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YMMV / Julius Caesar

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  • Accidental Aesop: The play's 'message' can easily be read as "Democracy Is Bad because people are sheep," given all the scenes showing how quickly and easily the public's loyalties can change and be manipulated: Act I, Scene I, as well as their rapid switch of loyalties from Caesar to Brutus and back to avenging Caesar following the assassination. Of course, in Shakespeare's day this wouldn't have been an outrageous aesop, as democracy didn't catch on for another few centuries.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Obviously Brutus, but also Caesar. Is he a skeptic who refuses to pay heed to the soothsayer (see Arbitrary Skepticism on the main page) or a highly superstitious figure who refuses to "beware" the Ides of March because it would be challenging fate and willingly goes to his destiny, only showing sadness at discovering Brutus among his killers? Or is he just too arrogant to pay heed to any warning of danger; or, is he worried about the threat but afraid of showing his fear out of concern for looking weak?
    • The 2018 National Theater production, which set everything in the modern day, with the various characters being played as expies of contemporary politicians, played Cassius as a woman. Although no words are changed, save for the necessary pronouns, the way certain lines are said and scenes are staged add another potential motive for Cassius turning on Caesar, implying that sexism (which is notoriously rampant in politics) might have had something to do with it. It also adds another layer to Brutus shooting down Cassius's ideas to kill Mark Antony, keep Antony from speaking at Caesar's funeral, and not taking on Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus at Philippi, all of which leads to disaster for the Liberators.
    • The 1953 movie adaptation interpreted Mark Antony as vaguely sinister, sporting both a Kubrick Stare and later a Psychotic Smirk whem he had finished his famous "friends, Romans, countrymen" speech at Caesar´s funeral. The smirk shows itself when he turns away from the crowds, rioting behind him. He is also Color-Coded for Your Convenience, sporting a toga that is slightly less dark than that of Cassius. In this respect, Brutus stands out as a Tragic Hero, played by both Cassius and Antony in due order.
    • In her monologue, Portia reveals to Brutus that she gave herself a "voluntary wound" while she's pleading with him to include her in his plans. Most productions have this as her stabbing herself in the leg (or something like that) to prove she's strong. Others, such as the 2018 National Theater production, play it in a much darker light, by portraying it as outright Self-Harm. When the actress pulled up her sleeves to reveal fresh cuts across her wrists and arms, the entire scene suddenly became pretty damn disturbing.
    • Why does Cassius tell Brutus to stab him in the tent scene? Is he cruelly reminding Brutus, who had been starting to show pangs of honesty, that he's a traitor and murderer and that he shouldn't act upright about the smaller crimes of bribery and extortion? Is he deliberately escalating the argument to a point so absurd that Brutus would have no choice but to back down? Is he genuinely starting to crack under the strain of fighting a civil war where his side has already lost the public's hearts and minds? Or is he— as posited below under Ho Yay— honestly heartbroken that he's managed to disappoint and alienate his brother-in-arms?
  • Alternate Show Interpretation:
    • It's not uncommon for productions to have Romans dressed as Nazis or modern politicians.
    • In the 2011 Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, the only change was making Caesar a woman.
  • Awesome Music: The 2018 National Theater production made great use of "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister.
  • Common Knowledge: "Brutus is an honourable man" is often used in popular culture to mean what the person has said is ridiculous. While that is Mark Antony's intention, it is important to remember he is by no means a heroic character, and we should take everything he says with a pinch of salt.
  • Ho Yay: Tons of it, especially between Brutus and Cassius. During Act 4, Scene 3 they have what literally appears to be a lover's quarrel, while alone in a tent together:
    Cassius: I denied you not.
    Brutus: You did.
    Cassius: I did not. He was but a fool that brought
    My answer back. Brutus hath rived my heart.
    • Just after that:
    Cassius: You love me not.
    Brutus: I do not like your faults.
    • Cassius then desperately laments he is "hated by one he loves," jealously accuses Brutus of loving Caesar more than him, and offers his dagger to Brutus, asking him to stab him in the chest because he cannot bear the misery.
    • Cassius also has this with Titinius, whom he calls his “best friend” even above Brutus. He demands that a servant kill him after learning erroneously that Titinius is dead; the servant obliges. Titinius returns and kills himself with Cassius' sword. Sound familiar?
  • Magnificent Bastard: Mark Antony is a loyal man of the titular Julius Caesar's who participates in his schemes to help rise to the top of Rome. After Caesar is assassinated, Antony pretends to align with the conspirators before giving a rousing eulogy where he provokes the crowd into fury at Caesar's death. Making them love Caesar and then revealing Caesar had promised every citizen money in his will, Antony is later able to defeat them on the field as well, ending the play ruling Rome as one of the new Triumvirate.
  • Memetic Mutation: It's Shakespeare. He was influential.
    • "Et tu, Brute?" (For anyone who has been or feels betrayed.)
    • "The Ides of March"
    • "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!"
    • "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!"
    • "It was/is all Greek to me." (For when someone can't understand something)
  • Moral Event Horizon: The people of Rome, killing Cinna the poet just because of his name.
  • Protagonist Title Fallacy: Caesar is assassinated halfway through and is never really the focus; this story is all about Brutus.
  • Tear Jerker: Caesar's death. He comes so close to avoiding it, but is ultimately led into the senate hall by the conspirators where they kill him. Especially tragic is his last words to Brutus, since the play makes Brutus a very sympathetic character:
    Caesar: You too, Brutus?
  • Values Dissonance: Portia, Brutus' wife, argues to him that he shouldn't keep secrets from her, and that she's strong and intelligent enough to be included in his plans. Good for her! Except... she proves her point by negatively comparing all women (including herself) to men, and distancing herself from those other, lesser women... not to mention giving herself a pretty serious wound on purpose. She later commits suicide offscreen. Yeesh.
  • The Woobie:
    • Brutus, bizarrely enough. You wouldn't expect the leader of a coup to be this sympathetic, but that's Shakespeare for you. He's just so sure that he's doing what's right for Rome, and so crushed when he loses everything. It's hard not to feel bad for him. The 2018 production where he was played by Ben Whishaw only added to this. He's just so huggable!
    • Regardless of how you feel about Caesar, it's hard not to pity his wife, Calpurnia, a little. She begs her husband not to go to the session at Senate, convinced that he'll be killed if he does. He finally agrees to stay home so she can rest easy... and then he changes his mind.
    • Cinna the poet, being killed just for his first name.