Monday, June 29, 2009

Julius Caesar... A Man of History.

The month of 'July' derives its name from a seminal figure in history... Julius Caesar (previously, it was called Quintilis in Latin). I was introduced to him through the pages of the great English poet and playwright, and the world's preeminent dramatist William Shakespeare's tragedy... of the same name. I was a schoolgirl then, and "Julius Caesar" was a book that we read as a part of our curriculum in english literature for our ICSE exams. Needless to say, I was fascinated as plots and subplots unfolded before me and true intents and surprises emerged... and still remain totally entranced by this intensely dramatic story. I have also watched the celluloid version of this play... the one where Marlon Brando essays the role of Mark Antony and James Mason plays Brutus. As well as the 1963 film "Cleopatra", which chronicles the struggles of Cleopatra VII, the young Queen of Egypt, to resist the imperialist ambitions of Rome. The film starred Elizabeth Taylor (as Cleopatra), Richard Burton (as Marc Antony), Rex Harrison (as Julius Caesar), Roddy McDowall (as Octavian, alias Augustus), Martin Landau (as Rufio) and Kenneth Haigh (as Brutus).

A Note on Julius Caesar: Full name: Gaius Julius Caesar. Parents: Father: Gaius Julius Caesar the Elder, Mother: Aurelia - related to the Aurelia Cottae. Born July 12/13, 100/101/102 BC, Subura, Rome - died March 15, 44 BC, Curia of Pompey, Rome. Celebrated Roman general, statesman, and dictator. A patrician by birth he held the prominent posts of quaestor and praetor before becoming governor of Farther Spain in 61 – 60 (BC). He formed the First Triumvirate with Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) and Marcus Licinius Crassus in 60 BC and was elected consul in 59 BC and proconsul in Gaul and Illyria in 58 BC. Note: Pompey and Crassus had been at odds since they were consuls together in 70 BC, and Caesar knew if he allied himself with one he would lose the support of the other, so he endeavoured to reconcile them. Between the three of them, they had enough money and political influence to control public business. This informal alliance, known as the First Triumvirate (rule of three men), was cemented by the marriage of Pompey to Caesar's daughter Julia. Caesar also married again, this time to Calpurnia Pisonis, daughter of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, who was elected to the consulship for the following year. This unofficial triumvirate was opposed in the Roman Senate by optimates including Marcus Porcius Cato and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. Caesar proposed a law for the redistribution of public lands to the poor, a proposal supported by Pompey, by force of arms if need be, and by Crassus, making the triumvirate public. Pompey filled the city with soldiers, and the triumvirate's opponents were intimidated. Bibulus attempted to declare the omens unfavourable and thus void the new law, but was driven from the forum by Caesar's armed supporters. After conducting the Gallic Wars, during which Caesar invaded Britain (55, 54 BC) and crossed the Rhine (55, 53 BC), he was instructed by the Senate to lay down his command, the Senate conservatives having grown wary of his increasing power, as had a suspicious Pompey. When the Senate would not command Pompey to give up his command simultaneously, Caesar, against regulations, led his forces across the Rubicon River (49 BC) between Gaul and Italy, precipitating the Roman Civil War. Pompey fled from Italy but was pursued and defeated by Caesar in 48 BC; he then fled to Egypt.

Note: While Caesar was in Britain his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, had died in childbirth. Caesar tried to resecure Pompey's support by offering him his great-niece Octavia in marriage, alienating Octavia's husband Gaius Marcellus, but Pompey declined. In 53 BC, Crassus was killed leading a failed invasion of Parthia. Rome was on the edge of violence. Pompey was appointed sole consul as an emergency measure, and married Cornelia, daughter of Caesar's political opponent Quintus Metellus Scipio, whom he invited to become his consular colleague once order was restored. The Triumvirate was dead. In 52 BC another, larger revolt erupted in Gaul, led by Vercingetorix of the Arverni. Vercingetorix managed to unite the Gallic tribes and proved an astute commander, defeating Caesar in several engagements including the Battle of Gergovia, but Caesar's elaborate siege-works at the Battle of Alesia finally forced his surrender. Despite scattered outbreaks of warfare the following year, Gaul was effectively conquered.

