Final thoughts on Julius Caesar

26 Apr

Juliue Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays about one of history’s greatest character. It’s a text rich in history, craftmanship, and an incisive exploration of ideals and the reality, love and loyalty, politics and power. For all its tragic elements, some commentators argue that Julius Caesar is not a true tragedy in the pure, dramatic sense of the word because it does not conform to the ‘classical’ tragic pattern (read Pg 324 of your book for an idea of what the ‘classical’ tragic pattern means) The fact that Caesar dies midway through the play and remains missing in action except later as the archetypal ghost leaves one wondering: Who, really, is the tragic hero in the play? Julius Caesar is ostensibly a key protagonist in the play, and the title obviously bears this fact well. If you were Shakespeare and were given a chance to name the play, what title might you accord it?

Before you consign your book to the storeroom or worse still, trashbin (i sure hope not!), I’d like you to think through these questions, and ponder over what you have learnt in the past 2 months of “julius-caesaring”. You might want to at this point revisit the “Introduction to Julius Caesar” by William and Babara Rosen which I printed for you previously, as a nice (ironically) closure to your study. Then take some time and think about this:

What does the play mean to you, personally? (I hope the answer isn’t “well, just another literature text”.) And if there’s one thing you take away from the play, what might that be?

Happy thinking and happy writing.

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9 Responses to “Final thoughts on Julius Caesar”

  1. maqianhui May 2, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I personally think that this play seems easier to read than Romeo and Juliet we did last year. I’m not really sure why, it might be largely because of the change in format and arrangement of the book and the annotations, it might also be because of the omission of the confusing and seemingly ridiculous romantic aspects.
    I think this play holds some connection with us to some extent as it portrays human ambition and the desire in everyone of us to reach for greater heights (although of course we would not murder someone-at least I hope not).
    This play taught us some good oratorical skills as shown by the speeches of various characters,e.g. Brutus and Mark Anthony, and the power that speeches hold, the ability to sway people and move them into action in a few words.
    It also showed us that every character is round and no one is truly bad, or truly good, even in the case of the protagonists and the antagonists. For example, many would think that Cassius is an evil character. However, at the end we see a humane and caring part of him, when he commits suicide as he thought that he led his good friend to death.
    All in all, this play made us think, a lot. I sincerely hope that I do not get more white hairs.

  2. huitinggoh May 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    This play is one of the best plays that I’ve read in my entire life – in fact, it is the best play because I’ve only read two plays in my life -_- this and Romeo and Juliet. Julius Caesar is tons better than Romeo and Juliet and please be rest assured, I will never throw it away 😀 I will keep it with me forever, because it is really an amazing play. To me, it is a story, a tale about power and greed and the realities of the world. Yes, Julius Caesar may be proud and arrogant, but it is a fact that he is a great general and soldier. He obviously had leadership capabilities because if not he would not have won so many battles (including the one against Pompey). In my opinion, he didn’t really deserve to be killed because he has not exhibited any characteristic of one who would abuse his power and guide Rome down to destruction. In fact, according to Brutus, Caesar’s decisions and choices were never known to be swayed by his emotions (well except for things that concern him personally – like when Decius succeeded in persuading him to go to the Capitol so that the conspirators can kill him). For matters concerning the general public and Rome, Caesar was known to make wise decisions because he is, after all, experienced in this area. However, to be honest, there is a little risk in letting Caesar live on, because you never know when greed and ambition will overpower him (but that is not really that strong a case because Caesar has never really done anything to deserve the death sentence yet). It’s like in the real world; greed will always be part of humans and that is a risk that we have to take. Even if Caesar is killed, there will be someone else who is like him who wants to take over the crown and who is tempted by power. The cycle will never end because with all good, there is evil (hahaha Newton’s third law). If the world exists without any evil then it would be unbalanced and I believe that life cannot really go on. What is the meaning of life when there is nothing for you to conquer? You just keep existing in goodness; there is no ultimate goal for you to achieve in terms of your character. Caesar is just a part of the cycle. In fact, this part of the cycle which he exists in is one of the rare exciting parts, because most of the time you don’t get a greedy ruler who has the real ability to lead others.

    The play has sort of taught me about the realities of life (how people can be easily influenced) and also about the weakness of humans. In Julius Caesar, there is no hero who has no faults (unlike those heroes that modern media loves to show). Everyone has a flaw, somehow or another. Caesar has his abilities, but he is too vain and arrogant. Brutus is humane and loyal, but too naive and doesn’t know when to come down hard on certain issues. Cassius is clever (and loyal), but jealous and impulsive(and kinda too soft. he listens to brutus too much). Mark Antony is an awesome speaker and orator and he is really, really, very clever (I think he is really awesome) but then again, a little selfish (he didn’t rule the people well). He wanted the crown for personal reasons, not for the sake of the general people. I think, if you combine all of them, the “perfect” ruler will surface. (but too bad, this is not really possible)

    Hence we have the tragedy of Julius Caesar(: This play is awesome.

