Article Title

Julius Caesar from a Euripidean Perspective


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

A quarter of a century has passed since the late Ernest Schanzer began publishing the studies on Julius Caesar that eventually found their way into his book The Problem Plays of Shakespeare (1963). The "problems" that Schanzer announced there-whether or not the play has a principal character, whether it is a true tragedy, and whether Shakespeare presented the assassination as damnable or praiseworthy-are matters that have always intrigued students, but they are not things to be solved definitively.1 Brutus is clearly the character in the play who gets the most attention, the play as a whole is certainly a tragedy according to some of the norms by which we apply the term, and the assassination of Caesar, a murder by almost any norm that one can think of, is a tangled mixture of good and bad. All three concerns provoke ambivalent responses and work with other similar concerns to establish Julius Caesar as Shakespeare's transition from the relatively simple technical achievements in the two early tragedies, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet (one might add here Richard III and Richard II), to the marriage of mastery and comprehensive vision in such plays as Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. In this respect Shakespeare's mature work in tragedy, of which Julius Caesar is the first example, seems not so much another sophisticated metamorphosis of the Senecan play as a continuation of Greek drama in its own right-in particular, of the drama and vision of Euripides. The objective of the present essay is to show what kind of play .can emerge from the text of this work if we divest ourselves of'our academic obligations to honor Aristotle and make something Sophoclean of it, and instead look at the genuinely Euripidean, even late Euripidean, quality of the action and the principal characters.

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