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The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar Essay, Research Paper

Shakespeare, William

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

The Playwright and His Times:

The play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, was written by William

Shakespeare. He was baptized on April 26, 1564 in Stratford-on-

Avon, which was a small town some hundred miles from London. It is

believed that he was born a few days before he was baptized so his

birthday is celebrated on April 23. Ironically he died on that date in

1616. During Shakespeare’s time he married a woman named Anne

Hathaway. They gave birth to a total of three children. By the year

1592 he became a playwright and actor. In Shakespearean time only

men could be actors. Shakespeare’s plays were written in modern

English. His plays and sonnets did not become popular until after his

death. “He died at the age of fifty two and was burned in the church

of Stratford where his grave is still visible to this day (#622) “.

Shakespeare was inspired to write The Tragedy of Julius Caesar after

reading of him in Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives

of the Noble Grecians and Romans.

Form, Structure, and Plot:

The play is organized into five acts and each act is divided into

numerous scenes. The main technique of the play is a chronological

order of events. There is scene when Calpurhina dreams of Caesar’s

death. This serves as an omen, also know as foreshadowing. The plot

of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is simple.


exposition- The play begins on a street in Rome where two tribunes

tell commoners to go home and to stop celebrating Caesar’s victory

over Pompey.

initial incident- Cassius , Casca and Cinna plot to kill Caesar because

they do not want him to be the king and hold more power then he

already has.

rising action- Casca, Cinna, Trebonius, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber

and Cais Ligarius go to Brutus to get him to join them in the slaying of

Caesar. They think that if they have him on their side, it makes what

they plan to do right.

crisis/climax- At the capitol Caesar is slain by the conspirators.

falling action- Brutus and Cassius gather together an army and there

is a civil war against Octavius and Mark Antony’s armies. Cassius and

Brutus die to suicide. Order is restored to Rome and Octavius says

the final words of the play.


Julius Caesar is a loving husband, a devoted statesman, and a

trusting friend. Childless and deaf in one ear, at home he is feeble and

superstitious, but a very kind man. At work he is strong, powerful, and

stubborn. He lets power go to his head and suffers for it. He is one

of the protagonists of the play. “To speak truth of Caesar, I have not

known when his affections swayed more than his reason” ( II, i, 19-21).

Brutus is “the noblest Roman of them all” (V.v.68). A devoted

stoic, he always puts the good of the state first. Also a good husband


and an accomplished orator, Brutus is too trusting, and learns his

lesson the hard way. Brutus to is the other protagonist of the play.

Mark Antony is always man number two. He is great to have as a

friend and bad to have as an enemy. He is not as bright or honest as

Brutus, he is the most passionate character of the play.

Cassius is a sly and cynical manipulator. He betrays Caesar for

personal motivations. Although he has “a lean and hungry look”

(I.ii.194) in the end he too is shown to be a human being worth


Octavius is the soulless strong man who puts everything right in

the end. Caesar may have been ambitious, but at least he had a family,

and a softer side. Octavius is a terse and single minded power seeker,

just the sort of thing necessary to get things back in order after a

civil war.


The play begins in Act I, scene i, where Flavius and Marullus, two

tribunes, join commoners that are “crowded on a street corner in

Rome. The street is lined with statues” (#632 Elements of Literature).

They question them on why they are not in there work clothes. The

commoners reply that they have taken the day off to rejoice in

Caesar’s victory over Pompey. The commoners are then told to go

home and feel sorry for dishonoring Pompey’s memory. In Flavius’


final state he says that they should do something to humble Caesar or

else he would but himself so high above the people that he would make

them slaves. This is an omen for things to come, because something is

indeed done about Caesar in the middle of the play when he is slain to

death by the conspirators. Most of the play takes place throughout

Rome, however some scenes occur in near Sardis and Philippi.


Misuse of power, friendship and fate are some of the different

themes in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. The major theme of Julius

Caesar is that misused power is a corruptive force. In some cases

people let power go to their heads and they become destructive and

use their power for evil. This is seen in the fact that Caesar is a

dictator suspected of being a tyrant. Also in Cassius being so power

hungry that he gathers together a group and assassinates Caesar

hoping to become more powerful himself. After this incident Antony,

Octavius, and Lepidus become dictatorial and tyrannical as well.

