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Historical accuracy of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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  Quote snowybeagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Historical accuracy of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
    Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 06:06

Does anyone know of an article or a list with historical accuracies and discrepancies of William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar?

I know it shouldn't be taken as a historical reference, but I would like to know which parts of the play were fictional and how the actual history was like.

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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 16:21
I know he definitely relied most heavily on Suetonius and Cassius Dio for his information, just as most history students do today. Both these sources are pretty reliable and much of the play is correct apart from where it is embellished to appeal to the crowds, like with the scene of Caesar's ghost (yep, Hollywood is just a continuation of historical inaccuracy which has always existed in the entertainment industry).
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  Quote snowybeagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 22:13

Originally posted by Constantine XI

I know he definitely relied most heavily on Suetonius and Cassius Dio for his information, just as most history students do today. Both these sources are pretty reliable and much of the play is correct apart from where it is embellished to appeal to the crowds

Thanks.

I got a few questions about certain parts of the play in relation to historical accuracy.

01. Did the assassination actually take place on the Ides of March?

02. Was it the first time that senators actually carried weapons (secretly) to kill someone in an official meeting?

If not, was it complacency that led to Caesar to be without bodyguards?

03. What actually happened after the assassination?

Was it historically accurate that the conspirators seized power and Mark Antony fled, and only returned after being promised safety by Brutus?

Was it historically accurate that it was Mark Antony's eulogy at Caesar's funeral that turned tables on the conspirators?

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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Sep-2005 at 02:24
Originally posted by snowybeagle

Originally posted by Constantine XI

I know he definitely relied most heavily on Suetonius and Cassius Dio for his information, just as most history students do today. Both these sources are pretty reliable and much of the play is correct apart from where it is embellished to appeal to the crowds

Thanks.

I got a few questions about certain parts of the play in relation to historical accuracy.

01. Did the assassination actually take place on the Ides of March?

02. Was it the first time that senators actually carried weapons (secretly) to kill someone in an official meeting?

If not, was it complacency that led to Caesar to be without bodyguards?

03. What actually happened after the assassination?

Was it historically accurate that the conspirators seized power and Mark Antony fled, and only returned after being promised safety by Brutus?

Was it historically accurate that it was Mark Antony's eulogy at Caesar's funeral that turned tables on the conspirators?



Ok, to question 1 we must say yes, all our reliable sources confirm the murder occured on the Ides.

Second question, it was definitely not the first time Senators carried weapons around with them. Caesar himself was meant to have been part of a consipiracy when he was younger, according to Suetonius, and would have been carrying a weapon for his own protection (and would have used it to kill resisting Senators if necessary). As it turns out the conspiracy was aborted. Why Caesar dismissed his Spanish bodyguard is not so clear cut, I think it occured because he was increasingly becoming egocentric (he could only see things from his own point of view). He knew without him the Roman world would lapse into civil war, without him the future was uncertain, but to a great many Senators he was simply a viper poisoning the Constitution and had to be removed. Perhaps he hoped his clemency and successful reforms would be enough to sate political enemies, it clearly wasn't.

Third question, yes Antony fled and was allowed back by promises of safety by Brutus, Cassius of course did want Antony dead. It has been recorded that the image of Caesar's murdered body, not Antony's eulogy, was what incensed the Roman mob. Caesar was one of the best things that ever happened to the ordinary Romans, after Caesar's murder they would have exploded into violence at the slightest pretext in any case. So it was popular feeling which turned the tide on the conspirators, not Antony's eulogy (though he did give one). The conspirators were really only serving the interests of the Senatorial class with the murder, the plebs had everything to lose and nothing to gain by it.
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  Quote tadamson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Sep-2005 at 09:31
Shakespeare's immediate source for history was Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577) but he was an avid reader who used lots of sources.  
rgds.

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  Quote snowybeagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Sep-2005 at 21:57

Originally posted by Constantine XI

Why Caesar dismissed his Spanish bodyguard is not so clear cut

Julius got the Spanish as bodyguards?

This is the time first I learn of it, I'm not that knowledgable about him.

Can you tell me more about his bodyguards or direct me to some references about them?

TIA

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  Quote Imperator Invictus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Sep-2005 at 16:13
I know it shouldn't be taken as a historical reference, but I would like to know which parts of the play were fictional and how the actual history was like.


One of the most famous lines in the play, "Et tu Brute" is fictional.
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Sep-2005 at 16:39
Originally posted by Imperator Invictus

I know it shouldn't be taken as a historical reference, but I would like to know which parts of the play were fictional and how the actual history was like.


One of the most famous lines in the play, "Et tu Brute" is fictional.


True, what he was actually rumoured to have said was "even you my child?" in Greek, according to Suetonius.
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