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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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1. What is Caesarism? What are its advantages and disadvantages, according to the Senators, according to the common people of Rome, and according to you?

2. Why, at this moment in Roman history, does Caesarism seem inevitable?

3. Should people be judged by their intentions, by their actions, or by the results of their actions? Defend your point of view with specific reference to the characters in Julius Caesar.

4. What are Caesar's strengths and weaknesses as a ruler, as a husband, and as an ordinary citizen of Rome?

5. Why did Shakespeare choose to include the character Lucius in his play?

6. Discuss Casca. Is he a poorly drawn character, or are his apparent inconsistencies merely the different sides of a complex personality?

7. What light does the argument scene between Cassius and Brutus (Act IV, Scene iii) shed on their personalities? Was Brutus right to condemn Lucius Pella for accepting bribes? What moral issue is at stake here? What is Cassius' position? What is yours?

8. Who makes a better ruler, a pragmatist or a man of principle? Defend your position with specific references to the play.

9. Discuss Brutus' relationship with Cassius.

10. Why does Cassius always give in to Brutus' wishes?

11. How does Cassius get Brutus to join the conspiracy?

12. What are Cassius' own reasons for joining the conspiracy, and how do they, compare to Brutus'?

13. How were Shakespeare's attitudes toward (a) women, (b) politics, (c) order, or (d) fate determined by the age in which he lived?

14. Discuss four occasions when characters try to manipulate each other through the use of flattery.

15. Why is the play called Julius Caesar and not The Tragedy of Marcus Brutus?

16. Is Cassius, as Caesar says, a dangerous man who thinks too much? Or is Brutus correct when he calls Cassius "the last of all the Romans"?

17. Is Brutus an honorable man or a hypocrite? Discuss his strengths and weaknesses.

18. Which of the characters would you vote for as president or support as king? Defend your position with reference to the text.

19. How does the first scene introduce most of the major issues of the play?

20. Some critics call Julius Caesar a problem play. What problems does it pose that remain unresolved?

21. Critics like to point out that Julius Caesar is a transitional play that lies between the history plays and the tragedies. How does it reflect the themes and structure of the histories; how does it look forward to the tragedies?

22. Who is the main character of Julius Caesar? Who is the hero?

23. Would you have joined the conspiracy? Defend your point of view with references to the text.

24. The Elizabethans looked to Roman times for lessons in how to live. What did Julius Caesar teach them?

25. Portia is sometimes considered a modern woman. In what sense is she modern; in what sense is she a product of the times in which she lives?

26. Compare Portia and Calpurnia-their personalities, their values, their relationships to their husbands.

27. Can good ever come from evil? Discuss the problem of the virtuous murder.

28. Compare the public and private lives of any major character.

29. Discuss Julius Caesar as a play about the different ways in which people use language.

30. Discuss the use of fire imagery.

31. What role does Fate play in the lives of the characters and in the final triumph of Octavius?

32. Discuss Julius Caesar as a study of ideals and the reality of politics.

33. Discuss the theme of order and disorder in the play.

34. Read Shakespeare's source material in Plutarch's Lives. What light does it shed on the characters and themes of the play?

35. Compare the characters and themes of Julius Caesar and either Henry V or Antony and Cleopatra.

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

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