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REVIEW
Foakes, R.A. "An Approach to Julius Caesar."
Shakespeare Quarterly. 5 (1954). 259-70.


Thesis: The last (and best) paragraph of Foakes' essay neatly sums up the whole thing:
This study of the dramatic purposes for which language and imagery are used in Julius Caesar suggests solutions for the problems both of style and diction and of the nature and unity of the play. The imagery of words and action points to the imaginative and dramatic unity of the play as consisting in the completion of the circle of events bginning and ending the rebellion. The action of the play turns on the distance between the ideals and public symbols for which the names of Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius, stand, and their true nature and actions. The three main figures are all noble and yet weak; none has the stature of hero or villain. Brutus and Cassius kill the man Caesar and not his spirit, not what he stands for, what they aim to destroy; it is a treacherous and dishonorable act which brings disorder, loss of the liberty they had sought, and finally civil war. All they had hoped to gain they lose, until they have nothing left but their names, and the opportunity to die bravely, to find freedom in suicide . . . . Only by their deaths do they set at rest the spirit, the name of Caesar which they had sought to destroy. Their personal action is completed in this way, a tale of frustration and disorder which spreads outwards to involve the mob, the whole nation in civil destruction. All is the result of a self-deception, an obsession with names and an ignorance of reality, that could lead Brutus to think he was acting honorably in slaying his "best lover" (III.ii.49), and Cassius to think the death of one man would bring freedom.  (269-70)
In support of his points, Foakes discusses various motifs, including portents, names, sickness, and blood.

Evaluation: This solid work, but sometimes it seems that Foakes is a bit too determined to force everything to fit his thesis.

Bottom Line: Informative but dull.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 11 Aug. 2005
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