The Forum 2002
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Comments and Reviews
Quotes from the Play
Quotes from Participants
An Analysis of Antony's Speech .. by Marvelle
Characters in the Play Examined .. by MegR
More Interesting Links
Contact: Maryal and Ginny
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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, written probably in 1599, and Shakespeare's shortest play, is full of surprising new lessons for 2003, of power corrupting (or did it?), of envy and jealousy producing severe consequences even for the best of men.
Who is the protagonist of this play?
Antony & Plebs
|???||???||Tiffany (Brutus)||Brendan (Casca)||Luke (Antony)||MegR|
"Such men as he be never at heart's ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous."
Flavius and Marullus both view the common Roman citizens differently, and both are slow to grasp the cobbler's puns ( such as withal: "with awl"). Marullus considers the crowd ungrateful "this ingratitude," and Flavius thinks they can stop Caesar by taking down a few decorations and dispersing the crowd: "These growing feathers plucked from Caesar's wing Will make him fly an ordinary pitch..."
b. What dramatic purpose is served by this scene?
c. How many puns or instances of figurative language are present in this short scene?
d. Do you consider the Roman citizens to be "ungrateful?"
e. What unwitting role do the Tribunes give to the common man? Is it carried out throughout the play? Is it a refutation of the fears of the Conspirators?
What browser are you using, Andrea? Netscape by any chance?
I'm glad you brought this up, tho. The questions (we'll see if we can get them fixed today, this may be an OMEN! A SIGN! A PORTENT! I always pay attention to those unlike our Caesar and Cassius haahahaha)
Anyway, the "questions" or topics for consideration in the heading are not to be necessarily taken in order, but they are in the order the event happened in the play, so if you would care to choose another one or propose your own till we can get the first part displaying, I can see it clearly, how about the rest of you?
Caesar rebelled against the Republic, while Pompey was the general appointed to defend the Republic and Caesar fought and defeated Pompey who died. JC came back to Rome and was heaped with titles by the Senate, perhaps as a way of appeasement to their conquerer's vanity and need for power and perhaps also to make JC a marked man. Accepting all those titles would set JC up for deadly envy.
Anyway, JC was the rebel who defeated the Republic. Pompey's sons were still actively fighting for the Republic. JC went to Spain and defeated the sons at Munda and eventually the two sons of Pompey were killed. This is where Shakespeare's JC picks up the story in Act 1 with JC's triumphal return from Munda.
From this chain of events we can see that JC conquered the Roman Republic and not barbarians of other countries. He didn't bring prizes to Rome as Pompey had in his conquering of other countries and that's why the Tribunes called the citizens ungrateful.
I think the background of the Civil War andMunda must have been commonly known in Shakespeare's time because a lot of the audience's understanding comes from knowing the history. (I simplified the history tremendously for brevity's sake.) Back later for more....
From what I understand of the Lupercali Festival, connected with Rome's legendary founders Romulus and Remus, there were two collegia of Luperci (priests) until JC set up a third one in 44 BC with Antony at its head. From 51.1911encyclopedia.org: "In the front of the Porta Romana, on the western side of the Palantine hill, close to the Ficus Ruminalis and the Casa Romuli, was the cave of the Lupercus; in it, according to the legend, the she-wolf had suckled the twins....(During the festival, the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of sacrificed animals and) ran in two bands round the walls of the old Palantine city, the line of which was marked with stones, striking the people who crowded near. A blow from the thong prevented sterility in women. These thongs were called februa, the festival Februatio, and the day dies februatus (februare = to purify); hence the name of the month February, the last of the old Roman year. The object of the festival was, by expiation and purification, to secure the fruitfulness of the land, the increase of the flocks and the prosperity of the whole people."
I note a compression in time in Shakespeare's JC. The Lupercalia Festival, with the priests running in the street with thongs, was celebrated on Feb 15 while Mar 15 marks the death of JC. Is JC's death and the aftermath an ironic contrast to the Lupercalia? Or does the comparison depend on a person's political and social viewpoint?
The Circus Maximus is like an oblong racetrack. Certainly there were chariot races held there and gladiator fights. I also read where JC actually flooded the interior of Circus Maximus, at one time, to recreate a naval battle. These grand spectacles are an older version of football and other modern sports, television/movies, and our own internet -- entertain the populace and keep them happy and diverted from serious concerns of the day?
Meg, thanks for the information from the Folger edition, that Shakespeare's audience would know the history. I have the Folger too but need to read the explanatory notes, introduction and essay.
I agree, Maryal, there's a lot of comedy in 1.1 -- the cobbler being 'impertinent' and not wearing his class-designating uniform is quite upsetting to the Tribunes consumed with the idea of status and civil order. Not knowing a man's occupation and place in society is anarchy to Roman society.
Yet the Tribunes -- judges whose duty is to protect the rights of the people -- are part of the ruling class who have brought this anarchy upon themselves by neglecting the people. The Circus Maximus is only a temporary distraction and doesn't materially benefit the people.
Question 1B "what dramatic purpose is served by this scene?" I believe it sets the stage for the rest of the play. The Plebians are inconstant (first they cheer for Pompey and then for Pompey's conquerer) as well as dangerous in the lack of concern for the Roman Republic's social order. The ruling class, as represented by the Tribunes, have no concern for the good of the people. Add to this combustible mix, the newly erected statues of JC intended to suggest to the common people JC's status as a demigod, garlanded and crowned. This is a mirror image of JC's revolt against the Republic and a slap in the face to the Republicans. The entire scene brings to the forefront the causes of the civil strife that follows and the responsibility of all the parties.
Antony, as a Luperci priest, ran the boundary of Rome and it was as a Luperci priest that he offered the crown to JC who refused it reluctantly. I do believe that JC put Antony up to his gesture to test the waters of the populace considering the legendary historic beginnings of the Lupercalia. But it also paved the way for other 'usurpers' like Cassius and Brutus. The Lupercalia Festival and crown is another foreshadowing then of what's to come in Shakepeare's play.
