Sunday, May 17, 2009

Favourite lines from Julius Caesar

Finished reading Julius Caesar while in Bali ; it's been too long since I sat down and read Shakespeare just for fun, in a non lit-crit manner.

I didn't examine it too much - just let the glorious language swirl about my head. I've excerpted some of my favourite lines below, very deliberately leaving out the famous and over-quoted "Friends, Romans, country men" speech by Mark Anthony. Not that the speech isn't unbelievably well written - the performance potential of it is stunning - but precisely because it's so over used that I just couldn't be bothered to reproduce it.


For the eye sees not itself.

But by reflection, by some other things

Act 1 Sc 2

The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.

Act 2 Sc 1

I have seen tempests when the scolding winds

Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen

The’ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,

To be exalted with the threatening clouds.

Act 1 Sc 3

I am as constant as the Northern Star,

Of whose true-fixed and resting quality

There is no fellow in the firmament.

Act 3 Sc 1

(Note: Recognize that first line? It appears in the Joni Mitchell song – A Case of You. She uses the whole line; wonder if she read this play before,or if the language has so entered our cultural consciousness that she didn’t even realize it was from Julius Caesar.)

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood,leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such full sea we are now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

Act 4 Sc 3

O setting sun,

As in thy red rays thou dost sink tonight,

So in his red blood Cassius’ day is set,

The sun of Rome is set. Our day is gone,

Clouds , dews and dangers come, our deeds are done!

Act 5 Sc 3

(Note- absolutely love the completeness of the image and its dramatic resonance. Oh, I want to watch this play just to hear these lines in all their glory! )

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