“THE NOBLEST ROMAN OF THEM ALL”
SHAKESPEARE, William. Julius Caesar. London, Jaggard, 1623. FIRST EDITION: Being the Complete Play Extracted from The First Folio (pp. 53-79). Handsomely bound in modern red morocco.
One of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies – renowned for its memorable characters, dialogue, and intrigue — Julius Caesar is Shakespeare’s most politically overt play. A meditation on ethics and statescraft, the work blends political drama and personal tragedy with considerable thematic complexity — exploring power and its abuse; legitimate and illegitimate claims to power; public good vs personal feeling; the very real dangers of rhetoric and peer pressure; and the bonds and bounds of friendship. Here too are to be found many of Shakespeare’s more recurrent themes: the vanity of human ambition, fate vs. free will, the ego-deluded misreading of signs and portents, and the inexorable truth that evil cannot beget good but only chaos. Though written with “Roman simplicity and directness” and drawn from a historical source (Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans), the work yet resonates with the contemporary Elizabethan overtones (and murders) surrounding the succession of Queen Elizabethan I. Politics as theater – and theater as politics – has never been more compellingly or vividly portrayed.
Individual plays from the First Folio are, for all practical intents and purposes, the earliest obtainable printings of Shakespeare’s work. The fact that many First Folio plays in fact represent the very first printing of the work in any form – as here — is a decided positive and additional source of value.