announcement

Update: Check new design of our homepage!

Julius Caesar: Comparative Analysis of Shakespearean Villains

Julius Caesar: Comparative Analysis of Shakespearean Villains

If you want to analyze the villains of Shakespeare, here is an article which questions the theory of good and bad in the plays of Shakespeare.
Penlighten Staff
"Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

These were famous lines of the play "Julius Caesar" (Act III, Scene II) which was written by the greatest of all playwrights, William Shakespeare. This was one of his earliest works and probably one of the plays where the presumed hero dies and the play revolves around his death. The character of Julius Caesar is hardly present but his presence looms large over the length of the play. The repeated appearance of his ghost (according to the play) makes us shiver and his words echo within our minds as it does in the mind of Brutus.

This is one of those Shakespearean plays wherein the sympathy of the readers is confused. As a reader, you would not know whether to sympathize with the protagonist or the presumed villain. I felt the same way when I read "The Merchant of Venice" and "Twelfth Night" wherein the people who were the receivers of divine retribution did not exactly deserve it. It did result in Catharsis but more importantly, led to contemplation as to whether there is something called absolute good or absolute bad. The good at times is the result of past good and vice versa. Was I comprehensible? Let me give you an example from all the three plays.

Villains in Julius Caesar and Other Plays

Brutus joined the conspiracy because he wanted to salvage Rome from the hands of savage Caesar whom he compared to a baby serpent in the egg who would behave like a snake as soon the egg hatches, so the question now: Was Brutus a villain?

Similarly Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" was hell-bent on taking revenge from Antonio because Antonio was the one who insulted and abused him in front of the Venetians because he was a moneylender. Facts say that Jews were not given a chance to do any work in Venice. So it is a fact that most of the Jews lent money to earn their living. Now, the next allegation of Antonio was that Shylock lent money at high interests. So is making money wrong? In such a case, shouldn't Lorenzo also be blamed since he also allowed Jessica to elope with all the jewels and money earned from the same trade?

Now, in "Twelfth Night", was it really fair on Malvolio when he was declared mad and was locked in a room because he was a puritan and did not indulge in the hedonism of Toby Belch and Maria?

So aren't you compelled to think that Shakespeare wants us to question our standards of good and bad, black and white, and right and wrong? Yes, probably he was in a way trying to tell us that there is nothing absolute, these are interrelated concepts and everything lies in the area of gray wherein they change from black to white.

Photo:
"Henry Irving (1838-1905) English actor-manager and the first actor to be honored with a knighthood (1895). Irving as Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice".