Chapter

A Shavian Caesar

Stanley Weintraub

in Who's Afraid of Bernard Shaw?

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037264
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041544 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813037264.003.0002
A Shavian Caesar

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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When Shaw provocatively titled a part of his preface to Caesar and Cleopatra (1899) “Better than Shakespear[e]?,” he included the question mark to assure readers that he wasn't really challenging the sacred Bard of Avon. Approaching the close of his controversial first decade as a dramatist, he was setting out his credentials as a serious writer for the stage, making his case with a modern chronicle play echoing the Shakespeaean style in his own quirky manner. Shaw's play seems in its visual extravagance almost to have been written with the cinema in mind, although in the last years of the Victorian era (which he parodies) he was foreshadowing rather than anticipating the still-primitive medium. His Caesar and Cleopatra are taken off their pedestals and humanized, and Caesar himself becomes the first of Shaw's fully realized philosopher-kings—both historical and fictional.

Keywords: Julius Caesar; Cleopatra; Egypt; Rome; leadership; vengeance; Victorian England

Chapter.  4953 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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