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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0424  Thursday, 6 March 2003

[1]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 10:15:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

[2]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 10:21:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 11:12:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 10:15:57 -0500
Subject: 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

>3. I don't see how Julius Caesar can be held responsible for Nero and
>Caligula.

Well, he is part of the chain of events that led to them, but, on the
other hand, it is entirely possible that, had he lived, he might have
been not only able, but willing (as Augustus was not) to put the
Republic back on track.


Caesar was not just a link in the chain.  Though the Civil Wars were to
become a great crux of Roman thought, even under Empire, Caesar broke
the back of the Republic.  The subsequent ironies that Shakespeare
illustrates don't change this. But this event was like a Black Mass
Magna Carta.  This was how it was perceived them, by Brutus, and later,
to this day.  I am surprised this rupture is not clear, as it was to
Shakespeare.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 10:21:18 -0500
Subject: 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

A second tradition arose, I gather from Renaissance humanism (or rather
from its reading of Plutarch and others), of an ideal of liberty. This
might mean individual freedoms, but more often it meant the integrity of
a nation-state composed of people with common customs and language. A
true patriot was one who sought to defend his nation not only from
outside invaders but from internal enemies who were undermining the
"liberties" and traditional customs for personal gain.

The irony being that THIS was the prior tradition- once Empire ruled the
world, this world as well as the Other world, revisionist tendencies
reify.  Dante, naturally, sides with Christian hierarchy, God the Ruler
of the Universe- anyone undermining that rule, like Brutus or Judas, is
a monster-it takes a special genius to write "Prometheus Unbound."

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 11:12:18 -0500
Subject: 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0408 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

>A second tradition arose, I gather from Renaissance humanism (or rather
>from its reading of Plutarch and others), of an ideal of liberty.
>I, too, would like to hear from some who have more precise knowledge of
>this question, or at least some reliable references who articles that
>can clarify it.
>
>Cheers,
>don

Sidney's allusion below in his argument for the superiority of poetry
over history is interesting in that it refers to the deaths of Marius
and Pompey, as well as to poets who devise punishments in hell for
Tyrants (Dante obviously?), while taking Caesar's own account as patent
proof of his tyranny and making no reference to his murderers.

"But the Historie beeing captiued to the trueth of a foolish world, is
many times a terror from well-doing, and an encouragement to vnbrideled
wickednes. For see we not valiant Milciades rot in his fetters? The iust
Phocion and the accomplished Socrates, put to death like Traytors? The
cruell Seuerus, liue prosperously? The excellent Seuerus miserably
murthered? Sylla and Marius dying in their beds? Pompey and Cicero slain
then when they wold haue thought exile happinesse? See we not vertuous
Cato driuen to kill himselfe, and Rebell Casar so aduanced, that his
name yet after . yeares lasteth in the highest honor? And marke but euen
Casars owne words of the forenamed Sylla, (who in that onely, did
honestly to put downe his dishonest Tyrannie) Litteras nesciuit: as if
want of learning caused him to doo well. He ment it not by Poetrie,
which not content with earthly plagues, deuiseth new punishments in hell
for Tyrants: nor yet by philosophy, which teacheth Occidentos esse, but
no doubt by skill in History, for that indeed can  affoord you Cipselus,
Periander, Phalaris, Dionisius, and I know not how many more of the same
kennell, that speed well inough in their abhominable iniustice of
vsurpation."

While Shakespeare seems to have relied on Plutarch for most of the plot,
Antony's speech in particular seems to be influenced by the 1578
translation of Appian by Henrie Bynniman (An auncient Historie and
exquisite Chronicle of the Romanes warres, both Ciuile and Foren.
Written in Greeke by the noble Orator and Historiographer Appian of
Alexandria):

"Antony marking how they were affected, did not let it slippe, but toke
upon him to make Caesars funeral sermon, as Consul, of a Consul, friend
of a friend, and kinsman, of a kinsman (for Antony was partly his
kinsman) and to use craft againe."

This use of "craft" seems to agree with Sidney's assumptions regarding
the pro-Julius faction.

There is some evidence that Shakespeare read Bynniman's translation in
apparent borrowings in AC.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenixandturtle.net/ESA/conference.htm

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