Monday, August 17, 2009

Julius Caesar - Whose Tragedy Is It Anyway?


It says right on the cover of my Folger edition, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. But what kind of tragedy kills off its titular tragic figure in the first lines of the third act?

You may argue that it's really Brutus' tragedy, that the title should be The Tragedy of Marcus Junius Brutus. If so, where does Brutus fall in the spectrum of tragic figures, Shakespearean or otherwise? Does he conform to the oft over-used Aristotelian definition, or Northrop Frye's sense that Shakespeare presents tragedies of character, or something else?

Is the play even a tragedy? Or a history play masquerading as tragic?



Erik Nickerson said...

I am a high school sophomore studying Julius Caesar in my honors English class. I agree with this writer to a certain degree. I agree with the fact that tragedies usually do not kill of its main figure in a play during the beginning of the third act and that it could be viewed as Brutus' own tragedy. Still, one must think that Shakespeare prepared us to feel bad for the death of Caesar during the beginning of the play by making him seem like a good leader and friend. We still have not finished the entire play, so I do not know the outcome of the mob's rage, but as of now it seems like we want to side with Antony at this point in the play because of his loss of a dear friend of his. This play can definitely be viewed as either a tragedy or a "history play masquerading as tragic." Still, it depends on your perspective. If someone were to side with the now dead Caesar and Antony, then you could view it as a tragedy, but in that perspective one could still think of it as a historical play disguised as a tragedy. In my point of view, I believe that this play of Julius Caesar is really just plain history written down in play format and all fancied up into a Shakespearian tragedy.

Bad Horse said...

Definitely Brutus' tragedy. It's one of the only Shakespeare plays I like, because it actually asks a tough question: Why did Brutus die for doing the honorable thing? Is it a fool to be honorable?