Posted on: April 14, 2021 Posted by: Stuti Shiva Comments: 2
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“ All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”

Excerpt From: Jonathan Bate. “Soul of the Age”.

We all know the great playwright, however I have often wondered, who was the man behind some of the best works in English Literature.

“He was not of an age, but for all time!” So wrote Ben Jonson in the poem of praise published in the First Folio of collected plays. Was Shakespeare a life that lasted from 1564 to 1616 or was he also a sum total of all the body of words, ideas, characters and stage images that has remained alive for four centuries because of their endless capacity for renewal and adaptation through the work of succeeding generations of actors and spectators, appreciative readers, and creative artists in every conceivable medium.

Said Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing in nineteenth-century New England, Shakespeare was “inconceivably wise,” possessed of a brain so uniquely vast that no one can penetrate it. But at the same time, he was the incarnation of “a cause, a country, and an age.” It is this double quality that makes Shakespeare, in Emerson’s fine phrase, the representative poet.

A normal chronological sequence of his life may not only be depressingly reductive, it’s an information which is available on the net, which you, my readers can easily access. This is aptly put by George Bernard Shaw, a playwright and a critic — and a particularly acerbic critic of Shakespeare, discerned in the life when it is told in the traditional way:

“Everything we know about Shakespeare can be got into a half-hour sketch. He was a very civil gentleman who got round men of all classes; he was extremely susceptible to word-music and to graces of speech; he picked up all sorts of odds and ends from books and from the street talk of his day and welded them into his work … Add to this that he was, like all highly intelligent and conscientious people, business-like about money and appreciative of the value of respectability and the discomfort and discredit of Bohemianism; also that he stood on his social position and desired to have it affirmed by the grant of a coat of arms, and you have all we know of Shakespeare beyond what we gather from his plays.”

Image courtesy: The Telegraph

My tryst with Shakespear came at an early age when Shakespear’s plays were a part of our school curriculum. Julius Caesar was the first and a book which is embedded in my memory like a fossil in amber.

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

Like a Colossus; and we petty men

Walk under his huge legs, and peep about

To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

Cassius (Act I, Scene II)

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” 

Cassius (Act I, Scene III)

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; 

The valiant never taste of death but once. 

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, 

It seems to me most strange that men should fear; 

Seeing that death, a necessary end, 

Will come when it will come.” 

Caesar (Act II, Scene II)

“Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” 

Cassius (Act I, Scene II)

But I am constant as the Northern Star,

Of whose true fixed and resting quality

There is no fellow in the firmament.

Ceasar (Act 3, Scene 1)

As he was valiant, I honor him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.

Brutus (Act 3, Scene 2)

“There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat;

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.” 

Brutus (Act 4, Scene 3)

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.

Brutus (Act 3 Scene 2)

“His life was gentle; and the elements

So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!” 

Mark Anthony (Act 5, Scene 5)

“Let me have men around me who art fat sleek headed men, and such as sleep a nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.”

Julius Caesar (Act1, Scene 2)

“When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

Calpurnia (Act 2, Scene 2)

I could go on … …

“Barbara Everett writes in an acute essay on the problem of Shakespearean life-writing, “If his biography is to be found it has to be here, in the plays and poems, but never literally and never provably.”

I would like to know, some of your favourite quotes from Julius Caesar. Pease do share in the comments below.

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