Julius Caesar (Folger Shakespeare Library Series)

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Overview

FOLGER Shakespeare Library: the world’s leading center for Shakespeare studies.

Each edition includes:

• Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
• Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
• Scene-by-scene plot summaries
• A key to famous lines and phrases
• An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
• An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern ...

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Julius Caesar

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Overview

FOLGER Shakespeare Library: the world’s leading center for Shakespeare studies.

Each edition includes:

• Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
• Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
• Scene-by-scene plot summaries
• A key to famous lines and phrases
• An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
• An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
• Illustrations from the Folger Shakespeare

Completely re-edited, the New Folger Library edition of Shakepeare's play puts readers in touch with current ways of thinking about Shakespeare. Each volume contains full explanatory notes on the page facing the text of the play, as well as a helpful introduction to Shakespeare's language. New edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743482745
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/23/2003
  • Series: Folger Shakespeare Library Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 27,197
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—their older daughter Susanna and the twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent, not in Stratford, but in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright, but as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Sometime between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare is thought to have retired from the stage and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616.

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Read an Excerpt


Shakespeare's Life

Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading -- especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible -- and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratford-upon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven, students wrote their own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament.

Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammar-school experiences -- for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s.

We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody of a line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron.

It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s.

In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays -- among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest -- presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall.

Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio).

The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy -- the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge -- who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?").

As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds -- both North and South America -- were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs -- religious, scientific, and philosophical -- cannot be overstated.

London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London -- the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade -- was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London -- the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon -- references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.

That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It -- and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories.

Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend -- or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records -- some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by an aristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries -- and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems.

Copyright © 2003 by The Folger Shakespeare Library

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First Chapter

(INDUCTION)

Enter Rumor, painted full of tongues.

[RUMOR]

Open your ears, for which of you will stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumor speaks?
I, from the orient to the drooping west,
Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth.
Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace while covert enmity Under the smile of safety wounds the world.
And who but Rumor, who but only I,
Make fearful musters and prepared defense
Whiles the big year, swoll'n with some other grief,
Is thought with child by the stern tyrant war,
And no such matter? Rumor is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wav'ring multitude,
Can play upon it. But what need I thus
My well-known body to anatomize
Among my household? Why is Rumor here?
I run before King Harry's victory,
Who in a bloody field by Shrewsbury
Hath beaten down young Hotspur and his troops,
Quenching the flame of bold rebellion
Even with the rebels' blood. But what mean I
To speak so true at first? My office is
To noise abroad that Harry Monmouth fell
Under the wrath of noble Hotspur's sword,
And that the King before the Douglas' rage
Stooped his anointed head as low as death.
This have I rumored through the peasant towns
Between that royal field of Shrewsbury
And this worm-eaten [hold] of ragged stone,
(Where) Hotspur's father, old Northumberland,
lies crafty-sick. The posts come tiring on,
And not a man of them brings other news
Than they have learnt of me. From Rumor's tongues
They bring smooth comforts false, worse than
true wrongs

[Rumor] exits.

Copyright © 1999 by The Folger Shakespeare Library

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 80 )
Rating Distribution

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(27)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 80 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2010

    A Great Edition for High School Students

    As an experienced high school English teacher, I always advise my students and their parents to purchase a Folger's edition of Shakespeare's plays. The notes, summaries, and other commentary serve the novice Shakespearean reader well and make the classical allusions and denotations of unfamiliar and common words and phrases from the Elizabethan age much easier for 21st Century readers to understand.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves...'

    First of all, this is by far my favorite Shakespeare play however, I object to one aspect of it. Wait a moment, Shakepeare fans! Refrain from biting your thumbs at me until you know the nature of my complaint. The play is entitled Julius Caesar, but I do not think that the play was about Caesar. Yes, it was about his Rome. Yes, he was about to be made king. Yes, it is he who is killed. On the contrary, the play mainly centers around Brutus that is why I could not put the book down until I had finished it (in one sitting, yes). It was the tragedy of noble Brutus, not the assasination of Caesar, that captivated me. Idealistic at best, Brutus's oratory in which he said he loved Rome more than his beloved Caesar was one of those chilling moments in literature that reminds us why readers read and why writers write. Then, another gem, Cassius's famous line (above) is more true than we give it credit, especially in the United States. In short, 'Beware the ides of March!'

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Caesar's best read...

    Whether for High School drama class or actor's study, Arden is always the first one to look at when preparing for a role. The Folio and modern spellings are listed with their meanings and the Bard's source material is often shown, in this case, Plutarch. I will recommend Arden for any play to research.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    Actually makes Shakespeare enjoyable

    In high school we had to read Romeo and Juliet and the emphasis of the teacher was to just about memorize the play.

    Didn't enjoy Shakespeare in high school but picked up some of the Shakespeare plays published by Barnes & Noble and to my surprise have read Juliet Caesar as well as The Merchant of Venice and found them not just easy reading but enjoyable. Have now picked up Othello, King Lear and Macbeth so if you are interested in reading Shakespeare without problems or have to read for a class would definitely recommend the Barnes & Noble publications.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2003

    Spell-binding play!