Julius Caesar followed Pompey to Egypt where Pompey was murdered by a former Roman officer serving in the court of King Ptolemy XIII. Caesar then became involved in the dynastic struggle of the house of Ptolemy (with the Alexandrine civil war between Ptolemy and his sister, wife, and co-regent queen, the Pharaoh Cleopatra VII). Perhaps as a result of Ptolemy's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar supported Cleopatra (he is reported to have wept at the sight of Pompey's head, which was offered to him by Ptolemy's chamberlain Pothinus as a gift). But caught in Alexandria without sufficient troops, he was nearly destroyed before reinforcements could arrive. The main result of this sojourn was the affair that developed between Caesar and Cleopatra, which ultimately resulted in a son, Caesarion. Caesar defeated the Ptolemaic forces in 47 BC in the Battle of the Nile and installed Cleopatra as ruler (Cleopatra visited Rome on more than one occasion, residing in Caesar's villa just outside Rome across the Tiber.)

In 47 BC, Caesar moved against Pharnaces, the King of Bosphorus, who had overrun much of Asia, and defeated him in a few days at Zela. It was of this rapid victory that he made the famous comment, "Veni, Vidi, Vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). In 46 BC, he smashed another Pompeian army at Thapsus in Africa, before finally crushing the last resistance at Munda in Spain in 45 BC. Returning to Rome he was made dictator for life, but was murdered by a senatorial conspiracy on 15 March (44 BC), a few weeks before he was to have embarked on a series of major campaigns, first against Dacia, then Parthia. Note: Great games and celebrations were held on April 21 to honour Caesar's victory at Munda. Plutarch writes that many Romans found the triumph held following Caesar's victory to be in poor taste, as those defeated in the civil war had not been foreigners, but instead fellow Romans. On Caesar's return to Italy in September 45 BC, he filed his will, naming his grand-nephew
Gaius Octavius (Octavian) as the heir to everything, including his name. Caesar also wrote that if Octavian died before Caesar did, Marcus Junius Brutus would be the next heir in succession.

Caesar's uncle Marius was a popularis, Marius' protégé
Lucius Cornelius Sulla was an optimas, and in Caesar's youth their rivalry led to civil war. Both Marius and Sulla distinguished themselves in the Social War, and both wanted command of the war against Mithridates, which was initially given to Sulla; but when Sulla left the city to take command of his army, a tribune passed a law transferring the appointment to Marius. Sulla responded by marching on Rome, reclaiming his command and forcing Marius into exile, but when he left on campaign Marius returned at the head of a makeshift army. He and his ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna seized the city and declared Sulla a public enemy, and Marius's troops took violent revenge on Sulla's supporters. Marius died early in 86 BC, but his followers remained in power.

In 85 B.C., Caesar's father died suddenly while putting on his shoes one morning, without any apparent cause, and at sixteen, Caesar was the head of the family. The following year he was nominated to be the new
Flamen Dialis, high priest of Jupiter, as Merula, the previous incumbent, had died in Marius's purges. Since the holder of that position not only had to be a patrician but also be married to a patrician, he broke off his engagement to Cossutia, a plebeian girl from a wealthy equestrian family... he had been betrothed to since boyhood, and married Cinna's daughter Cornelia Cinnilla (in 83 BC. She, however, death in childbirth in 69 or 68 BC ).

In 80 BC, after two years in office,
Sulla resigned his dictatorship, re-established consular government and, after serving as consul, retired to private life. Caesar later ridiculed Sulla's relinquishing of the dictatorship - "Sulla did not know his political ABC's." He died two years later in 78 BC and was accorded a state funeral. Hearing of Sulla's death, Caesar felt safe enough to return to Rome. Lacking means since his inheritance was confiscated, he acquired a modest house in the Subura, a lower class neighbourhood of Rome. His return coincided with an attempted anti-Sullan coup by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus but Caesar, lacking confidence in Lepidus' leadership, did not participate. Instead he turned to legal advocacy. He became known for his exceptional oratory, accompanied by impassioned gestures and a high-pitched voice, and ruthless prosecution of former governors notorious for extortion and corruption. Even Cicero, widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists praised him: "Come now, what orator would you rank above him...?"