From www.geocities.com/caesarkevin, some of the honors that the Senate heaped upon JC which I feel made him a marked man:
After returning to Rome following the defeat of the Republic at Pharsalus in Greece (and Pompey's death) the Senate granted a 40 day thanksgiving and "the right to appear in triumph on a chariot drawn by white horses and be accompanied by all Lictors of his current and prior dictatorships. Also the right to sit in a Curule chair with the consuls in the Senate and the right to speak first. Other grants were the right to start all races at the Circus Maximus, and a statue on the Capitol facing the god Jupiter. Another was the power of Overseer of all citizens for 3 years. This was basically a Censorship but twice as long and with more power. But the most important decree was the power of a Dictator for 10 successive years...."
(Then JC left for Spain to battle the last of the Republican army and he defeated Pompey's sons, and before his return the Senate gave him other honours including) "one that allowed him to wear special triumphal clothing on all public occasions, along with the golden laurel crown of victor....Caesar was also allowed to use the title Imperator in front of his name for the rest of his life."
The Senate further "decreed that an ivory statue of Caesar be carried in public at religious processions at games, along with the statues of the gods. Another statue of Caesar was set up in the temple of Quirinus with the inspection 'To the Invincible God.' The god Quirinus seems to be the way the Romans worshipped the Deified king Romulus...(The new statue of JC on the capital joined eight existing statues of which) were seven statues of the Roman Kings, and another of the first Consul Lucius Junius Brutus. Caesar's statue was set up next to this one."
Upon Caesar's return to Rome, following his victory over the last of the Republican army the Senate granted him the title of Liberator and a temple to Liberty was to be built in his honor...(The Senate) let Caesar be voted consul for the next ten years. He (could) hold any office he wanted (and he could) appoint half of all magistrates. But all who ran for office needed his approval....Caesar began to wear the red shoes that were worn by the kings of Alba, hundreds of years before."
"Other honors that Caesar received.... a tribe of the tribal assembly (was to be) named after him. His birthday (July 13th) was to be a national holiday. The month of Quintillius was to be named after Caesar. A priesthood was named specifically for him and his family."
These were honors that JC accepted following his defeat of the Republican forces. JC -- the successful rebel -- saw his power increasing by leaps and bounds. I think that for most of the nobility the resentment and hatred was for the diminishment of their own power. Since they saw themselves as the Republic, rather than the 'mender of bad soles,' they felt the Republic was lost -- stolen by Caesar. The ridiculous amount of honors bestowed upon Caesar was a death sentence, for each honor and Caesar's acceptance of each honor targeted him as an aspiring Emperor.
Two things that gall me the most out of all the honors -- and they are actually minor ones -- are Caesar wearing red shoes and his ironic title of Liberator.
Many people in the Renaissance were passionately interested in the story of Caesar's death at the hands of his friends and fellow politicians. There was much debate about who were the villains and who were the heroes. According to the fourteenth-century Italian poet Dante, Brutus and Cassius the foremost of the conspirators who killed Caesar, were traitors who deserved an eternity in hell. [He put them in his lowest level in the Inferno, with Judas Iscariot]--g. But in the view of Shakespeare's contemporary Sir Philip Sidney, Caesar was a rebel threatening Rome and Brutus the wisest of senators.
Shakespeare's dramatization of Caesar's assassination and its aftermath has kept his death alive among generations of readers and play goers. Is Brutus the true hero of this tragedy in his principled opposition to Caesar's ambition to become kind of Rome? Or is Caesar the tragic hero, the greatest military and civil leader of his era, struck down by lesser men misled by jealousy and false idealism. By continuing to address these questions, our civilization engages not only in the enjoyment of a great play but also in an examination of the ways it chooses to govern itself.
"Among the army and the people Caesar's popularity was enormous, and the senate granted him virtually monarchial power as well as extraordinary emblems of monarchy; but, although he attempted to conciliate powerful senators by merciful treatment of his enemies, he was assassinated."
The puns and the double entendre of the cobbler were a lot funnier than I would have expected as an entry to a tragedy. There may have also been some anti-establishment satisfaction among the audience as they witnessed a tradesman get the better of two civil servants.
Shakespeare's JC is amazingly true to Plutarch's Lives and is one of the most historically accurate of all his plays.
One fault of Shakespeare's JC is that he cannot hear out of his left ear and he had Antony step to his right side so they could converse. This implies that JC did not listen to everyone, but relies only on his inner circle for opinions. He no longer felt the need to convince anyone -- or hear arguments and opinions -- prior to/and after making decisions or orders.
While with Cassius, Casca congratulates him on being able to hear and identify his voice in the dark which implies that Cassius listens to all (even though he may disagree with what is said). And Cassius shows us this when he adjusts his arguments to Brutus and Casca based on what he heard them say and how they felt. In that way he was a superb manipulator. Caesar acted as if he was above such two-way conversations.
I feel the tragedy is about the Country as well as Brutus. I saw two movies on "Julius Caesar" and found that Brutus was the axis around which the play revolved. Neither movie had a really satisfactory Brutus who is, after all, hard to portray with all that silent thinking going on and his outward control of emotions.
Of a noble Roman family already famous for its civil and military services to Rome.I still think Cassius is described in history by those who want to blame him and Brutes as "The" main conspirators. The words about him being slim and greedy comes from the mouth of Caesar who would have been leery, therefore characterizing him in a bad light. Caesar had not yet guessed Brutes' part in all of this so he does not describe Brutes in a bad light.
He first appears in 53 BC as one of the commanders in the army of Marcus Crassus when Crassus is defeated by the Parthians in Mesopotamia.
