Reviewing Plot and Examining How Caesar Defies Fate in Four Excerpts

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SWBAT explain strongly connotative language by examining four key short quotations used by Caesar to describe (ironically) how he defies fate.

Big Idea

Beware the Ides of March! My students examine Caesar and Fate.

Basic Plot Summary

10 minutes

Plot and Character Review--and right quick. This is an unsophisticated version of the play in cartoon form.  It does not attempt to be well done.  It does not attempt to be accurate to every detail, but it is a paraphrased version of the play that will hopefully help students connect the dots, as we are reading bits and pieces of the play (RL.9-10.2).   

Link to basic plot version.

You could easily cut this part of the lesson or just ask the students to watch it at home, but for me, it was worth the five minutes in class to show and quickly discuss because I want to move to the "higher" standards today of language (RL.9-10.4) and textual comparisons (RL.9-10.7), and this kind of move will fall like a house of cards if students are truly lost.  I do not want to spend all day rehearsing the basics of Who, What, Where, and When, but I do want to do a quick review, so I will use this clip, just briefly and ask the key detail type questions that focus on the literal: What characters are here?  Why are they together?  What are they talking about?

I am NOT going to ask more sophisticated interpretive questions like, "How does the film portray Caesar?"  I am not interested in this clip as an artistic representation of the play :-) 



Classic Portayal

10 minutes

Activate Character Inference (line drawing).  

To activate student's knowledge, I ask the following question to the class:

How does the following line drawng of caesar depict Caesar?  (RL.9-10.3)  

Once we answer that question, I ask students to back it up a bit: what is fate, why do some people believe in it?  How does it get revealed in literature?  Can you think of any books that have fate as a theme?  (e.g. The Fault in our Stars, a direct reference to this play and the theme of fate.)How does the image reveal a character who would defy fate (RL.9-10.2)?

What is gained by viewing different acting versions of a scene and comparing them to drawings such as this? (RL.9-10.7).  Tomorrow we will do this with the graphic novel in greater detail. 



Video.  Today, we will watch the scenes leading up to Caesar's assassination, and then discussion a couple of short moments in which Caesar attempts to defy fate.  The goal here is to get students' global observations and to establish character inferences (RL.9-10.3) on Caesar as well as to visualize some of the references to fate (RL.9-10.2).  The goal is not to get into a detailed analysis of the language, although I will not cut students off if they are naturally and independently making references to the language of the scene (RL.9-10.4) we we stop to discuss.

classic portrayal (go to 48 minute mark)

Follow-up Questions.   How does the actor portray Caesar?  What types of things does he say about himself?  About the dangers of going to the capitol?   

Remember: it's a Shakespearean tragedy, and Caesar's name is on the cover: we KNOW he is going to die, but he continues to stand opposed to his fate.  How does this dramatic irony create interest?

Discussion of Fate and Caesar

20 minutes

I have selected four key texts from this section of the play and that pertain to the theme of fate and free will as shown in Caesar's character (RL.9-10.3).  I am hoping to drink in the strong language with the students.  Since we are reading this play electronically, I will project these images on the LCD screen to facilitate the discussion.  Later, students will copy these texts into their notes so that they can have a record.  However, since I am asking the class to gear up their analysis a level by focusing on language (RL.9-10.4), we will do this discussion as a whole group. 

Text #1: 


Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace tonight.
Thrice hath Calphurnia in her sleep cried out,
"Help, ho! They murther Caesar!" (2.2.1)

 - What has happened in Calphurnia's dream?  Why does she react strongly to it?  What word or words suggest that she had a strong emotional reaction to the dream?  [cried out] Do you feel that dreams can foretell the future?  



Text #2:

Calphurnia here, my wife, stays me at home;
She dreamt tonight she saw my statue,
Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts,
Did run pure blood, and many lusty Romans
Came smiling and did bathe their hands in it.
And these does she apply for warnings and portents
And evils imminent, and on her knee
Hath begg'd that I will stay at home today. (2.2.11)

What is the visual image here of the statue?  What are the emotion words used?  How do these emotion words create strong connotations for the language in this metaphor (RL.9-10.4)?  What interpretation would you have about this dream if it was yours (positive/negative fate)?  What interpretation does the conspirator give?  [I will summarize this if needed, since it's not inherent in the quotation.]


Text #3: 

[To the soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
Ay, Caesar; but not gone. (3.1.1)

What does  Caesar's reaction reveal about his character (RL.9-10.3) and the Soothsayer's rejoinder (RL.9-10.2)?


Text #4:


I could be well moved if I were as you.
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament (3.1.63).
 How is the north star described here?  Why is Caesar comparing himself to it (RL.9-10.4)?   What does his attitude reveal about his view of his own fate (RL.9-10.3)?