Question: ‘Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is as much about Elizabethan politics as it is about those of ancient Rome.’ Consider this statement by focusing on close analysis of the speeches of Brutus and Antony following Caesar’s assassination
This Shakespeare essay asks you to do two things:
- Place the play in the context of Elizabethan political tensions
- Show your skills in analysis by comparing and contrasting the two identified speeches.
You should begin this Shakespeare essay by writing about the political scene in Shakespeare’s time. Julius Caesar was first performed in 1599, a time of great political tension, as the long-reigning monarch, Elizabeth, was reaching the end of her life, she had no heir and refused to name one. Also, her life had been perpetually threatened throughout her reign by Roman Catholic plots to put her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, on the throne.
Elizabeth was very much aware of the power of the theatre to influence her people, to the extent that she had banned the performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II. Shakespeare might thus be said to have been able to discuss contemporary politics more easily through the medium of history. All of this should be addressed in the first part of this Shakespeare essay.
The second part of the essay should focus mainly on analysis. As the question asks you to examine the speeches of Antony and Brutus following Caesar’s assassination (Act III, Scene ii) in particular, you should do that, comparing and contrasting the effectiveness of each in turn, the malleability of the crowd, the different approaches (Brutus to reason and patriotism, Antony to emotion and loyalty). It would be useful to comment, also, on the individual ambition of each.
This Shakespeare essay can easily follow the structure of the five paragraph essay, with the historical background being dealt with largely in the introduction and first paragraph and the remaining two paragraphs of the main body addressing the analysis of the speeches of Brutus and Antony in turn.
You should conclude this Shakespeare essay by commenting on the connection between the politics which caused the assassination of Julius Caesar and those prevailing at the time of Elizabeth, together with some closing comments on how each informs the other.
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