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Shakespeare relied heavily on translations of Plutarch's The Life of Julius Caesar, The Life of Brutus and The Life of Antony for his play Julius Caesar. Most of Plutarch's description of the assassination is contained in The Life of Julius Caesar, and most of Shakespeare's information about that historic event comes from the same source. Plutarch himself gathered information from numerous sources but does not claim that all of it is reliable. In describing the assassination of Julius Caesar, Plutarch writes:
And the pedestal was drenched with his blood, so that one might have thought that Pompey himself was presiding over this vengeance upon his enemy, who now lay prostrate at his feet, quivering from a multitude of wounds. For it is said that he received twenty-three; and many of the conspirators were wounded by one another, as they struggled to plant all those blows in one body.
Shakespeare, however, indicates that there were thirty-three wounds in Caesar's body. For example, his chafracter Octavius says:
Look, I draw a sword against conspirators;
When think you that the sword goes up again?
Never, till Caesar's three and thirty wounds
Be well avenged, or till another Caesar
Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors.
The exact number of wounds will never be known. It is impressive that so many men delivered so many blows because it shows not only how mucn they hated the man but how much they feared him. According to Plutarch, most of the blows would not have been fatal. Caesar defended himself against all those assassins until he saw Brutus approaching with his drawn dagger. At that point he pulled his toga over his head and sank down. It may have been Brutus who delivered the actual death blow. It was a scene of such panic and confusion that objective accuracy was out of the question.
According to Shakespeare, 33 times.
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