Thursday, May 25, 2017

Julius Caesar

We read Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare for our fifth and final Middle School Socratic Book Club, back in March. It was our first attempt at a real Shakespeare play. We've done Lamb's Tales re-tellings, but not an original work. Unfortunately, our club never got to meet for discussion for a variety of scheduling reasons. However, Riley, Ruben, and I did an in depth study at home.

I chose the Oxford School Shakespeare version for our study because it has the complete unabridged text and I love the layout. Each play in this series has marginal notes to aid in overall understanding of difficult passages as well as vocabulary. There are also plot summaries on individual scenes, a list of leading characters, background information, photos, maps, and other helpful illustrations. Julius Caesar even held a few pages in the back with references from Shakespeare's Plutarch, based on a translation by Sir Thomas North.

Initially, I created character index cards for the first Act, which Riley, Ruben, and I divided up, each taking different parts. Then we read our assigned character's lines aloud. However, given some of the vocabulary, we decided to move to an audio version, following along with the book. The dramatization was extremely helpful in aiding understanding.

After listening/reading the entire play, we watched two different movie versions of Julius Caesar that I obtained through our local public library. The first starred Marlon Brando and the second Charlton Heston. We liked the second version better. It followed the play word for word until the end of the final Act, which was unfortunate.

Overall, I really enjoyed Julius Caesar and look forward to trying another Shakespeare play in the future. Riley thought the characters were pathetic because they were, in her words, whiny and cowardly men. Ruben preferred listening to the audio over reading or watching the films. Given the history of Caesar's time period that we studied this year, it was interesting to see their reactions.

Some of my commonplace entries are as follows....
Brutus: No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself
But by reflection, by some other things. (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 52-53)
Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once. (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 32-33)
Decius: Most mighty Caesar, let me know some cause,
Lest I be laugh'd at when I tell them so.
Caesar: The cause is in my will. I will not come:
That is enough to satisfy the Senate. (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 69-72)
Brutus: Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers, hear me for my
cause, and be silent that you may hear. Believe me for
mine honour, and have respect to mine honour that you
may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and awake
your senses that you may the better judge. If there be
any in this assembly, any dear friends of Caesar's, to him
I say that Brutus' love to Caesar was no less than his. If
then that friend demand why Brutus rose against
Caesar, this is my answer: not that I loved Caesar less,
but that I loved Rome more.... (Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 12-22)


  1. We're doing Plutarch's life of Caesar & I was going to do Shakespeare at the same time but we didn't get to it. May have been overkill anyhow but it would be interesting to compare the two. I used the Marlon Brando version years ago but haven't seen Heston's. I like Riley's character analysis: whiny & cowardly!

  2. Thanks Carol. The Heston version was a bit truer to the play, but either would be a worthy edition to a Julius Caesar study.