What is the theme of Julius Caesar?

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The theme of this historical play is confined to actual history. Shakespeare, following Plutarch, is trying to create the sense that the audience is actually present at events taking place in ancient Rome. The theme might be described as: These are the real men who took part in the assassination of the famous Julius Caesar and the events that followed his death. Since they all would be dressed alike in costumes supposedly like those of ancient Romans, Shakespeare had a special problem with distinguishing one from another. He gave each of them distinctive human characteristics to make them seem real and to make them different from each other. For instance, Julius Caesar is a great man but rather pompous and speaks of himself in the third person. Cassius is selfish and miserly but courageous and worldly wise. Brutus is solemn and noble but standoffish and conceited. Cassius is an extravert, Brutus an introvert. Casca is rude and abrupt but dependable. Antony is deceitful but loyal to his friend Caesar; he is both emotional and shrewd. Octavius is young and hotheaded. Throughout the play, the actors are constantly calling each other by name. This is to help the audience distinguish one from the other. A good example of this is in Act II, scene 2, where Caesar is being called upon by the group who will escort him to the Senate House and then murder him.


Welcome, Cassius.

What, Brutus, are you stirred so early too?

Good morrow, Casca. Caius Ligarius,

Caesar was ne’er so much your enemy

As that same ague which hath made you lean.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

See, Antony that revels long anights

Is notwithstanding up. Good morrow, Antony.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Now, Cinna. Now Metellus. What, Trebonius!

I have an hour’s talk in store for you.

If it were not for their very human traits it would be difficult to tell all these men apart.  But Shakespeare, although using English and iambic pentameter, manages to create the illusion that we have traveled back in time and are witnessing great historical events.


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