Friendship is the center of Shakespeare’s vision of an ordered

world. Disloyalty and distrust cause this world to crumble.

Relationships suffer when people put their principles ahead of their

affections, and when they let their roles as public officials interfere

with their private lives. Caesar considered Brutus to be one of his

closest, most trusted friends. Brutus betrayed him because he

believed he had to be loyal to Rome. As the numerous deaths in the


play approach, the characters begin to forget their worldly ambitions,

and speak about the loyalty of friends.

A sense of fate hangs over the events in Julius Caesar. The

assassination is inevitable and the fortunes of the characters have

been determined in advance. The characters are foolish to ignore

prophecies and omens, which later come true. They are the playthings

of powers they can neither understand or control, but they are held

accountable for everything they do.


The style of Julius Caesar is simple and formal. There is very

little poetry in the play. On the battlefield, or even with friends, they

are always making speeches! There is no real technique used to make

each character unique. In the longer speeches the reader will see how

alike everyone sounds. How everyone in the play speaks clearly and

simply and says exactly what he or she thinks. This is evident of all of

Shakespeare’s writing. The language the play is written in is called

Modern English.


The language choice of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar is

formal. The dialect is modern English. The characters of the play all

speak in the same tone, most of which their lines are speeches.

Shakespeare uses a lot of imagery and metaphoric devices in this play.


He however does not use diction to indicate social status, education or

religion. The sounds are combinations of harsh and smooth.

1- …That I did love thee, Caesar, O ’tis true! If then thy spirit look

upon us now, shall it not grieve thee dearer than thy death to see thy

Antony making his peace, shaking the bloody fingers of thy foes…”


The diction is this passage allows the tone of the scene to

become even more morbid then it already is. Antony speaks to the

dead body of Caesar as though he is alive and can hear what he is


2-” My heart is thirsty for the noble pledge. Fill, Lucius, till the wine

o’erswell the cup; I cannot drink too much of Brutus’ love” (IV, iii,158-


The diction in this passage shows how emotional Cassius is and

how emotion-less Brutus is to his own wife’s death. This passage helps

define the character of the two men.

3- “This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators save

only he did that they did in envy of great Caesar; He, only in a general

honest thought and common good to all, made one of them. His life was

gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up

and say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’ ” (V,v,68-75).


Antony speaks his last lines of the play in this passage. This is

one of the first times in the play when he actually speaks truth. This

shows that his character is indeed humble and caring at times.


There are many symbolic terms throughout the play. Some

important ones are noted in the opening scene. The story begins on a

street in Rome where a mob has joined and taken the day off from

work to celebrate Julius Caesar’s victory over Pompey. The statues in

this scene represent his power, glory and success. Caesar holds a lot

of power over the people of Rome and he is soon to be crowned king.

Also in this scene are battle flags. The battle flags represent war.

They are an omen for struggles to come. And indeed this does happen.

After Caesar’s death, the city of Rome goes through a civil war.

Figurative Speech:

“Our course will seem too bloodly, Caius Cassius, to cut the head off

and then hack the limbs” (II,i,162-163).

In this passage metaphor is used. Brutus compares Antony to

the limbs of Caesar. This is said after Cassius comes up with the idea

that they should kill Antony also. Brutus says in this passage that

Antony loves Caesar so much that it is though he is a part of him so in

killing Caesar they will kill two birds with one stone so it is unnecessary

to kill Antony as well.


“O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth” (III,i,254).

This line is used as a metaphor. It compares Caesar to a bleeding

piece of earth. This comparison is made because Caesar has been

murdered and he lies on the grounded bleeding. There is also imagery

in this line because the words “bleeding piece of earth” make Caesar’s

dead body more visible to the imagination.


The tone of Julius Caesar is one of impending doom and disaster.

