A six-page, fill-in-the-blank handout on the structure and themes of “Julius Caesar.” Your students will analyze and evaluate whether the drama has a bipartite (two-part) structure or a unified plot. This debatable issue, I have found, leads students to the text to augment the ideas about each proposition offered in the handout.
Two major themes of “Julius Caesar” are discussed: the evils of civil war and liberty vs. tyranny. Shakespeare found these fundamental political issues were not confined just to ancient Rome, but continually confront every nation. After a study of “Julius Caesar” perhaps some of your students will symbolically see that these concerns are equally relevant to present-day America’s partisan political times, with its dyed-in-the-wool red vs. blue states ideological “civil war” and with each party branding the other as a dictatorial threat to our nation’s freedom. Shakespeare’s drama, I have found, naturally foments a thematic debate among students, a sign of a vibrant classroom.
Finally, I have included an activity on the famous “purple passages” from the play.
An Answer Key to the student handout, beginning on a separate page, is provided. After it I have appended a lengthy note on the historical background of “Julius Caesar” and commentary on some of its famous passages. From these you may choose to cull some information for your classroom activities on the drama.
The student handout is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.