There has been much debate about what political role Caesar planned for himself. He certainly regarded the old oligarchic government as inadequate and desired to replace it with some form of rule by a single leader. Significantly, just before his death, Caesar was appointed dictator for life ("
dictator in perpetuity" or dictator perpetuo). About the same time, he began issuing coins with his own portrait on them, a practice unparalleled in Rome up to that time. Among his reforms was the reordering of the inadequate Roman calendar. (In 63 BC, Caesar had been elected Pontifex Maximus, and one of his roles was a complete overhaul of the old Roman calendar, this proved to be one of his most long lasting and influential reforms. In 46 BC, Caesar established a 365-day year with a leap year every fourth year. This Julian calendar was subsequently modified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 into the modern Gregorian calendar.) Historians place the generalship of Caesar as one of the greatest military strategists and tacticians who ever lived, along with Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

A prelude to Caesar's assassination: In Rome dissatisfaction was growing among the senatorial aristocrats over the increasingly permanent nature of the rule of Caesar. A conspiracy was formed, aimed at eliminating Caesar and restoring the government to the Senate. The conspirators hoped that, with Caesar's death, the government would be restored to its old republican form and all of the factors that had produced a Caesar would disappear. The conspiracy progressed with Caesar either ignorant of it or not recognizing the warning signs. On the
Ides of March (March 15), 44 B.C., he was stabbed to death in the Senate house of Pompey by a group of men that included old friends and comrades-in-arms, led by Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus. The other conspirators were: Casca, Trebonius, Ligarius, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber and Lucius Cinna. With Caesar's murder, Rome plunged into 13 years of civil war. Caesar remained for some a symbol of tyranny, and for others the heritable founder of the Roman Empire whose ghost has haunted Europe ever since. For all, he is a figure of genius and audacity equaled by few in history. His writings on the Gallic and Civil wars are considered models of classical historiography. Note: The month of March is still considered to be pretty intriguing, and references to "the Ides of March" are still in vogue.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar: Traditional readings of the play maintain that Cassius and the other conspirators are motivated largely by envy and ambition, whereas Brutus is motivated by the demands of honour and patriotism. Brutus allows himself to be cajoled into joining a group of conspiring senators because of a growing suspicion - implanted by Caius Cassius - that Caesar intends to turn republican Rome into a monarchy under his own rule. One of the central strengths of the play is that it resists categorizing its characters as either simple heroes or villains. The early scenes deal mainly with Brutus' arguments with Cassius and his struggle with his own conscience. The growing tide of public support soon turns Brutus against Caesar. This public support was actually faked. Cassius wrote letters to Brutus in different handwritings over the next month in order to get Brutus to join the conspiracy (since his joining them would be strengthening the conspirators' case as well as improve their standing in the eyes of the commoners). A soothsayer warns Caesar to "beware the Ides of March," which he ignores, culminating in his assassination at the Capitol by the conspirators that day.

Caesar's assassination is perhaps the most famous part of the play, about halfway through. After ignoring the soothsayer as well as his wife's (Calpurnia - married to Caesar from 59 BC until Caesar's death) own premonitions, Caesar comes to the Senate. The conspirators create a superficial motive for the assassination by means of a petition brought by Metellus Cimber, pleading on behalf of his banished brother. As Caesar, predictably, rejects the petition, Casca grazes Caesar in the back of his neck, and the others follow in stabbing him; Brutus is last. At this point, Caesar utters the famous line "Et tu, Brute?" ("And you, Brutus?" i.e. "You too, Brutus?")... Shakespeare has him add, "Then fall, Caesar," suggesting that Caesar did not want to survive such treachery. The historian Plutarch notes that Caesar believed Brutus to have been his illegitimate son, as his mother Servilia Caepionis had been Caesar's lover during their youth.