There were questions about Cassius' actions at Carrhae -
- his partisans said that Cassius had seen that Crassus was already defeated and therefore declined to throw away the lives of more Roman troops
- his detractors said that he stood by, keeping his forces out of the battle, and let Crassus go down to ignominious defeat, capture, and execution
- conspiracy theorists guessed that he had accepted promises of future preference and held back to let the Parthians clear Crassus from the path of Pompey -- or of Caesar.
Cassius reorganized the soldiers who escaped at Carrhae under his own command and won against the Parthians the next year.
Cassius then established a power base in Syria. This base allowed him to extort money from anyone who wished to trade in his area which enabled him to increase his wealth.
Cassius was appointed Tribune in 49 BC. He sided with Pompey and the corrupt "republican" Senate against Julius Caesar, and he was Pompey's naval commander off Sicily in the civil war. Cassius was on Pompey's side when Pompey was lost the battle of Pharsalus in Thessaly (Greece) in 48 BC, but, shortly after Ptolemy delivered Pompey's head, Caesar forgave Cassius and made him a legate.
After Caesar's pardon, which also extended to many others among Pompey's former allies, Cassius became part of the opposition that became deeply involved in "republican" causes in Rome. Those who conspired against Caesar claimed to want a return to the republic but the real goal was to thwart the mercantile, monetary, and civil/military service reforms proposed by Julius Caesar.
In my Modern Library copy of Plutarch's Lives, Plutarch mentions that Crassus' forces, fighting the Parthians, went in different directions in an attempt to reach safety and that Cassius and his troops reached Syria. But I didn't find any hint of scandal in Plutarch's reporting of the fatal campaign of Crassus. (671)
Plutarch mentions the slight given to Cassius when Brutus received a highly regarded apointment instead of Cassius. And Cassius was "a man of fierce disposition, and one that out of private malice, rather than love of the public, hated Caesar, not the tyrant, continually fired and stirred (Brutus) up....among other reasons on which he grounded his quarrel against Caesar , the loss of his lions which he'd procured...in Megara (which Caesar seized for himself. The lions were let loose when Megara was just taken and they) tore apart a great many unarmed persons...." (1190-1)
"And that, some say, was the chief provocation that stirred up Cassius to conspire against Caesar; but they were much in the wrong. For Cassius had from his youth a natural hatred and rancour against the whole race of tyrants...(and young Cassius had boxed the ears of the son of Sylla the tyrant) on his boasting himself amongst the boys, and extolling the sovereign power of his father....(Cassius, in the presence of the adult Pompey, told Sylla's son) 'dare to seak those words that provoked me, that I may strike you again as I did before.' Such was the disposition of Cassius." (1191)
"Men generally reckoned Cassius a very expert soldier, but of a harsh and angry nature, and one that desired to command rather by fear than love, though, on the other side, among his familiar acquaintance he would easily give way to jesting and play the buffoon." (1203)
Ginny, I think Cassius' story of saving a drowning Caesar from the Tiber River is an allegory/parable and Cassius didn't intend for Brutus to take it otherwise? And I think Brutus understood, as well as Shakespeare's audience, familiar as they were with the then common art of oral story-telling.
P.S. It was Brutus who convinced Caesar to pardon Cassius.
I do however agree with anneof avolon and MEG. Do we really need this much bloody information to kick back, (or stand up as Maryal says) and enjoy the richness of Wm. Shakespeares brilliant plays? Does it matter that JC valued his soldiers, was a skilled equestrian with grand powers of endurance? Do we care that he went on to break engagement of his daughter and formed alliances with others? Is it relevant that he lost his mother (who hasn't?)daughter and his grandchild to gaffaw at the double entendres presented by Willie?
On the flip side we have JC who bribed, lied, took prisoners, reorganized the state, reformed the calendar and administered justice with concientiousness? NOPE! It doesn't matter. Some are leaders, others followers and there is the good, bad and the ugly in each of us as well as JC, Brutus and Cassius. So---oooo ,I can't make up my mind which side to choose, perhaps for the first time in my life I'll be a fence sitter, although the idea of being brutally stabbed 20 some times has no appeal to me. Maybe I'll stick with Jan, in the Plebian corner.
I'd suggest to those who don't want to read Plutarch or posts that discuss the background -- please don't. Just pass by such information and allow people to post as they feel.
There are different ways of reading and enjoying which is exciting and invigorating to me. I learn a lot from seeing the many ways a text is read. Some ways are quite quite quite different from mine but I accept the differences and expect the same for myself? There's plenty of room at SN for all our perspectives.
"For once, upon a raw and gusty day, the troubled Tiber chafing with her shores, Caesar said to me, 'Dar'st thou, Cassius, now leap in with me into this angry flood and swim to yonder point?' Upon the word, accoutered as I was, I plunged in and bade him to follow, so indeed he did. The torrent roared, and we did buffet it with lusty sinews, throwing it aside and stemming it with hearts of controversy. But ere we could arrive the point proposed, Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!' I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor, did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder the old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber did I the tired Caesar."
Hey, I just realized that Shakespeare has Cassius start his story along the lines of 'once upon a time.'
As the Tiber was humanized into the spirit of Rome and its people by the speeches of the tribunes Marullus and Flavius, so too does Cassius use the Tiber to signify Rome. The turbulent waters that Caesar invites Cassius to swim and from which Caesar needs rescuing would be the state of Rome -- Caesar plunges in beyond his ability.
Caesar dared Cassius to swim with him which alludes, I believe, to the pardon granted by Caesar and then his appointment of Cassius to a post within Caesar's government.
Cassius is trying to persaude Brutus that:
Cassius said this was a story about honor. He asks why Caesar should be ruler when he is no better man than he, and he implies with his story that Caesar is a weaker man (weaker in body and judgment). Honor to a Roman I believe is high public esteem; fame; glory; evidence of distinction. If I'm right about the definition then the story about honor is saying that Caesar hasn't earned his honor except through the efforts of men such as Brutus and Cassius. Cassius therefore implies that he -- and Brutus too -- deserves honor.
