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Julius Caesar (1623)

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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10,98994513 (3.73)283
Brutus, best friend of the Roman ruler Caesar, reluctantly joins a successful plot to murder Caesar and subsequently destroys himself. Includes notes and an introduction.

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Reason to read: Shakespeare Category Challenge, ROOT
This was actually enjoyable to listen to. Some great lines that are very familiar and of course the story is as well. Caesar, Anthony, Brutus, the Ides of March. One should probably read this one in March.. ( )
  Kristelh | Jun 9, 2022 |
This is one of two of Shakespeare’s better-known plays that I somehow missed in high school and college (the other is [King Lear], which I have yet to read). Despite the title, most of the action centers around Brutus, his decision to throw in with the conspirators, Caesar’s death, and the aftermath.

Perhaps the most famous lines in this play come from Mark Antony, mourning Caesar’s death and allowed by the conspirators to eulogize, as long as Antony does not blame them for the act. He does so, brilliantly getting the plebeians on his side while he talks about his friend, all the while repeating variations of “But Brutus says, he {Caesar} was ambitious; / and Brutus is an honorable man.” A couple of other phrases I was delighted to discover were “it is Greek to me” and “give up the ghost,” neither of which I realized were so old. I read it in one sitting, as is my wont, with a fair amount of help from the notes. I have the “Wordsworth Classics” edition which, instead of having notes on the opposite page or footnotes, had them in the back, so I had to keep a finger there and keep glancing back and forth. The glossary was separate and alphabetically rather than by line number, which was irritating, but despite that I mostly followed the meaning on my own from the context.

I would include the play among the history plays rather than calling it an all-out tragedy. Certainly there is a lot of death, but unlike [Hamlet] where audiences have sympathy for the main character yet everybody dies, no one comes out completely sympathetic in [Julius Caeser]. The conspirators are not great people, yet Antony and the others taking over government after Caesar’s death can also be ruthless and bicker among themselves. All in all, it’s rather unsettling and as modern as any current book with unlikable characters. The introduction to my edition discusses this and also has some pointed things to say about politics that could have been written today rather than 2004: “To this day, human beings are, all too often, sacrificed pointlessly on the altar of one political ideology or another. Again and again, men of slogans and ambition seduce and delude their more decent auditors; the many are swayed by the hypocritical rhetoric of the few. Repeatedly, violence generates yet more violence.” Not much has changed since 1599 - or 44 BCE, for that matter. ( )
  bell7 | Apr 7, 2022 |
William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar

Penguin, Paperback, 1967.

12mo. 250 pp. Edited with Introduction [7-41] and Commentary [149-242] by Norman Sanders. Cover art by Pierre Clayette.

Written, c. 1599.
First published, 1623 [F1].
This edition first published, 1967.


Further Reading
An Account on the Text

Julius Caesar
Act I, Scenes 1-3
Act II, Scenes 1-4
Act III, Scenes 1-3
Act IV, Scenes 1-3
Act V, Scenes 1-5



I have bought this edition for the cover. I really don’t need it otherwise. I have read the play twice, once as part of Three Roman Plays (Penguin, 1995) where this very text is reprinted (but with the significant difference that the endnotes are converted into footnotes!) and once, more recently, in the Penguin Popular Classics where the text is edited by G. B. Harrison. I have written both times about it at some length. Enough is enough, for now. A few words about the cover and the introduction will have to do here.

The late Pierre Clayette (1930–2005) was a notable French painter, book illustrator and scenic designer. For a reason I have not been able to discover, he contributed only six covers to the New Penguin Shakespeare, presumably published together with David Gentleman’s much better known (and far cruder, not to say uglier) versions. Clayette’s visions are all superbly, even sublimely surreal. None makes even the slightest concession to sordid realism. The Rome on this cover, to take an immediate example, is a Rome that surely has never existed. But it looks at once imposing and insubstantial, exhilarating and oppressive, ordered and chaotic – pairs of opposites not unlike the play.

Monsieur Clayette is uncommonly successful with the other five plays he illustrated for the series. He captures very well indeed the bright light and dark shadows of Romeo and Juliet, the magical atmosphere at once so ephemeral and yet so palpable of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the stark and sinister drama of Coriolanus, the brooding isolation of Macbeth and the colourful worldliness of The Merchant of Venice. All covers combine architectural solidity with elegant lines in a way that seems to have been typical for Pierre Clayette. What a pity only six covers resulted from his collaboration with Penguin! Instead, we’ve been saddled for decades with the inspired mediocrity of David Gentleman, the garish dullness of Clare Melinsky and the idiotic infantilism of Paul Hogarth.

