If you’ve stuck around this blog for a while then you may be familiar with the love-hate relationship I share with William Shakespeare. The Bard and I have never really clicked, mostly because a) I’m easily frustrated by his use of tricky English puns and b) I’m easily annoyed by the melodramatic nature of many of his works. (Although I suppose that the melodrama is sort of the point, to a certain extent, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Despite our rocky past, I’ve felt myself sort of coming around to Shakespeare lately.
Case in point: I actually enjoyed Julius Caesar.
*gasp* What?! Did I just admit to actually liking a Shakespeare play?
Yes. And here’s why:
+ The plot is cut and dry. Unlike some of Shakespeare’s other plays (I’m looking at you Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet), I was able to grasp the main gist of Julius Caesar pretty quickly and easily. There’s plenty of political intrigue and the events unfold quickly, clearly, and– dare I say– logically?! Usually I find Shakespeare’s plots to be lacking any semblance of logic or reason, but this play was almost realistic in this way. (It’s certainly not hard to imagine in today’s tumultuous, frenzied political climate.)The ending does possess the usual drama that his conclusions tend to exude, though I guess that’s to be expected from a tragedy.
+ Questions about honor, loyalty, and duty. I loved the major themes in this play because I think they’re so relevant to the current state of our world (as shown by this New York Times article about a recent controversial production of Julius Caesar). Should we be loyal to our government or personal relationships with others first and foremost? At what point does duty overrule loyalty or vice versa? Should honor or duty preside over common sense or morality? These are the kinds of questions that fascinate me and that really made this play stand out in particular to me.
+ Historical basis. One can probably guess from the title that this play centers around Julius Caesar, who was an actual Roman emperor. The fact that this play is based on actual historical events (with extra melodrama thrown in for good measure) makes me wonder what people thought about this at the time. Did they appreciate this play for its commentary on history or value it for its ability to entertain and captivate an audience?
+ I finally understand where the title of John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars comes from. At one point I knew that this was the Shakespeare play Green was referencing, but I had since forgotten that tidbit of info until I stumbled across the famous line:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
I love exploring intertextuality and I’m actually sort of tempted to reread The Fault in Our Stars at some point to see if there are any underlying connections between the novel and the play.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Julius Caesar. Of course, I must admit that this measure of enjoyment is relative– that is, I enjoyed it considerably more than other Shakespeare plays I’ve read in the past but considerably less than other texts that are not Shakespeare plays. (I just have this unintentional apathy towards the Bard, okay?)
You win this round, Shakespeare.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: If someone asks me for a Shakespeare recommendation I would probably tell them to read this play; however, if someone asks me for a drama recommendation in general than I would definitely go with something like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town or Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
What are your thoughts on Julius Caesar? What Shakespeare play should I read next? Let me know in the comments section below!