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Literary texts commonly manifest ethical attitudes. These may be represented in terms of distinct parameter settings within more widely held principles. The author is often not fully aware of the ethical views that guide his or her storytelling in this way. In addition, the implicit ethics of a work are often connected more specifically with its story genre – thus, its ethical prototype – such as the heroic usurpation story of Julius Caesar. More narrowly still, the ethical views represented in a work may have a generally trusting attitude toward the hero’s ethical self-presentation or may take a more skeptical view. I refer to the latter as a “critical ethics.” Critical ethics stresses the dissociation of a character’s rhetoric from his or her actual motivation. The second chapter develops some theoretical concepts along these lines. It goes on to concretize the first chapter’s relatively abstract treatment of ethical principles and parameters through an examination of the ethical concerns underlying characters’ judgments and behaviors in Julius Caesar.
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