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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many different moods created throughout Julius Caesar. In the early part of the play there is a mood of growing tension and suspense. Everything seems to be building up to the attempted assassination of of the formidable Julius Caesar. Although the audience should know that Caesar was killed, Shakespeare manages to raise obstacles, fears, and doubts. Brutus doesn't know whether he wants to get involved in the conspiracy. Portia is dreadfully afraid the plot will be thwarted, in which case she would lose her husband and perhaps lose her home and everything in it. There seems to be some possibility that Calpurnia will succeed in talking her husband out of going to the Capitol on that fateful day. There are all kinds of supernatural signs that something dire is about to happen. But then the mood changes when Antony makes his funeral oration and turns the whole city against Brutus, Cassius, and all the other conspirators. 

The principal mood, if it can be called a mood, is one that might be called "time travel." We are brought back into the distant past and seem to be viewing great historical events as they actually happened. This is true even though the actors are all speaking English, most of it in poetic unrhymed iambic pentameter. Anthony's funeral oration is the crowning glory of this play. Shakespeare must have relished the opportunity to re-create that speech in English. We feel we are hearing the actual oration. The original theater audience must have been hypnotized, spellbound by the feeling of actually being present when these things happened.

When we think about the historical event, many of us think of Shakespeare's interpretation of it. We think of Shakespeare's Brutus, Shakespeare's Antony, Shakespeare's Caesar, and not of the real Brutus, Antony and Caesar or of Plutarch's histories. And this is true even though the actors are speaking English rather than Latin and are reciting Shakespeare's immortal poetry. We must feel that Shakespeare's version of Mark Antony's funeral oration is much better than the one the real Mark Antony actually gave. Antony calls himself "a plain blunt man" but moves the mob to frenzy with wild extemporaneous subjunctives:

But were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

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Julius Caesar

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