Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

by William Shakespeare
live stage performance by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson
Ⓟ 1964, 1996, Caedmon, An imprint of Harper Audio
2.50 hours

Cassius and Brutus and a handful of other Roman senators close to Julius Caesar perceive that Julius Caesar’s ambitions are a threat to the Republican ideals – as remembered from the Golden Era of Pompey’s reign. Cassius is the key dissenter, recruiting the others into a conspiracy to depose Caesar via assassination and install the naive and idealistic Brutus as the new Caesar. The time is the year 44 B.C.; but the interplay of politics are still relevant today.
Political Assassination: Cause and Effect

The point is made that Julius Caesar was killed not for what he had done; but for what he might have done and yet, clearly the Roman Republic represented in the persons of Cassius and Brutus felt compelled to move against Julius Caesar personally, and at this time. What was the flash point?Julius Caesar had already crossed the Rubicon, defeated the Republican forces under Pompey, and consolidated his position by marginalizing Republican politicians (and thereby repudiating Republican ideals.) Was it the Lupercalian festival conflated with Caesar’s triumphal procession the “final straw;” to see the public fickleness or sheep-like willingness to go along with the prevailing authority despite their disenfranchisement? But this does not address Caesar’s ambitions, which were ostensibly part of the faulty logic used to justify the assassination. Did Shakespeare, in moving the time of the declaration of Caesar as “dictator perpetuo,” seek to plant this intention as the act of Caesar’s ambition, vanity and arrogance to which the audience would react? Historically, the trigger was when Caesar failed to rise to meet a senatorial delegation that had come to inform him of new honors that had been bestowed upon him (he was already “dictator perpetuo.”) Interestingly, Shakespeare has removed this much clearer example of Julius Caesar’s exaggerated sense of self and opted for the much subtler exemplification of supposed intent.
If it is true that Shakespeare wrote this play so that Elizabethan audiences could draw parallels between their own situation (For Elizabethan audiences, the English Settlement was a bone of contention as the Emancipation Proclamation was for 19th century Confederates and, the Patriot Act for many 21st century Americans. These are issue of civil liberties and rallying points for action) and that of the Roman Republic, he fails to make clear that critical “thing” upon which the play’s action is impelled. In justifying the murder of Julius Caesar upon “what might be,” the assassination becomes an act of envy and cowardice (Cassius) as well as naivete (Brutus.) The assassination is not a proactive move to defend democratic principles, but the last ditch effort of the fearful and desperate to gain traction with the public. It becomes more personal and less political. The assassination becomes, not the wrong thing done for the right reasons; but the wrong thing done for the wrong reasons.
Julius Caesar (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson) was performed in the theater’s heyday of the 1960’s. Theater had embraced the Stanislavski “method” of performance which brought a better sense of realism and believable emotions to the stage (as opposed to the more formal declamatory style favored in the 19th century.) This performance is a preserved example of this acting style; but the listener should be prepared for a lot of emoting which may seem over the top to 21st century ears. Certain lines are delivered with a very low intensity which recommends a more intimate listening environment than a car allows [I ended up listening on headphones.] For those not closely familiar with Shakespeare’s works, the plays in audio format can be difficult to follow without visual cues such as the stage or even the text on hand and, this audio is no exception.
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Julius Caesar (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson) qualifies for:

I salvaged a CD edition of Julius Caesar (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson) from a load of stuff designated as refuse from the Blackstone Audio warehouse. The paragraphs on “Political Assassinations: Cause and Effect” was originally created and posted by me to a Barnes & Noble forum/board on Shakespeare/The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Despite having seen “Julius Caesar” many times when I worked for a Shakespearean theater and, having read the play again a couple of years ago for the aforementioned B&N board, I had difficulty tracking the play from a strictly audio approach. I dnloaded a World Library, Inc. copy of the play from gutenberg.org and read along with the audio. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2012

I have a rather prosaic definition of what a Classic is: It’s basically anything labeled as such in the Barnes & Noble Classics Series. While you may snort, and think me rather unimaginative, I find no reason to re-invent the wheel in trying to re-define what a Classic is by any other terms than that it being a public domain title with enduring appeal.
I first found out about the B&N Classics Series in 2007 when I first moved to Jackson County in Southern Oregon. Within 4 months of my arrival, all fifteen branches of the county library system shut down for six months because of budget shortfalls. It was the largest and longest library shutdown in the country at that time. Having refused to transport thousands of books across the country, a very expensive proposition, I found myself literally bookless 😦
I started raiding garages sales, friends and relatives were kind enough to lend and/or give me books and, I discovered the Classics series at the local B&N. For $6.95, I was able to pick up a copy of Pride & Prejudice and I was thrilled! I was on an extremely limited income and owning a new book was luxury.
Ever since the library shutdown, however, I have been a book hoarder! I still scour garage sales, used books stores, book exchanges and, yes I still pick up a Classic from the Barnes & Noble Series every so often. The net result is that I literally live amongst stacks of books, tripping over books that I suspect have flung themselves onto my path in sheer desperation of being noticed and in hopes of being picked up and read! And this is where the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 comes in. I have stacks of Classics, enough to do this challenge many times over I suspect; but I will limit my commitment to one title in each category and see if I can’t make a dent in my TBR lists 🙂
Subject to change, this is a list of the titles I have in mind to fulfill the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012:
  • A 19th Century Classic: The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne) – published in 1850
  • A 20th Century Classic: The Wizard of Oz (by Frank L. Baum) – published in 1900
  • (Re-read) A Classic of your choice: The Call of the Wild and White Fang (by Jack London) – I listened to the audio of “The Call of the Wild” (narrated by John Lee) in January 2011)
  • A Classic Play: Julius Caeser (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast)
  • A Classic Mystery/Horror/True Crime: Dracula (by Bram Stoker)
  • Classic Romance : Emma (by Jane Austen)
  • A Classic that has been translated from its original language into your language: Lost Illusions (by Honoré de Balzac) – French into English
  • A Classic Award Winner: The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton) – Pulitzer Prize 1921
  • A Classic set in a country that you (realistically speaking) not visit during your lifetime: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (by Lewis Carroll) – Wonderland
All of these will be Barnes & Noble Classics Series editions in trade paperback format, with the exception of The Wizard of Oz (a Barnes & Noble Classic title available as an eBook on my nook) and Julius Caeser, which is an audiobook. I will be posting reviews on this blog and at goodreads
Thank you to @SarahReads2Much for hosting
Other Stuff: I receive no goods or services in exchange for mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited to publishers, vendors, authors, narrators, the host of the challenge and/or the challenge itself.)