Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reading Julius Caesar

Given his time and place, it's not surprising that civil war pervades so many of William Shakespeare's greatest plays. Harold Bloom, in claiming Shakespeare invented the human, would make him the playwright of the individual. But Shakespeare is also the great playwright of the nation in conflict with itself. So often we see the turmoil of civil rivalry, or the anxiety of succession, "Domestic fury and fierce civil strife." I would still call the conflict individual: it's rarely a conflict of ideology, but rather simply over who will be in power. But Shakespeare's drama is filled with national, civil, political tensions.

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