Thesis: Wilson's view of Julius Caesar grows out of his belief that Antony and Cleopatra and King Lear are Shakespeare's greatest tragedies because they convey the strongest "tragic reconciliation," so that we feel that "the loss is inherent in the story and inevitable, but we are left with the sense that human life has been ennobled in and through the tragic experience" (13). In Wilson's scheme, Julius Caesar is a kind of precursor to Antony and Cleopatra. The two plays have a similar subject matter and share a matter-of-fact world view which Wilson calls "the order of nature," but Julius Caesar lacks the passion which leads to tragic reconciliation:
The play contains perhaps the most philosophical of all Shakespeare's dramatic interpretations of human history. Plainly, it is the most detached; there was nothing to engage Shakespeare's partisanship, and he views both the imperial ambitions of Caesar and the republican ardour of Brutus with a gravely ironic impartiality. The irony is deeply understanding; he studies not only the vicissitudes of the Roman state in its moment of greatest crisis but also the personal tragedies of its citizens. Brutus and Caesar, Cassius and Antony, Titinius and Lucilius and even the slave Strato who holds the sword for Brutus are all vividly realized for us as human beings. The detachment, the serene and impartial understanding of the artist and the thinkerfor this is more a play of thought than of passionis the leading quality of this work; and, as we grow older, at least, it leaves us filled with admiration for the artist's genius but comparatively unmovedunmoved, that is, compared with the effects we experience in the great tragedies that followed Julius Caesar. (97)Aside from this evaluation of the play, Wilson generally concurs with other critics on such matters as characterization and theme.
Bottom Line: OK