Caesar's life and death is dramatized in
William Shakespeare's play/tragedy (believed to have been written in 1599) - "Julius Caesar", with Caesar's famous death/last line: "Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!" (Act III scene i). In spite of its title, this is not the story of Julius Caesar; he appears in only three scenes, and is killed at the beginning of the third act. Though, towards the end of the play, Caesar's ghost appears to Brutus with a warning of defeat ("thou shalt see me at Philippi", IV.iii,283). His corpse is just the island on which all the other characters fight. Nevertheless, it is an important role, he was the colossus who bestrides the world. When Caesar tells Marc Antony he trusts only fat, well-fed-looking men, it seems like a shrewd campaigner passing on a useful observation to a promising up-and-comer. Caesar's observation was made on the lean and hungry looking Cassius. The protagonist of the play is Marcus Brutus, and the central psychological drama is his struggle between the conflicting demands of honour, patriotism, and friendship. This play portrays the conspiracy against the Roman dictator of the same name, his assassination and its aftermath. It is one of several Roman plays that Shakespeare wrote, based on true events from Roman history, which also include Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra.

Brutus is a Roman praetor (Minister), Caesar's friend and exact emotional opposite: a self-controlled, even-tempered, honor-loving man... a man, torn apart by his love to the Republic and his loyalty to Caesar. Brutus, the noblest and most sympathetic of the characters, battles futilely to save the republic from the inevitable emerging dictatorship. But in spite of his greatness, he is an easy tool for the Machiavellian Cassius. Cassius (a wonderfully nuanced character) preys on the ambition and vanity Brutus does not even recognize in himself. Cassius, though a callow manipulative bribe-taking scoundrel, can yet be so noble and brave. Shortly before killing himself, he tells his slave he has a final order for him, "Live free." We see beneath his self interest lies a magnanimous heart.

Marc Antony's funeral speech: The conspirators make clear that they did this act for Rome, not for their own purposes and do not attempt to flee the scene but act victorious. Brutus and his companions marched to the Capitol while crying out to their beloved city: "People of Rome, we are once again free!". But, following the murder of Caesar, Brutus ill-advisedly lets Marc Anthony give a funeral oration. Antony abides by his agreement with Brutus - not to place any blame on the conspirators. However, he uses many rhetorical tricks to persuade the people to go against the conspirators and support him and Caesar's goals. In his speech, though Antony never directly calls the conspirators "traitors", he is able to call them "honorable" in a sarcastic manner... so that the crowd is able to feel a sense of sarcasm. He starts out by citing that Caesar had thrice refused the crown, which Antony himself had presented him, this refutes the conspirators main cause for killing Caesar. He reminds them of Caesar's kindness and love for all, thereby humanizing Caesar as innocent. Next, he teases them with "Caesar's will" until they demand he read it. Antony tells the crowd to "have patience" and expresses his feeling that he will "wrong the honorable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar" if he is to read the will. The crowd yells out "they were traitors." Antony humbles himself as "no orator, as Brutus is"... hinting that Brutus used trickery in his speech to deceive the crowd. After that Antony deals his final blow by revealing to the crowd "Caesar's will", in which "to every Roman citizen he gives seventy-five drachmas" as well as land, he had left his private gardens on the Tiber to the Roman public as well as 300 sesterces to every enrolled Roman citizen. (These bequests, combined with Antony's funeral oration, only served to increase Caesar's posthumous stature among the populace, increasing the grief at his death as well as the rage against his assassins). He then asks the crowd, "Here was a Caesar! When comes such another?" which questions the conspirators' ability to lead. Finally, Antony releases the crowd and utters, "Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt." After this the crowd riots and searches out the traitors in an attempt to kill them.

Therefore, Marc Antony, with a subtle and eloquent speech over Caesar's corpse - the much-quoted "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..." deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the common people, in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus' speech. Antony rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome. Amid the violence, the innocent poet, Cinna, is confused with the conspirator Lucius Cinna and is torn to pieces by the mob. Brutus' wife (Portia) kills herself, then Brutus commits suicide by falling on his own sword - after the battle between the conspirators and Marc Anthony/Octavius Caesar. Still eloquent, Anthony delivers Brutus' funeral oration, calling him the noblest Roman of them all. In the ensuing chaos Mark Antony, Octavian (later Augustus Caesar), and others fought a series of five civil wars, which would end in the formation of the Roman Empire.

