Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Discuss the attention paid (or not paid) to omens, nightmares, and other supernatural events. What do the various responses to these phenomena show about the struggle between fate and free will in Julius Caesar? Can the play’s tragedies be attributed to the characters’ failure to read the omens properly, or do the omens merely presage the inevitable?
2. Think about Caesar the mortal man as opposed to Caesar the public figure. How does he continue to wield power over events even after he is dead? Do the conspirators succeed in their goals by killing him, or is Caesar’s influence too powerful to be contained even by his death?
3. As Caesar’s appointed successor, how does Octavius carry on the great general’s legacy? Consider his use of language and commands as well as the ways in which the other characters regard him and refer to him.
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Though Julius Caesar focuses on the struggles between powerful men, what role do the plebeians, or common people, play? Are they as fickle as Flavius and Murellus claim in the opening scene? How important is their support to the successes of the various military leaders and the outcome of the play? The play depicts Rome at a time of transition between republic and empire—a time in which, theoretically, the Roman people are losing their power. What role do the people themselves play in this transition?
2. Consider Brutus’s actions. Is he right to join the conspiracy against Caesar? What are his reasons? Does he choose to join the conspiracy, or is he tricked by Cassius? How do Cassius’s motivations compare to Brutus’s? Are they more noble or less noble?
3. Julius Caesar, a play about statehood and leadership, is one of the most quoted of Shakespeare’s plays in modern-day political speeches. Why do you think this play about conspiracy and assassination might appeal to politicians today? Also, discuss how this play might have been a reflection on Elizabethan politics, keeping in mind that Queen Elizabeth, like Caesar, was an aging, heirless leader.
4. Discuss friendship in the play. Consider Caesar and Brutus, Caesar and Antony, Brutus and Cassius, Antony and Octavius, or any other pairings. Are these true friendships or merely political alliances forged for the sake of convenience and self-preservation? How do they compare with the heterosexual relationships in the play—the relations between husbands and wives? Are they more profound or less profound, more revealing or less revealing of their participants’ characters?
5. Who is the protagonist in this play? Is it Caesar, who dies well before the end but whose power and name continue on? Or is it Brutus, the noble man who falls because of his tragic flaws?
6. Consider theatricality in this play. Think particularly of the scene of Caesar’s murder (and Cassius’s reference to future productions of the scene), the speeches in the Forum (particularly Antony’s), and the speeches given over the dead conspirators. How do acting and rhetoric affect the events of the play? How do they interact with politics? Does the play reference its own political power as a theatrical production?
7. Discuss inflexibility in this play, focusing on Caesar and Brutus. How is each man inflexible? Is this rigidity an admirable trait or a flaw? Do the rewards of this rigidity outweigh the consequences, or vice versa?
by DanMitchell23, March 06, 2013
An idea about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar...
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