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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: "Julius Caesar," 2.2.234ff
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1390  Tuesday, 8 July 2003

[1]     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Monday, 7 Jul 2003 10:51:06 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

[2]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Monday, 7 Jul 2003 11:37:50 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

[3]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Monday, 07 Jul 2003 09:46:21 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

[4]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 7 Jul 2003 16:06:02 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Monday, 7 Jul 2003 10:51:06 -0400
Subject: 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

A long time ago, a professor I had challenged his class with this:  "In
_Julius Caeasar_, Caesar is a tyrant, Marc Antony is a butcher, Brutus
is insane, and Cassius, the ideal man."  I use this line in my own class
to provoke conversation, and there's much to be said on both sides.

C. David Frankel
University of South Florida

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Monday, 7 Jul 2003 11:37:50 EDT
Subject: 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

>As can be seen from Portia's later confused conduct with her
>manservant
>and the Soothsayer (II, iv) and. even later, from Brutus' report
>to
>Cassius of Portia's extraordinarily painful suicide (IV, iii),
>Shakespeare means us to understand that Portia is demented.

No, she's Cato's daughter. One can't know this play without reading the
source texts.

Steve

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Monday, 07 Jul 2003 09:46:21 -0700
Subject: 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

L Swilley writes:

>Portia enters and, begging Brutus to tell her what all these mid-night
>visitations in the orchard might mean, illustrates her worthiness as a
>confidante by showing that she has stabbed herself in the leg but said
>nothing about it!
>
>As can be seen from Portia's later confused conduct with her manservant
>and the Soothsayer (II, iv) and. even later, from Brutus' report to
>Cassius of Portia's extraordinarily painful suicide (IV, iii),
>Shakespeare means us to understand that Portia is demented. . .
>
>My question is: does Brutus see this for what it so horribly is? . . .
>
>I ask those who respond to this to deal only with the play, not the
>history of the characters independent of it.

There seems to be a huge leap in judgment here. Portia is far from mad,
historically or in the play. Shakespeare reported history, a history he
expected and knew his audience would be familiar with. Portia does no
more than an Elizabethan understanding of Roman tradition would expect
her to do.  (Yes, even swallowing hot coals was expected; who'd wanna be
a Roman?)

That aside, I think the question is vital to the play and certainly
vital to any actor portraying Brutus. If the actor answers 'yes' or 'no'
(both are correct in my estimation as a director) the cascade of choices
the actor must subsequently make in the portrayal of the role is
formidable and an exciting challenge.

The other thing to watch out for here is the fascinating juxtaposition
between Brutus-Portia and Caesar-Calpurnia. Again, it's Shakespeare's
favourite ploy; antithesis. Caesar, in the streets, a firmly resolved
tyrant, considerate of none. At home, a loving partner, heedful to his
wife's advice (remember, he is not going until Decius shows up.) Brutus,
friend to all and lover of liberty in the streets, an uncompromising,
non-communicative tyrant at home (I'm with Portia when it comes to the
frustration this must induce). Does Brutus know what he's up to? Only
the portrayer of Brutus can answer that, both historically and in the
play.

Colin Cox
Artistic Director
Will & Company

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Monday, 7 Jul 2003 16:06:02 EDT
Subject: 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1383 "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

Don't believe that Portia was in any way insane. I think the leg
stabbing was documented elsewhere as a point of virtue, and such like
acts, in Roman society at the time. Swallowing fire -- might be another
matter -- but suicide in an honorable cause was, as we know, well known.

There was an excellent article in I believe REPRESENTATIONS some time
ago about the gladiator who thrust his hand in the fire in some
ceremony, and this fortitude in silence was much admired and re-enacted
-- without the fire.  Be interested in the discussion. HR Greenberg MD
ENDIT

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