Written in 1599, Julius Caesar combines tragedy and questions of politics to produce one of Shakespeare's finest achievements. Satiating a desire for new entertainment, it's likely that the play was first performed in 1600/1601, soon after its completion. Detailing the events leading up to and after the 44 BC conspiracy against Roman dictator Julius Caesar, it focuses on the consequences of political betrayal to create an exhilarating play pitting reason against passion.
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First published in the First Folio in 1623, Julius Caesar depicts a psychological drama revealing the conflict between honour, patriotism and friendship. Highlighting fears that Queen Elizabeth I would not produce an heir, the Julius Caesar play would have appealed to Shakespeare's audience as an attempt to relate Roman history to their present day concerns.
The play begins with Caesar's return to Rome to enjoy his victory over the sons of Pompey. Julius Caesar's popularity, and a rumour that he is trying to pursue a monarchy, concerns some of the Roman senators. Cassius, who planted these suspicions, persuades Caesar's friend Brutus to join the conspiracy by convincing him that it is for the greater good for Rome, although Cassius is secretly accepting bribes.
The conspirators succeed in killing Julius Caesar, yet plans take a turn for the worst when a rallying speech from Mark Antony, invoking the famous lines, 'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears', persuades the common people to drive the conspirators from Rome. A fierce battle ensues during which many lives are compromised, and not only by enemies' hands. The despair coursing through Shakespeare's Julius Caesar play makes for a tense and dramatically charged piece of theatre that resonates today as it did upon its first performance.
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