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The Ideal Self: Flattery in Julius Caesar

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Rachel E. Holmes.

Susceptibility to flattery has long been considered a character flaw, which is the reason those who believe it are usually described as being vain, proud, tyrannical or conceited. I will close-read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so as to question if Caesar’s failure to anticipate the conspirators’ plot is, as is usually thought, an illustration of his proneness to flattery or, as I hope to show, an example of the flatterer’s capacity to mirror one’s own mind. Flatterers might be very able in showing rhetorically what the flattered person’s ideal self would look like, and they might in turn tend to supplement rhetorical suggestion with their own desires and concerns. If this is the case, flattery is central to understanding that Julius Caesar describes a hermeneutic difficulty, and characterises the difficulties of knowing another’s mind.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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