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Julius Caesar Explication

Directions: Choose one of the monologues (or longer speeches) in the play to paraphrase and explicate. To keep the selection manageable, focus on no more than 15 lines (but at least 10 lines).


Part 1: The Paraphrase. 1) Create a two-column table in MS Word; 2) type the text of the monologue exactly as the poet intended with act, line, scene in the left column; 3) In the right column, paraphrase the monolgue, keeping in mind perspective and verb tense, line by line.


Part 2: The Explication. In a 1.5 to 2.5 page (1.5 spaced) essay format, tackle each section of the piece, explaining its content and discussing the purpose of its rhetorical and poetic devices. To do this logically, your introduction should


  • introduce the author and title of the work.
  • have a thesis stating the central thematic statement of the poem.


Your body paragraphs should be organized by section. Your evidence should quote the play in such a way that the play is a part of your statements.


  • use a claim to open each body paragraph. In the last 13 lines of the monologue, Shakespeare uses personification to express Macbeth’s confusion over his decision. Macbeth’s perplexed tone highlights the theme of guilt and ambition.
  • at the minimum, write a separate body paragraph for each section
  • use clear quotes for evidence, and use quote weaves. Cite properly! Macbeth, while  agonizing over the king’s impending doom, personifies Duncan’s virtues mentioning that they will “plead like angels trumpet-tongu’d against the deep-damnation of his taking-off” (I.vii.20-22).
  • examine content, form, rhetoric, grammatical structure, diction, rhyme, and meter—look to comment on the elements that further the overarching thematic statement of the piece as a part of your line by line
  • warrant each of your quotes by explaining the significance of the rhetoric in relationship to the thematic statement or the tone. With these words, Macbeth expresses his conflicting thoughts. He knows Duncan is innocent and doesn’t deserve death, and yet his personification exemplifies his rationalization that Duncan will not face damnation. His conflicting thoughts highlight his conscience as it opposes his ambition.


This is a short writing assignment, so your conclusion paragraph should not be a mere summary. Instead, you could end by

  • focusing your comments on the concluding lines of the piece.
  • discussing a larger pattern in the poem, such as rhyme scheme or refrain, and the effect that has on the poem.


Last Updated on January 29, 2018

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