Just about all of Shakespeare's works contain self-referential, or "metatheatrical" moments, but in <em>Julius Caesar</em> Shakespeare takes it to a whole new level by forging a relationship between the theater and politics. In the play, politicians know they're like actors performing on a very public stage, and they measure their speeches and actions accordingly. At other times, characters even seem aware that their historical actions will be dramatized over a thousand years later on the Elizabethan stage. The play is also full of self-conscious references to the kinds of public and political roles that poets (like Shakespeare) can play in the world.
Questions About Art and Culture
- At what points in the play does Shakespeare make references to the theater and acting? Why do you think he does this?
- Why does Caesar refuse the crown three times and faint when Antony offers it to him in Act 1? How does Caesar's "performance" shape the crowd's opinion of him?
- What is the overall effect when characters like Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius refer to themselves in the third person?
- Where and why are poets inserted into Julius Caesar? Are these appearances just random, or does their presence help create meaning in the play?
Chew on This
In Julius Caesar, the world of politics is likened to a theatrical stage, where politicians perform before public audiences.
The complete and utter disregard for poets in Julius Caesar signals that the Roman characters cannot see what writers of poetry (like Shakespeare) can teach the world about politics, war, and friendship.