The Introduction by Norman Sanders is dry and stilted in the best academic fashion. It is really an Afterword. Mr Sanders has little to say about Plutarch or the poetry (at least the former is extensively discussed in the rather useful Commentary), but he talks at length about the most important part by far, namely the characters. Surely, it is better to form your own idea of them before considering the fantasies of someone else. If you’re already familiar with a play, intimately familiar I mean, then it might be worth considering other opinions. But perhaps not those of Mr Sanders. He is conventional almost beyond endurance.

I’m tired of reading about the complexity of Shakespeare’s Caesar and the tragic essence of his Brutus. Mr Sanders expends a good deal of academic ingenuity to prove both points – to no avail, I’m afraid. I’ve never been able to see Shakespeare’s Caesar as anything else but a goofy old man, tired and delusional creature not worth bothering with. It was one of Shakespeare’s most masterful strokes of sarcasm to name the play after him; or he simply didn’t care. Either way, how Will must have laughed in advance at those critics who would desperately try to find what was never meant to be there! As for Brutus, his tragic potential is ruined by his tremendous stupidity. Here is a dense fellow if there ever was one. Lear and Hamlet (to say nothing of Othello or Antony!) may do extremely stupid things and exasperate the reader; but you can hardly call any of them stupid: all are genuinely tragic characters. Brutus, poor fellow, is just an obtuse idealist, if that. He is hardly a character at all, much less a tragic one. He could have been developed into a good comic figure. He is one of Shakespeare’s failures.

The play belongs to Antony and Cassius. Mr Sanders duly notes their complexity, but he is afraid of delving deeper. He prefers to dive in the safer waters of Caesar and Brutus. I don’t. I am much more fascinated by Antony and Cassius, two of the most intelligent creatures, and two of the most reluctant enemies, in the Shakespeare canon. Cassius is Iago’s first cousin, but with a difference. He is a more subtle and more nuanced, therefore more relatable and more frightening, study of villainy. As for Antony, he is more than the proverbial political demagogue. The scene with Caesar’s dead body is enough to prove this point beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, one might even say Antony already has something of “the divine spark [...] which cheats such as Octavius of their victory”, in the apt words of G. B. Harrison. That was to blossom only later in Antony and Cleopatra, but in the earlier play he did cheat Brutus, if not Cassius, of their dramatic victory, at least according to me if not to Mr Sanders.

For the Commentary and the cover, together with the carefully edited and very readable text, this is an edition well worth having. It’s an excellent way to be introduced to one of Will’s lesser plays which nevertheless contains some of his finest scenes and characters. Had he written nothing but the contrasting speeches of Antony and Brutus at the Forum, Shakespeare would have been remembered for his dramatic genius. Luckily for us, he wrote a great deal more. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Feb 19, 2022 |
I am doing some preliminary research and decided to start with Shakespeare. ( )
  AngelaLam | Feb 8, 2022 |
We had to read this in 10th grade and I have almost never hated a play so much. Its so fucking long, boring and takes forever for the guy to actually get killed. I hated all the characters. I hated everything about it. ( )
  banrions | Dec 7, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (827 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andrews, John F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Antrobus, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Atwan, RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldini, GabrieleEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barnett, SlyvanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barrett, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bevington, David M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Books, PennyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Braunmuller, Albert R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooke, TuckerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buchan, AndrewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Critchlow, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Decker, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsch, T.S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Herzberg, Max J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horsley, E. F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hulme, H. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Innes, Arthur D.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Pei te HurinuiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kastan, David ScottEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kittredge, George LymanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LaMar, Virginia A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wilson, John DoverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Hence! Home, you idle creatures get you home!
Beware the ides of March.
Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear;

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.
Et tu, Brute!
For Brutus is an honourable man;

So are they all, all honourable men.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Julius Caesar only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or simplifications (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Brutus, best friend of the Roman ruler Caesar, reluctantly joins a successful plot to murder Caesar and subsequently destroys himself. Includes notes and an introduction.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
"BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH." Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare's most popular plays. It is about how Caesar is plotted against and eventually murdered and overthrown by some of his closest friends. Brutus, the closest friend and main plotter of the murder, ends up murdering himself and his conscious gets the better of him. This book is the epitome of betrayal and is referred to and alluded to all throughout literature.
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Double text: English and Japanese. Introduction in English by Mark Van Doren
Haiku summary
Men plot a murder
against a would-be tyrant.
Then they start a war.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714685, 0141012390

Yale University Press

An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.

» Publisher information page

Recorded Books

2 editions of this book were published by Recorded Books.

Editions: 1456109464, 144988234X


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