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Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Background


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Brief background to the historical figure as well as information on Shakespeare's England.

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Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Background

  1. 1. Julius Caesar
  2. 2. William Shakespeare <ul><li>Birth celebrated as April 23, 1564 </li></ul><ul><li>Died April 23, 1616 </li></ul><ul><li>Married Anne Hathaway in 1582 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>She was 8 years Bill’s senior </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Had three children: Susanna, Hamnet, Judith </li></ul><ul><li>Lapse from 1585-1592 </li></ul>
  3. 3. Shakespeare’s Career <ul><li>By 1592- actor and playwright </li></ul><ul><li>1594- charter member of Lord Chamberlain's Men </li></ul><ul><li>1603- Changed to King’s Men </li></ul><ul><li>Retired in 1612 </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote 37 plays </li></ul><ul><li>Julius Caesar written in 1599 </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why is his work so popular? <ul><li>Shakespeare wrote about human nature and how people behave. </li></ul><ul><li>Although his words can be hard to understand, his ideas are as relevant now as they were four centuries ago. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Shakespeare’s Works <ul><li>No one knows exactly when each of his works was written; there are approximate dates. </li></ul><ul><li>Some experts have even said that “Shakespeare’s” plays are really the work of other writers. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This may be because some people cannot believe that Shakespeare, who came from an ordinary background, could have written such great works of literature . </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>Life in Elizabethan England could be cruel and hard. The poor often went hungry, disease was widespread, medical remedies often felt more like tortures, and many women died in childbirth. But through their beliefs, people found ways of making sense of their existence. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Elizabethan Beliefs-Religion <ul><li>People were, in general, much more religious than people today. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Almost everyone believed in God and expected to go to heaven or hell after death. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>At this time, England was a Protestant country – it had broken away from the Catholic Church of Rome. This was part of the European movement called the Reformation, which began with attacks on corruption in the Catholic Church. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>The Chain of Being </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A concept inherited from the Middle Ages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An attempt to give order, or “degree”, to the vastness of creation. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>God created everything in a strict hierarchy, or chain, that stretched from God himself down to the lowest things in existence. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humans occupied a place in the chain below the angels but above animals, plants and stones. Some humans were higher in the chain than others. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>The Chain of Being, cont. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The monarch was the highest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nobles and churchmen below </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gentlemen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Commoners </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All women were considered to be inferior to men, with the obvious exception of Elizabeth I. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>Chain of Being, cont. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accepting one’s place in the chain was a duty that would be rewarded by God in heaven. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disrupting the chain was thought to lead to chaos, but of course many people still did challenge their position in society . </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>Myths and Magic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fairies, magic, witches, spells and prophecies all formed part of their view of life. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Folklore and superstition were often as important to people as the official religious beliefs taught by the Church. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>Little and Large </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The human body was thought to be a miniature representation of the universe as a whole – a microcosm. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Various parts of the body were linked to the planets and signs of the zodiac </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Elizabethan Beliefs <ul><li>Little and Large, cont. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The body was thought to contain four “humours” or fluids – black bile, phlegm, blood and choler. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A person’s temperament depended on the way the humours were mixed. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Most people were thought to have one humour that was more dominant than the others. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Illnesses and mental disorders were blamed on an imbalance of the humours. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Elizabethan Stage <ul><li>The Globe (“Wooden O”)- Jan. 20, 1599 </li></ul><ul><li>Caesar -Probably the first play to be performed at The Globe </li></ul><ul><li>Sets would primarily be imagined by the audience (heaven, stage, hell) </li></ul><ul><li>All actors male </li></ul><ul><li>1613- Henry VIII , light fuse to cannon, theatre burned down </li></ul>
