When comparing and contrasting the novels of Dune by Frank Herbert and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, many similarities and differences can be seen between the two novels. An interesting theme that both novels contain is the fact that both the main characters rise to power and end up ruling vast numbers of peoples. The reasons and circumstances that ultimately lead to the main characters claiming power is uniquely different, but also surprising similar. Exploring the rise of Paul Atreides and Julius Caesar can help understand one of the many underlying themes of both novels.
Herbert’s novel Dune begins with Paul Atreides moving to a new planet that his family has been recently been commanded to control. While in the chaos of assimilating a new planet Paul becomes aware of a traitor in the Atreides household. Paul, aware of a traitor but not his identity, is careful where he goes and what he says. Julius Caesar also begins with the new home theme, due to the fact that Caesar returns home to Rome after defeating Pompey in battle. Caesar knows that people have plotted against him, yet he moves undaunted toward the position of dictator for life in Roman government. The effect of having traitors in midst of the main characters, explains in a way how and why the men acted as they did in the novels.
The novels also both contain the theme of a monarchy. Paul, once is father is killed becomes the head of the Atreides house, and the sole ruler of the planet Arrakis. He is in a sense a “king” and his kingdom is the planet and all the people’s on it. Julius Caesar also becomes a “king” once he defeats the other two men that were joined with him in the triumvirate, making his kingdom the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Both these characters become the heads of great dynasties either by inheritance or war – won glory, but both lead in a monarchical way over the people’s they govern.
Another comparison that can be made is that both men, are betrayed by someone very close. Paul, is betrayed by his trusted friend and mentor, Dr. Yueh. Paul’s trust is a blinding factor that prohibits him from seeing Yueh as the traitor before it is too late. Likewise, Caesar is also betrayed by his close friend Brutus and senate members. His comfortable attitude toward acquiring power blinds him to their betrayal that ends up ultimately taking his life.
Finally, a comparison that can be made is the fact that both the men are in fact betrayed. Once they rise to power, they are both deceived by a close friend. Paul is fortunate enough to not be injured by his traitor, whose motivation is to remove Paul’s father from office. Julius Caesar is also betrayed by one of his best friends, but Brutus’ motives are for the better of the people, and the furthering of the Roman Empire.
Probably the biggest difference between the two books is the setting. Dune by Herbert is set in the future on a distant planet, where space travel, mystical creatures, and advanced technology are a normal occurrence. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar instead, is mostly historically accurate, and is based off real events in history. Both these books, although set in different time frames and different setting, have the central theme of ruling and coming to power.
In contrast, both novels uniquely show how each character assumes the role of power, and how they wield it. In Dune, Paul rules graciously, and is loved by his people. He is forced to eliminate another tribe that threatens his planet, but in the end he rules with peace and justice. Caesar on the other hand after taking over the government by force leads his empire with a strong and brutal hand. Caesar abuses his power, like no ruler before him, thus prompting the conspirators to take his life because they feel it is for the good of the people and the empire. Both the ways these rulers control their realms is different based directly on Paul’s or Caesar’s different personalities.
While it is true that both the main characters rule in a monarchical society, they way each one gains power is unique. Paul is born into his household, so when his father dies all that belonged to his father is rightfully his. Caesar wasn’t born into power. At the time when Caesar was ruling, he was ruling in what is called a triumvirate. It was composed of Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar. Each man at the time ruled a certain portion of the empire meaning that each man had an army at his command. Troops back then were loyal to the highest bidder, and Caesar using his resources had his troops conquer the remaining two members of the triumvirate. Once he was crowned dictator for life, Caesar was the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, along with the senate. The contrast of the way each person gained power, helps us understand maybe why each person had to rule the way they did.
In conclusion, the similarities and differences between the monarchical theme in Dune and Julius Caesar is debatable. The themes are closely related but they are also largely different, because of each characters personality and setting. Still, with the similarities one can see how the two novels are related on certain themes.