The art of characterization in Julius Caesar Essay

The art of characterization. JC Drama is concerned with the unfolding of characters and Shakespeare has constantly sought the most effective means to dramatize characters on stage. William Shakespeare?s art of characterization is one of the most distinctive features of the play, Julius Caesar. In this tragic and historic play, Shakespeare presents an imposing number of characters but the prime focus is always directed to those he wishes to highlight.

The play Julius Caesar is a dramatization of the Roman historic events that revolves around the tragic death of Julius Caesar, and its consequences. Thus, characters in the play consist of people ranging from politically important members- those in the highest echelon, to their wives and servants, from the tribunes to the soldiers, the commoners in the Roman Society back then. The role of every character in the play fascinates the audience to the very end of the play, giving a great dramatic effect. The playwright has shown a great variety of human traits and outlooks that are possessed by these characters. The roles of both- the Chief and subordinate characters in the play, hold equal importance in driving the play ahead and entertaining the audience. But of course, the author has showed a conspicuous difference between the character development of each (chief or subordinate). The audience or readers may find the main characters more developed, since the plot revolves around them.
In the Scene I, Act I, the characters in play are the ones which do not appear again in the whole play. Shakespeare has used these characters to introduce the main characters of the play, particularly the eponymous character, Julius Caesar, who is introduced by a Cobbler. The dialogues between the Plebeians and the two annoyed Tribunes reveal the tension between these two sections of the Roman Society, at the very outset of the play. Thus Shakespeare shows characters having different loyalties and allegiances (most importantly- to Pompey or to Caesar).
To absorb the attentiveness of the audience, and to keep it going, the playwright has given the characters in the Scene I, (especially, the commoners,) an ironic spirit of comedy. This offends the tribunes, which is when; the author makes use of influential oratory on the part of the Tribunes, to sway the crowd. The plebeians also get influenced, which reveals their fickle-mindedness.
As the play progresses, the temperament of each of the characters comes into focus. The technique used by Shakespeare to characterize, follows a number of principal rules such as distinctiveness, contrast, consistence, effectiveness.
Every Character is represented according to his distinctive features. Ambitious Caesar, Idealistic and Patriotic Brutus, Envious and Malcontented Cassius, Submissive women (Portia and Calpurnia), fickle-minded and changeable mob etc, and their influence on the whole action of the play is prominent.
The character of Julius Caesar occupies a very significant place in the play, since. The playwright has made his character a very unique one. Caesar?s greatness and military genius in commended by the plebeians and is also secretly feared by all the rest. Through dialogues, monologues and soliloquies, Shakespeare not only reveals more about the people the character is speaking about, but also about the character itself. For e.g. When Cassius vents his rage against Caesar, he observes his ?lean and hungry look? and suspects danger (-his dialogue with Antony after returning from the games). Thus, Caesar has been devised as being a very astute judge of character. Shakespeare has endowed Caesar with a haughty attitude and excessive ambition, and also made him aware of his human psychological and physical vulnerability, for eg, him believing in superstitions and him having an attack of epilepsy. Which is why, often, Caesar is seen to be self-conscious, struggling between his pride and his fear. His apprehension of being thought as a coward, paves the way for his arrogant and ruddy behavior. This however, is his character flaw which brings about his death at the hands of the conspirators.
Antony is portrayed as one of Caesar?s favorites in the play. At first, Shakespeare shows Antony as a relaxed and jovial character. But we see a very important change in his role post Caesar?s death. This character is shown to be a mastermind, when he uses influential techniques for swaying the crowd. In the speech, he uses sarcastic remarks such as, ?Brutus is an honorable man?, to justify his detestation for the conspirators. Also, he acquires a place of extreme importance in the political affairs of Rome thereafter, since he becomes a part of the 2nd Triumvirate.

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Brutus? character is a quite different one. As mentioned by Antony in his speech, ?Brutus is an honorable man?, he thinks very highly of the ?Honor of a true Roman?. Brutus has been molded by the playwright in such a way that he (Brutus) seems to be very patriotic, philosophic and idealistic, he however lacks pragmatism. He is shown as an idealist who lacks the practical judgment to be a good leader. Thus although he is endowed with youth and wisdom, he is na?ve and thus is totally misled by Cassius.
Shakespeare has made Cassius a very clever and shrewd character. Cassius is successful in perceiving the fears of many other characters and manipulating their viewpoints for his personal advantage. Through the dialogue between Cassius and Brutus in A.I, S II., Shakespeare shows Cassius to be a very shrewd opportunist that detects uncertainties and conflicts in Brutus? opinion regarding self-divisiveness, and immediately embarks upon his policy of sowing the seeds of Conspiracy in Brutus? mind. The playwright shows Cassius to be malcontented and also deceitful, when he asks Cinna to leave forged letters. Cassius, however, is shown as the one who is probably mentally weak and needs a strong support to fulfill his objectives, which becomes his character flaw.
The Roman mob in those times, as depicted by Shakespeare, has been shown as a very fickle-minded one. The loyalty and support of the commoners is inconstant and keeps changing. This question of the loyalty of the plebeians reverberates in the whole play E.g.: After killing Caesar, the effective speech of Brutus manipulates the crowd into thinking that the death of Caesar was for the ?Greater Good? of Rome and her empire, but later when Antony speaks, his well-planned and persuasive oratory, makes him the absolute favorite of the crowd. Antony is successful in mischievously tricking the crowd into believing and supporting him; [[[?Mischief thou art afoot.?]]] Thus, plebeians? faithfulness changes from Caesar (in the beginning of the play,) to Brutus (when Caesar is killed by the conspirators) to finally Antony (after he speaks to the crowd at Caesar?s funeral).

The female characters in the play, most importantly, Portia and Calpurnia, bring forth the submissive, feeble and frail state of women in the Elizabethan times. The tenuous women as shown by Shakespeare have no effect on their husbands? decisions and they fail to convince them.
Octavius Caesar is a character that enters the play quite late in Act IV. However, the playwright has shown him to be a very strong character. He is portrayed as a natural leader, presuming command and leadership as a responsible authority without the need of a permission for the same.

Thus we find a lot of distinctiveness through contrast, consistence, and effectiveness in characters in the play.
The playwright has placed those characters that show a great contrast, together, so as to highlight the characteristic streaks of each other. For e.g., by making Caesar and Antony, Cassius and Brutus, foils of each other, Shakespeare has drawn attention to their natures.

Where Brutus acts upon principles, Cassius is often impulsive. Where Brutus is a noble and honorable character, Cassius is a better politician. On the other hand, Where Caesar is old; Antony is young and full of vigour. Where Caesar is an astute judge of character, Antony is not.
Some characters in the play remain consistent with their original form. For e.g., Brutus still remains against Caesar in the end of the play, and while dying does not change his opinion that he was right when he had killed Caesar, not for any personal grudge, but for the betterment of Rome.

Furthermore, the very nature of Julius Caesar springs from the nature of its supreme characters and their effective impersonation by the actors on stage.
The playwright urges the audiences to ponder upon the idea of who the protagonist of this play could be. Nearly everyone would suppose the eponymous character to be the protagonist. However, Julius Caesar is killed in Act III and does not reappear again in the whole play in his human form. Also, through his art of characterization, the playwright has been able to reveal the values, attitudes and beliefs present in those times. Thus, Shakespeare has shown his supreme excellence as a dramatist through his very art of characterization in the play, Julius Caesar.


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