Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
- When Written: 1599
- Where Written: England
- When Published: 1623
- Literary Period: The Renaissance (1500 - 1660)
- Genre: Tragic drama
- Setting: Rome and environs, 44 BCE
- Climax: Brutus's suicide
A global first? Many scholars believe Julius Caesar was the first play acted in Shakespeare's Globe theater, which opened in 1599. The play was written around that time, and Shakespeare may have seen Rome's far-reaching conquests, and the influence of Caesar's death on history, as symbolically related to the playhouse's name.
Playing with time. As in many of his plays, Shakespeare manipulates time in Julius Caesar, both for dramatic convenience and to make the setting less foreign to his audience. Historically, the time between Caesar's triumphal march with Pompey's sons and the defeat of Cassius and Brutus is around two years, but Shakespeare compresses it into two months. Additionally, references the characters make to their clothes reveal that they are dressed as people in Shakespeare's day would have been, not as Romans. Also, at one point a mechanical clock strikes the time—such clocks weren't be invented for over a thousand years!
The tragedy of Brutus. Despite the title, you could make a good argument that this play should actually be titled the Tragedy of Brutus. Caesar's tragic flaw is supposedly his ambition, but as Antony points out in his eulogy, we see few examples of Caesar's ambition in the play. Additionally, Caesar dies less than halfway through, and has fewer lines than several other characters. The story of the noble Brutus being undone by his dispassionate logic and his trust in Cassius conforms much more closely to the model of tragedy.