himself, and before the conspirators arrive, he suddenly says something more remarkable than the famous soliloquy:

Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar,

I have not slept.

Between the acting of a dreadful thing

And the first motion, all the interim is

Like a phantasma or a hideous dream.

The Genius and the mortal instruments

Are then in council; and the state of a man,

Like to a little kingdom, suffers then

The nature of an insurrection.

This is wonderful writing:  think of the propriety of ‘whet,’ with its hint of daggers to come, and the effectiveness of the short line that follows.  The rest of the speech is worthy of Hamlet, for it generalizes a local situation:  Brutus moves away from his broodings over Caesar and contemplates the interim between any first intention to commit ‘a dreadful thing’ (not specified as a killing or even as a crime) and the performance that follows; the moment of deep anxiety that comes between.  A phantasma is specifically a bad or evil dream, glossed as ‘hideous.’  The second figure, the interior council, makes the character of the interim clearer:  the man who has taken the decision is a microcosmic version of a state disturbed by insurrection:  his spirit is beset, as in an angry cabinet meeting, by his lower powers, whose protests are perhaps founded in an apprehension of danger to themselves.  The scene is one of deep disturbance, as the mortal instruments rebel against the decisions of the higher soul.  That Brutus should, in his metaphor, think of the state as a kingdom is a way of relating the generalization to the more specific theme:  Rome as a potential kingdom.

A few years later, in Macbeth, Shakespeare was to give a full representation of this fraught interim in his treatment of all that passed between the decision to murder Duncan and the actual commission of the deed.  We may now think we understand the disturbances that lie under the official calm of Brutus:

No, not an oath!  If not the face of men,

The sufferance of souls, the time’s abuse –

If these be motives weak, break off betimes…

where the breaking off of the sentence enacts the breaking off it suggests and rejects.  Later ‘the sufferance of our souls’ is accidentally remembered – ‘such suffering souls/that welcome wrongs’, and used in a different sense, not as a confession of spiritual suffering, but as a reproach to all who hesitate to join the conspirators simply as honourable Romans, who need no oath, as a coward might.

After that speech, the characters, and the language once again get down to business.  Here again Brutus, with his desire for a bloodless murder and his trust of Antony, proves his incompetence as a leader; he lacks the cunning of Decius Brutus, whose trickery about omens will bring Caesar to the Senate despite Calpurnia’s dream.  A clock strikes, and the day dawns; and now we see that the earlier conversation about the sun rising had its dramatic purpose.  We are reminded repeatedly of the time, which is, as they say, of the essence.  The Ides of March has come.

Portia’s entrance reaffirms the excessive humanity of Brutus.  She is celebrated for her stoical strength.  ‘Dwell I but in the suburbs/Of your good pleasure?’  Whores dwell in the suburbs; she, Cato’s daughter, is indignant at the thought of being so reduced.  To express that sentiment thus is itself an indication of her dignity and mental power.  Brutus gives in and will tell her all.  Only a brief scene with a belated conspirator separates the Brutus-Portia dialogue from that between Caesar and Calpurina; again male folly prevails, inducing Caesar to defy the ‘ceremonies’ or omens in which he believes.

Shakespeare, as I’ve suggested, often uses a special kind of ‘lighting scene’ – an episode a little aside from the main movement of the story that is meant to illustrate a particular aspect of it, like for instance, the argument between Peter and the musicians in Romeo and Juliet, or the dispute between Shylock and Antonio concerning Laban’s ewes in The Merchant of Venice; just the kind of scene an incautious director, worried about the pace of the performance, might be tempted to cut but must not.  We see the conspirators gather at Caesar’s house, meaning to escort him to the Senate; then there occurs the passage in which Portia, profoundly agitated, send Lucius there, for no reason she can provide.  She meets the polite but darkly ominous soothsayer, who immediately encounters Caesar and again warns him.  Those details intensify the very sense of interim that Brutus has defined.  That interim seems to end with Caesar’s death, a scene carried out with the utmost efficiency, Caesar bragging to the last.  But we discover that this is a false end.  Indeed, the true end of the story has to wait until Octavian stands over the body of Cleopatra in the next Roman play.

There are famous moments to come:  the rival funeral orations in prose and verse (during Antony’s performance even the plebeians use verse, until moved to destructive action at the end of the scene, they return to prose:  ‘Pluck down forms, windows, any thing.’  Although Antony speaks at some length, the economy of the scene is extraordinary.  It is followed by another brilliant ‘lighting’ scene, recounting the fate of the poet Cinna, beset by prosy rioters:  ‘Tear him for his bad verses’ and then we are with Antony and Octavius in the quarrelsome and Machiavellian mood that, alternating with a sort of masculine Roman tenderness, dominates the last two acts of the play.

The quarrel and reconciliation between Brutus and Cassius at Philippi is a famous set piece, first angry, then surprisingly sentimental; Brutus is angry with an obtrusive poet (again a sly comment on the redundancy of poets in political crises), but Lucius is again at hand to preserve the sentimental mood with broken music.  An evil spirit appears to Brutus, perhaps the spirit he had wanted to free from Caesar’s body without shedding blood.  Before the battle comes a quick and angry parley; Brutus and Cassius know as well as we do that they are bound to lose.

Julius Caesar is a rather more enigmatic play than it looks at first sight.  I think of it as a study in the first motion and the ultimate acting of a dreadful thing, worthy to be so called because of its millennial repercussions.  Shakespeare had enacted regicide before, but here was one the consequences of which were greater and so permanent that they could be felt sixteen hundred years later in London, a city once within the limes, a city of the Roman Empire built by Caesar and his imperial successors.

The political import of Caesar’s death is such that only poets, poets of something like Virgilian stature, could deal with it.  Yet the two poets in this play are so unequal to the occasion that one is murdered in mistake for a politician and the other turned out when he interrupts politicians in conference.  This later poet and playwright can only hope to suggest to his audience the vast significance of what they are seeing, while at the same time ironically disclaiming all authority.”

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So what did you all think?  For me, I have to admit, this wasn’t a play I was really looking forward to reading:  too many wooden productions, a bad high school lit class…I remembered the play as being solid and boring.  But I found it anything but, and agree with Kermode that it is much more enigmatic than it first appears.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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I’m going to take a couple of days off for the holiday – my next post will be a sonnet on Sunday afternoon, then next week we’ll start our last play before the Xmas/New Year’s break, the thoroughly delightful As You Like It.  So share your thoughts about the play, about the blog, ways I can improve it…change it…make it better for you…

Enjoy your Thanksgiving everybody!

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