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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar is a play by Shakespeare set in Rome in the year 44 a. C. In the first act the general Julius Caesar has just returned from a battle against Pompey. His many triumphs have made him the most powerful man in Rome, indeed he has also been offered the king's crown, but he refused it three times. Meanwhile, Cassius, Cinna and Casca are convincing Brutus to take place in their conspiration against Caesar.
In the second act Brutus's republican ideology emerges: he is alone in his orchard and decides to kill Caesar. In the third act the plot rises to its climax: Caesar is assassinated and a funeral is celebrated, in which Brutus and Antony made their speeches. Antony succeed in stirring the mob to mutiny. In the fourth act Antony, Octavius and Lepidus draw up a list of those who are sentenced to death. In the fifth and final act, the conspirators meet the triumvirs' army at Philippi, where they are defeated. Brutus and Cassius commit suicide and Antony gives Brutus a funeral oration.
Shakespeare took his historical sources in Plutarch's Lives, translated into English in 1579.
Julius Caesar is an aging man who stands for the past, he represents both a human, superstitious, loving man and an arrogant, ambitious politician; this discrepancy causes his downfall. Brutus is the most complex character of the play. His tragic flaw is his permanent sense of principle and nobility. Indeed he truly believes in the goodness of his action of killing Caesar. This play was written before Hamlet, and critics argue that Brutus is the real protagonist and an anticipation of Hamlet's character. Brutus stands for reason, he believes in the republic but he lacks passion and doesn't take the crowd's emotions into consideration. He only does political speeches, which the mob doesn't understand. Antony is more charming, he has the power of words and he's able to manipulate everyone. Indeed he turns the crowd against the conspirators, but continually praising them, he calls them “honourable men” who has killed Caesar for being ambitious. Inspite of this he presents all the events in which he has not been ambitious at all.
the main themes are the rhetoric of politics, virtue in public men and the elizabethan order. According to Shakespeare rhetoric is the maker of history, and people who can make effective speeches win. As for virtue, shakespeare believes that what is virtue in private men, may cause the ruin in public ones. The last theme is the elizabethan order: when this play was first performed in 1599, queen Elizabeth I was old and had no heir, elizabethans were worried that someone would ignite a civil war by trying to take the power. The univers was ruled by God, who established everything that happens, the king's right to rule becomes from God and if someone opposed to the king, God would get mad and the system would be in disorder. What destroys the divine harmony in this play are Cassius jealousy, Caesar's ambition and Brutus's rationality.
Julius Caesar taught the elizabethans that only a strong ruler could provide stability and prosperity, indeed at that time there was no prejudice against strong rulers, like it is nowadays.


Caesar has been killed and an angry crowd demands an explanation, therefore Brutus starts to talk. He explains that inspite his love for Caesar, who was like a father to him, he felt forced to kill him in order to save Rome from dictatorship, claiming that Caesar was too ambitious. He uses rhetorical questions like “who would like to be a slave in Caesar's dictatorship?” in order to catch their benevolence; at the beginning of the speech the crowd is suspicious, but then they forgive Brutus, whose eloquence appealing to their commonsense wins their mind.

Antony's oration

During Brutus's speech Antony comes down to the market place holding Caesar's dead body in his arms, and when Brutus has finished his speech, he starts his funeral oration, which turns out to be a truly political speech. Unlike Brutus, who starts his speech with “romans”, Antony refers to the crowd with the word “friends” in order to show them that they are the same, they are mourning Caesar in the same way. Antony indirectly exposes the fact that Caesar wasn't ambitious. He proved this wrong when he reminded the crowd that all of his military triumphs made Rome richer, that he cried with the poor and he refused the king's crown three times. Then he also expose the truth about the motive by saying that the conspirators killed Caesar for their private griefs. Although, Antony never criticizes Brutus and the conspirators, indeed, he always calls them honourable men. His aim is to stir the mob against them. He appeals to the crowd's emotions and talks about Caesar as a man, which makes his speech much more effective than Brutus's one. To be more specific he appealed on the mob's emotions when he showed Caesar's murder body and calls every wound by a name of a conspirator, claiming that the deeper one is Brutus's, and when the general saw him stabbing him, his heart failed because of his sorrow. Those wounds are said by Antony to be dumb mouths, and the romans must give them a tongue. In order to do this he stopped speaking for a while, saying that his pain is so strong that he can't speak, bu the real reason is that he wants to make them know he's suffering and be sympathetic, he wants to be felt as close as possible. Moreover he tells them that Caesar has left them in his will every orchard and public places, so that they could amuse themselves. After that his speech becomes satirical, because he calls Brutus a true orator, not like himself, but in reality he's the true orator, who appeals to the crowd's emotions with concrete examples: Brutus is not as cunning, as shrewd. At the end of the speech the mob has completely changed their minds, now they want to kill Brutus and the other conspirators.


