William Shakespeare

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Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar in about 1599, using as his source Sir Thomas North s translation of Plutarch s Lives which had been published about twenty years earlier. He constructed the plot as a familiar peg on which to hang the dramatic interest which arises from the interplay of the three main characters, Brutus, Cassius and Antony.
After nearly a century of bloody civil war, Romeo s most successful general, Julius Caesar has been appointed Dictator to restore order to the Republic. Returning in triumph from a campaign in Spain, the pomp of his reception makes two leading Senators, Caesar s frield Brutus and the envious Cassius, fear that Caesar will have himself proclaimed King. Brutus is descended from the Marcus Junius Brutus who was instrumental in ejecting the Kings of Rome five centuries earlier, and the prospect of the overthrow of the Republic is an anathema to him, so he reluctantly joins Cassius and other conspirators in a plot to murder Caesar when he attends the Senate. The Assassination is successfully accomplished, and Brutus brilliantly justifies this savage act to the Roman mob. But Mark Antony, who has been allowed to deliver the funeral oration to the same mob surpasses Brutus s eloquence with a speech of fiery oratory, combining such demagoguery, irony and mock humility that the plebs turn against the conspirators who flee Rome. They raise an army, but are defeated at Philippi by the combined forces of Antony and Caesar s heir Octavian, afterwards Augustus. Brutus and Cassius subsequently commit suicide.
Caesar himself plays little part in the drama. But his personality overshdows the entire play, bringing out the latent qualities in the main characters. Mark Antony is populist, opportunistic and flawed; he is recognisable as the young version of the profligate Antony of Antony and Cleopatra written six years later. The ,lean and hungry Cassius is a chilling study of thwarted ambition turning to envy and spite, while the ,noblest Roman of them all, Brutus, is a brilliant portrait of a man desperately torn between his love of Caesar and his love of country.
Details of William Shakespear s early life are scanty. He was the son of prosperous merchant of Stratford upon Avon, and tradition has it that he was born on 23rd April 1564; records show that he was baptized three days later. It is likely that he attended the local Grammar School, but he had no university education. Of his early career there is no record, thought John Aubrey states that he was a country schoolmaster. How he becamed involved with the stage is equally uncertain, but he was sufficiently established as a play-wright by 1592 to be criticized in print. He was a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain s Company, which became the King s Men on the accesion of James I in 1603. Shakespear married Anne Hathaway in 1582, by whom he had two daugthers and a son, Hamnet, who died in 1586. Towards the end of his life he loosened his ties with London, and ...


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