  15. 15. The Globe Theatre <ul><li>The theatre most associated with Shakespeare </li></ul><ul><li>Shakespeare owned it in joint with others—unusual for a playwright </li></ul><ul><li>Thrust Stage , 3-sided, platform, tiers of seats, groundlings </li></ul><ul><li>Rebuilt Globe, on the Thames, in recent years. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Elizabethan Theatre <ul><li>The audience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It was an entertainment for everyone, like movies today. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The cheapest tickets cost a penny, which most ordinary people could afford. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Because of the crowds, theatres were popular with thieves and pickpockets. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People jeered at the actors and shouted out rude remarks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some even climbed onto the stage and joined in with swordfights. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People also brought food with them to eat during the performance, or to throw at bad actors. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. The Globe Theatre <ul><li>From 1599 onwards, Shakespeare’s plays were usually performed at the Globe, a huge, open-air, circular theatre. </li></ul><ul><li>It could hold 3000 people, and there were two performances a day. </li></ul><ul><li>Along with other members of his theatre company, Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare owned a share in the Globe and made a lot of money from it. </li></ul><ul><li>Shakespeare’s writing may sometimes reflect the design of the theatre. Some of the lines in his plays have three parts, or a word repeated three times. At the Globe, this allowed an actor to address the audience on all three sides of the thrust stage. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Julius Caesar Quick Facts <ul><li>60 B.C.- First Triumvirate (Crassus, Pompey, Caesar) </li></ul><ul><li>Caesar crosses Rubicon </li></ul><ul><li>March 15, 44 B.C.- Caesar assasinated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Ides of March’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>43 B.C.- Second Triumvirate (Antony, Lepidus, Octavian) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Background of Caesar <ul><li>Opens in 44 BC – when Rome had made conquests that allowed it to have an empire in N. Africa, Britain, Persia, and Spain. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Background of Caesar <ul><li>City itself collapsing despite conquests </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Military endeavors more ambitious  generals stronger while senators weaker and factionalized </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sharp class divisions </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Background of Caesar <ul><li>City itself collapsing despite conquests </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Majority of population not interested in maintaining “republic” </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Background of Caesar <ul><li>Caesar emerged as most likely to succeed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Remarkable general </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Popular among lower classes at home </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Background of Caesar <ul><li>Caesar emerged as most likely to succeed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Charisma </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ambition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Good luck </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Background of Caesar <ul><li>Caesar emerged as most likely to succeed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Extremely valuable and extremely dangerous to the state </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Background of Caesar <ul><li>Caesar caused conflict </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal and military attempts to curb his power failed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Group of conspirators assassinated him, causing civil war </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Background of Caesar <ul><li>New regime </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Caesar’s friend Mark Antony and his heir, Octavius, defeated the conspirators </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Background of Caesar <ul><li>New regime </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Octavius was installed as emperor Augustus, and senate reduced to ceremonial role </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. The Importance of Caesar <ul><li>Caesar’s assassination and death affected Rome and its territories for centuries </li></ul><ul><li>Story is simultaneously personal and political </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>Differing views </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assassination as act of heroism, expediency, or villainy – celebrate, excuse, or denounce its perpetrators? </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>Differing views </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Michelangelo, Milton idealize Brutus as selfless defender of human liberty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dante sends Brutus and Cassius into the deepest pit of hell </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Shakespeare’s historical reference <ul><ul><li>Shakespeare's main source in writing the play was Thomas North's English translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. WHO CARES? <ul><ul><li>So why did Shakespeare feel that Renaissance England would respond to Julius Caesar ? </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>Shakespeare saw Caesar and Roman civilization not just as one that precedes the future, but as one that sets the pattern for future civilizations. </li></ul><ul><li>Shakespeare's England faced concerns of a country about to change leadership and centuries. </li></ul>
  34. 34. The Play--- <ul><li>In 1599 the play would have served as a timely reminder of the enormous upheaval that would follow an attempt to seize power through violent means. </li></ul><ul><li>Is there a single figure upon whom the label of “usuper” can fall? (one who seizes without right.) </li></ul>
  35. 35. JC's current relevance: <ul><li>Themes in Julius Caesar have an equal relevance for politics now, 400 years later. In the rivalry between political intimates, Cassius and Brutus, the somewhat shady financial dealings of the central characters, and the concerns about Caesar's style of leadership, there are undoubted parallels with societies today. </li></ul>
  36. 36. JC's current relevance: <ul><li>It is this issue of leadership and, in particular, the question of when effective leadership becomes a tyranny, that has most relevance. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the role of President, Prime Ministers, Senates, etc. </li></ul>