Perhaps someone can sort this meaning out better than I've been able.
Yes I appreciate your thoughts but ... aren't we all wonderfully different in our approaches? I gladly -- joyfully -- accept your right to approach Shakespeare's JC your way and I expect to be given the same respect? I learn from others.
Shakespeare's JC follows Plutarch's Lives, which is linked in the heading. If the historical JC confuses you then bypass the historical bits. It's really that easy.
Please understand that I won't keep restating my position or responding to others about this subject since I feel that, after a certain period, it takes away from the discussion.
While I try to find points in a post to which I can respond positively, I may very well bypass other points. Many good points I don't respond to merely for lack of time on my part. There's only so much I can take into my pea-brain!
Thanks Meg for mentioning the flaring new indicator in the middle column for new questions. I missed that!
"Rome thou has lost the breed of Noble Bloods. When went there by an Age, since the great Flood, but it was fam"d with more than with one Man..."
Appealing to the nobler part of Brutus was definitely the way to go!
I think Cassius' story of saving a drowning Caesar from the Tiber River is an allegory/parable and Cassius didn't intend for Brutus to take it otherwise?
Cassius said this was a story about honor. He asks why Caesar should be ruler when he is no better man than he, and he implies with his story that Caesar is a weaker man (weaker in body and judgment). Honor to a Roman I believe is high public esteem; fame; glory; evidence of distinction. If I'm right about the definition then the story about honor is saying that Caesar hasn't earned his honor except through the efforts of men such as Brutus and Cassius. Cassius therefore implies that he -- and Brutus too -- deserve honor.
I rather tell thee what is to be feared
Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.
But I fear him not
Yet if my name were liable to fear
I do not know the man I should avoid
As soon as that spare Cassius.
Barbara, you've expressed your thoughts so clearly. I like the idea of shared leadership and would also add shared responsibility. I believe that Shakespeare has managed to give us characters of many dimensions who have good/bad traits in each.
Fear and arrogance reside together in Caesar. He was an old man by then, he'd driven his frail body beyond its limits for too many years and his speeches in Shakespeare intimate that he realizes his death will come rather sooner than later.
BaBi gave us the very substantial reasons for having the offered crown offstage. Shakespeare also is able to say much in few words and he overlays the offered crown/kingship with Cassius and Brutus discussing the very issue of The Man Who Would Be King, their conversation mixing with the cries of the crowd. Then Casca reports what he saw and heard which is another overlay of the offered crown. From these we experience firsthand the origins of Rome's alliances, conflicts and civil strife that will play out in Julius Caesar.
One interesting note is that it's Casca alone, not Cassius, who calls the common folk such names as tag-rag and it's Casca who says that the third time Caesar reluctantly refused the crown
Shakespeare is brilliant in showing us Casca's particular prejudices.
Casca also reports in that same Act 1.2 that "Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarves off Caesar's images, are put to silence." So Caesar either imprisoned them or threw them out of office which would be an example of his arrogance in assuming an emperor's role as if the Republic were truly dead. President Bush isn't allowed -- yet, and hopefully never -- to take such actions against dissenting voices.
After Casca leaves, Brutus complains that he's grown to be a 'blunt fellow' and Cassius replies that Casca's still a lively person "However he puts on this tardy form. This rudeness is a sauce to his good wit, which gives men stomach to digest his words with better appetite."
From this I gather that Cassius is saying 'look beyond Casca's show of stupidity.' Casca is in many ways a Roman equivalent of the Fool who through his entertainment is able to impart otherwise unwelcome and stinging truths as he sees them (such as Lear's Fool). Still, Casca's prejudices are hard to take but then I would be one of the rabblement, clapping my chopped hands.
Oftentimes I leave final assumptions unsaid in my posts because I think they're so obvious but I decided to go back to Casca whose rude Fool exterior is used to impart information. For the time being I'm trying to understand what the characters are saying and doing and my judgments of those characters will have to wait a while.
I believe that Casca's real message was that Caesar was testing the waters of the Tiber/crown, that he wanted the crown, and that the common folk would accept him as the emperor.
That's Casca's basic truth which he covered up with a lot of nonsense, Fool that he is. What Casca says underlines the fears of the ruling class like Brutus and Cassius who prefer to have the power in their hands.
"The house itself was not unlike a circus, with a good deal of noise and dirt. Servants, grooms, 'prentices and mechanics jostled each other in the pit, while more or less gay companies filled the boxes. Women of respectability were few, yet sometimes they did attend; and if they were very careful of their reputations they wore masks. On the stage, which ran far out into the auditorium, would be seated a few of the early gallants, playing cards, smoking, waited upon by their pages; and sometimes eating nuts or apples and throwing things out among the crowd. At first there was little music, but soon players of instruments were added to the company. The stage was covered with straw or rushes. There may have been a painted wall with trees and hedges, or a castle interior with practicable furniture. A placard announced the scene. Stage machinery seems never to have been out of use, though in the early Elizabethan days it was probably primitive. The audience was near and could view the stage from three sides, so that no "picture" was possible, as in the tennis-court stage of Paris. Whatever effects were gained were the result of the gorgeous and costly costumes of the actors, together with the art and skill with which they were able to invest their rôles. The inn-court type of stage required a bold, declamatory method in acting and speaking; and these requirements were no doubt speedily reflected in the style of the playwrights."
Meg, you're summing up is wonderfully extensive. I'll touch on a couple of points.
I think the gratitude example you mentioned, of Caesar with the crowd at the Circus Maximus, is an additional one if Ginny is keeping track.
-- I looked but didn't find where Cassius lied to Brutus or Casca.
-- Cassius doesn't blame fate but quite the opposite. He says the 'fault...is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.' Fate (aka stars) is not the fault, according to Cassius, but 'ourselves'.
