Saturday, October 8, 2011

On the Side

So, in addition to reading Love's Labour's Lost, I'm also assigned a play to read individually, separate from the rest of the class. I've been chosen to read Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar is one of the few Shakespeare plays I've already read; I read it my sophomore year in high school. But, of course, reading it again will bring new meaning and new understanding, because I'm nine years wiser. Not just wiser in a sense of understanding Shakespeare, but also in experience. Just like the scriptures have new meaning every time we read them, not because the scriptures change but because we change, even if it's not the first time reading Julius Caesar, I'm sure I will still benefit from it. When I first read it, I barely had my driver's license and had never had a girlfriend. Now, I'm married with a daughter and preparing for law school. So, you could say I've changed a lot.

Anyway, to preview Julius Caesar: it's one of Shakespeare's more famous tragedies. From what I remember, it's more about Brutus and Mark Antony than actually about Caesar. It's the source of the famous phrases "the ides of March," "Et tu, Brute?" and "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears."

And, to get a little deeper, there is a lot of political thrill and drama, something that I love in a book, movie, TV show, etc. The political drama in Caesar's time or in Shakespeare's time can easily be adapted to the modern world, and often is made manifest in reality. Politics and history today still displays betrayal, paranoia, and emotion over reason.

I originally thought this blog would combine politics and Shakespeare, hence the blog's name. I haven't done much of that, it seems like I mostly relate Shakespeare with pop culture. But maybe Julius Caesar will lend itself to more political discussion.

So, here's my learning plan for reading Julius Caesar:

1) I will post on the blog after reading each act, like I do with our other assigned plays. This will be in addition to my regular assigned blog posts.

2) On the blog, I will try to connect Julius Caesar to more political themes and concepts, with examples from history or the news instead of examples from "Family Matters" or Abbott and Costello.

3) It looks like there is one other person in my class who was assigned Julius Caesar, Averill Corkin. So I'll be sure to read her blog, make comments and discuss the play with her on our two blogs. From her first blog post about Julius Caesar, it looks like she'll be reading with a focus on the history - whether it's historically accurate, what role the portrayal of history played in Shakespeare's society, etc. So it will be interesting to look at the play that way, and see if that overlaps with my political perspective.

4) Also, I'll be watching film versions of Julius Caesar. From what I can tell, there are three Hollywood movies based on the play: a 1950 version with Charlton Heston as Mark Antony, a 1953 version with Marlon Brando as Mark Antony and a 1970 version with Charlton Heston once again as Mark Antony. Without even seeing the films, I have a few questions: why was there a remake of Julius Caesar only three years after the first one? Is it like what happened with The Incredible Hulk? And what are the differences between Charlton Heston's performance in 1950 and in 1970? Do any of these movies make references to political goings-on at the time the movie came out? And, does Marlon Brando make Mark Antony sound like an old gangster or a dockworker?

Here's one of my favorite Charlton Heston moments (skip to the :58 mark):


  1. this should be fun! let's compare notes. i'd love to talk to you about the play--especially since you seem to know very well what you are doing with regards to Shakespeare, and I have a lot to learn!

  2. Oh nice. This is exactly what I was talking about on Christa's blog that we were referring to. I wonder too if you watched a film version, if the film(s) also highlight political issues or if maybe they go down a different sort of track.
    Truthfully, I know absolutely nothing about politics, let alone American politics.

    Even that might be interesting to look at, given that you're reading not about American politics and so maybe comparing the two? The politics presented in this play compared to modern day movements and leaders that we know of right now.