Using Julius in Conjunction with Shakespeare's Julius Caesar


Written by: Antony Johnston
Illustrated by:
Brett Weldele
Oni Press
Softcover, 6 x 8, 160 pages, Black and White, $14.95

Rationale: As a supplemental lesson on Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, using selected of Antony Johnston & Brett Weldele's graphic novel Julius can help the student's comprehension of the various aspects of the play including the use of asides, soliloquies, and monologues in the development of a single character. Additionally, this lesson allows students to compare and contrast character development in a play to characterization in another literary form.

Grade Levels: High School

Objective: After reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the student will be able to read, comprehend, and critique the work via contrast and comparison to a modern interpretation of the play. He or she will also be able to identify text organization and structure; identify main and supporting ideas; make predictions, draw inferences, and connect prior knowledge to support reading comprehension.

Time Allotted: Depending on class length. One 90 minute class or two 45 minute classes.

Vocabulary:  aside, soliloquy, monologue

Anticipatory Set: (This lesson is intended as a supplemental lesson on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; therefore, certain aspects of the play should have already been taught.) Getting students to relate to events that transpired more than two millennia ago — and written more than three centuries ago — can be a very difficult task. The best way to get them to identify with these characters and events is to place them in terms they're familiar with. The graphic novel Julius retells the events of Shakespeare's play as a tale set in the gritty streets of modern-day, gang-infested London. The play's themes of ambition, loyalty, and betrayal are universal and will be further understood by students when juxtaposed against images they are familiar with.

Direct Teaching: Start with the graphic novel's Dramatis Personae and have each student match the updated character from the graphic novel with their original names from the play, i.e., "Julius" is "Julius Caesar," "Brett" is "Brutus," "Cassidy" is "Cassius," and so forth.

It will be necessary to reread parts of the play. Have the students read Julius Caesar Act I, Scene 2 (if parts were assigned to different students, let them read their parts aloud). This time, however, juxtapose the reading of the traditional text with an oral reading of the graphic novel; specifically, pages 16-19 (Caesar speaks to the Soothsayer) and pages 36-39 (Cassius formulates a plan to lure Brutus). (Because the graphic novel is set in the modern day, there may be some objectionable language and/or images. Be careful when assigning pages to read.)

After the readings and discussion, the students will write a brief essay comparing how the events of the graphic novel are similar to those in the original play.

Next, read the beginning of Act II in the graphic novel. Notice how "Brett" delivers the soliloquy in the comic as opposed to in the play. Point out other instances in which soliloquies have been altered to be more realistic (i.e., allowing for other characters in the scene). Discuss which technique the student prefers and why.

Finally, have the students match a few quotes from the play with their modern reinterpretations.

For example, the letter Brutus receives reads:

'Brutus, thou sleep'st. Awake, and see thyself.
Shall Rome, et cetera? Speak, strike, redress.'
'Brutus, thou sleep'st. Awake.'

is changed to a cell phone text message that reads:

Brett wake up!!! Dont slp when the office nds u most, & yr ppl
brett - speak, strike, satisfy!

After they have compared various quotes to their modern reinterpretations, give them some other examples of Elizabethan speech in the play, and have them convert them into modern English.


Please Note: Because of some language and violence issues in this modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, you may be hesitant to assign the entire graphic novel to your high school class. However, that doesn't mean Antony Johnston & Brett Weldele's Julius can't be utilized in a lesson on Julius Caesar. To avoid some of the language and violence in the book, we suggest only using certain panels and pages from the graphic novel. Students can then compare the events in Shakespeare's play and compare how the same event is depicted in the graphic novel. Additionally, the fact that Julius is presented in a manner that young people — especially young males — can understand, it will help make Shakespeare's play more relevant to them.