Julius Caesar: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Sources, Criticism, Performance History

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W. W. Norton, 2012 - Drama - 252 pages
This richly documented Norton Critical Edition of Julius Caesar is based on the 1623 First Folio text. It is accompanied by a note on the text, an introduction that sets the biographical and historical stage necessary to appreciate this richly allusive play, explanatory annotations, a map, and five illustrations.

“Sources and Contexts” presents possible sources as well as analogues to Julius Caesar, an account of Shakespeare's understanding of and approach to Roman history, and Ernest Schanzer's study of the narrative challenges posed by the play.

“Criticism” includes early commentary—by, among others, Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, and Harley Granville-Barker—on Julius Caesar as well as modern interpretations. Among these are John W. Velz on role-playing in Julius Caesar; Jan H. Blits on Caesar's ambiguous end; Paul A. Cantor on rhetoric, poetry and the Roman republic; and R. A. Foakes on the themes of assassination and mob violence.

“Performance History” reprints accounts of various aspects of staging Julius Caesar by Sidney Homan, John Nettles, and
Robert F. Willson, Jr.

A Film Bibliography and Selected Bibliography are also included.

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About the author (2012)

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

S. P. Cerasano is the Edgar W. B. Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate University. She has published numerous books, as well as articles in Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Survey, Shakespeare Studies, and other academic journals. She is the editor of Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England and has served as a consultant to members of the Archaeology Division of the Museum of London concerning the excavation of the Rose Play house site. She is currently editing Edward Alleyn's diary.

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