  3. ongyanling May 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    This play is definitely an interesting one and is more meaningful compared to well, Romeo and Juliet. I think it relates very well to our lives, that this world does not only exist the good people but the evil spirits too. It shows the greed, ambition and all sorts of weaknesses people have within them that actually motivate them to do the wrong things. But of course, in our real world, i don’t think people go around killing anyone they want and can simply give speeches and get away from it.

    Greed and ambition bring us to nowhere. In the beginning, it may seem like this greed will bring you all the wealth and power you are dying for but that is only for a short term. Sooner or later, you will watch yourself losing everything all at once, losing more than just your money, but also the people you had around you.

    Despite these weaknesses, just like what huiting has mentioned, the characters do have goodness. For instance, even with that cruelty of Cassius, he was actually a loyal friend that appreciate true friendship and killed himself when he heard about the death he brought to his friend. This further proves that he does have a little conscience despite being heartless.
    One important thing I learnt from many of these characters was their ability to lead a group well. For Caesar, he was truly a good leader as he lead the troop well and won many battles and overthrown Pompey. As for Brutus, even though he wasn’t a good leader due to the mistakes he made that resulted in all the troubles, he was a leader that taught me, getting the people to like you and believe in you first is the most important. Only when you are well-liked by the your followers and they have faith in you, they will do what you order them to do even with the presence of doubts. Therefore, Brutus managed to lead well because of the loyal followers he has.

    Next, I feel that this literature text had included speeches but the good orators such as Mark Antony. I think he is a really, really good orator that knows how to play with the people’s emotions. This taught me the importance of understanding your audience and appeal to their emotions as you speak. There is still a long way to go for me to deliver a good speech!D:

    This is not just a literature text, it is filled with scenes of the reality here in this world. The world is not simple, human beings are not simple creatures but this does not mean that we should be wary of every single person around us. Instead, just do not be oblivious of your surroundings and do accept advice when there are given to you and not be like Caesar who ignored the Soothsayer and Artemidorus!

    In conclusion, be a good and smart leader but don’t be a proud and arrogant one!(:

  4. xinsuen May 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    This play is definitely much MUCH better than Romeo and Juliet. There is so much more action in the play instead of mushy romantic lines. (R&J is ridiculously lame i think, i just can’t stand all the romanticism in there)And I think i can relate better to this because the various characters in the plot really shows the true nature of humans.
    I like how the play is written in the way where you seemed to be always “at war with yourself” as to who is a good guy and who is the devil. But in the end, you realise that there is actually no clear-cut good or bad person. Everyone has his strengths and weaknesses. This makes the reader thinks alot harder and it reflects all humans because really, it’s impossible to have a person who is wholly good or wholly bad.
    Also, the plot always leaves the audience on tenterhooks and wanting for more. I like the feeling of how you never know what the character would do next. And it reflects real life too because you can never predict what will happen (maybe you can sometimes, but not always).
    And also, there are alot of really good speeches made in the play. Although Antony is obviously the best orator, but even when i read Brutus’ speech, i am like “wow, he speaks really well”. I think everyone in the play speaks well. (Maybe it’s just me, because I can never speak like them)
    And this play is really cool, because it is exactly like real life, filled with twists and turns. And all the characters are contradictory, just like how, even I myself has angels and devils within me. So this play can really resonate well with me, and i am it has for everyone too:)

  5. Hui Min ♥ May 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    This play portrays the theme of conflict within and between individuals. Cassius is a divided man, trying to pretend that he wants to kill Caesar for the sake of freedom, yet showing too clearly that he is festering with envy of Caesar’s achievements, whether it is a question of a swimming race or of gaining power in the state or military victory. Brutus is divided between his love for Caesar and his love for Rome and Roman freedom. After Caesar was assassinated, these divisions are no longer confined to individual selves, but are found in the state itself, for Brutus and Cassius are lined up in the gathering civil war against Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus. Conflict remains as a theme of great importance to us in the world today. In a society, an individual struggles to maximise his/her benefits, which inevitably contributes to changes, social and political, which can eventually lead to conflict between social classes and ideologies. Conflict still exists in the world we live in today, but through reading this play, we understand that peace is important to maintain stability of a society. We should learn from this play and prevent history from repeating itself.

    Through this play, we also see the power speech. Brutus was convinced to join the conspiracy only after speaking with the highly manipulative Cassius. The plebeians were swayed into greatly opposing viewpoints through Brutus’ and Antony’s speeches. Antony’s great oratorical skills eventually caused anarchy in the streets of Rome and created support to avenge Caesar’s death. It is truly amazing how the power of words can arouse the emotions of people and change their opinions of things.

    I feel that Julius Caesar was really enjoyable! 🙂

  6. sandrangyiling May 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    To me, Julius Caesar speaks a lot of truth about human nature. It is a play of the betrayal of deep friendship and it also tells us about how human nature can be so horrible at times.

    Why are there betrayals? We often suspect people of working against us, simply because we don’t know what the other person’s motives are. When we cannot explicitly tell what are good intentions and what are bad motives, human nature then becomes a dense fog.

    This is evidently seen when Brutus suspects that Caesar may change his nature after becoming crowned. This ultimately leads him to the decision of betraying his friend, the friend that has loved him so much and treated him as his favourite.

