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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Julius Caesar x 40

I have just finished reading Julius Caesar for the fourth time.  This year.

This is because I read it with each of my tenth grade English classes.  I don't have an exact count, but conservatively I'd estimate I've read Julius Caesar about forty times.  I've probably read Romeo and Juliet at least ten.

The thing about re-reading Shakespeare so many times, you really do keep making new discoveries.  Of course, I'll always have my favorite parts - Cassius' noble suicide, Decius' wonderful comments on flattery, and of course Marc Antony's funeral oration - but then there are little gems I never picked up on until this reading.

For example, there's the arrival of the Thamadorians in the fifth act.  If you don't read closely, you'd skip right over it, but right after the parley before the battle, Octavius comments on "yon jeweled orb which doth amaze the sight."  This turns out to be the Thamadorian Mother Ship and Octavius converses with Throgar the Thamadorian Overlord about the coming battle.  (In a delicious piece of Shakespearean irony, when Octavius later describes the encounter, Antony accuses him of being drunk!)

Of course we know what Antony does not, given the perspective of history, that the Thamadorians have a stake in the rise of the Triumvirate, and their intercession - though brief - will play a decisive role in the battle, when their cloaking rays - or as Shakespeare terms them - "the beams that do confound the hapless eye" - lead Pindarus to believe Tititinius has been overcome by Antony's troops, when in fact, he has been welcomed by Brutus'.

Again, Throgar and the Thamadorians are only a minor aspect of a magnificent play, and one can derive great pleasure without ever even noticing them, but, like the zombie who appears in the penultimate scene of Romeo and Juliet, it is one of those additional little marvels that make Shakespeare such an enduring presence in our culture.

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