Elective: Conflicting Perspective

Set Text: Shakespeare Julius Caesar

In this Module you will need to study closely the play Julius Caesar by Shakespeare as a text which represents conflicting perspectives on the one personality, Julius Caesar. You will then need to find two other texts which represent conflicting perspectives on one personality or event. This may be other texts about Julius Caesar like Plutarch's Lives AND/OR other texts dealing with a controversial personality or event - eg Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" or a book, film or article about such figures as JF Kennedy, Princess Diana, John Howard or an event like September 11, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Gallipoli, the Spielberg film "Munich" about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Your study must be focussed on how a specific text represents conflicting perspectives on the one personality or event. Are the same strategies of representation being used over and over across the centuries? Why does a late 16th century Englishman, Shakespeare, want to revisit what Plutarch wrote about Caesar?

Artists, writers, playwrights, film producers across the centuries are attracted to the presentation of controversial figures and events, people and events that generate conflicting perspectives or attitudes. In this Elective we explore how different creators of texts using different media of representation have represented such personalities and events.

Shakespeare based his play closely on the Life of Caesar written by Roman historian Plutarch. One interesting exercise to do is to compare Plutarch's account with Shakespeare's play. You will notice how certain phrases and sayings are directly taken up by Shakespeare but there are also changes Shakespeare makes. Questions to consider are
  • What changes did Shakespeare make to Plutarch?
  • Why did he make these changes?
  • What does Shakespeare's treatment of Plutarch show us about how Shakespeare chooses to represent conflicting perspectives on Julius Caesar?

It is important to know the play well and to consider how we gain conflicting perspectives from
  • the crowd's view of Caesar
  • Cassius' view of Caesar
  • Brutus' view of Caesar
  • Mark Antony's view of Caesar
  • Caesar's own words and actions
For guidance on this consult the following tasks.

The following file has a sample of key passages from the play with accompanying questions. Complete them to gain confidence in your knowledge of the play.
To consolidate your knowledge of the play and understand the type of question you may be asked, there is also a guided essay provided - it contains an introduction, conclusion and the opening sentences of paragraphs but it is for you to add in the necessary detail - quotations, examples, analysis of scenes including techniques.
We also need to study an additional text that represents conflicting operspectives on an individual or an event.
American poet Galway Kinnel responded to the events of September 11 in his poem "When the towers fell". The poem shows several different perspectives on the event - seen from the point of view of those who experienced it as unique, unprecedented, totally unexpected, but also Kinnell represents it as just one more event in a long sequence of 20th Century violence. After the long history of 20th century wars - World War Two, the bombing of Hiroshima, the Vietnam War, US intervention in many countries - September 11 appears more as one more event in the history of human violence. Galways Kinnell's poem can be found on the web. In class we will also listen to his reading of the poem in the CD that accompanies his book Strong is Your Hold. You can find Kinnell's poem using the link:
The file below has a series of questions to guide you through the poem and highlight the ideas and techniques of the poem. The poem could be said to offer two conflicting perspectives on September 11 - the up-close view emphasising the unexpected horror of the event, its raw incomprehensible immediacy; the long-distance view that sees it through the telescope of history.

You may use other material but remember your task is to identify a text that provides conflicting perspectives on a single event or character - like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Princess Diana - WITHIN ONE TEXT. It will need to have sufficient depth and complexity and interest to write half an essay about! You would need to feel confident that the text not merely tells you about a person's life or an important event but that it really seeks to portray conflicting viewpoints on that person or event.

One possible text to use would be the film "Amazing Grace" which offers conflicting perspectives on the life of William Wilberforce. You would need to bear in mind that you are now NOT using it for "Belonging". You would need to consider how it offers conflicting perspectives and how you could successfully build an argument around this.