-- The swimming story wasn't actually a swiming story at all. The swim never happened literally, nor did Cassius play false. He prefaced the story with "the subject of my story is honor" and begins it with a fairytale-like "For once, upon a raw and gusty day" -- Shakespeare's deliberate near-echoing of 'once upon a time.' With this opening there'd be no mistaking allegory for literal facts nor was Cassius misleading Brutus. The Tiber is the spirit of Rome and it's people, an idea that Shakespeare carefully set up in the earlier speeches of Marullus and Flavius. This setup showed that the Tiber was commonly considered in Ancient Rome to signify the country's soul. Cassius' story is an allegory.
-- Marullus and Flavius were put to silence but that doesn't mean death, rather imprisoned or stripped on their offices. I think the greatest punishment for them would be to lose their positions. JC -- he of the liberal clemency -- would not have dictated a death sentence especially so close to receiving the coveted crown.
John, your look at Cassius brings up Cassius intelligence and his ability to listen to others. Listening is something Caesar didn't do except for his inside followers. Cassius would recognize that such limited hearing would be dangerous.
Caesar's and Cassius' flaws are tragic ones, as are Brutus' flaws. We're seeing some good traits in Cassius (listening, adaptability) and many bad traits. Caesar was ambitious. Ambition was an admired and necessary trait for the nobility, yet Caesar went too far. I don't think Cassius was ambitious so much as envious and he hated tyrants.
Honor was not 'right action' but was defined by Romans, IMO, as public esteem. It isn't what I'd consider a modern definition of honor.
Cassius speaks with Brutus and says he will be Brutus' looking glass so that Brutus may see himself.
What does Cassius reveal about himself? He is saying that he's a steadfast friend; he doesn't fawn over or praise just anyone; he doesn't gossip about his friends (discrete); and he is choosy about his friends.
What of Brutus is revealed in Cassius' glass? Brutus is honorable; he's as good a man as Caesar, probably the better man and stronger; he comes from a noble family; his ancestor is the man who overthrew a tyrant and who is thus renowned and honored for his action.
What one part of Cassius' speech seems to appeal to Brutus the most? The mention of Brutus' ancestor, the Liberator Brutus. "O, you and I have heard our fathers say there was a Brutus once that would have brooked th' eternal devil to keep his state in Rome as easily as a king." (Act 1.2, lines 167-170)
Does Brutus seem to have a weakness? If so, what is it? I'd say his weakness is his blind confidence in his own honor/virtue. The belief he has that since he is an honorable man, therefore whatever action he takes will be honorable and just. I can see the vanity of such an outlook.
Was Cassius' speech enough to bring Brutus over to the conspirators? No. Brutus says he'll consider the argument but he offers Cassius hope by saying that he'd already considered such things under the weight of a tyrant.
More on Question 2B...
Are you convinced that Brutus is operating from a position of honor? Is anything he does dishonorable? What are his apparent considerations or deliberations? What's his biggest hang up? What should be his biggest hangup? No, I'm not convinced, but Brutus convinces himself that all his actions have to be honorable because he is, after all, Brutus with all his moral rightousness. His deliberations are meant to reason what is the honorable course of action, but 'Brutus' emotions' will make the fatal decision even though he calls the decision-maker 'his reason'. His biggest hangup was being seen as honorable. What should have been his biggest hangup was questioning if his murdering Caesar was moral.
What appears to motivate Cassius the most? He's proud and convinced of his own self-worth. This leads to envy of the more successful JC.
What evidence does either Cassius or Brutus give of Caesar's fault or "ambition"? Caesar's staging of the offering of the crown and JC's reluctant refusal of the crown is the prime example. JC's strange eruptions (such as waging civil war) in order to gain even greater power and which caused the death of thousands of Romans. Caesar had killed the sons of Pompey the Great, a fellow Roman, rather than warring with outsiders, thus making the waters of the Tiber (Rome's spirit) turbulent and displacing civil order. That men such as Cassius must bend their bodies if Caesar so much as nods at them as if JC thought himself a god.
Some afterthoughts to Question 2A:
I think Cassius reveals himself as being a lonely man. He also reveals that he has a sincere affection and respect for Brutus. Cassius, from having listened to Brutus and knowing him, decides to send false letters to Brutus from 'admirers' of Brutus the Liberator, asking that this Brutus take action. This will be the final winning strategy in convincing Brutus to join the conspirators. That's basically what I found in Act 1 regarding Question 2.
I am glad That my weak words have provoked this much strong Reaction from Brutusbecause I was in awe how he would slip in the middle of a sentence this thought about Brutus' honor and fathers etc.
- ...you don't have any mirrors that would show Your inner qualities to you,
- What danger ... to search inside myself
- Since you know you cannot see yourself... Things about yourself which you don't yet realize.
- Put honor on one side and death on the other, And I will face either one; For let the gods give me good fortune only if I love The name of honor more than I fear death.
- ... what you have just said is true about you,... as well as I know your outward appearance...honor is what I want to talk about. I don't know what you and other people Think about life, but just for myself, I would rather die than live to be In awe of someone no better than I am. I was born as free as Caesar, so were you;
"Brutus" and "Caesar." What is so special about the name "Caesar"? Why should that name be spoken more than yours? Write them together: your name looks just as good. Say them, yours sounds as good.
Rome, you have lost all your noble people!
O, you and I have heard our fathers say That there was once a man named Brutus who would have tolerated The eternal devil ruling Rome As easily as he would a king.
- Brutus would rather be a villager Than to repesent himself as a son of Rome Under the difficult conditions that this time in history Is likely to put on us.
- I am glad That my weak words have provoked this much strong Reaction from Brutus
Brutus, you are noble; but I see Your honorable nature can be manipulated Into something not quite so honorable.
"It is believed that Elizabethan actors would not have left the stage to play in the yard because of the risk it presented to their persons and their clothing."
