Justification for Teaching

Julius Caesar is a great choice to read in the classroom because it is based on true events in Roman history and also highlights the struggle between the conflicting demands of honor, patriotism, and friendship.

Students learn about real events in history while they enjoy the story of the struggle to seize power over Rome and the conspiracy planned against Caesar. Julius Caesar contains one of the best pieces of rhetoric Shakespeare ever devised: the speech Mark Antony delivers after Caesar's assassination. The tragedy draws readers in as the plan unravels and Caesar’s and Brutus’ fates are determined. This text will also help your students explore ideas of pride and trust.

Summary

In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar has just returned to Rome after defeating the sons of Pompey in a battle to rule Rome. His “friends,” Brutus and Cassius, don’t believe that he should be in power and decide to come up with a conspiracy to overthrow him and have Brutus reign.

Eventually, the conspirators succeed with their plan to assassinate Caesar, but in the end, not everything goes to plan and neither Brutus nor Cassius end up in power.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Symbolism
  • Imagery
  • Allegory
  • Tone
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony

Themes and Motifs

  • Fate — Characters in the play question the role that destiny, predestination, fate, etc. actually plays in their lives. The characters take actions based on omens of things to come, but the characters often misinterpret these omens.
  • Public vs. Private — Many of the play's characters are all too willing to sacrifice their personal feelings — and friendships — for what they believe to be the benefit of Rome.
  • The Power of Words — Skilled rhetoricians wield a lot of power in this play — the speech Mark Antony delivers after Caesar's assassination turns public opinion against Brutus and Cassius.

Related Works

Theme of Fate

Theme of Public vs. Private

Theme of the power of words

Key Facts

  • Length: 96 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1330
  • Publication Date: ca. 1599
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12

Movies

There are several film versions, but the one that is regarded as the best is the 1953 version, which stars Marlon Brando.

Your students will love:

  • The conspiracies and twists

Students may have problems with:

  • Confusing the characters with each other because of their similar names
  • The suicides and deaths

Available from Prestwick House:

We have a number of resources for teaching Julius Caesar. Click here to see them all.

More Teacher's Guides to Literature:

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.

Julius Caesar