From the beginning, danger lurks in every corner. Friends can no

longer be trusted, as they turn to manipulation, betrayal and

conspiracy and plot their next moves. Images of violence, blood, and

death dominate the reader’s visual imagination of the play. The

weighty political intrigue is always present throughout the drama. The

latter half of the play even assumes an eerie mood with the appearance

of Caesar’s ghost, returning to seek revenge. The closing scene of the

play is left with the reader remembering the deaths of Cassius,

Titinius, and Brutus, whom all commit suicide.

“My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause till it

come back to me” (III,ii,107-108).

In this line Antony uses the death of Caesar to his advantage.

He tries to make the mob feel sorry for him but making it seem like he

is devastated over Caesar’s death. But he really is just trying to

manipulate Caesar’s murder to his advantage to gain support from the


mob. This clearly shows that the tone of the play is somber, heartless,

and morbid.

“Why farewell, Portia. We must die, Messala. With meditating that

she must die once, I have the patience to endure it now” (IV,iii,188-


This passage is a good example of the tone of the play. When

his wife Portia dies, Brutus doesn’t act like he cares at all. He says

that everyone has to die sometime. This makes the tone of the play

even more morbid and eerie and creepy like.

Memorable Quotations:

“Beware the Ides of March” (I,i,23).

This line said by the Soothsayer was significant to the story

because it was an omen for things to come. The soothsayer warned

Caesar that something bad would occur on the Ides of March.

However Caesar did not listen to his cry to warn him. His stubbornness

to listen to the soothsayer results in his untimely death.

“En tu Brute? Then fall Caesar” (III,i,77).

This passage captures the essence of the story because it is of

Caesar’s last words. As he awaits his death, Caesar speaks of the

betrayal of his supposed best friend.


” If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is

my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more”


This passage is significant to the story. This is Brutus’ reason

for being disloyal to his friend and joining the conspiracy to kill him. He

did it for the good of Rome and believes that makes what he did right.

It does not justify it at all because regardless of it he joined the

conspiracy to kill Caesar there would be a tyrant of Rome. So his

sacrifice of friendship was for nothing because he lost a friend and

the order of Rome.


The title of the play is called The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar, Although he does not appear throughout the entire play

is one of the main characters. Shakespeare tells the true story of

Julius Caesar in this play. It appears in the work as the plot of the

play. Julius Caesar is the character that is killed by conspirators

fearing his possible totalitarianism. The work in itself is indeed a

tragedy, as is Caesar’s death. Caesar was killed before it was

actually discovered if he would have gained a state of absolute power.

His death was a tragedy which results in the title of the play being

called The Tragedy of Julius Caesar seeing the play is about him.


Unusual/Unique Characteristics:

The work Julius Caesar is similar to other works by William

Shakespeare. Most of Shakespeare’s literature is written based on

fact which later reappeared during the Italian Renaissance time period.

Julius Caesar was indeed a real Roman military dictator and commander

who was assassinated in Rome. A unique characteristic is that the

entire play itself was written a whole month before the murder

actually took place. Circumstances of the play and the actual event of

Caesar’s life and assassination are not exactly the same. Another

unique characteristic is that the majority of the play consists of

speeches, and the tone of the play is formal like. There is no poetry.

Final Comments and Analysis:

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is a well written play. Despite the

difficulty of interpreting Shakespeare’s writing it was an enjoyable

read. Compared to other writings read by Shakespeare it is evident

that someone dies in the majority of his plays. The play proves a

truth of humanity. One can not stop fate. Rome was supposed to have

a tyrant. The conspirators thought they could stop this from

happening. In the end their efforts failed. As a result of this many

of them died as well. Another truth proved in the play is “an eye for

an eye” ( famous words said by Shakespeare himself). One can not get

away with wronging another human being. Their day will come when you

must face the music and be punished. Just as the conspirators’ day


came when after they stabbed Caesar. Also two wrongs do not make

a right. If anything is learned out of reading this play these are some

of the things that will be learned.

Works Cited:

1. Elements of Literature Fourth Course. Holt, Rinehart and Winston,


2. http://the-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/Quotes/bart.Caesar.html


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