The only thing I love more in this world than William Shakespeare is J.K. Rowling, and I do not have the patience to write a seven-part review of the Harry Potter series, so here we are. Maybe it’s because I’m currently studying in London or the fact that Shakespeare was the OG playwright – either way I’m in the mood to dive on into one of his greatest works, “Julius Caesar.”
Everyone is familiar with the assassination of Julius Caesar. He was betrayed by Brutus and some conspirators in the Senate and then stabbed an alarming amount of times. While one would expect this to occur early on in Shakespeare’s work, the Bard waits until Act 3 for the murder to occur. Throughout the first two acts, Shakespeare creates the characters of Caesar, Brutus, Cassius and Marc Antony. He gives them distinct personalities and shows readers each man’s motives and beliefs. Even though we know Caesar will inevitably fall at Brutus’ hands, we can’t help but sympathize with Brutus and his confusing sense of what is morally right.
After the deed is done, all hell breaks loose in Rome. The Roman people turn against the conspirators while Antony ascends in power along with Lepidus and Octavian. The final confrontation is one of my favorites in all of literature; it includes a ghost, suicides and an unexpected source seizing power. Shakespeare packs in so many historical events with such interesting, tangible characters. Because of these features, reading “Julius Caesar” becomes the most vitalizing history lesson ever.
One of the best literary tools Shakespeare uses in this play is foreshadowing. Whether it is a soothsayer telling Caesar to “beware the Ides of March,” or Calpurnia having nightmares about her husband’s death, Shakespeare makes the reader aware that nothing can stop this murder from happening. While there are some instances in which readers hesitate and doubt that the plan will work, that is just the Bard playing mind games. After seeing a production of this play set in modern times with a pseudo Trump-like Caesar, it reminded me how terrifyingly easy it is for politicians to manipulate and control not just the common people, but one another.