Approximately how much time does the action of the play Julius Caesar cover?

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Jonathan Ryan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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You would think that this would be a simple question to answer. In fact, scholars and literary critics debated the exact timeline of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar for centuries! The source of this debate is primarily the odd interval between act 1, scene 2 and act 1, scene 3, as well as the dramatic storm at the beginning of that third scene.

What is certain is that Shakespeare based his play on historical events described in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. These events occurred over a course of roughly three years from 45 BC to 42 BC. However, Shakespeare was a playwright, not a historian, and was more interested in dramatic effect than historical accuracy. Shakespeare’s Elizabethan audiences did not pack the Globe Theater for an education; they wanted entertainment!

To cater to his audience and avoid a confusing timeline, Shakespeare condenses the most exciting battles, speeches and (literal) political backstabbing from Plutarch’s histories into an action-packed six days. A day-by-day timeline of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” looks something like this:

Day 1: act 1.1–act 1.2
Day 2: act 1.3
Day 3: acts 2–3
Day 4: act 4.1
Day 5: act 4.2–act 4.3
Day 6: act 5

I hope this helps!

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The play spans roughly 3 years. Using information from the web sites linked below, I've put together a timeline for you:

February 44 BC: Caesar is named dictator perpetuus. At the Feast of Lupercalia, Antony offers him a diadem (crown), which Caesar refuses.

March 44 BC: Caesar is assassinated.

May 44 BC: Octavian meets with Marc Antony.

November 43 BC: Second Triumvirate is formed, with Octavian, Marc Antony, and Lepidus

October 42 BC: Brutus and Cassius are defeated at the battle of Philippi

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kirstens eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The action of Julius Caesar takes place over 6 days.  This parallels the actual historical time of 3 years! 

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