Time for the Plebs in Julius Caesar
Early Modern Literary Studies 7.2 (September, 2001)
When Cicero in Julius Caesar says “Indeed it is a strange-disposed time,” he is right. Calendars are not the only source of confusion within this Roman world, and the recurring ambiguities and misapprehensions that occur throughout make Cicero’s pithy remarks about interpretation emblematic for the whole play. But dates and their observances pose particular problems in Julius Caesar, both for characters within the play and for interpreters of it. This “strange-disposed time” is construed in so many different ways that it threatens the very idea of temporal organization itself. This need not have been Shakespeare’s “purpose,” or even the purpose of the play; it is unquestionably one of its effects. The time in Rome, as Hamlet would say, is out of joint. But who is trying to set it right?