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Poem of the Week - William Shakespeare

Today I began my annual pilgrimage to see my good friends and colleagues at the Shakespeare Schools Festival. Working with hundreds of schools across the country as part of the Shakespeare School’s foundation - SSF harnesses the unique power of Shakespeare to impact children’s lives across the UK. I’ll be taking up a role as stage director again with them during the autumn.

It is only fitting then that today I choose a piece from the bard for Poem of the Week. It’s from Julius Caesar - about a man who seizes power with a group of co-conspirators, stretching the boundaries of truth with the public and finding a patsy to shift the blame onto, creating a constitutional crisis. 

I have no idea whatsoever why my brain felt that this was an appropriate passage to share this week.

It’s a speech by Mark Anthony given in blank verse. It‘s not a rhymer and has  a great amount of repetition, which grows as the speech develops. As with much of Shakespeare’s back catalogue of wonderousness, it’s written in iambic pentameter, giving it a fantastic sense of rhythm. You can’t help but feel William could foresee what was to come.

And remember. Boris IS an honourable man. 


Mark Anthony:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–

For Brutus is an honourable man;

So are they all, all honourable men–

Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me:

But Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

He hath brought many captives home to Rome

Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And, sure, he is an honourable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love him once, not without cause:

What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.

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