Suggested Essay Topics
Act 1, Scene 1
1. Read through Caesar’s Commentaries, an account of his battles in Europe and write a brief history of Caesar’s rise to power.
2. Research the first triumvirate—Caesar, Crassus and Pompey. What happened to it? What were the causes and the results of the Roman Civil War?
3. The tribunes Flavius and Marullus are concerned about Caesar’s rise to power. Research the role of the tribunes in Roman society and discuss their duties and responsibilities.
Act I, Scene 2
1. Read Plutarch’s The Life of Caesar and compare his account of the historical events with the events as they are depicted in Shakespeare’s play.
2. History has been touched by political assassinations from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr. Very often the profile of the assassin is that of a loner, a misfit, who has no friends and does not conform to the norms of society. Choose one political assassination and research the life and personality of the person responsible. Compare him to the picture Shakespeare presents of Cassius in the play.
Act I, Scene 3
1. Superstition is an important part of the play and a significant factor in Roman life. Examine the superstition and the supernatural events described in this scene. Research Roman mythology and Roman superstitions. What did the Romans believe and what were they afraid of?
2. Compare the character of Casca as he is depicted in Scenes 1 and 2. How has he changed? What does the audience learn from him and why is he an important character in the play?
Act II, Scene 1
1. Read Plutarch’s Life of Brutus and compare the historical account of Brutus to the character in Shakespeare’s play.
2. A “tragic flaw” is a weakness of personality in a character that makes the character vulnerable, and leads to his destruction. What were Caesar’s and Brutus’ “tragic flaws” and how do these flaws make them vulnerable?
Act II, Scene 2
1. Compare Caesar in Act I, Scene 2 to the Caesar that appears in this scene. How is he the same? How is he different? What does he fear and what are the forces that influence him?
2. Wives play a key role in Act II, Scenes 1 and 2. How do the wives of Brutus and Caesar try to influence their husbands? Are they successful?
Act II, Scenes 3 and 4
1. Rome was a republic that depended on slavery similar to the United States until the 1860s. Research the history of slavery in Rome. Where did the slaves come from? What roles did they play in the Republic? What was a slave’s life like? What rights and responsibilities did they have? What were the rights and responsibilities of Roman citizens?
2. Compare the characters of Calphurnia and Portia in terms of how they are portrayed by Shakespeare in this act. How are the two women similar? Compare the two scenes involving these two wives and their husbands. What purpose do the scenes serve?
Act III, Scene 1
1. A soliloquy is an important device to expose information and give the reader insight into a character. In a soliloquy, the character speaks the truth. Read Antony’s soliloquy in this scene again. What truth does it reveal about Antony who has just apparently reconciled with the men who killed his friend, Caesar?
2. How does Caesar’s “tragic flaw” of pride and ambition enable the events in this scene to occur? How could these events have been prevented?
Act III, Scenes 2 and 3
1. Compare the funeral speeches of Brutus and Antony. What are their purposes? How effective is each speech? How does each speech reveal important aspects of both characters?
2. The fickleness of the crowd is an important issue in the play. Brutus and Antony both depend on it. How are they able to manipulate the crowd in this scene? What other devices do they use in their funeral speeches to win the support of the crowd? Which speech is more effective and why? Give reasons for your opinions.
Act IV, Scene 1
1. What does this scene reveal about Octavius? What new insight does it give into Antony’s character, and how does that effect your opinion of him?
(The entire section is 1,216 words.)