Tag Archives: play

Book Review – Julius Caesar

juliuscaesarJulius Caesar

Author: William Shakespeare

Series: None

Genre: Classics, Plays

Published 1599

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

 

Goodreads Description (another edition)

The Tragedie of Julius Caesar dates from around 1599, and was first published by Heminge and Condell as the sixth play in the Tragedies section of their First Folio of 1623. The Folio text is thus the only authoritative text of the play and has been the basis of all later editions. Julius Caesar is also a particularly clean text with few obvious errors and comparatively few points where conjectural readings are called for. There is ample evidence of thematic ambiguity in the play, an ambiguity which the play’s editorial and theatrical history has sought to smooth over. The editorial resolution of ambiguities has closed off certain routes of interpretation, directions that the original text offers its readers and performers. This new edition presents the play in the form in which it appeared in the First Folio, restoring, for example, the Folio’s punctuation and lineation and revealing through these rhetorical emphases and nuances of characterization lost by later editorial regularization. Julius Caesar is a profoundly political play easily made to reflect the political dilemmas of the society in which it is produced. Not only is it amenable to such appropriation by virtue of its political themes but also because of its essential enigmatic nature. The editorial tradition of removing these complications has the effect of modifying and distorting the play. This edition returns the original form of the play to circulation and thereby reopens the avenues of interpretation that were originally offered by Julius Caesar.

Review

Julius Caesar, one of William Shakespeare’s plays featuring a historical figure, was an interesting look at the death of Caesar at the hands of his friend Marcus Brutus. Looking at this like it’s a novel doesn’t really work, of course.  It’s a play, and was written to be dramatic.  The story within this book was rather brief and simple. Not at all complex. It’s a story of tragedy, and it just seems like everything goes wrong. But that’s the way of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

The edition I read has an extensive section on William Shakespeare, the source of the story (Plutarch), and commentaries by people involved in various productions of the play. Those are just extras that don’t factor into my review.

The story is very simple, as I said. It’s about the downfall of Julius Caesar at the hands of Marcus Brutus and his conspirators. On Caesar’s side is Marcus Antonius, who delivers a very famous speech. It’s full of drama, that’s certain. It’s not a particularly well-written story, as it’s overly dramatic, and sometimes reads as if there are no real emotions. Take Julius Caesar’s death, for example. I found it had very little impact on me. Sure, Caesar gives the very famous line, “Et tu, Brutè?” But his death was incredibly early in the play. It’s really not so much about Caesar, but more about his killers and those who come after him, such as Mark Antony. Surprisingly, Caesar isn’t in this play very much. We don’t really get to know him well. We get to know Brutus and Antony, though. The entire story goes like this (spoiler warning!): Brutus loves, but hates Julius Caesar. He decides to kill him because he doesn’t like the way he’s become. Caesar dies. Mark Antony makes a big speech, vows revenge. Big battle, and Brutus’ entire side dies. The end.

The characters are very unlikeable, as they usually are in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Mark Antony is maybe the most likeable character, though. Brutus is a hypocrite, loving Caesar, yet wanting him to die. Caesar was portrayed as a cold leader. Antony was the most passionate, and could be considered a protagonist. But I just couldn’t sympathise with anyone.

The setting was in Rome, of course. As it is a play, there’s little in the way of descriptions of the setting. You just have to imagine ancient Rome.

It’s difficult to review a play in book form, especially when the language is from the late 16th century. It’s quite different than modern English, though Shakespeare’s English is considered early modern English. However, it’s not easy to read because of the differences in the language. This edition has a lot of footnotes on each page, which is extremely helpful. It’s recommended that you read it with footnotes, or else you may completely miss the meaning of many words.

Overall, I would give this 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. It’s not my favourite play of Shakespeare’s, but it was enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone who loves history (however inaccurate it may be) and classic plays. It’s also great for those who enjoy language.

When Should Children Be Left Alone?

My wife asked me a question today that I wasn’t sure about.  She asked what age children are allowed to stay at home alone, go out to play alone, or walk to school alone in Canada.  A quick search revealed that there is no law about this.

When I was a kid, I was able to walk to school alone when I was about 7 years old.  I also went out to play with my friend around that age by myself.  I’d walk or ride my bike to his house or to a park, and there was no problem.

Here in Japan, children are often seen walking alone or riding the train alone to go to school when they’re as young as 6.  And you know what?  No one cares.  In fact, the kids seem quite intent on going to their destination.  It is very common for children to be by themselves or with friends without any kind of adult supervision at early elementary school ages.

I’ve seen on the internet that some parents won’t let their children walk to school alone or go to their friends’ house alone until they’re older than 12.  Seems pretty old to me.  Even one said that they weren’t allowed to walk to school alone when she was a kid until she was 14.  Her parents walked her to school at 13 years old, and she was very embarrassed about it.

I’ve also seen a story where a couple kids were playing outside in their front yard, aged 9 and 6, and their mother was watching from the front porch.  A neighbour called the police and they arrested the mother for leaving the kids unsupervised.  But they weren’t unsupervised.  She was there watching them.  This is really going too far, in my opinion.  At that age, I was outside by myself riding my bike without any supervision at all.  It’s unhealthy for kids to be constantly supervised, if you ask me.  They don’t learn independence.  Their parents are always interfering with their play.  Some of these are the same parents that accompany their children to job fairs at university and do all the talking to companies.  Those companies always tell the parents they will not hire them because the parents are there. Too much parenting is bad parenting.

Why do parents do this?  Is it because they’re afraid their kids will get hurt?  Teach them safety rules and what to do in dangerous situations, and they should be fine.  Are they afraid someone will kidnap their kids?  Children are more likely to be kidnapped and abused by family friends or even relatives, not strangers.  Are they afraid of their kids failing?  Failure is one of the best ways to learn.  If kids don’t fail, they won’t learn the wrong ways to do things.  They won’t learn that failure isn’t the end of the world, but a way to learn a lesson and do better next time.

So, I want to ask you this:  What age should children be allowed to walk to school, play in the park, and stay at home alone?

Book Review – Macbeth

macbethMacbeth, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragic plays, is a quick read despite being in Early Modern English. It’s also one of his shortest plays. It’s not easy to read this kind of English, so it makes it difficult to review.

The story is a simple one of lust for power and seemingly endless murder. Macbeth, one of King Duncan’s most trusted noblemen in Scotland, is driven by Lady Macbeth and the witches to put himself into power.  I could tell from the beginning that it was doomed to fail, as this is a tragic play.  There is no happy ending.  However, it is reasonably entertaining, being one of my favourite Shakespearean plays.  I first read this in high school about 20 years ago, so it was interesting to see what I could remember.  It was shorter than I remember. Nevertheless, it felt fresh and I could read it with a new, more mature perspective.

Most characters are quite unlikeable. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth may be the protagonists, but who wants to see them succeed? I thought Macduff was the easiest to like, though Ross was also a good guy.  The three witches provided memorable quotes, though they appeared less than I remembered.  The single-mindedness of Macbeth, and especially Lady Macbeth, showed an incredible amount of obsessive ambition.  I would hope to never meet anyone like them.

As this is a play, it reads very differently than a novel.  There is next to no narration, and is all dialogue and stage directions.  However, it’s easy to follow, and the footnotes aid in understanding Early Modern English.  The version I read, Signet Classic, has more than 200 pages, but the play is less than 100. There’s a lot of information about Shakespeare and the play.

Overall, I give this 4 stars.  It’s a great classic, and is an interesting insight into Shakespeare’s linguistic ability, as well as what was considered entertainment in the early 17th century.  Definitely recommended if you can understand it.