Tableaux of Julius Caesar, Act III
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is perhaps an underrated play. Although it is often performed, its critical acclaim is behind that of the other tragedies, like Lear and Hamlet. However, it is an astonishing play when examined in terms of its film-like imagery and its rather forward-looking perspective of tyrannical governments—not just of dictatorships but of idealistic democratic governments. Below are tableaux created by students acting out the oration scene found in Act III in which Caesar's body is on display.
Was the play misnamed?
The protagonist Julius Caesar dies in the middle of play, while his enemies, the conspirators Brutus, Cassius, et al continue to the end. Should the play have been named Brutus, a foil character of Caesar? Although Brutus fights against tyranny, the play has an extra layer of subtlety, as Brutus, the republican hero, proves to be just as imperious as the assassinated emperor.
One remarkable aspect of the play is the dagger, hand and blood imagery found in Act III, Scene I in which Caesar is assassinated. How many times is the word "blood" mentioned? In Act III, Scene i alone, it is mentioned 12 times. In Act III, 19 times; and in the whole play, about 25 times.
Julius Caesar, 2023
Have patience, gentle friends, I must not read it;
It is not meet you know how Cæsar lov'd you.
You are not wood, you are not stones, but men;
And, being men, hearing the will of Cæsar,
It will inflame you, it will make you mad.
'T is good you know not that you are his heirs;
For if you should, O, what would come of it!
Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,
And in the spirit of men there is no blood.
O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit,
And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends,
Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
You all did love him once, not without cause;What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,And men have lost their reason. Bear with me.My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,And I must pause till it come back to me.
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle. I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
’Twas on a Summer’s evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii.
Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb’d;
And as he pluck’d his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it,
As rushing out of doors, to be resolv’d
If Brutus so unkindly knock’d, or no
Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears, for his love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and death, for his ambition. Who is here so base, that would be a bondman?