Julius Caesar

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In 1598, Francis Meres described Shakespeare as the most excellent in both sides - comedy and tragedy. His comedies are unsurpassed for the marvellous harmony they establish among so many apparently discordant elements. His tragedies, rightly interpreted, do not reveal a spirit of gloom and disillusionment. Yet, if we ponder carefully, while the themes of Shakespeare s tragedies are indeed dark and dismal, the message that they impart is that, no matter how deep the misfortune or how dreary the circumstances, man is capable of rising from his own ashes, like Phoenix; think of Richard II, Henry V, King Lear, or Prospero. Good will triumph over evil, in the end; think of Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar.
As the theme and message in Shakespeare s comedies, they can be summed up in two lines from As You Like It: In his comedies, just as in real life, the protagonists play different parts in the little playlets they have themselves improvised in order to get what they desire. No one is hurt, no one is denied the opportunity to join in the game, no one is left out. Life is a merry-go-round and each individual may get off the platform as soon as he no longer enjoys the game. As long as all ends well All Samuel Taylor Coleridge maintained, Shakespeare was more interested in character-development than in his plots. Besides, in most cases, he did not invent the plots, he merely borrowed them from Holinshed and Hall Chronicles. Yet, his plots follow the classical Aristotelian outlines.
Of Shakespeare s tragic characters, Mark Antony is quite outstanding in point of versatility. He does not exactly fit the Aristotelian description of the tragic hero. He is reliable and trustworthy friend, a highly intelligent and tactful man, a good psychologist, a skilful orator. Analysing Antony s famous speech of act 3, scene 2, we admire its uncanny rhetorical effects and the most persuasive use of the emotional appeal that assist him in disentangling the truth from the pack of lies concerning Julius Caesar that Brutus had just told the Roman citizens. By using the apophatic approach (the device by which one mentions something by saying it will not be mentioned: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him, and I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke), Antony manages to do just what he was not expected or allowed to do: praise Caesar and disprove what Brutus spoke.
In a society like Shakespeare s, which felt secure about what constituted proper behaviour, social, political and familial roles were basic sources of order and untroubled adherence to them symbolised the continued existence of order. What Shakespeare presents in Julius Caesar and in other tragedies as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth is not untroubled adherence to the roles of his type but, rather, their constant violation or loss as well as the subsequent restoration of order, as the masters of deceit who had thrived on disorder are exposed and ...


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