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Julius Caesar Critical Analysis Essay - 596 Words

HAMLET was the play, or rather Hamlet himself was the character, in the intuition and exposition of which I first made my turn for philosophical criticism, and especially for insight into the genius of Shakspeare, noticed. This happened first amongst my acquaintances, as Sir George Beaumont will bear witness; and subsequently, long before Schlegel had delivered at Vienna the lectures on Shakspeare, which he afterwards published, I had given on the same subject eighteen lectures substantially the same, proceeding from the very same point of view, and deducing the same conclusions, so far as I either then agreed, or now agree, with him. I gave these lectures at the Royal Institution, before six or seven hundred auditors of rank and eminence, in the spring of the same year, in which Sir Humphrey Davy, a fellow-lecturer, made his great revolutionary discoveries in chemistry. Even in detail the coincidence of Schlegel with my lectures was so extraordinary, that all who at a later period heard the same words, taken by me from my notes of the lectures at the Royal Institution, concluded a borrowing on my part from Schlegel. Mr. Hazlitt, whose hatred of me is in such an inverse ratio to my zealous kindness towards him, as to be defended by his warmest admirer, Charles Lamb—(who, God bless him! besides his characteristic obstinacy of adherence to old friends, as long at least as they are at all down in the world, is linked as by a charm to Hazlitt's conversation)—only as 'frantic';—Mr. Hazlitt, I say, himself replied to an assertion of my plagiarism from Schlegel in these words;—"That is a lie; for I myself heard the very same character of Hamlet from Coleridge before he went to Germany, and when he had neither read nor could read a page of German!" Now Hazlitt was on a visit to me at my cottage at Nether Stowey, Somerset, in the summer of the year 1798, in the September of which year I first was out of sight of the shores of Great Britain. Recorded by me, S. T. Coleridge, 7th January, 1819.

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Brutus critical essay - Chroomcast

what is the critical analysis of simulation and dissimulation

Julius Caesar Characters Analysis features noted Shakespeare scholar William Hazlitt's famous critical essay about the characters of

An example of the amount of respect people have for Brutus is when Cinna, Casca, and Cassius talk about how important it is to have Brutus involved in their plot to kill Caesar....

Though the Romantics' emphasis on character was continuous with neo-classical admiration for Shakespeare's characters, the Romantic argument linking characterization to a new conception of unity in the plays was genuinely innovative and influential. Indeed, it is still evident in the New Variorum Edition of Julius Caesar, published in 1913, which devotes the first two-thirds of its critical summary to "The Character of Caesar" and "The Character of Brutus" (386-420). Schlegel pointed the way in this direction with his declaration that "Caesar is not the hero of the piece, but Brutus" (Bate, Romantics 374), a point on which critics differed repeatedly, setting off a debate about the "hero" of the play. Neo-classical critics had noticed the imbalance of attention to Brutus in Julius Caesar (see Gildon's comment above, for example, that "Brutus is plainly the shining and darling character of the poet"), but the debate reflected in the New Variorum is rooted in nineteenth-century character criticism. Coleridge was frankly puzzled by Brutus: "I do not at present see into Shakespeare's motive, his rationale, or in what point of view he meant Brutus' character to appear" (Bate, Romantics 375). Hazlitt, however, thought "the whole design of the conspirators to liberate their country fails from the generous temper and overweening confidence of Brutus in the goodness of their cause and the assistance of others" (377)—in other words, Brutus's character drives the plot. William Watkiss Lloyd agreed that "it is Brutus on whom the interest and sympathy of the play converge and become continuous throughout its course, making him thus, in a certain sense, its hero" (Variorium 387), and Gustav Freytag agreed: "Brutus, the warm-hearted youth, the noble, the patriotic, is hero" (Variorium 427). "It is indeed true," echoed H. N. Hudson, "that Brutus is the hero" (234).

