Conflicting Perspectives: Julius Caesar & Gladiator

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Discuss how conflicting perspectives on events, personalities and situations are represented in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and one related text.

Written in 1599, Shakespeare’s historical tragedy Julius Caesar portrays the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, his assassination and the defeat of the conspirators. Julius Caesar is one of the many Roman plays that Shakespeare wrote based on true events from Roman history. This play presents varying perspectives on not only characters such as Julius Caesar, but also on events and situations such as the assassination of Julius Caesar and the political instability and conflict in Rome. Gladiator, an epic film directed by Ridley – Scott, parallels Julius Caesar not only through story line, but correspondence can also be seen through characters. Through the use of literary as well as dramatic techniques, both Shakespeare and Ridley - Scott present many examples that convey the idea of conflicting perspectives.

Julius Caesar, a conquering Roman general and the target of the conspirators, is seen as a tyrant and megalomaniac by some such as Cassius and Brutus who plot against Caesar and murder him in what they believe to be for “the general good.” While speaking to Brutus in private, Cassius reveals his thoughts on Caesar, “…he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about.” Alluding to the immense statue of the god Apollo, the use of simile compares Caesar to this massive structure and creates the image of a tyrant. However, followers of Caesar such as Mark Antony and the mob seen in Act 1, Scene 1, depict a conflicting perspective of Caesar. The stage directions at the beginning of Act 1, Scenes 1 and 2 highlight Caesar’s power and the loyalty of the public towards him. “A public place. Flourish. Enter Caesar…a great crowd following” and also “Re – enter Caesar and his train,” emphasise the public’s sense of admiration shown towards Caesar. The public see Caesar as an honourable leader and “rejoice in his triumph,” underlining Caesar’s nobility and power. By providing different perspectives by different characters and providing different settings, Shakespeare presents not only the honourable persona of Julius Caesar, but also provides a tyrannical perspective as shown by the conspirators. Much like Julius Caesar, the character of Marcus Aurelius as seen in Gladiator is also portrayed through conflicting perspectives. The character of Marcus Aurelius parallels Julius Caesar, and acts as a Roman emperor during the opening scenes of Gladiator. While Maximus, a general who parallels Mark Antony, shows a great sense admiration and loyalty towards Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Marcus Aurelius’ son, sees Marcus Aurelius as a weak leader. Throughout the opening scenes of the film, Marcus Aurelius is seen overlooking a battle. This position of superiority emphasises Marcus Aurelius’ power and influence over the people. Also, while speaking to Maximus privately in his tent, Marcus Aurelius is seen sitting, while Maximus stands before him. The positioning of Maximus standing before Marcus Aurelius elucidates the respect Maximus shows towards him. This, once again, highlights Marcus Aurelius’ power. During this scene, the lighting is low key but the warm colours created by the surroundings and fire, establish a sense of closeness, nobility and power. Marcus Aurelius’ nobility is further shown through his dialogue, “…to give power back to the people of Rome and get rid of the corruption that has crippled it.” The use of the transitive verb “cripple” in this quote emphasises the harshness of the corruption caused by having a dictatorship. It also further expresses the determination of Marcus Aurelius to make Rome a republic, rather than further “crippling” Rome by having a dictatorial leader. Although Marcus Aurelius is seen in a positive light by Maximus and portrayed as a great leader through various techniques, characters such as...
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