La tragedia delle ambizioni. Julius Caesar di Shakespeare


Abstract – In Die fröhliche Wissenschaft Nietzsche states that to Brutus “Shakespeare consecrated his best tragedy – it is at present still called by a wrong name,–” (aphorism 98). On the contrary, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar proves to be an extremely appropriate title to let ambition stand out as the protagonist of the play. It thus becomes clear why, after the words “speak hands for me! […] – Then fall Caesar”, the noble Brutus can declare with his bloody hands “Ambition’s debt is paid”: such words are uttered in the same scene where Cassius predicts “How many ages hence/ Shall this our lofty scene be acted over,/ In states unborn, and accents yet unknown?”. Thus, Shakespeare entrusts Brutus with the task of revealing the very essence of the tragedy – “How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,/ That now on Pompey’s basis lies along,/ No worthier than the dust?” –, as if the Bard wanted ambition to act as a protagonist, not to be ascribed to any of the characters. In this way, the origin of Julius Caesar, rooted in the Morality Play, shows through. The Roman play in the Elizabethan version performed by fifteen actors, where Medieval allegorical themes and Renaissance themes merge and blur, is devoted to a theme not to a hero. Julius Caesar deals with ambition, not with Julius Caesar as such. The Renaissance Bard, detaching himself from his Plutarchean source, made all actors the protagonists of a tragedy that was rich – maybe excessively – in material. In the 1599 play, there are a lot of elements – even too many –, exactly those ingredients which would have returned, properly balanced, in the later great tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, are Renaissance heroes indebted to Julius Caesar.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v27p67

Keywords: theatre; history; tragedy; Shakespeare; Plutarch


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