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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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POINT OF VIEW

Shakespeare's characters are too true-to-life to be pinned down in a phrase. They behave differently with different people, showing sides of themselves to friends that they hide from enemies. They have public selves and private selves. They are neither good nor evil, but a mixture of qualities. They are often inconsistent and unpredictable-gentle and considerate one moment, harsh and thoughtless the next. Don't ask Shakespeare to tell you what to think about them-he breathes life into his characters and lets them go. The rest is up to you.

FORM AND STRUCTURE

The play tells a single story that moves chronologically forward from (a) the plot against Caesar, to (b) the assassination, to (c) the results of the assassination (the retribution). The assassination takes place in Act III-the middle of the play; everything leads up to that moment, and away from it.

As in most Shakespeare plays, the action begins with the breakdown of order. Caesar has defeated the sons of Pompey, and the Senators are plotting against their ruler. The natural laws that bind a leader to his people have broken down. The divine plan has been shattered. The result is much like a sickness that infects everyone and everything-the conspirators, the people of Rome, the heavens themselves. At the end of the play, the Roman state is exhausted by war but on its way to recovery. The sickness has been controlled, and order reestablished.



Some say that Julius Caesar is a poorly structured play because the main character (Caesar) dies halfway through the play. Others argue that even though Caesar dies, his spirit dominates the entire play: it is Caesar's spirit that takes revenge on the conspirators; it is Caesar's spirit that lives on in the hearts of the people, and in the person of Octavius.

Caesar is well structured, even if you consider Brutus the main character, since the action begins with his involvement in the plot, and ends with his death and the eulogy over his body.

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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