In this essay, three main points will be presented.
A comparison of the Shakespearean text with the passages from North’s chapters on Caesar, Brutus, and Antonius reveals the remarkable truth of T. Eliot’s statement: “Immature poets borrow; mature poets steal.” In instance after instance, Shakespeare did little more than rephrase the words of North’s exuberant prose to fit the rhythm of his own blank verse. Shakespeare’s originality, found in all his historical plays, is similar to that of the great classical Greek playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.
It is true that Caesar’s influence motivates Marcus Antonius’s (also called Mark Antony), straightforward and ultimately victorious actions throughout the play and accounts for his transformation from an apparently secondary figure into one of stature.
It is, however, Brutus, as he gradually learns to distinguish ideals from reality, who captures the sympathy of the audience.
A second major “adaptation” by Shakespeare is a daring, dramatically effective telescoping of historical time.
The historical events associated with the death of Caesar and the defeat of the conspirators actually took three years; Shakespeare condenses them into three tense days, following the unity of time (though not of place).The conjunction of Brutus and Antonius in this scene reveals the telling difference between their dramatic characterizations.Whereas Caesar may have had too much ambition, Brutus has too little; Brutus is a man of ideals and words, and therefore he cannot succeed in the arenas of power.And he decides to participate in the murder of Caesar, to whom, unlike Cassius, he was a close friend, in whose loyalty Caesar never had any reason to doubt, because he is sincerely convinced that it will be better for the state, for Rome.To learn how loyalty is portrayed in the tragedy, read through our “ William Shakespeare is a prolific person in the field of literature and drama, who is well-known for his works with a realistic plot.To underline the relationships among these characters and the themes that dominate their actions, Shakespeare weaves a complicated net of striking images: the monetary image, which creates tension between Brutus and Cassius; the tide image (“Thou are the ruins of the noblest man/ That ever lived in the tide of times”) connected with the theme of fortune; the star image (Caesar compares himself, like Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, to a fixed star while Cassius says, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings”); and the image of wood and stones used to describe the common people by those who would move them to their own will.In yet another way, marks the advance of Shakespeare’s artistry in its use of dramatic irony.Around his gentle character, praised at last even by Antonius, Shakespeare weaves the recurrent motifs of honor and honesty, freedom and fortune, ambition and pride.Honor as it interacts with ambition is the theme of Brutus’s speech to the crowd in the forum: “As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him, but, as he was ambitious, I slew him.” After the deed, Brutus comments, “Ambition’s debt is paid.” One of the great, dramatically successful ironies of the play is that Antonius’s forum speech juxtaposes the same two themes: “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious/ And Brutus is an honourable man.” By the time Antonius is finished, the term “honour” has been twisted by his accelerating sarcasm until it has become a curse, moving the fickle crowd to call for death for the conspirators.Shakespeare, like his classical predecessors, had to work his dramatic art within the restrictions of known history.He accomplished this by writing “between the lines” of Plutarch, offering insights into the mind of the characters that Plutarch does not mention and which become, on the stage, dramatic motivations.