Conflicting Perspectives: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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Conflicting Perspectives: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Ambitious Tyrant or “Noblest Man that Ever Lived in the Tide of Times”?

An Into English Presentation

Conflicting Perspectives: The Theory
• All texts are deliberately constructed to convey an agenda and a set of values. • This means that every composer has a purpose, which is based on the issues arising from their context and audience. • To that end, the composer uses conflicting perspectives as a vehicle for successfully conveying their purpose to the audience. • So, through the representation of events, personalities and situations (which utilises form, language and structural devices), the responder is positioned to accept the perspective that the composer has represented as valid/credible. • As a consequence, the composer is able to successfully impart their values to the audience.

• Context • Audience
• Conflicting Perspectives – events, personalities & situations

• Given composer’s agenda, a perspective is privileged

• Composer successfully conveys their values


Positioning of Responder

What has a play concerning the assassination of Julius Caesar and the subsequent civil war got to do with Elizabethan England?

Elizabethan Context & Audience
• Julius Caesar was first performed at the Globe theatre in 1599. • Late Elizabethan period – Queen Elizabeth I had been in power for almost 40 years. • At this stage, she was an elderly monarch, with no heirs to the throne. Hence there were concerns regarding who would ascend the throne after her death. This anxiety was increased by the Queen’s refusal to name an heir to the throne.

• Many feared that her death would plunge England into a civil war akin to that of the Wars of the Roses in the 15th Century.

Why Julius Caesar?
• Arguably, Shakespeare was using the story of Julius Caesar to comment on the political situation of his time. • Queen Elizabeth, like Julius Caesar, had progressively enlarged her power at the expense of the aristocracy and the House of Commons. This caused conflict not dissimilar to the tension that existed amongst Roman Senators concerning leadership and political structure in Rome that led to civil war. Therefore, given the trend toward consolidated monarchical power throughout the Elizabethan period and Shakespeare’s tendency to depict monarchical power favourably in his plays, it is evident that Shakespeare’s representation of the conflict in Roman society between republicanism and imperial rule privileges the case for imperial rule.

Shakespeare’s Purpose

To dramatise the dangers of a disputed succession and the horrors of civil war. To show that it is the actions of leaders that determines the course of history.

• • • • •

Order Stability Unity Loyalty Absolute rule

Julius Caesar: Specific Scene Analysis

The Case Against Julius Caesar
• The play opens with Caesar, victorious having defeated Pompey in civil war, parading through the streets of Rome. • Flavius and Marullus are the characters who initially draw our attention to the republican cause – this is furthered by Cassius.

Shakespeare’s Representation of the Conspirators
FLAVIUS Hence! Home, you idle creatures, get you home! MARULLUS You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things! O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome, Knew you not Pompey? • Shakespeare encourages us to question the republican cause from the beginning. • Flavius and Marullus are shown to disrespect the Roman people: • Insulting language – pejorative • Use of imperative • Exclamation • Rhetorical questioning • Whilst Flavius and Marullus’ make an important point regarding Caesar’s triumph over Pompey and the fickle nature of the plebians, they appear cruel and dictatorial – making it difficult for the audience to accept their perspective.

Shakespeare’s Representation of the Conspirators
COBBLER A trade… I hope I may use with a safe conscience, which...
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