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Julius Caesar: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 8 May 2008
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`Professor Humphreys is an excellent Shakespeare critic: he responds sensitively to the play's language and style, and his judgements on the action's finer points are subtle and discriminating...this edition is an impressibley mature piece of work.' Emrys Jones, Literary Review
About the Author
Arthur Humphreys is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Leicester.
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Top customer reviews
Shakespeare, characteristically, does not take sides. Are Brutus, Cassius and their co-conspirators striking a blow for freedom, or is their plot an unjustifiable and treacherous murder? Shakespeare does not tell us what to think; he puts the arguments of both sides into the mouths of his characters and leaves us to decide for ourselves.
The only problem I have with the play is the way that the Roman masses are portrayed as a fickle mob who are easily swayed by the speeches of demagogues. Nevertheless, the scene where Mark Antony turns the crowd from supporting the actions of the assassins to wanting to hunt them down and kill them is marvellous drama. Especially clever is Antony's increasingly ironic use of the phrase, "And Brutus is an honourable man."
Shakespeare's slightly patronising attitude to the common folk is also the only negative feature of another of my favourites: A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here the "mechanicals" are very funny, but unfortunately portrayed in a rather condescending way.
As to the real history on which "Julius Caesar" is based, the Roman Republic which the historical Brutus supported was not a democracy. It was an oligarchy dominated by a rich senatorial elite who were only concerned with their own freedom, not that of the mass of poor citizens, let alone that of the slaves.
The real Julius Caesar did indeed destroy the "freedom" of this rich people's oligarchy. But he gained power not just through military force but also because he won the poorer citizens to his side by adopting populist measures which benefited them. Caesar's assassins were as hostile to these populist policies as they were to his dictatorial ambitions.
Finally, this particular edition of the play is as good as any, and it meets what is for me the essential requirement of the explanatory notes being at the foot of each page for easy reference.
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