What is the relevance of Julius Caesar in the African context (in the form of Julius Caesar, Brutus, Antony and Cassius), especially in the 21st century?
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The relevance of this Shakespearean play, written in the 16th century but set in a time much earlier historically than this, are particularly relevant to not just a 21st century African context but indeed to any period of history because of the universality of the themes of power and how it corrupts. In many ways this play is a study of power and how it ruins the character of even the most dignified and heroic of individuals. Note what Brutus says about power in his soliloquy in Act II scene 1, whilst he is ironically debating the merits of assassinating Ceasar:
But 'tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But hwen he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks into the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.
No matter what position somebody starts their climb up the ladder of power from, it invariably leads to them scorning the common people and their own origins as power distances them from everybody else. It is clear that even a cursory examination of 21st century Africa and its political turmoil reveals that power and corruption are key themes as despots rule with an iron fist and have the kind of total power that Brutus and Casca feared Ceasar would come to possess. In the same way the numerous coup d'etats and bids for power likewise indicate the manner in which the characters in this play have many contemporary parallels in the form of the despots in African history and those who would oppose them. Characters such as Robert Mugabe can easily be seen in the role of Ceasar as a character who has been given too much power and now wields that power irresponsibly and to the detriment of his people.
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