    As suspicion of the other party plagues Brutus some more, it is once again human nature to do something about it. I guess this is why Brutus so willingly joined the conspiracy. He did not want Caesar to be the back-stabber of Rome, but rather, he would very much prefer to be the back-stabber of Caesar and do Rome good.

    It is indeed sad to see that simple thoughts of suspicion can lead to such a breakdown of a good friendship, and even worse, death.

    This can somehow be related to our life. Who would we rather be? Would we prefer someone to betray us, or would we rather be the betrayers? The message in Julius Caesar clearly shows that men would rather be the betrayers. ):

    However, it also shows that honour is indeed worthy to be upheld and without honour, or a strong belief in one’s life, nothing would ever be smooth sailing for you.

    As Brutus debates whether or not to back-stab the person he so loves, his honour says: “No. NO.” This is the code of conduct that forces and compels you to follow strictly to it. Once you deviate, it will haunt you, just as it haunted Brutus. This is proof that honour is important–it keeps your conscience clear.

    Yes, Julius Caesar is a great play, as it finally helped me realise many truths about the world.

  7. rachel teo May 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I think Julius Caesar is an interesting play, and is more enjoyable compared to Romeo and Juliet. It portrays the different sides of people, like how certain characters could be proud, spiteful, arrogant or even menacing one moment, and yet the next moment we see them treasuring their friendship and relationships. There isn’t a clear cut way to define a character as good or bad, and every character has their own pros and cons.
    We also learn about the conflict within oneself, and how we are torn in between two choices sometimes. The power of speech is also clearly shown. It makes me realise that talking is quite important i guess. Hmm yea maybe its true that the words are sharper than swords.
    The play also contrasts between public self and private self. This relates to how we act differently in public among more people and how we behave when we are with those people we are closer to.
    Through the play I also learned that ambition has its price to pay, and we should be realistic and not be too greedy or power hungry. We must be content with life! (:
    Oh and lastly people are more often swayed by emotions than by reason, being..humans? (as seen by the mob) The power of one individual may be limited, but the extend of damage a mob can cause is dangerous, and thus we should not anger the mob. 😀

  8. sharonegoh May 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Quoting a review of Julius Caesar, “The seeming simplicity of its plot and the directness of its prose make it accessible to every reading level while belying a complexity that is revealed through exploration of the play’s timeless themes and social issues”.

    Personally, I agree that Julius Caesar has a rather straightforward plot – a person trying to obtain power, but evokes jealousy out of his friends who then kill him. However, Julius Caesar tells us a lot about human nature and even the world that we live in.

    For example, it allows us to examine what exactly makes a good leader. The play explores at length this question in its detailed examination of Caesar and Brutus as leaders. Well, I guess there is really no one good or bad leader. But through the past two months of “Julius-Caesaring”, as we compared and contrasted the leadership qualities held by Caesar and Brutus, as well as many other characters in the play, I think that we have all, or at least I have, become more aware of the careful thought that is necessary to determine a good leader (And isn’t it timely that since it’s just after the General Elections we should put what we have learnt into good use!)

    Another thing – friendship. “Nothing or no one has more influence on adolescents than their friends”. The issue of friendship and the importance people place on it is another critical issue explore in Julius Caesar. Perhaps many others might view themes like greed and ambition as more important in the play, but I feel that one central idea I have taken away from the play is that of friendship. With the betrayal of Brutus and attachment of Antony towards Caesar, I realised that we must all choose our friends properly, as well as be a good friend ourselves.

    Of course, Julius Caesar is an extremely rich text and encompasses so many other themes and ideas. In the course of “Julius-Caesaring” I probably have gotten much more insights, but I can’t seem to be able to recall them now):

    Anyways, I have to admit, Julius Caesar isn’t my favourite book, but I definitely started being more interested in it as we began unpacking and exploring the text in detail. It simply made me marvel at how wonderful and impactful Shakespeare is (like how he can vividly describe the contradictions of man but not make the reader go “Huh?”). Julius Caesar is absolutely a good read and rest assured! I wouldn’t “consign my book to the storeroom”. I would probably throw it away(: Hahahah joking! I’ve carefully place it on my bookshelf and I will take it out to read again!

    Sharon~

  9. neojingci96 May 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Julius Caesar is the first lit book 301 read together. And guess what? It’s a great book!

    At first, I admit, it seemed disappointing at the first glance. I know Julius Caesar was a great ruler of Rome, and I was expecting glorious battles and amazing accomplishments, but all I got at first was all boring talk. Then when we went through the plot closer in class, and that’s when I found out it was actually such an interesting book! Even with lots of headachy things to ponder over!

    I name the book Julius Caesar, any other name would be odd. But I’m biased, because I already read the book, and find it impossible to think of it in terms of another name. But even if I’m not biased, it should be Julius Caesar anyways, since the whole plot revolves around him, he appears everywhere. He’s the ‘problem’ that provides every good book with the basis for a good plot.

    I think I’m gonna reserve a place in the shelf for Julius Caesar, as I’ve done for R&J (even though my mother says I keep enough rubbish already). I really like Brutus and Antony’s speeches. Again, Julius Caesar is one memorable book.

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