I finished reading Julius Caesar today and once I got past the initial discomfort of learning difficult names and reading verse, I enjoyed this play about power, envy, betrayal and the fight to avenge Caesar’s death.
I was surprised at how many lines I remembered from reading it years ago. These lines are repeated so often in our modern world, they often work themselves into common conversation. Here are just a few of the familiar ones:
“Beware the ides of March.”
“…but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.”
“Et tu, Brute!”
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”
I was also surprised at how much easier the plot was to follow than I remembered. If you’ve never read the play, here’s a brief synopsis:
Julius Caesar returns to Rome in triumph after defeating the sons of his archrival, Pompey. The word on the street is that Caesar is about to be named king, which means the end of Rome’s republic government. A lot of people are afraid of this. Some think Caesar is too ambitious, others, like Brutus worry that the common man will not be protected if Caesar becomes king.
Meanwhile, Caesar warns his closest friend, Mark Antony that Cassius is a dangerous man, but Antony tells him not to worry. Cassius assembles a group who conspire to kill Caesar and they trick Brutus, one of Caesar’s closest friends, into joining the conspiracy.
Are spoiler alerts required for a play that was written in the 1600s? I’m not sure, so to stay safe, I’ll keep it brief. What follows is a bloody stabbing, a famous funeral speech and then a battle to avenge Caesar’s death. A lot of the key players react wildly to the developments on the battle field and there’s a great deal of running with and into swords. Shakespeare packs a lot of action into the last few scenes, so be ready to read them a couple times to keep things straight.
I’m giving Julius Caesar four bookmarks because I found it surprisingly entertaining and fairly easy to understand, once I got going. I may try another Shakespeare play. Who has a suggestion?
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