Monday, August 17, 2009

Julius Caesar - A Woman's Place?


Not to pigeon-hole you to distaff comments, but what is your reaction to Portia's concern about Brutus' failure to share his concerns with her (2.1.234-309)?

Within the bonds of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
Is it excepted I should know no secrets
That appertain to you? Am I your self
But, as it were, in sort or limitation,
To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed,
And talk to you sometimes? Well I but in the suburbs
Of your good pleasure? If it be no more,
Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife. (2.1.280-287)

Is communication what distinguishes a wife from a harlot? And how does Portia stand up to characters like Constance (Geoffrey's wife and Arthur's mother), Kate (Hotspur's wife), Portia (Bassanio's fiancée in Merchant) or Titania (Oberon's wife)? Does Portia redeem Julius Caesar from being a boy-play if you're trying to teach it?

Nota bene: If you haven't finished Julius Caesar yet, Brutus never gets around to revealing "the secrets of my heart" to Portia (2.1.306) and, alas, by 4.3.146, she is tired of waiting.


(Quotes from Signet edition)

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