Rome and Rhetoric

Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Garry Wills
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Rome and Rhetoric
    Book Description:

    Renaissance plays and poetry in England were saturated with the formal rhetorical twists that Latin education made familiar to audiences and readers. Yet a formally educated man like Ben Jonson was unable to make these ornaments come to life in his two classical Roman plays. Garry Wills, focusing his attention onJulius Caesar, here demonstrates how Shakespeare so wonderfully made these ancient devices vivid, giving his characters their own personal styles of Roman speech.

    In four chapters, devoted to four of the play's main characters, Wills shows how Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Cassius each has his own take on the rhetorical ornaments that Elizabethans learned in school. Shakespeare also makes Rome present and animate by casting his troupe of experienced players to make their strengths shine through the historical facts that Plutarch supplied him with. The result is that the Rome English-speaking people carry about in their minds is the Rome that Shakespeare created for them. And that is even true, Wills affirms, for today's classical scholars with access to the original Roman sources.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17849-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. ONE Caesar: Mighty Yet
    (pp. 1-36)

    To begin with Caesar is to begin with a puzzle. Why is it calledThe Tragedy of Julius Caesar? Why notThe Tragedy of Brutus? Brutus, after all, speaks almost five times the number of lines that Caesar does. For that matter, Cassius has three times the words of Caesar. Antony has twice as many. Even the minor character Casca has almost as many lines (139) as Caesar does (155).¹ Caesar dies halfway through the play. Barbara Gaines, the director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, tells me it is hard to cast a great actor as Caesar. Who wants to...

  4. TWO Brutus: Rhetoric Verbal and Visual
    (pp. 37-78)

    Shakespeare’s Brutus is not often treated as a rhetorician because, at Caesar’s funeral, he is out-orated by Mark Antony. But rhetoric had many uses and abuses in the Elizabethan image of Rome, and Shakespeare’s Brutus is at the very center of that enigma. The historical Brutus was very interested in rhetoric. Cicero dedicated two of his treatises on the subject to Brutus.¹ We know we are in Rome as we watchJulius Caesarbecause everyone is talking Roman—Roman oratory and rhetoric about Roman virtue and power. Of course, all of Shakespeare is highly rhetorical. As Brian Vickers notes, “The...

  5. THREE Antony: The Fox Knows Many Things
    (pp. 79-112)

    Brutus’ speech at Caesar’s funeral hammered home one argument—that his own honor had to be relied on. Mark Antony deploys a vast variety of persuasive devices. Lawyers have for centuries debated these differing approaches. Most of them think that, in appealing to a jury, every conceivable argument should be deployed, since the pleader never knows which one will affect this or that juror. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, when arguing a case at law, puzzled some onlookers by conceding point after point, certain that if the nub of a case were established, the jurors must agree on it.¹...

  6. FOUR Cassius: Parallel Lives
    (pp. 113-154)

    Cassius says he will offer Brutus a mirror, to show him how truly noble he is. Cassius’ question, “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” (1.2.51), is echoed in one of the letters tossed through Brutus’ window: “Brutus, thou sleep’st; awake andsee thyself” (2.1.46). Though the letters sent to Brutus come from “the people” in Plutarch, we know that Cassius has forged them in the play. He wants to turn Brutus’ thoughts back upon himself—which shows a shrewd estimate of Brutus’ self-absorption. But what Cassius sets up, instead of a mirror, is a double portrait, of...

  7. Afterword
    (pp. 155-156)

    The sole textual source of Shakespeare’sThe Tragedie of Julius Caesaris the Shakespeare First Folio (1623). I work directly from it, in Charlton Hinman’s facsimile (New York: Norton, 1968), but modernize the spelling and pointing. I use the lineation in theRiverside Shakespeare(2nd ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), since that is the basis for citations in Marvin Spevack’s invaluableHarvard Concordance to Shakespeare(Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973).

    For his source Shakespeare was not dealing with Plutarch’s original Greek text (from the first century ce) nor with Jacques Amyot’s French translation of that (1559–65),...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 157-176)
  9. Index
    (pp. 177-186)