William Shakespeare (c. 26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, renowned by many as the world's greatest writer in the English Language. Among his plays are Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth to name but a few.
As satisfying an edition of a Shakespeare play as I have on my shelves. The brief introduction mounts a crisp critique of Shakespeare scholarship on Julius Caesar insofar as it sees the play as unhistorical, as presenting Elizabethan gentlemen in Roman costume, because the author, a busy and not so well-read actor, would not be familiar with the facts that, for this scholarship, constitute history. Part of the wicked pleasure in reading Blits' footnotes is to see the evidence for how wrong this line is. Of most interest are the explanatory footnotes. Shakespeare is at his most artful in writing speeches whose intellectual structure mirrors the speaker's nature. These late Republicans and first Caesarians are one and all duplicitous, rent in soul or deceitful in intentionand they are educated. Hence their speeches use and abuse the trivium, its grammar, logic, and rhetoric, for all it is worth. Without the explanatory notes I would have missed the characters' craft and Shakespeare's art. Would that there were more such editions! Eva Brann, St. John's College I could not put the book aside on account of the pleasure it gave me in reading it. All other editions of the past century with which I am familiar assume Shakespeare's knowledge of things Roman extended hardly further than what he could gather from Plutarch's Lives. Focusing almost exclusively on the Plutarchian source material results in neglect of the extent and depth of Shakespeare's learning. To remedy this defect, Blits draws throughout his notes upon his wide readings in authors of classic antiquity. He thereby provides context for reading particular speeches or for discerning the significance of portrayed events. Among philosophers, he cites Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Epictetus, Lucretius, Epicurus; among rhetoricians, Tacitus, Cicero, and Quintilian. He turns to such historians as Livy, Tacitus, Sallust, Suetonius; to the poets Ennius, Virgil, and Catullus. Blits' running commentary looks not just to classical thought but proceeds by cross-references to Shakespeare's other Roman works. In every respect this edition makes a most signal contribution to our understanding of Shakespeare's play and, as well, to our grasp of the realities that, through his writing of the play, Shakespeare himself sought to understand. John Alvis, University of Dallas