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On the other side, neo-classical defenders of Julius Caesar also used Horace as their authority, arguing that nature was Shakespeare's inspiration, rather than art, and thereby following (whether they knew it or not) the example of Leonard Digges. "Nature" came increasingly to mean not only superior imaginative intelligence, described as "wit" or "genius," but also an ability to understand and convey the feelings of characters and even the advantage derived from Shakespeare's being a relatively unlearned countryman. Richard Steele conceded in 1709 that Shakespeare introduces Julius Caesar in his nightgown, but this shows that "genius was above . . . mechanic methods of showing greatness" (Vickers 2.205). Shakespeare depicts the "great soul" debating subjects of ultimate importance, "without endeavoring to prepossess his audience with empty show and pomp." What would have been a scandal to Rymer is a stroke of genius to Steele. One of Shakespeare's best early editors, Lewis Theobald, maintained that "particular irregularities" in Shakespeare do not matter, because "it is not to be expected that a genius like Shakespeare should be judged by the laws of Aristotle and the other prescribers to the stage" (Vickers 2.308). Theobald defends the quarrel of Brutus and Cassius by comparing it to aristocratic quarrels in Iphigenia by Euripides and in The Maid's Tragedy (1610) by John Fletcher, who had been generally regarded as more artful than Shakespeare since Dryden first said he was. Of the three, Theobald concludes, Shakespeare's treatment is "incomparably the best." Alexander Pope defended Shakespeare against the charge of being unlearned, observing that in Julius Caesar "not only the spirit but manners of the Romans are exactly drawn" (Vickers 2.407). Still, in his own edition of Julius Caesar Pope printed a dash for the word "hats" in the line, "their hats are plucked about their ears" (TLN 697), because Pope believed Roman patricians wore no hats. Theobald rejected the "hiatus" as "hypercritical": "Surely we make mad work with this or any other of our author's plays did we attempt to try them so strictly by the touchstone of antiquity" (Vickers 2.460).

These traits explain why Brutus makes certain decisions including the one to kill his friend Julius Caesar.

Rymer's critical indignation had a large moral component, which he derived (or at any rate justified) from Horace's admonition that the best fictions mix "doctrine" (utile) with "delight" (dulci) (Ars Poetica 516; 360). Rymer was the first to infer that "doctrine" specifically required "poetic justice," that is, a presumed vindication of divine providence in a tragic plot by allotting a benign fortune to moral characters and a malign outcome to immoral ones. Using Rymer's criterion, all of Shakespeare's tragedies are failures, as John Dennis argued vigorously, if narrowly, concerning the "irreligious" Julius Caesar in particular. The killing of Caesar must be either "a murder or a lawful action." If it is lawful, then the deaths of Brutus and Cassius "are downright murder." But if Caesar's death is murder, then Brutus and Cassius "are justly punished for it," and Shakespeare is wrong not to show the other conspirators being punished as well, "which proceeding gives an occasion to the people to draw a dangerous inference from it, which may be destructive to government and to human society" (Vickers 2.147). Charles Gildon combined a critique of poetic justice in Julius Caesar with a complaint about its plot. "Brutus is plainly the shining and darling character of the poet," so the play is faulty either in its title or in not ending with Caesar's death, which would have made it "much more regular, natural, and beautiful. But then the moral must naturally have been the punishment or ill success of tyranny" (Vickers 2.256).

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Anti-Federalist Papers: Brutus #1 - Constitution Society

