9 January 2010
William Shakespeare wrote this tragedy about the murder of the great Roman emperor Julius Caesar just before 1600. His direct source was Plutarch’s work Parallel Lives. The play is exceptional in many ways: to begin with, it has more than one tragic hero; moreover, one could even say that the title character’s arrogance and sense of omnipotence suggest that he deserves his death. In fact, the play focuses most on his friend Brutus (who might even be Caesar’s illegitimate son, according to some sources). Brutus’ intimate drama lies in the tension between his friendship with Julius Caesar and his loyalty to the idea of the Republic. Brutus is the only one among the conspirators who is not driven to murder by either greed or personal resentment. However, it soon turns out that he has made few fatal mistakes, the biggest one undoubtedly being the fact that he has let Caesar’s confidant Mark Antony live. Furthermore, he lets him address the citizens of Rome at Caesar’s funeral, which leads to the play’s dramatic turning point… Against a historical background, the play illuminates contemporary topics. It is at once a portrait of Roman citizens, an intimate story of guilt and betrayal, and an examination of our faith in the power of words.