Thank You So Much as I just changed my preference and Words: Typed in 64,000
Messages: Typed in 50 and Wow what a Difference it made for me as I had 28000 and only 15 so you can Really see the difference. Now to check out your other lesson. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
Barbara, thanks for adding the quotes (my posts were so long due to the questions that I was afraid to add many of the quotes). What a team we are!
The overarching thought for Question #2 that I hadn't addressed directly is "The persuasion of Brutus by Cassius has to be one of the most powerful scenes in all literature, but IS it the conquest of evil over idealism?" My answer would be 'no.' I don't see Cassius or Brutus as either wholly evil or idealistic.
Cassius has the unique characteristic of a good politician of being able to perceive the true motives of men. He doesn't persaude anyone to do anything that they didn't want to do. Cassius gave Brutus reasons to do, with seeming Honor, what Brutus already wanted to do. The delay with Brutus is that after the murder he still needs to have public esteem (also known as 'Roman Honor).
This is such a political play isn't it? Manipulation/persuasion doesn't reside only with Cassius. Remember that Caesar is manipulating the Countrymen/common folk by having his statues festooned with garlands as if he were already a god and emperor; and he orchestrated the offered crown at Circus Maximus (which held 250,000 onlookers -- as good in Ancient Rome as todays TV spot in promoting a politician!) JC was making widespread reforms that would persuade the Countrymen to appreciate him even more. JC had overthrown a very flawed Republic and was manipulating the common folk for their support so he could be Emperor and God. JC was the original spin doctor in this tragedy.
Imagine what it'd be like if our Presidents and Prime Ministers declared themselves Gods and Emperors. Suddenly life's opportunities would be radically diminished. In Rome, where every noble's duty is to be Sisyphus and ambitiously pursue more and more glory for himself and family, this diminishment would be catastrophic. This is what Cassius and Brutus face. Their way of life is being destroyed.
Certainly the nobles, and JC is also a noble, helped create this state of affairs....this monstrous state. Too much greed and ambition and too little thought for their Countrymen.
Shakespeare explores leadership, responsibility, and persuasion.
When answering Question 2 yesterday, it helped me flesh out Brutus and Cassius in my mind. I assumed Brutus was idealistic but realized he deceived himself about himself. I was very surprised when looking closely at Cassius to see his aching loneliness. He was courting Brutus to be his friend as much as he courted him to be a co-conspirator.
"Who calls?"Now you could have taken that scene many ways.
"Who is it in the press that calls on me?
....Speak. Caesar is turned to hear.
"Beware the Ides of March."
"What man is that?"
"A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March"
" Set him before me. Let me see his face."
"What sayest thou to me now?
Speak once again."
"Beware the Ides of March."
"He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass"
Symboic meaning for numbersShakespeare does turn to the classical gods, witches, goddesses in his other plays so why not infere them to coincide with Caesar's desire to be God Like and his superstitions that are really our modern way of saying; associated with these ancient religions.
Hecate rules over the great crossroads of life, Birth, Puberty, Marriage, Menopause, Old Age and Death- as well as Rebirth beyond.
Hecate or Hekate is the representation of three worlds, the Heavens, the Earth and the Underworld; having rule over all.
When the Hecate Woman (or Man) consciously integrates the Shadow and owns that Power, then that one can act as a light for those who are attempting to part the veil and who can help us bring together those lost parts of the self, long forgotten. Hecate is our personal link to those archetypes dwelling deep within the collective unconscious
THE MOIRAI were personifications of the inescapable destiny of man. They assigned to every person his or her fate or share in the scheme of things.
THE ERINYES (Furiae Dirae) were UNDERWORLD GODDESSES of vengeance and retribution (especially for the crimes of children against their parents). They were born from the blood of Ouranos' castration at the hands of his son Kronos and for this crime they gave their full support to Zeus as the agent of his father's downfall.
What could Cassius have done for Caesar? Well, kept him alive for one thing.
Don't answer that quickly or now, but let's think on it.
If Cassius could have kept him alive, did he then cause his death?
OR did Brutus?
OR did Caesar himself?
Andrea, I agree, there's nothing new under the sun!
Caesar II (hahahaha Anneofavonlea) with your love of Republicanism, what do you think of our Brutus? I want to get your opinions and then I want to come back to you to see what you think later on, what fun!! I think there is a difference between Caesar and Attila in terms of real accomplishment but you're right, we do tend to remember famous names, like Jack the Ripper and Attila the Hun (when you start to list famous characters it's amazing who they are and who they are not?) But of all of the characters of history you can list, betcha you can't say with certainty the day any of them died to the day?? Except one!
Hahahahaa Send Cassie over to me! hahahahaa
Hats, where are you on all these folks, which camp do you think you'd be in? I am so fascinated by all the different takes on this thing and I agree with you, uneasy is the head that wears the crown, I don't know how any person in public service enjoys it, either, think of the threat to their children alone. Makes you realize why Colin Powell resisted for so long.
How do you see Brutus?
How do ALL of YOU see Brutus? I note our John today is having second thoughts! How about the rest of you?
Babi, SOOO glad to see you and that you made it!@@@@@ For somebody lost in the huge Pre Discussion you came thru like a champ@ And I think your opinions are RIGHT ON! So you and our Caesar II (Anneofavonlea) hahaha see the keynote of Caesar's character as arrogant and I loved your take on why the crown thing was offstage. Good point on the supporters too, very fine point. What's YOUR take on Cassius? On Brutus?
Barb, what makes you think Caesar thought of himself as a God other than Cassius's rantings??
Who did I miss? I have 111 printed pages of your great stuff here and they just fell all on the floor, who did I MISS? Where is Jan today I miss her sense of humor about the knives, haahahahaha
When I described how Brutus appeared in Cassius' glass, this was Cassius telling Brutus how he appeared to others, which isn't necessarily what I may feel about Brutus.