The opportunistic
Marc Antony's famous funeral speech (for Caesar) with the iconic opening line: "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"... can be read at: He plays on the word "honourable" a number of times. Watching the mob swayed from one direction to the other first by Brutus' speech and then by Marc Antony's is the best warning there is on the perils of democracy. The same mob who castigate Caesar during Brutus' speech, lionize him during Antony's. In the end the crowd is whipped into a frenzy of revenge when they hear Caesar left them money and land in his will. Marc Anthony, unfaltering in his love for Caesar takes revenge for his murder. Octavius Caesar, Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) and Caesar's loyal cavalry commander M. Aemilius Lepidus were the Triumvirs (Second Triumvirate) after the death of Julius Caesar. Note: Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavius Caesar), was Caesar's great-nephew by blood, who later became Emperor Augustus.

This funeral speech by Marc Antony is an icon of rhetoric. The speech is a famous example of the use of emotionally charged rhetoric. Indeed, comparisons have been drawn between this famous speech and political speeches throughout history in terms of the rhetorical devices employed to win over a crowd.

Marc Antony and Octavius Caesar: The result unforeseen by the assassins was that Caesar's death precipitated the end of the Roman Republic. The Roman middle and lower classes, with whom Caesar was immensely popular and had been since before Gaul, became enraged that a small group of high-browed aristocrats had killed their champion. Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalised on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the Optimates, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself. But, to his surprise and chagrin, Caesar had named his grandnephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, bequeathing him the immensely potent "Caesar" name as well as making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic. Gaius Octavian became, for all intents and purposes, the son of the great Caesar, and consequently also inherited the loyalty of much of the Roman populace. Note: Marc Antony was an important supporter of Julius Caesar - as a military commander and administrator, being Caesar's second cousin, once removed, by his mother Julia Antonia.

Antony did not forsee the ultimate outcome of the next series of civil wars, particularly with regard to Caesar's adopted heir. Octavian, aged only 19 at the time of Caesar's death, proved to have considerable political skills, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavian consolidated his tenuous position. The formation of the Second Triumvirate formally deified Caesar as "Divus Iulius" in 42 BC, and Caesar Octavian henceforth became "Divi filius" ("Son of a god"). Seeing that Caesar's clemency had resulted in his murder, the Second Triumvirate brought back the horror of proscription, abandoned since Sulla. It engaged in the legally-sanctioned murder of a large number of its opponents in order to secure funding for its forty-five legions in the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antony and Octavius defeated them at Philippi. Afterward, Mark Antony married Caesar's lover, Cleopatra, intending to use the fabulously wealthy Egypt as a base to dominate Rome.

The second triumvirate broke up in 33 BC. Disagreement between Octavian and Antony erupted into a civil war (the third civil war) - between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This was the Final War of the Roman Republic - in 31 BC. Antony was defeated by Octavian at the naval Battle of Actium, and in a brief land battle at Alexandria. He committed suicide, and his lover, the Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, killed herself shortly thereafter. This final civil war, resulted in the permanent ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus, a name that raised him to status of a deity. Julius Caesar had been preparing to invade Parthia, the Caucasus and Scythia, and then swing back onto Germania through Eastern Europe. These plans were thwarted by his assassination. His successors did attempt the conquests of Parthia and Germania, but without lasting results.

This play is filled with memorable quotes, e.g., "Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once." - Julius Caesar (Act II scene ii). When Brutus addressed the plebeians, explaining that he had to murder Caesar: "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more" (3.2.21-22). Meaning: Not that [he] loved Caesar less, but that [he] loved Rome more. Brutus wants to show the public that his love for his country far surpassed his love for his friend, Julius Caesar. Later on, Brutus flatters the plebeians, allowing them to believe that they "may be the better judge" (3.2.17). In the play, Brutus is portrayed as a man similar to Caesar, but whose passions lead him to the wrong reasoning, which he realizes in the end when he says in V.v.50-51, "Caesar, now be still:/ I kill'd not thee with half so good a will."