While trying to refine the rude manners of pre-Restoration drama in his own plays, i.e., to create more artful drama, Dryden was also trying to protect himself from the judgment of a strict neo-classical critic, Thomas Rymer, whose censure of Julius Caesar is included in his Short View of Tragedy (1693). Dryden clearly stated his disagreement with Rymer in his draft "Heads of an Answer to Rymer," including notes for replying to Rymer's earlier book, The Tragedies of the Last Age Considered and Examined (1678), but the notes remained unpublished (Works 17:185-93). Rymer was formidable not only for the narrow certitude of his theory but even more for his vituperative style. With Horace's decorum of character in mind, Rymer heaped scorn on the indignity with which Shakespeare "treats the noblest Romans. But there is no other cloth in his wardrobe. Everyone must be content to wear a fool's coat who comes to be dressed by him" (156). This reverses Margaret Cavendish's assessment and outflanks the objection that Shakespeare mingles patricians and plebeians by denying noble status even to his patricians. "For indeed that language which Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Brutus would not suit or be convenient unless from some son of the shambles or some natural off-spring of the butchery" (151). So indignant is Rymer with Shakespeare on the question of character decorum that he does not even address Shakespeare's violation of the three unities. He reserves that censure for Jonson's Catiline, which he also savages: as a classically trained playwright, Jonson should have known better (161). Rymer's view of art was so extreme and so narrow that it denied any art to Shakespeare, asserting that he drew ignorantly on nothing but nature and his own commoner's imagination, which "was still running after his masters, the cobblers, and parish clerks, and Old Testament strollers" (156).

I 18 October 1787 To the Citizens of the State of New-York

No less Horatian (in the neo-classical view of Horace) are Dennis's comments about Shakespeare's classical learning, which also address the question of the play's length and focus. Jonson's slighting remark about Shakespeare's "small Latin and less Greek" was inspired by Horace's admonition to Latin poets to steep themselves in Greek models, and in turn it seems to have inspired Dennis to claim that the failures of Julius Caesar are attributable to deficiencies in Shakespeare's classical learning: "Had Shakespeare read either Sallust or Cicero how could he have made so very little of the first and greatest of men, as that Caesar should be but a fourth-rate actor in his own tragedy?" (Vickers 2.288). Dennis certainly knew that Shakespeare drew his inspiration from Plutarch, so Dennis's complaint has less to do with Shakespeare's lack of reading than with his not reading the sources Dennis thought he should have read in order to write the play that Dennis thought he should have written. Applying similar strictures, Gildon complained that Julius Caesar failed to conform to the "unity of action, which can never be broke without destroying the poem." The play should have ended with Caesar's death; otherwise, the ending is arbitrary, and having thus failed to observe one unity, the play fails to observe others: "Natural reason indeed showed to Shakespeare the absurdity of making the representation longer than the time and the place more extensive than the place of acting" (Vickers 2.222). Awed by Rymer's extreme neo-classicism, Dennis and Gildon show how critical reason became increasingly naturalized to the particular strictures that critics had learned to associate with Horace and Aristotle.

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Romantic assumptions about both character and history achieved their most magisterial expression early in the twentieth century in A. C. Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy, which effectively culminated the Romantic tradition. Bradley attended to just four plays, Hamlet, Othello, Lear, and Macbeth, so he had little to say about Julius Caesar, but it was enough to register his view in the long-running debate about the hero: Shakespearean tragedy "is pre-eminently the story of one person, the 'hero,'" and in Julius Caesar "Brutus is the 'hero'" (7). Writing shortly after Bradley, M. W. MacCallum treated the three plays Shakespeare derived from Plutarch in the vein of Bradley's character criticism, though MacCallum struck a balance in the Romantic debate about the "hero" of Julius Caesar by proposing a solution akin to Snider's. On one hand, MacCallum agreed with those who thought the "spirit of Caesar" (TLN 800) is present from first to last (214), even when Julius Caesar himself is not, and this "spirit," which eventually prevails in Octavius, the future first emperor, is the Hegelian "spirit of Empire, the spirit of practical greatness in the domains of war, policy, organisation" (241). Brutus, on the other hand, is both "the model republican, the paragon of private and civic virtue" (233) and "the spirit of loyalty to duty" (241). Like Caesar, Brutus imperfectly represents the ideal he stands for, and the gap between spirit and human embodiment accounts both for personal inconsistencies on Caesar's and Brutus's parts and for Brutus's ultimate failure.

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