Julius Caesar Identity Analysis

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Investigating the genre identity of William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, first of all, I need to define the terms history play and tragedy, which are key instruments for the analysis. This essay suggests that they are not mutually exclusive theatrical genres, and thus can be combined in one dramatic work. From the times of Aristotle’s Poetics, tragedy is supposed to portray exceptional characters suffering and experiencing misfortunes that climax in the catharsis – emotional purification felt by the compassionate audience. History play represents actual events that took place in the past including those with tragic finales. However, defining a history play within the framework of English literary criticism is not as obvious as it seems. …show more content…
Julius Caesar includes a considerable number of features that make it easy to identify the play as a tragedy in Aristotelian sense. First, it depicts a strong and noble hero, a man of high morals who is overwhelmed by ambivalent feelings. Surprisingly, the play does not focus on Julius Caesar – he is rather an anecdotal and unembossed figure serving as a background to shed limelight on Brutus, Caesar’s best friend and murderer. Two contradicting motives are struggling inside the traitor and prompting him to act radically: a denunciation of tyranny fights against his love for Caesar whose growing popularity makes it possible to usurp the power and violate the freedom-loving aspirations of the Roman citizens.
A Kantian before Kant, Shakespearean Brutus sees the autonomous moral duty in the good of Rome and sacrifices the life of his beloved friend for the greater target: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” (3.2.21–22), he says. Brutus does not follow the merciless fate blindly, as it usually happened in classic Sophocles’ plays, but freely and consciously chooses to conspire against Caesar. This is exactly what makes a tragedy even more desperate and turns Brutus into a notable tragic hero whose tough decisions lead to self-destruction. The Rubicon has been
…show more content…
Although no one expects a documentary accuracy from the playwright, still a reader can get a strong impression that history is not a subject of Shakespeare’s main concern here. The author seems to use the names of ancient heroes merely to mask human virtues, vices, moral and social conflicts – his characters are not fabulous, but there is more fiction than reality in them. Moreover, in spirit the heroes are Elizabethan, not Roman, their behavior is more typical for Shakespearean modernity than the period of the Roman Republic. Many details such as prophetic dreams, omens and ghosts frame the play as a literary decoration to enhance the tragic emotional effect.
To conclude, Julius Caesar is a tragic play that includes some historical elements. Shakespeare dramatises and gentrifies a conspicuous event of the Roman past, so that the history follows the tragic canon and includes its integral features: a noble and virtuous character fighting the unfortunate consequences of his own mistake and thus teaching a cathartic lesson of sensitivity to other people’s pain which may be our own as

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