Title: Julius Caesar
Author: William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar is an unusual play, particularly for Shakespeare, for the fact that the title character is not the clear protagonist. Most of the story focuses instead on Brutus, Caesar's trusted friend and adviser, the very Brutus who led the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. Brutus is, in turn, an unusual protagonist for Shakespeare in light of his altruistic motivations:
"If then that friend [of Caesar's] demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more."Even Brutus's antagonist, Mark Antony, describes Brutus as "the noblest Roman of them all."
In fact, much of what makes Julius Caesar such a fascinating story is the moral fluidity of the five principals. Caesar is killed not for what he has done but for what he might do with his considerable power. Brutus is forgiven for cold-blooded murder because his heart was in the right place. Cassius seems to be on the right side because he's on Brutus's side but he is motivated by self-interest. Antony and Octavius oppose Brutus but theirs is easily portrayed as the more justified cause. Good stuff, Bill!
For our English project in high school, my friends and I made a parody film in which the reindeer assassinated Santa Claus. I got to play Rudolph in the Brutus role. I still remember the essay question from the exam: "Explain the differences between the death scenes of Cassius and Brutus." At the time, I came up with something about Brutus being braver because he threw himself upon his own sword rather than having someone stab him. Now, I see it differently, taking note of the fact that everyone Brutus asks to run him through wouldn't do it. Even his own slave loves him too much to do more than hold the sword for him. In suicide, Brutus is a martyr rather than a coward.
Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month. This month's link list is below. I'll keep it open until the end of the day. I'll post December's tomorrow. Meetings are the last Friday of each month. Next gathering is December 25th.