My son was assigned to read Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare this summer for his upcoming English class. I had to read it when I was in high school, as did my other two children. I have read it again with each of them, and now, on my fourth time through, I have decided that I am really starting to understand this play. Despite the tragic elements, Shakespeare manages to throw in some funny moments. However, I realize as I look at the play through the prism of adulthood, it isn't my favorite. Brutus seems weak and easily swayed. In fact, I am not sure why I liked his character when I read this play as a teenager. Cassius, on the other hand, is completely devious and manipulative, and Caesar is blind to the things going on around him.
Many phrases we are familiar with in the English language come directly from Shakespeare. The obvious one in Julius Caesar is "Beware the Ides of March." However, I noticed on this reading, that there are other things in Julius Caesar that have been used recently in books. Two phrases from the play have been used as titles: The Mortal Instruments and Interred With Their Bones. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the first in a YA series of novels by Cassandra Clare, and was recently made into a movie. Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carroll is a wonderful thriller of a murder mystery involving a lost Shakespeare play.
I also noticed that the name Cinna is used in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. In Julius Caeser, Cinna the poet meets a tragic fate solely because of his name. He is suspected of being Cinna the conspirator, and does not survive the mob, despite his protestations of innocence. Cinna in The Hunger Games is Katniss' stylist. Like the poet in Shakespeare's play, Cinna meets an untimely, off-screen demise.
Lenny Kravitz portrays Cinna in The Hunger Games movie.
With Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games scheduled to make its debut on the big screen November 22, 2013, it is interesting to look at the many connections in Suzanne Collins' work and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. For example, Colllins has said that Panem is like ancient Rome. Collins uses other names, like Portia and Cato, from the play as well. Looking at these similarities between The Hunger Games and the Shakespeare play might make the play more interesting to teenagers.
For more about the connections between Julius Caesar and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, click here.
So the next time you are brushing up your Shakespeare, look for the pop culture connections between these Elizabethan works and our modern entertainment. You might be surprised by what you find!