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Monday, December 14, 2020

Recommended book #5 - Julius Caesar


Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is historical fiction based on fact, but in some ways it reads like a documentary. It remains urgently contemporary. A 2017 outdoors production in Central Park in New York caused outrage when Caesar was seen to be modelled on Donald Trump; major sponsors withdrew their funding. A 2018 production at the Bridge Theatre in London had Caesar tossing a 'Make America Great Again' baseball cap into the audience:

Julius Caesar will teach you much about both persuasion and politics. I know of no better treatment in drama or fiction of how politics actually works: the factions, the conspiring, the delicate courtship of potential allies, the insidious undermining of rivals, the conflict between high minded idealism and calculating pragmatism, the sheer emotion of it all. Most of all, though, Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral is one of the most brilliant examples of persuasive rhetoric ever written; it is worth taking it apart line by line and word by word to see how it works.

Put it on your Christmas list.

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