‘They Could Not Find a Heart within the Beast’: Character and Imagery in Julius Caesar

- Mebane, John*
This presentation analyzes Julius Caesar as a case study in two of the things that are hallmarks of Shakespeare’s art: subtlety and depth of characterization, and structural imagery. Mebane also addresses the question of the extent to which Shakespeare affirms a given set of values or beliefs in his plays.

Is there a single judgment on the character of Caesar, or on Brutus—the protagonist– who becomes the leader of the plot to assassinate Caesar? What kind of psychological insights or political values are affirmed in this play? Mebane explores these questions principally by analyzing the contrasts in the play among Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony. After discussing several different approaches to the major characters, Mebane explores the manner in which Shakespeare assesses the serious flaws of these characters while still leading us to admire their virtues. The play’s emphasis on the role of subconscious interests in construction of political or ethical ideals is an important general insight that the play brings to life. Mebane also discusses the ways in which the play’s patterns of imagery provide a context for the interpretation of character and contribute to thematic development.