Antony brilliantly counters Brutus' assertions that Caesar is ambitious with the following evidence:

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill;
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff. (3.2.90-94)

In 62 BC, the festival of the Bona Dea ("good goddess") was held at Caesar's house. No men were permitted to attend, but a young patrician named Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to gain admittance disguised as a woman, apparently for the purpose of seducing Caesar's wife Pompeia. He was caught and prosecuted for sacrilege. Caesar gave no evidence against Clodius at his trial, careful not to offend one of the most powerful patrician families of Rome, and Clodius was acquitted after rampant bribery and intimidation. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying that "I thought my wife ought not even to be under suspicion." To this day, we have a maxim, "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion" meaning, those in public life should not put themselves in the position of having their behaviour questioned. Note: Pompeia was the daughter of Quintus Pompeius Rufus, a son of a former consul, and Cornelia, the daughter of the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. She was the second wife of Julius Caesar, from 67 BC until he divorced her around 61 BC.

Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" is peopled with such complex and subtle characters, we don't know whom to root for. There is no Iago or Richard III to step forward and tell us boldly, "I am a villain." Each of the characters acts for both high and low motivations alike. But it's the emotions and values, like jealousy, betrayal, honour, suicide, duty, and revenge that really form this play. History, drama and a literary classic all rolled into this one novel, a masterpiece by Shakespeare. An examination of the relationship between political power and personal conscience, it is a veritable master class for aspiring politicians. This is one of the Bard's most memorable plays, the greatest of all his historical tragedies. Undoubtedly.

P.S. Some info courtesy: and Wikipedia. This post is a mix of Shakespeare's tragedy and actual historical facts. Shakespeare deviated from some historical facts in order to curtail time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged more easily. The tragic force is condensed into a few scenes for heightened effect. E.g., Caesar's murder, the funeral, Antony's oration, the reading of the will and Octavius' arrival all take place on the same day in the play. However, historically, the assassination took place on March 15 (The ides of March), the will was published three days later on March 18, the funeral took place on March 20 and Octavius arrived only in May.

Shakespeare gives Caesar's last words as "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!" ("Even you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar."). Plutarch says he said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. However, Suetonius reports his last words, spoken in Greek, as "καί σύ τέκνον" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon?" i.e., "Even you too, child?" in English).

Note: Two famous film adaptations of this play are:

1. Julius Caesar (1953 film): Julius Caesar is an 1953 MGM film adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the uncredited screenplay, and produced by John Houseman. The original music score is by Miklós Rózsa. The film stars Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Louis Calhern as Julius Caesar, Edmond O'Brien as Casca, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia.

2. Julius Caesar (1970 film): Julius Caesar is a 1970 independent film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play, directed by Stuart Burge from a screenplay by Robert Furnival. The film stars Charlton Heston (as Mark Antony) and Jason Robards (as Brutus) star with a mainly British cast including John Gielgud (as Julius Caesar), Richard Johnson (as Cassius), Robert Vaughn (as Casca), Richard Chamberlain (as Octavius), Diana Rigg (as Portia), Jill Bennett (as Calpurnia), Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and André Morell. Charlton Heston had earlier essayed the role of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar (1950 film).


1. A bust of Gaius Julius Caesar, Consul/Dictator of the Roman Republic (picture courtesy:

2. The climactic assassination of Caesar (picture courtesy: Wikipedia)


  1. Roshmi...

    That was an excellent post. I have a Masters in History and I have read this story a thousand times for its drama and tragic end. But never with a krishna'a teaching on its side and compared to Shakespeare. Keep writing and i have to agree you have a lot of patience... like me.. which is good. :)



  2. @ Tiger: Thanks for your encouraging words and for stopping by my blog.

    Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar" is one of my favourite books. This post is a mix of Shakespeare's tragedy and actual historical facts.

    And I regard Lord Krishna as the greatest of all: Management Guru, teacher, guide, negotiator, friend, philosopher and much more.

    Patience is a virtue... and I have bundles of it :) Glad to know you have it too!

  3. @ sm: Thanks! Glad you liked it.

