Lessons from Shakespeare: Julius Caesar for the Ages

This week on The Learning Curve, guest cohosts Jay Greene and Mark Bauerlein interview renowned U.K. Oxford and ASU Shakespeare scholar Prof. Sir Jonathan Bate, discussing the timeless play Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. Sir Jonathan explains the Roman lessons for American constitutionalism, including warnings against the dangers of dictatorship and civil war. He explores the influence on Elizabethan England and Shakespeare of the classics, including the works of Cicero, Seneca, and Plutarch. Sir Jonathan explains the differing rhetorical styles Shakespeare uses in the funeral orations of Marcus Brutus and Mark Antony, as well as Brutus’ noble though ultimately failed effort to preserve the Roman Republic.  Sir Jonathan concludes with a reading from his book How the Classics Made Shakespeare, focusing on Cicero’s idea of “the peculiarly heinous nature of civil war.”

Stories of the Week

Stories of the Week: Jay discussed a Wall Street Journal op-ed he coauthored on the decline in the number of public schools named after U.S. presidents. The new names are, he writes, “vaguely uplifting like a motivational poster, but they don’t represent a serious effort to convey values to children that schools named after presidents or other accomplished figures might.” Mark discussed an ABC News report about the precipitous decline in college enrollment of 8 percent in just the last three years. The article describes a generation that, jaded by soaring college costs and debt and shaped by the remote learning models of the COVID pandemic, is deciding college is not a great fit with their lifestyles. But some worry about the long-term costs of lower lifetime earnings for individuals and lost productivity for the broader economy.

Professor Sir Jonathan Bate CBE FBA FRSL is Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities College of Liberal Arts & College of Global Futures at Arizona State University. He is also Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, where he was Provost from 2011 to 2019. Well known as a biographer, critic, broadcaster, and scholar, he was also Gresham Professor of Rhetoric from 2017 to 2019, delivering six public lectures per year at Gresham College in the City of London. Sir Jonathan is the author of several acclaimed books, including How the Classics Made Shakespeare, (2019); Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare, (2009); The Genius of Shakespeare, (1997); and Shakespeare and Ovid, (1994). He has served on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company, broadcast for the BBC, written for The Guardian, Times, Telegraph, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and TLS, and has held visiting posts at Yale, UCLA, and ASU. In 2006, he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours for his services to higher education, and in January 2015 he became the youngest person ever to have been knighted for services to literary scholarship.

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