Saturday Selections: Julius Caesar

Sculpture of Julius Caesar

Well, I had to pick a Shakespeare play for this list eventually, I thought I’d go with one of my favorites!

First, I should make clear that I’m writing a commentary on the play Julius Caesar and not the man himself. Julius Caesar was a real person and his story is pretty… insane. But I can’t attest to whether any of the material in Shakespeare’s play was inaccurate, except for Caesar not really being deaf in one ear as Shakespeare wrote it. (But this was deliberate.)

Painting depicting assassination of Julius Caesar

In terms of the complexity of politics, good intentions having bad outcomes, and mob mentality, I’d say Shakespeare is spot on. I think the line “The evil that men do lives after them / The good is oft interred with their bones” is what sums it up for me. For one thing, the play makes clear that while Caesar was a tyrant and incredibly arrogant, he wasn’t a complete monster. He did have a sense of empathy and felt sorry for the poor. So it raises the question: can a society embrace their leader, while still holding them accountable for their bad deeds? And at what point should that leader be removed from power? The play also paints a raw picture of the reality that some people face in having to make an extremely difficult decision, and a person’s reasons for it. Brutus and Cassius clearly have different motives. Furthermore, the audience is reminded of the stark reality of how mob rule can change sides on a dime. Sometimes people are right to be outraged, sometimes they’re wrong. But it’s usually very hard to understand and see the whole truth about an issue. Few things in life are black and white.

This play has withstood the test of time and it’s one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. If you haven’t read it yet, put it on your list!

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