    One of Shakespeare's best plays! The plot and the story is captivating and even more engrossing because of the historical fact behind it. You see Caesar's assasination in a new light in a simple to read, short play!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not my favorite, but a good play.

    This year I was required to read Julius Caesar with my honors English class. Initially, I had no desire to read it because the version we read in middle school was extremely boring. 3 years later, however, and I was able to understand the play much more easily than I did when I was younger. There were a lot of themes in the play that are still applicable today and the story was pretty interesting. I found Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet much more intriguing when I read it last year, but Julius Caesar was close in rank. My biggest problem was keeping all of the characters whose names started with a C straight. Since the play was written in an older modern English, some of the phrases and lines (well, most of them, to tell the truth) were extremely hard to decipher. I dislike this because it's difficult to understand not only what the characters were saying, but what they meant when they said it. I probably would not read this again, because I honestly don't like Shakespeare's works. I've been introduced to many, and while this one was decent, I just haven't been able to appreciate his writings.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Honorable

    Julius Caesar is surprisingly easy enough to read even with the old English, and there is so much that underlies each and every word. Shakespeare certainly sets a fine example of what is needed in a good script. By using such eloquently intense words alone, he spins a silk web around the reader, hypnotically playing the scenes before one's eyes. Stripped down, the plot focuses on Brutus and Antony and their separate ideals for the one woman they both love: Rome.
    "The sun of Rome is set! Our day is gone;
    Clouds, dews, and dangers come; our deeds are done!"

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2007

    Loved The Book

    Interesting read,I found this book to make one think about life.Very good book!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    I've read several of William Shakespeare's plays and I have to say that I was deffinently disappointed with this one. It was somewhat confusing and it was really boring. I would never recommend this play to anyone.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2007

    I love Shakesphere and all but....

    ...this had to be one of the worst books/plays I have ever read. It was soooo dumb, and I think it dumb that Brutus killed himself for feeling guilty about murdering Caesar. He should have thought about the murder a little more throughly before doing it, then he wouldn't have to commit suicide about feeling guilty. All and all, don't waste your time on this book unless you're a Shakesphere nut, or absolutely positively HAVE TO read it for class!

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004

    An Astounding Tragedy

    William Shakespare's story of Julius Caesar, is truely a sententious work of irony and tragedy.It specifically elucidates the essential device of tragedy that the rancorous conspiracy is cast into reluctant perdition.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2003

    ....

    I had to read it for my honors English class, and I, who personally loves reading, hated this book. It was boring to me.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2002

    Great play

    I highly recommend reading Julius Caesar because Shakespeare was a brilliant writer whose timeless plays are rarely surmounted. It is definitely a classic and a must-read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2001

    Mainly about Brutus?!

    I have to admit that Julius Caesar is a really good play. It has so much meaning under it and actually made sense to me! It seems like it was more about Brutus and his problems with conspiring against his good friend Caesar than Caesar himself. Brutus was just an idealist who did everything for his love of Rome and simply made bad decisions. 'Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.' EXCELLENT PLAY! BRAVO!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2001

    good book read it

    Julius Caeser was a good book.I liked it because it was like a mystery type book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    Yes

    Arrived quickly and looked new.

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  • Posted May 28, 2014

    The tragic, historical drama Julius Caesar, written by William S

    The tragic, historical drama Julius Caesar, written by William Shakespeare in 1599 as a way to safely comment on the political turmoil in England at the time, tells the story of the events surrounding the assassination of Julius Caesar, including its consequences and causes. Brutus' role in the act and its effects on him are also explored as he tries to decide what is best for the Republic. The involvement and motivations of several other pivotal Romans are included as well.
    The conflict between loyalty to people and loyalty to principles is central to the play. Persuasion and rhetoric are also very important, as are Fate and free-will. Idealism vs realism is also a big part of the story, as it is the main difference between Brutus and Antony and Octavian. 
    The play is interesting, especially for those who are interested in history. The fact that neither side is really wrong or right helps make the story thought-provoking, as is the fact that the play has no villains. Unfortunately, because most of the major details of the plot are common knowledge, most readers will never be surprised by anything that happens. Despite this, I still found the play interesting. It can be an informative source of information for readers who do not know much about that period.
    I think that the play excluded background information, such as the dire state of the Republic at the time, which would have helped the reader better understand points of view of the Conspirators and Caesar's followers. I also think that some of the characters could have been better portrayed, specifically Antony and that his complicated relationship with Octavian could have been included.
    The play didn't affect me much or change my opinions on the topic because I have studied the events that the play is based on in great detail prior to reading the play. This play was my second favorite of Shakespeare’s that I have read so far.

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  • Posted March 24, 2013

    Another Book by Shakespeare

    Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is the tragedy of Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus. This was Shakespeare's transition from history plays to his famous tragedies. Overall, it is just another Shakespeare book, difficult to understand, but having a nice story when looking back on it. Not awful, but not the best

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    All Hail Shakespeare!!!

    Best play written by him, EVER!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Great play

    Oh ceezah reaf mine first for mines a suit that touches ceezah neeerah read it great ceezah!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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