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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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ON THE ASSASSINATION

We shall notice throughout it a strong distrust of subversion and conspiracy. These were, in the knowledge and experience of all Elizabethans, the greatest disruptions of the state. The Homilies: appointed to be read in churches throughout the realm, have already been mentioned. Shakespeare not only knew these; he apparently accepted their instruction. In them he would have found the lesson driven home that conspiracy is dangerous, that it is never to be trusted, and that directed against the king or ruler it is both against God's commandment and doomed to create confusion involving both conspirators and the country. It could be nothing but evil.... It is probably with a mind made up on these points that Shakespeare read Plutarch and wrote his play.
E. F. C. Ludowyk, Understanding Shakespeare, 1962

Caesar's death is followed by a civil war in which Shakespeare must have seen a parallel to the Wars of the Roses that had so obsessed his earlier years. Certainly we know that Shakespeare stood for civil order above everything, and Caesar's death was followed by the destruction of the existing order.
Louis Auchincloss, Motiveless Malignity, 1969



ON CASCA

I am going to risk a generalisation about Shakespeare. He was an Elizabethan dramatist, and I do not think the Elizabethans were conscientious over their characters; they would often alter them in the middle in order to get on with the play. Beaumont and Fletcher contain glaring examples of this. Good men become bad and then good again; traitors turn into heroes and vice versa without any internal justification. And Shakespeare sometimes does it too. There is an example-not a glaring one-in this play, in the character of Casca. Casca first appears as extremely polite and indeed servile to Caesar, 'Peace ho! Caesar speaks,' he cries. Then he shows himself to Brutus and Cassius as a sour blunt contradictious fellow, who snaps them up when they speak and is grumpy when they invite him to supper. You may say this is subtlety on Shakespeare's part, and that he is indicating that Casca is a dark horse. I don't think so. I don't think Shakespeare was bothering about Casca-he is merely concerned to make the action interesting and he alters the character at need. Later on, during the thunderstorm, Casca becomes different again; he walks about with a drawn sword, is deeply moved by the apparitions, and utters exalted poetry. At the murder-scene he wounds Caesar in the neck, and then we hear of him no more. His usefulness is over.
E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy, reprinted in Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, 1969.

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