Straightening out some bookshelves, I discovered that we own this 1908 copy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. I suppose I had some inkling of it being there all along, but having never read JC before (favouring the likes of tragedies rather than the histories) I had tucked away a small collection of these pocket sized editions, not realizing that they were indeed so old, nor that JC was among them. We obtained these books a number of years ago at a library sale in a small town called Hanover.
Why the sudden interest on my part? Well, you may recall our little side-trip to Stratford just prior to St. Patrick’s Day when Kevin and I stayed in the room fit for a king (or Caesar, for that matter).While there, we purchased tickets for a performance in June (around the time of our wedding anniversary). That play is Julius Caesar and I am extremely keen to see it as one of my favourite actors, Geraint Wyn Davies, will be taking the role of JC himself.
I loved Shakespeare’s works when I was in high school. I read all the usual popular plays: Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the The Tempest. Since Stratford was only an hour and a half away, our school would annually attend a performance at the Festival or Avon theatres. My English class saw Twelfth Night in Grade 12 and Macbeth in Grade 13. Macbeth is my favourite of all.
Grade 13 was a fantastic time for me as a lover of literature, because I was able to take a course devoted exclusively to Shakespeare, taught by an amazing teacher, Mrs. Ross. We were given extra credit if we memorized and performed passages from some of Shakespeare’s plays. It may not surprise you to learn that my soliloquy of choice was Ophelia’s mad scene– just before she commits suicide– from Hamlet.
In University, I had occasion to read some of the history plays by the bard and they were not nearly as appealing to me, being heavy with politics and warfare. Times change.
Now to Julius Caesar. I have not picked up a Shakespeare play in decades (more’s the pity). Yesterday, when I came across the copy of JC, I immediately began to peruse it, and reading the introduction by someone called F.J. Furnivall, I was straight away swept up in the world of the Roman Empire and the world of Shakespeare himself. I was enjoying it so much that I made Kevin sit and listen to the entire thing (my argument being he would need to have some background knowledge for when we see the play).
Afterwards, I kept on reading – getting absorbed in the machinations of Cassius and the misguided loyalties of Brutus – waiting for the big scene where Julius Caesar is murdered by his cohort. I can see things I never would have noticed years ago. I am even formulating essay ideas that might have been fun to explore in Grade 13. I can’t WAIT to see the play in June!
Here’s part one of a poem that I’m working on. This part is up to and including Julius Caesar’s assassination. I will finish the second part when I finish reading the play. It is untitled at this point.
Ent’ring with his entourage
Triumphant Caesar, deems homage
Whilst Cassius him, plots soon to end
Using Brutus, loyal friend.
Friend to Rome with good intent
To save the Empire, by dissent.
(Cassius, Iago–Macbeth’s wife
Each goad on, to take a life. )
A crown declined– thrice thrust away
Giveth Cassius, guile to sway.
Brutus’ appetite, him fails
For food and sleep, yet ill prevails.
The night with tempest never seen
Portends a most unnatural scene
Where dogs of war, drag lion down
And leave dumb mouths on Caesar’s gown.