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Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (The Anthony Hecht Lectures in the Humanities Series) Hardcover – November 22, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: The Anthony Hecht Lectures in the Humanities Series
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300152183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300152180
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Rome and Rhetoric is as entertainingly readable as it is broadly informative.”—John Simon, New York Times Book Review
(John Simon New York Times Book Review)

“This tour de force . . . shows why our view of ancient Rome is very much Shakespeare’s.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“Informed by Rome’s great rhetoricians, Wills scrutinizes the kinds of rhetoric employed by Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Cassius in turn, showing how these disclose their characters. . . . [A] penetrating, provocative analysis.”—Booklist
(Booklist)

"Rome and Rhetoric is a fascinating look at the way Shakespeare has shaped our view of ancient Rome through the characters of his Julius Caesar."—Philip Freeman, Author of Julius Caesar
(Philip Freeman 2011-10-03)

"[Wills] takes a creative approach to helping both novice and fluent readers of Shakespeare's plays understand particular cultural contexts and social mores of the Elizabethan period. . . . This book will be of particular value to those interested in immersing themselves in the traditions and values depicted in Julius Caesar."—T.J. Haskell, Choice
(T.J. Haskell Choice)

About the Author

Garry Wills is professor of history emeritus at Northwestern University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Wills is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and other publications.


More About the Author

Garry Wills is one of the most respected writers on religion today. He is the author of Saint Augustine's Childhood, Saint Augustine's Memory, and Saint Augustine's Sin, the first three volumes in this series, as well as the Penguin Lives biography Saint Augustine. His other books include "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power, Why I Am a Catholic, Papal Sin, and Lincoln at Gettysburg, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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My only regret is that this book is so short, as I read it mostly in one evening.
scholarboy
This is the result and conclusions of an exceptionally close reading of Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar."
Michael E. Nader
It weaves nicely between the historical accounts available to Shakespeare and the play.
MT57

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. Scanlon VINE VOICE on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (Oxford School Shakespeare Series) brings classical Rome alive before us, with each character finely delineated as a true breathing human person with cogent psychological make up and individual education and personal history reflected truly and convincingly in their speech patterns and content, actions, motivations and destinies, so compellingly in fact that our mental picture of Rome, our Roman paradigm, is fundamentally Shakespearean, and yet, historical.

Shakespeare was masterful in taking history and myth and turning it into strong drama, from his early and delicious Titus Andronicus: The Oxford Shakespeare Titus Andronicus (Oxford World's Classics) through such historical fantasies as Timon of Athens: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics), through the immortal King Lear (Norton Critical Editions), and the disturbing Macbeth (Norton Critical Editions) up to his more precisely recent historical plays from well chronicled sources such as
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ewaffle on April 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Like many indifferently educated people in the United States much of what I know (or think I know) about ancient Rome is through Shakespeare. "Julius Caesar" primarily although "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Coriolanus" add to the mix; Garry Wills in "Rome and Rhetoric" says that knowing first century Rome from the perspective of 16th century England is a pretty good approach. Wills, of course, has a very broad and deep knowledge and understanding of the Latin classics which he brings to bear in this textual analysis of the oratorical and conversational styles of Shakespeare's Caesar, Antony, Brutus and Cassius. It is a wonderful close reading, laying bare the confusion regarding pride vs. honor, ambition vs. responsibility and civic duty vs. personal aggrandizement that involved each of these characters.

Wills looks at the individual linguistic devices of each of the four showing how the attitudes of each of them toward the others and towards the Roman people were both hidden (the characters thought) and revealed to the attentive reader or playgoer. He thinks--and demonstrates--that Shakespeare knew classical Latin rhetoric particularly as used by Cicero a minor but key character in "Julius Caesar" and as taught to schoolboys in the late 1500s, even in rural Stratford.

Wills contrasts Brutus' speech at Caesar's funeral to that of Antony in terms of their structures based on the initial principles laid down by Aristotle. Both begin their arguments with logos, an appeal to reason and a straightforward attempt to convince the audience--a very restive and volatile audience, confused and upset with the assassination of Caesar and looking for leadership or at least someone to tell them what to think--that the conspirators had the best interests of the Republic at heart.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Norman Rabkin on December 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a remarkably succinct and straightforwardly presented small volume, the historian Gary Wills has given us one of the most perceptive analyses of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar I have ever read. By meticulous study of the sources Wills has come up with startling perceptions about how Shakespeare creates character through the rhetoric they employ. The book is focused, compact, eminently readable by any literate person, and a marvelous guide to the play
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One thing you can say about historian and scholar Garry Wills is, "The man sure knows how to read...and think...and write." His two latest books both deal with Shakespeare plays: ROME AND RHETORIC (about Julius Caesar) and Verdi's Shakespeare: Men of the Theater (about Macbeth, Othello, and Falstaff). While VERDI'S SHAKESPEARE is the livelier read, especially where Wills speculates on how Shakespeare cast his plays and how the roles were shaped by the actors available to him, ROME AND RHETORIC has its own merits. The four lectures that comprise this book deal with classical rhetorical approaches and how these shape the presentation of the play's main (male) characters: Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Cassius. (Portia and Calphurnia, the only significant female roles in the play, get some thoughtful discussion in the Cassius lecture.) Wills makes strong arguments regarding Shakespeare's knowledge (perhaps more intuitive than studied) and appreciation of Roman culture and mores. Wills' highlighting and explanations of the art and devices of rhetoric, something in which Shakespeare was well trained, is especially helpful. I so felt my own lack of knowledge in this area that I bought Ward Farnsworth's Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric, which was favorably reviewed on Amazon. Most serious readers of Shakespeare will likely find something revelatory from both of Wills' new books.
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