  4. Roshmi,
    that was a good post indeed ... in fact even I had Julius Caeser in ICSE, and I positively loved the play ... even though I am a true-blue Science student literature and alternative history interests me a lot ... this play belongs to the so-called middle period of his plays where he had developed his understanding of human nature (after the lighter plays like Merchant of Venice). This does show up in the way he presents the charcacters of the play ... however we did Macbeth for ISC and that according to me surpassed JC ...
    haven't read Antony and Cleopatra however ... i really wanna read that

  5. An in-depth, well researched post as ever but you know what I never liked Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"(though its a masterpiece) as it was a part of ICSE and had to answer questions on the play for marks ... back then I was more into short stories and poems...
    I liked Shakespeare's other plays like Macbeth, Twelfth Night, As you Like it etc...

  6. @ Subhayan: Great to know that you are fond of literature and alternative history... despite your science background. The same applies to me too. Science is no doubt interesting... but without a mix of literature/poetry/history... it is too bland!

    Each of the Bard's plays are distinct. Julius Caesar and Macbeth belong to two diff. genres.

    JC... is filled with complex and subtle characters, nothing and no-one is black or white. Everyone has shades of gray in them. We don't know whom to root for. There is no Iago or Richard III to step forward and tell us, "I am a villain." Each of the characters acts for both high and low motivations alike... and there is a whole lot of emotions displayed throughout the play.

    Shakespeare deviated from some historical facts in order to curtail time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged more easily.

    Macbeth... on the other hand has more well defined/distinct characters w.r.t. the emotions and thoughts displayed/motivating them. It is certainly more dark.

    I guess... Shakespeare wrote JC in 1599 and Macbeth in 1606... and the circumstances in which both these plays were written... were vastly different, as can be seen from their respective plots.

    We read "Twelfth Night" and George Bernard Shaw's "St. Joan" for ISC. Our seniors read "Pygmalion" instead. All three are great works... in their own right.

    And yes... don't miss out on "Antony and Cleopatra"... watch the movie "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor and Sir Richard Burton... if you can. Its a classic!

  7. @ Dhiman: I loved reading "Julius Caesar" even for my ICSE exams. Its a great play.

    We read "Twelfth Night" and George Bernard Shaw's "St. Joan" for ISC. Our seniors read "As you like it" and "Pygmalion" instead. All four are great works, classics... in their own right.

    Try and watch the movie... starring Marlon Brando as Marc Antony and James Mason as Brutus. We watched the movie in school, before our board exams... in order to remember the scenes better! The movie has done justice to the play.

  8. thanks Roshmi, shall try to catch the movie ... and yup, u forgot the Uderzo/Goscinny twist to JC ... that's carnage isn't it? I still laugh silently when i think of those!!!!

    BTW, u've been nominated for the Wramblerz Annual Blog Awards, which shall be declared in my 50th blog post ... am on 48 now, so 2 more :)

  9. @ Subhayan: No! No! No! I haven't forgotten Uderzo/Goscinny twist to JC... at all. Asterix is one of my all time fav comics/books... so, no way...!!!

    It has lots and lots of undercurrents and layers... will require a whole new post.

    You know, I always thought... Satyajit Ray probably derived inspiration from Asterix... even his works (e.g., Hirok Rajar Deshe) are filled with caustic/sarcastic undercurents... cloaked in humour!

    Look forward to your (virtual) half century. Meanwhile, I guess... I need to brush up on my "acceptance" speech... ;)

  10. Hi Roshmi! Informative post. Nice new angle. Would like to know more about historical details.

  11. our school had shown us "Macbeth" :) and I have studied "Pymalion: as well...

  12. @ Dhiman: "Pygmalion" is great. This story has been made into films... in hindi, bengali and english... and possibly other languages too.

    I had "Twelfth Night" @ ISC. This too is a good story... re: mistaken identity...

  13. @ Mr.R: Gratias tibi ago. Benigne dicis.

    P.S. Thats in latin... meaning: Thank you. Nice of you to say so.

  14. I remember reading Julius Caesar for my exams too. In fact I even learned Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral by heart. And I remember crying when Brutus kills himself. You've given due credit to one of the most amazing dramas ever written, which in itself is a mammoth task. Kudos and keep it up !


  15. @ Post Script: Welcome to "Musings of an Unknown Indian" and hope you have a fun time here!

    I'm glad you liked this post :)