The Comedy of Julius Caesar (wait, what — oh, you get the picture)

Yesterday, we discussed the very limited uses of bawdy in Julius Caesar. It was a short entry. I don’t expect today’s to be much longer, as we’re discussing comedy in the play.

The first bit of comedy comes in the same scene as the first bawdy: the opening scene. The Commoners pun with Flavius and Murellus with the cobbler riffing on sole mending and going out with the others to get them to so wear out their sandals that he gets more business. Of course, the grumpy tribunes put a quick end to that.

Before the end of the act, we get a little more comic relief in the always (at least in his first scene) sarcastic Casca. When asked what Cicero had said after Caesar’s collapse, Casca responds that Cicero had spoken Greek, and when pressed for an answer, he comically says (and coins an idiom that lives to this day), “It was Greek to me” (I.ii.284).

As the pre-assassination tension builds, we get some release from that tension in the comic interplay between Portia and Lucius. Portia sends him to the Capitol, then asks why he stays. “To know my errand, madam” (II.iv.3), he responds. When she asks him again why he hasn’t left, he’s confused:

                    Madam, what should I do?
Run to the Capitol, and nothing else?
And so return to you, and nothing else?
  • II.iv.10-2

Lucius’ confusion is humorous.

And that’s pretty much it… save for (what I think is) a completely unintentional laugh line late in the play: Brutus has learned of Cassius’ death and has arrived on the scene with the messenger Messala.

BRUTUS
Where, where, Messala, doth his body lie?
MESSALA
Lo, yonder, and Titinius mourning it.
BRUTUS
Titinius’ face is upward.
CATO
                              He is slain.
  • V.iii.90-2

The “mourning” line is ironic because we know Titinius is already dead, and the “his face is upward” line breaks–intentionally or no–the tension of situation.

And that’s it. All the comedy in Julius Caesar.

Like I said, this is a short entry.

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