Shakespeare – Module 7: Shakespearean Tragedy- Julius Caesar – 2 of 3

Hello Year 7 and Year 8! Last session, we looked at the plot of ‘Julius Caesar’. This session, we will look at a key scene more closely and start to think about some of the dramatic devices used by Shakespeare.


WHAT: examining a key soliloquy from ‘Julius Caesar’

By the end of this session you will be able to:

✓ be able to explain three dramatic devices: soliloquy; aside; monologue
✓ demonstrate understanding of a key soliloquy from Act 2 Scene 1

Today you will need:

✎ A pen
☰ A word document, notepad or paper to record your ideas

STARTER- YOU DO: What can you remember about the plot of ‘Julius Caesar’? Write a list of the key things that happen in the play.

Click on this link to take a quick test to revise the characters:

Soliloquies, Asides and Monologues

Throughout his plays, Shakespeare uses a range of dramatic devices to show his characters’ thoughts and feelings and keep his audience engaged. Three devices which can be found in any play are soliloquies, asides and monologues.

Soliloquy:soliloquy is a long speech given by a character who is alone on stage. The speech is designed to reveal his or her true thoughts to the audience. It is important that they are alone because they often admit things that they would otherwise keep hidden from other characters.

Aside: An aside is a comment made by a character to the audience or another character that no one else can hear.

Monologue: an extended speech by one speaker/ character

Shakespeare makes very careful choices when deciding which device to use.

YOU DO: Design three symbols or images to help you to remember the difference between a soliloquy, an aside and a monologue. Send a picture of your work to your English teacher!

We will now look closely at a famous soliloquy from ‘Julius Caesar’. The soliloquy is taken from Act 2 Scene 1. In the scene, Brutus is in his orchard unable to sleep. In a soliloquy, he reveals he can see no way of stopping Caesar except ‘by his death’. Remember, Brutus is worried that Caesar will become too powerful and that too much power is dangerous.

YOU DO: First, have a go at reading the soliloquy below. Don’t worry about understanding every single word. Think about how Brutus is feeling. He is talking about Caesar.

It must be by his death, and for my part

I know no personal cause to spurn at him

But for the general. He would be crowned.

How that might change his nature, there’s the question.

It is the bright day that brings forth the adder

And that craves wary walking. Crown him that,

And then I grant we put a sting in him

That at his will he may do danger with.

Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins

Remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar,

have not known when his affections swayed

More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof

That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,

Whereto the climber upward turns his face.

But when he once attains the upmost round,

He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.

hen, lest he may, prevent. And since the quarrel

Will bear no color for the thing he is,

Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented,

Would run to these and these extremities.

And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg—

Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous—

And kill him in the shell.

Now read the modern translation of this soliloquy:

The only way is to kill Caesar. I have no personal reason to strike at him—only the best interest of the people. He wants to be crowned. The question is, how would being king change him? Evil can come from good, just as poisonous snakes tend to come out into the open on bright sunny days—which means we have to walk carefully. If we crown him, I have to admit we’d be giving him the power to do damage. Rulers abuse their power when they separate it from compassion. To be honest, I’ve never known Caesar to let his emotions get the better of his reason. But everyone knows that an ambitious young man uses humility to advance himself, but when he reaches the top, he turns his back on his supporters and reaches for the skies while scorning those who helped him get where he is. Caesar might act like that. Therefore, in case he does, we must hold him back. And since our quarrel is with his future behavior, not what he does now, I must frame the argument like this: if his position is furthered, his character will fulfill these predictions. And therefore we should liken him to a serpent’s egg—once it has hatched, it becomes dangerous, like all serpents. Thus we must kill him while he’s still in the shell.

If it helps, watch this video clip of the soliloquy.

YOU DO: Answer the questions below to show your understanding of this soliloquy.

1. Find a quotation from the soliloquy (original text) which means that evil can come from good, just as poisonous snakes tend to come out into the open on bright sunny days.

It is the bright day that brings forth the adder

2. Find a quotation from the soliloquy (original text) which shows that Brutus knows that, in truth, Caesar has never let his emotions get the better of his reason.

And, to speak truth of Caesar, I have not known when his affections swayed more than his reason.

3. What animal does Brutus compare Julius Caesar to and why?

He compares him to a serpent. Brutus says once a serpent egg is hatched, it will become dangerous.

4. Why do you think Shakespeare uses a soliloquy in this scene?

Shakespeare uses a soliloquy to show Brutus’s conflicting feelings. He could not admit these feelings to anyone else.

5. What conclusion does Brutus come to at the end of this soliloquy?

Brutus comes to the conclusion that Caesar must be killed.

Well done! You should now understand what a soliloquy is and have developed your understanding of Brutus’ thoughts and feelings. Next session, we will look more closely at Brutus and think about the idea of him as a tragic hero…