Auden, Kierkegaard, & Society in re: Julius CasearIn his Shakespeare lectures, Auden argues that Julius Caesar is "of great relevance to our time, though it is gloomier, because it is...

Auden, Kierkegaard, & Society in re: Julius Casear

In his Shakespeare lectures, Auden argues that Julius Caesar is "of great relevance to our time, though it is gloomier, because it is about a society that is doomed.  We are not doomed, but in such immense danger that the relevance is great. Octavious only succeeded in giving Roman society a 400 year reprieve.  It was a society not doomed by the evil passions of selfish individuals...but by an intellecutal and spiritual failure...".

In The Present Age Kierkegaard writes:  "The man who has no opinion of an event at the acutal moment accepts the opinion of the majority."

How can we use scenes from the play to inspire active involvement in voting and other culturally significant activities and counter apathy? 

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jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Okay... I shall take my own life now...

What do you think America's legacy will be?  If we should all explode today, will we be remembered for the great intellectuals of the Revolution, for the heroism of the "Greatest Generation" or for the botched policies (in my opinion) of the Vietnam era and the Gulf Wars? 

And again, how can we motivate the students of today to not be the victims of a political Vesiuvius?  What lessons can be gleaned from Julius Caesar, if any?

 

 

 

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings"--or that we are in a war that we really didn't mean to be in (so say the Senate). No, Bush isn't Brutus, although the alliteration is appropriate. After all, doesn't Antony say "he was the greatest Roman of them all"? But, ah, then, who is Antony in our present regime--and who might be the new Octavius back to unite Rome....

I remember reading years ago about the fears in Great Britain during the previous fin de siecle about the collapse of empire, where some intellectuals compared Rome to Britain, worrying about its collapse from decadence (Oscar Wilde, new women, the poor in the cities, to name a few).There was an extraordinary article in the NYT on Sunday reminding us that empires never last forever, so that the question is not when American hegemony will end, but what will the legacy of America be when it does. That might seem to take this discussion a bit away from Julius Caesar, Brutus, and Auden, but maybe not. Isn't Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts all about Brueghel's painting in which society goes on about its everyday business while Icarus falls from the sky, nobody noticing? I remember someone reading that after 9 / 11, in relation to that event:"About suffering they were never wrong, /The Old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position: how it takes place l while someone else is eating or opening a window...."

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

The comments of Auden cause me instead to wonder how we can use a reading of Cassius' effect on Brutus and Brutus' utter naivete to understand the negotiations in our own political world. Most of the Senate now insists they just did not have all the facts right when it came to giving the president the authority to invade Iraq--or whatever their disclaimers might now be--when they seemed to place trust in what they now identify as the wrong places rather than taking responsibility on themselves.  Cassius convinces Brutus way too easily, and Brutus trusts Antony much too quickly, doing simply stupid things that resulted in the erosion of stability in Rome.

Good points.  Perhaps get students to cast their own political, ahem, characters, ask them to draw their own parallels? (In theaters this Christmas!  Dick Cheney as Cassius!  Bush as Brutus!  Condi as Calpurnia!...well, I guess that wouldn't work, as at least Calpurnia had something of a clue at first...)

Are there any particular lines that you (or someone) else could point to (or scenes) that would help elucidate this comparison? 

And what about rooting out apathy so we don't meet the fate Auden almost admits we are headed for?   

 

 

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

The comments of Auden cause me instead to wonder how we can use a reading of Cassius' effect on Brutus and Brutus' utter naivete to understand the negotiations in our own political world. Most of the Senate now insists they just did not have all the facts right when it came to giving the president the authority to invade Iraq--or whatever their disclaimers might now be--when they seemed to place trust in what they now identify as the wrong places rather than taking responsibility on themselves.  Cassius convinces Brutus way too easily, and Brutus trusts Antony much too quickly, doing simply stupid things that resulted in the erosion of stability in Rome.

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