  37. 37. JC's current relevance: <ul><li>But the play is also about more ageless issues, such as the corrupting effect of power . &quot;People are rightly nervous about placing trust in politicians,&quot; says Rylance. &quot;I believe that the vast majority of politicians are genuinely trying to do some good. But there is always the danger, when in a position of power, that means and ends can become blurred.&quot; </li></ul>
  38. 38. What kind of plays? <ul><li>During Shakespeare’s career, fashions and tastes in drama changed. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>He wrote mostly comedies and history plays during the Elizabethan period – 1558-1603 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tragedies and tragicomedies during the reign of King James – 1603-1625 </li></ul></ul>
  39. 39. What Kind of Plays? <ul><li>Tragedy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ends in the death of one or more of the main characters. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most of his tragedies involve historical individuals and events </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. Tragedies <ul><li>Shakespeare’s most famous and popular plays </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Romeo and Juliet; Macbeth; Hamlet; Othello; King Lear; Julius Caesar </li></ul></ul>
  41. 41. Tragic Hero <ul><li>Often a man of high rank, such as a king or prince </li></ul><ul><li>Creates, or is put into, a difficult situation which he must try to resolve. </li></ul><ul><li>A combination of bad luck and bad decisions lead to his death. </li></ul><ul><li>Often a relatively sympathetic figure. His soliloquies show his feelings and motives, and show the audience how easy it would be to make similar mistakes. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Doom and Destiny <ul><li>Many people believed in fate, or destiny, and in the power of the stars to foretell the future. </li></ul><ul><li>Shakespeare uses the idea of fate or destiny to add excitement and anticipation to the tragedies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Uses a prophecy as a way of holding the audience’s interest, because everyone wants to see if it will be fulfilled. </li></ul></ul>
  43. 43. Tragic Endings <ul><li>Tragedies give a very bleak view of the world. </li></ul><ul><li>At the end, the hero, and usually several other characters, are dead, and the survivors are left to start again without them. </li></ul><ul><li>Although most tragic heroes are partly to blame for their own fates, death can be a very high price to pay for what may have seemed initially like a small failing. </li></ul><ul><li>In most tragedies, there is also a feeling that some good may have come out of the terrible suffering. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>At the end of Romeo and Juliet, because the families’ fighting has partly caused the tragedy, they finally resolve to end their feud. </li></ul></ul>
  44. 44. The Roman Tragedies <ul><li>Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus : deal with political power </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The hero is a state leader who has a responsibility to the people. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tragedy results when he fails to meet his responsibilities. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>These plays are not just about politics. They are full of personal emotions, dramatic power struggles, and brilliant writing, including some of the most famous writing in Shakespeare’s plays. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  45. 45. The Roman Tragedies <ul><ul><li>Two Themes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Politics and Power – shows how hard it is to be a political leader. The hero has power, but has a weakness which makes him vulnerable to being attacked or overthrown </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Love and Duty – people often have to make difficult choices between their emotions and their responsibilities </li></ul></ul></ul>
  46. 46. Key Themes <ul><li>Honor </li></ul><ul><li>Ambition </li></ul><ul><li>Envy </li></ul><ul><li>Power </li></ul>
  47. 47. Look for Rhetoric <ul><li>“ The art or study of using language effectively and persuasively” </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure to look for persuasion and the use of language throughout the play (note the characters techniques to win public and political support) </li></ul>
  48. 48. Language of Shakespeare <ul><li>Early Modern English (NOT Middle English, like Chaucer) </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of standardized spelling </li></ul><ul><li>Puns and references to current events of his time make it difficult </li></ul><ul><li>You know more than you think you do! </li></ul><ul><li>Poetry of the sonnets and plays: </li></ul><ul><li>Iambic Pentameter (lines of five metrical feet, each one an iamb) </li></ul><ul><li>Not perfect, or it would be sing-songy </li></ul><ul><li>Blank Verse (unrhymed Iambic Pentameter) </li></ul><ul><li>Lower Classes’ speech, or that of characters in emotional extremis, is in prose </li></ul>
  49. 49. Cast of Major Characters <ul><li>Julius Caesar —Dictator of Rome </li></ul><ul><li>Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony)—Friend of Caesar and future leaders of Rome </li></ul><ul><li>Marcus Brutus —Friend of Caesar who always considers choices “for the good of Rome” </li></ul><ul><li>Cassius —Leader of the conspiracy against Caesar and brother-in-law of Brutus </li></ul><ul><li>Casca - A public figure opposed to Caesar’s rise to power. </li></ul><ul><li>Trebonius —Member of the conspiracy against Caesar </li></ul>
  50. 50. Cast of Major Characters <ul><li>Decius Brutus—Conspirator who uses flattery to get Caesar to the Senate House </li></ul><ul><li>Calpurnia - Caesar’s wife. Calpurnia invests great authority in omens and portents. </li></ul><ul><li>Portia - Brutus’s wife; the daughter of a noble Roman who took sides against Caesar. </li></ul><ul><li>Flavius - A tribune (an official elected by the people to protect their rights). </li></ul><ul><li>Murellus -a tribune-condemns the plebeians for their fickleness in cheering Caesar (they once cheered for Caesar’s enemy Pompey. </li></ul><ul><li>Cicero - A Roman senator renowned for his oratorical skill. </li></ul>