Ginny, yes illness or weakness had a negative impact on how a Roman was seen and JC would not have faked an epileptic seizure. I accumulated a number of books on Rome to try to understand the politics and life and here is some of what I found in Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Florence Dupont (Blackwell 1989):
Ginny, thanks for the hint about the Preference button and the number of messages I can read to a page. It helped tremendously!
Julius Caesar provided the model for the official cult of Augustus . The people called Caesar "god" and honored him as such in his lifetime. A statue was dedicated to him in the temple of Quirinus in 45 BC with the words "To the invincible god." Before his death he had his own temple under the name "Jupiter Julius"; this was the first step in establishing the cult, by honoring a living hero according to the Greek...after his death...he was transferred to the number of the gods. The senate and people declared him a god and during the celebration in honor of the divus Julius the appearance of a comet was taken as proof that his soul had been received into the number of the immortals.Somehow Shakespeare had to infer this god status that Caesar had achieved and that I suspect Caesar manipulated the people to achieve this status.
Plutarch says they were "displaced" according to the heading link and my copy of Plutarch. Apparently the actual tribunes Marullus and Flavius had pulled the decorations from the statues and arrested those who'd put them up and a crowd followed them in the streets and cheered and called them 'Brutus.' Plutarch link:
I think, Barb, that Caesar started to believe his own PR.
I would not have fared well in Ancient Rome. I'd be afraid to admit to a cold because of their belief that illness of body reflects a corrupt soul. I'm not corrupt Countrymen, I just have a cold! Thank goodness we don't have that as a common belief anymore.
With the constant treadmill of ambition and the rigid social structure and rules and superstitions --- no, I wouldn't have done well there. We may have some similar problems today but not as severe?
During the nine years of Caesars command and successes he met with adverse fortune but three times in all, Seutonius tells us.
I don't know John if this was a post-ictal response that Julius had or not. Who is to say wheteher it was a feigned seizure? I've seen some pretty convincing "feigned" seizures in a lifetime of neuro nursing. However, in Julius'es day, these attacks were considered sufficient cause for the postponement of elections, or other public business. Maybe he had had enough glory with his ill health and really didn't want to be crowned.
Wasn't it said that perhaps JC was planning on leaving Italy anyway?
I always remember being impressed that Caesar did not indulge in the "orgiastic" and drunken parties so prevelant during these times. He drank very little wine not even his enemies denied. There is a saying of Marcus Cato that Caesar was the only man who undertook to overthrow the state when sober.
What of poor ole Spurrina, the soothsayer, should Caesar have had him beheaded for the admonition? Would he have believed he would be next to "meet his Waterloo" after witnessing the king bird being devoured, while holding the sprig of laurel? What could he have done about his dreams, another protend? He knew! He knew! He knew that his time was limited yet he entered the senate in defiance of these omens. Well, so would I have done that. Go Caesar. Heck the Ides of March are coming anyway!
Quirinus in Roman religion , originally the local deity (perhaps the war god) of the Sabine community settled on the Quirinal hill berfore the foundation of Rome. When this community came to br incorporated into Rome, Quirnius was included among the state gods of the city with Juniper and Mars. His festival, the Quirinialia, was celebrated on 17 February, but nothing is known of his ritual. Quirinus was identified with the deified Romulus by the Romans of the late republic (but not by Livy). He had his own flamen the flamen Quirinalis.
Cassius is able to perceive men's true motives so all he had to do with Brutus was flatter him and reinforce what Brutus was already thinking.
Cassius shouldn't be taken literally. His nose is always stuck in a book according to Caesar. He uses all the literary techniques of allegory, metaphor, simile etc. He never intended to be taken literally by the other characters when using literary techniques to make a point, and the other characters knew enough not to take him literally.
I wonder why Shakespeare seems to have chosen Cassius to be the poetic character to an extreme? And Brutus is the literal one who speaks dryly (reason) rather than poetry? I know that the real Brutus was writing a history so he was more interested in facts and non-fiction. (Antony will come along next week and we'll see how he speaks.)
The storm I believe to be an indication of Nature's omen of what's to come as well as the inner state of man; this was a common belief in Ancient Rome and still prevalent in Shakespeare's time -- and still exists in our own time. (Remember King Lear in the storm?)
When Cassius says he bares his chest to lightning, he's really saying that he faces the danger and civil strife; he doesn't shy away from it. And this would show the directness and combative side of Cassius? Casca, on the other hand, is terrified of the strife and is more indirect in his actions? I'll have to re-read for my own interest, how Cicero reacted to the storm.
I think her name was Jeanne Dixon. Can't have wondering to long as I know how that is.
The quiz is actually a part of the first link but I thought I'd make the quiz handier for fun.
Here are some links on Shakespeare to pick and choose from, if you like any:
The above 2 are both from "Talking to William Shakespeare" and are like the "Ask Caesar" link in the heading.
On the first link, you can read questions and answers given on Julius Caesar and also ask your own questions which will be answered by William (expect a little delay in the answer).
On the second link, click on the yellow BROWSE button, and when the next page comes up click on whatever section you're interested in, such as "Shakespeare's Life," or "Shakespeare's World" to see the Q&A there. And you can ask questions!
Here are the rest of the links on Shakespeare:
Week One: March 1-7: Page II
"Well Brutus, thou art noble." (ActI, ii, 320)
"Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius
Brutus has said he loves Caesar, (I, ii 89: "I love him well.") he seems torn "poor Brutus, with himself at war," (I, ii, 52), Most people who read this play think of Brutus as an idealistic person torn between his love of a friend and his country. How do YOU see him?
That noble minds keep ever since with their likes;
For who so firm that cannot be seduced?
(I, ii 323ff)
"I will this night
With permission of Suzanne Cross
When I first read the play as a young student I thought Brutus was an idealist and a hero and Cassius was the villain who tempted Brutus to murder. I was surprised on re-reading the play to see qualities in Cassius and Brutus that I hadn't noticed before.
