Shakespeares Caesar vrs the Historical Caesar





Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar vrs. The Historical Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC, and assassinated 56 years later. In that time, he was captured by, and slew the offending, pirates, became questor, ponifex maximus, propretor, a member of the First Triumvirate, Consul, and diatator. He defeated the Helvetii, invaded Britain, and fought the Gauls. He crossed the river Rubicon and started the 49 BC Civil War. A year later, he defeated the great Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus. He also reformed the calendar.
Why then, was he hated by his own people? Why was he cruelly assassinated so shortly after his crowning? How does the historical man compare and contrast to Shakespeare’s version? All of these questions will be answered here.
When we first begin Julius Caesar, the man himself is entering Rome, returning from battle. He has defeated Pompey, and the crowd is joyful. However, not all citizens are happy. Already there is conspiracy in the air. Marullus and Flavius chide the commoners, for did they not recently cheer for Pompey in the manner that they now cheer Caesar? Marullus angrily yells: “O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome, Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft Have you climb’d up to walls and battlements, To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops, Your infants in your arms, and there have sat the livelong day, with patient expectation, To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome... And do you now strew flowers in his way, That comes in triumph over Pompey’s blood? Be gone!” (I: i)
Pompey’s defeat is crucial to Caesar’s rise to power. Many men volunteered to fight, unpaid, under the general Caesar. There was not a single deserter during the Civil War. The commanding Julius halted the few episodes of insubordination.
He was a firm, yet fair leader. His troops were never addressed as “My soldiers”, but as “Comrades”. His attitude differed greatly from Pompey’s. “Whereas Pompey declared that all who were not actively with the government were against it and would be treated as public enemies, Caesar announced that all who were not actively against him were with him.” (Suetonius, pg. 45)
Caesar was favored among his men, but this favor was soon lost entirely. There came a day, soon after his triumph at Pharsalus, where the Senate in total came with elected honors galore. Julius Caesar did not rise to greet them. Though some retellings state that it was Cornelius Balbus who prevented him from this traditional sign of respect, it most often considered (as it was by the Senate) to be an act of the utmost arrogance. The Senators began to feel the beginnings of a murderous hatred for Caesar.
This feeling was magnified by another incident. Upon returning from the Alban Hill, a member of the crowd placed a wreath of laurels and white fillet upon the statue of Caesar. Epidius Marullus and Caesetius Flavius demanded that the wreath be removed. Caesar dispatched these tribunes, who we met quickly in Julius Caesar, instantly.
It is not known for certain why this was done; though there are two popular theories. One is that Caesar was enraged that the thought of his becoming king was such an easily dismissable one. The second is one of Caesar’s own mind: he was enraged that he was not given the chance to demand the removal of the laurels himself. Either way, the prevailing thought was that he had tried to resurrect the crown.
The tide was now almost fully against him, though the next event would certainly turn it completely. When addressing the populous at the Rostra during the Lupercalian Festival, Marc Antony tried several times to offer the crown to Caesar, and was several times denied; though Caesar then sent the crown to the Capitol to be dedicated.
Shakespeare echoes this event, though in a different manner. He failed to include Caesar’s bought claque: those who were paid to cheer or hiss at specified signals. In Plutarch’s version of this event, he specifies that at each offering of the crown, a very small group of people cheered loudly, and at each declination of the crown, the rest of the population cheered. Shakespeare only mentions the cheering of the declinations.
Though Caesar never accepted the title