Macbeth is a Shakespearean tragedy. In the first act we are informed of the failure of an attempt of invasion by the Norwegians, helped by the Thane of Cawdor, thanks to Macbeth, a respectable soldier. While he's returning home, he meets with his friend Banquo, three witches, who greet him as the Thane of Cawdor and tell him he will become the king of Scotland; and they also tell Banquo that he will father a line of kings. This meeting increases Macbeth's ambition, who invites Duncan to his castle, where his wife has carried out a plan to kill him and make the prophecy happen immediately. In the second act Duncan is murdered by Macbeth, but the blame is put on the servants sleeping outside the king's room. Malcom and Donalbain, Duncan's sons, are afraid for their lives and leave Scotland. Macbeth becomes the king but Macduff and Banquo are suspicious. In the third act Macbeth decides to kill Banquo and his sons, since the prophecy says that he will be the father of a line of kings, but he only manages to kill Banquo, whose ghost haunts him, while his son Fleance escapes. In the fourth act the three witches warn Macbeth to beware of Macduff, therefore our protagonist kills Macduff's wife and children. In the fifth act we can see that Lady Macbeth is completely mad: she sleepwalks trying to clean her hands from Duncan's blood. Meanwhile Malcom is marching to Scotland with an army, and all the lords have allied with him. Macbeth is killed by Macduff, who becomes the new king.
Macbeth is the only Shakespearean play set in Scotland in the 11th century, probably because when Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. The actions take place in the heath and at first in Macbeth's castle, and then at the palace of Dunsinane. There is a contrast between the ideas of fairness and foulness. Even though the moors are where the witches meet, they are safe; on the contrary Macbeth's castle is described as pleasant but it is very dangerous. This reversal of values is echoed in the witches words “fair is foul and foul is fair”
The three witches are recognised by something supernatural, they have malicious intentions and prophetic powers but they only appeal to what Macbeth wants to believe. Macbeth is a tragic hero: at the beginning of the story he is a respected soldier, but at the end he's alone because of his ambition and his decision, indeed what he does he's what he decides to do, nothing is forced upon him, and his death is the inevitable consequence of his actions, and he's aware of what is happening to him. He suffers a lot throughout the play, he experiences fear and psychological terrors but he doesn't compromise and this is what makes him heroic during his dehumanisation, that is to say his inability to feel emotions. Lady Macbeth is a devoted wife who does everything for her husband. In the first part of the play she shows great strength of will, in the second she gradually loses her confidence and becomes completely mad because of her sense of guilt, until, overcome by that she dies.
Macbeth has a very simple plot but is very complex in its psychological analysis. Unlike the other great tragedies, there is no villain acting against the hero, because Macbeth is both the hero and the villain, he begins the play as a heroic warrior but, led by ambition he becomes a murderous tyrant. The themes are regicide: an act that brings chaos and catastrophe; the reversal of values; the theme of false appearances: it is explored the difference between what is true and what seems to be true, this finds expression in the metaphors referring to clothes that do not fit and in the frequent use of the verb to seem; and then the theme of time: everything is preordinated and whatever action we do to change the future, is just a step to achieve that preordinated future. This theme is associated with images concerning growth: babies, seeds, trees and plants.
In this play there is a striking use of imagery: Duncan is the symbol of harmony, and his death is concerned with exceptional natural events, indeed when he's killed the earth trembles, the sky is troubled and the horses break the stalls and eat one another.

A tale told by an idiot

In this passage Macbeth finds out that his wife has passed away but he's careless and doesn't seem to be concerned with that. He explains that he had had the capability of having emotions, but then he saw many horrors and nw he doesn't feel anything because he doesn't care about anything. If he had lives in a balanced way he would feel fear hearing noises and cries. He's touched by nothing and he's not proud of it, he's deprived of any feeling and emotion. To convey this message he uses the image of supping with horrors. Shakespeare chose to use this verb, also in the comparison of life to a huge meal, in order to give a physical sensorial perception of life, there is no further dimension, only the physical one. In his monologue:

out out brief candle
life's but a walking shadow; a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing.

The candle and the shadow are something ephemeral, not lasting, fleating and weak, just like life, another comparison is the poor player, that is to say a mediocre actor who plays upon the stage but when the play is finished, no
one remembers him. The message conveyed is that life is meaningless and useless, we are just puppets and then we are forgotten, there is no divine, no further dimension. Moreover the last image, the one of the tale told by an idiot, clinches the fact that life is meaningless, indeed if the tale teller is an idiot, the tale will also be.
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