I think Julius Caesar
might be my favourite Shakespeare play. It's certainly one of his lesser-known efforts, and I daresay it's even underrated.
I really enjoyed Caesar
's characters. One problem with Lear
et al. is that I wasn't interested in the leads. I have very little in common with a dottering old king with two very evil daughters and one nice daughter who is too powerless to be of any real use (at least not yet), nor do I see myself as Scottish or Danish royalty. Of course, I'm not a Roman citizen either, but for all their imperial trappings, Julius Caesar and Brutus seem like everymen, people who could have been your high school English class friend before they became a powerful politician. It was also very interesting to see Cassius at work throughout Caesar
, and I quite enjoyed his methods of persuasion.
The ending is no real surprise, nor is much else that happens (and the reason is twofold: everyone knows Shakespeare's stories, and everyone is familiar with Caesar's demise). But the really interesting thing is to follow Brutus' flight plan (if you will) as he spirals out of control.
One of my favourite discussions about Julius Caesar
involves the question of evil: who's the "bad guy"? Is it Brutus? Cassius? Marc Antony? Caesar himself? Is Brutus a strong lead, or is he a wimp? Is Cassius the wimp for funneling his subversive venom through a third party? Would Caesar have been a successful emperor if he hadn't been killed? Shakespeare gives no easy answers, an example of negative capability at its finest. This makes the play even more fun to read the second time, since the reader can gloss over the words and study the thematic elements (and there are tonnes; look at the soothsayer -- was her message really intended for Caesar or for those who would ultimately prove to be his demise?).
If you're the least bit into Shakespeare, you'd be crazy to skip Julius Caesar