How does Shakespeare's language in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare apply to today's political or social issues?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare conveys many important ideas about human nature. In addition, the play  gives advice to men in the handling of their affairs. 

Words are powerful tools that can be used to influence others or gain the things that a man may need or want.  The political world in the United States has growing problems between the two factions that are most prominent: the President and the House of Representatives. 

In comparing the two Roman governments of 44 B.C. and the United States political scene of 2013, there are some areas in which Shakespeare’s commentary might help both worlds.


Cassius: Men at some time are masters of their fates:

The fault is not in our stars,

But in ourselves.

In this situation, Cassius explains to Brutus that men must take charge of their own destiny.  He indicates that luck and chance will not get a man what he needs.  He must take assert himself and not wait for something to happen.

This advice certainly applies to today’s problems. Think about the gun control issue.  The President declared that he will not stand by any more and allow the NRA to dominate the decisions about gun laws.  If necessary, he will use his powers to put in place the laws that are needed to make the United States safer.


Therefore let our alliance be combined,

Our best friends made, our means stretch’d;

And let us presently go sit in council…

During the preparation for the battle between the two Roman factions, both Antony and Octavius and Cassius and Brutus sit in council to discuss their future and what to do to enhance their situations.

Antony advises Octavius that they need to combine their forces and find out who their friends are.  Then, their meeting should be held privately so they can discuss any covert actions and what dangers they may face.

The combining of forces was seen in World War II when the allied forces united to defeat the Germans.  One of their covert or secret plans was D Day in June of 1944.  The allies attacked and defeated the Germans. 

Of course, this idea continues today as countries and governments form alliances for the greater good of the world.


Brutus tells his opponents:

Words before blows.  Is it so, countrymen?

Good words are better than bad strokes.

Brutus indicates that it is better to discuss the problems between enemies than it is to have a war. Although the situation was entirely different for this battle, the advice rings true. 

The US Secretary of State serves in this capacity. She or he goes to the countries that are having issues which are directed at the US and works on compromises that prevent any type of aggression. Intercession on behalf of other countries falls under his or her guidance as well. "Words before war" would be the best motto for any country.


Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Caesar’s advice spoke to his going to the Capitol in spite of his wife begging him not to go. He believed that if a man is brave and does not fear death, he will not be concerned with dying. A man who worries and frets about his death will at every turn be afraid.

This advice is good for any person. Everyone knows that death is inevitable. It is best for a person to live his life and not worry about when he will die. If that is a person’s main concern, then he will constantly agonize about his life and death.

The language and quotations from this drama supply many examples that apply to the world today. Shakespeare’s words are filled with exemplary advice, both for politicians and laypeople. 

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

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