The first of William Shakespeare’s so-called Roman plays—which include Coriolanus (pr. c. 1607-1608, pb. 1623) and Antony and Cleopatra (pr. c. 1606-1607, pb. 1623)—Julius Caesar also heralds the great period of his tragedies. The sharply dramatic and delicately portrayed character of Brutus is a clear predecessor of Hamlet and of Othello. With Titus Andronicus (pr., pb. 1594) and Romeo and Juliet (pr. c. 1595-1596, pb. 1597), Julius Caesar is one of the three tragedies written before the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is, however, more historical than Shakespeare’s four great tragedies—Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (pr. c. 1600-1601, pb. 1603), Othello, the Moor of Venice (pr. 1604, pb. 1622), Macbeth (pr. 1606, pb. 1623), and King Lear (pr. c. 1605-1606, pb. 1608)—being drawn in large part from Sir Thomas North’s wonderfully idiomatic translation of Plutarch’s Bioi paralleloi (c. 105-115; Parallel Lives, 1579). A comparison of the Shakespearean text with the passages from North’s chapters on Caesar, Brutus, and Antonius reveals the remarkable truth of T. S. Eliot’s statement: “Immature poets borrow; mature poets steal.” In instance after instance, Shakespeare did little more than rephrase the words of North’s exuberant prose to fit the rhythm of his own blank verse. The thievery is brilliant.
(The entire section is 1286 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Julius Caesar Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!