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REVIEW
Charney, Maurice. "The Imagery of Julius Caesar."
Shakespeare's Roman Plays: The Function of Imagery in Drama. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1961. 41-78.


Thesis: In the second paragraph of his chapter on Julius Caesar, Charney neatly sums up his main thesis:
The chief image themes in Julius Caesar are the storm and its portents, blood, and fire. All of these have two opposed meanings, depending upon one's point of view. With reference to the conspirators, the storm and its portents indicate the evil of Caesar's tyranny in the body politic of Rome, while blood and fire are the means of purging and purifying this evil. But with reference to Caesar and his party, the storm and its portents indicate the evil of conspiracy that is shaking the body politic of Rome, while blood and fire are the signs of assassination and civil strife this evil brings in its wake. From either point of view, however, the action of the play moves from disorder (Caesar's tyranny or the conspiracy) to an uneasy restoration of order at the end (murder of Caesar or destruction of the conspiracy). These issues are never clearly resolved in the play. Although the defeat and death of the conspirators seem to be a comment on the futility of their enterprise, the rise of Antony and Octavius is by no means an affirmation of justice, truth, and human values.  (43)
Charney provides a very readable account of the occurances of these three"image themes," both in the words and the staging of the play.

In addition, Charney has a section on the image of Caesar—that is, on "the crucial contrast between the great public figure and the infirm private man" (66). Charney makes the familiar point that the public figure is more powerful than the private man; it is the public figure which determines what the private man will do, and it is the spirit which Brutus cannot kill.

Bottom Line: Solid analysis.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 22 June 2005