I'd said in an earlier post that I didn't think Brutus was idealistic and that he deceived himself. IMO Brutus is constantly haunted by his own ghost of Lucius Brutus, by the public recognition of THAT Brutus' name and Cassius' reminders. Romans were competitive and ambitious and Brutus had to scale not the heights of a Caesar but the heights of his own ancestor.
Brutus is considered honorable because of his ancestor but he needs to make his mark to keep that status he hasn't yet earned. This is what drives Brutus -- can we call it ambition, is this the right word, when it's this desire for immortality or making a name for oneself? It certainly isn't honor or ideals or love of the Republic.
Cassius gives Brutus his vows as a friend in Act 1, ii, lines 77-4 which tells me the qualities Cassius claims but also the qualities that Brutus doesn't have -- honesty and loyalty. Brutus is Caesar's friend, Cassius never pretends to this, yet Brutus is considring murdering his friend Caesar.
I'll return later with more coherent thoughts.
Cassius says he is honest and loyal to his friends and he is choosy about his friends too. From this we know that his friendships are limited to a few. We'll see as the play progresses how Brutus and Cassius interact and if they remain friends.
FONTINUS, another thing (besides honesty and loyalty in friendship) is to see that Cassius never tries to manipulate people into doing something they wouldn't want to do. There've been times I was manipulated to do what I DIDN'T want to do and I resented it; but Cassius doesn't persuade the unwilling. And he takes responsibility for himself and his words and actions as we see in Part 1?
Since Caesar is Brutus' friend and Brutus wants him dead too, I see that as disloyal. And Brutus has to imagine WHAT IFs, such as 'what if Caesar becomes a terrible despot if he's crowned?' to justify his killing Caesar. As if he's desperate to set up a scenario to be on equal footing with that other Brutus, Brutus the Liberator?
HATS and I agree a lot about Brutus and Cassius, especially that Cassius speaks his mind. Is our FONTINUS' questioning -- 'if Cassius speaks his mind/is honest is that a good thing or not?' -- I'd say that he's TOO honest and it's not a good thing to him to be that honest ALL the time. His honesty is both contentious and self-destructive.
Oh boy, Cassius would be a terror to live with, there'd always be upheaval but he'd be loyal to you. I'm a quiet person and Cassius would be too much for me but Brutus would bring too little to a relationship, he wouldn't be forthcoming or share.
Who's complex, Brutus or Cassius? I feel Cassius has dimensions to him while Brutus plays his cards close to his toga and therefore I don't know if there any depth to his inscrutability. Perhaps being inscrutable is a good way to hide deficiencies?
Maryal, I loved the Hamlet especialy "the sheeted ghosts did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets." I'll bring this up again in Act II because I found something out about the sheeted ghosts.
Plutarch's object [in writing the Lives] is to bring out the moral character of his subject, rather than to relate the political events of his times. He therefore gives his attention chiefly to anecdotes calculated to reveal the nature of the man, a "light occasion, a word, or some sort," which "makes men's natural dispositions more plain that the famous battles won, " But he was careful in his choice of historical sources, and dealt with them honestly and intelligently....The Lives contain, besides interesting anecdotes, many memorable historical passages, such as the catastrophe of the Peloponnesian War of the Athenian expedition to Syracuse, the defeat and murder of Pompey...great battle-pieces, and.....striking descriptions...
The most famous translation of Plutarch's Lives into English was that of Sir Thomas North (1579). It was made not from the Greek but from the French version of Amyot. It was closely followed by Shakespeare in his three Roman plays, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus (particularly in the first). Oxford Companion to Classical Literature
Re Question 1 Cassius says 'Well Brutus, thou art noble.' (Act 1 ii, 320) Does Cassius seem surprised by this admission? Is he right? Is Brutus noble? What do we mean by 'noble'?
I had some thoughts but mostly questions about this word NOBLE. I wonder if the Roman concept of noble is the same as in Shakespeare's England and would it really be the same today?
To a Roman, being noble didn't mean kind or high-minded or idealistic. Noble acts -- often military conquests, achievements of wealth etc, acts especially that brought reknown to Rome -- had to be publicly recognized (important to remember the public recognition in JC) and occur for three generations in a row; and then the family earned the right to be called noble. But if just one succeeding generation didn't maintain the status (say our Brutus not achieving along the lines of THAT other Brutus) then the family and persons would no longer be noble. They'd lose their status and title and honors.
And there was disdain for the "nouveau nobles," even such a one as Augustus because his claim to past generations of nobles was shaky at best.
So is the social structure similar from Ancient Rome to Shakespeare's England? Was there a constant struggle to maintain one's position in society and also to achieve and live up to the feats/names of your ancestors?
Was Cassius surprised? He'd inquired into Brutus' mind and was probably surprised to find that Brutus was already thinking about getting rid of Caesar, but how to do it and maintain his Honor? Thus, he would be taking a 'noble' step like his ancestor Brutus the Liberator, and our Brutus hadn't given indication before this of his thoughts about Caesar. Cassius would have felt Brutus out since Brutus was on the Republic's side, had been with Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, and had a family tradition to uphold. (Brutus the Liberator again, can't get away from him!)
Is Cassius right that Brutus is noble? Yes, if my thoughts on the idea of nobility are correct. And therefore Cassius is noble too.
I don't agree with this idea of noble or nobility. I think of noble as being personal; being of high moral character. But I don't think that's how Romans saw it. How did Shakespeare see it? I'm unsure about this and hope to hear from you all.
FONTINUS, I believe the lever that works for Cassius in persuading Brutus is the mention of -- you guessed it -- THAT Brutus the Liberator. Once Cassius realized Brutus' thoughts and his sensitivity to THAT other Brutus, he gets the idea for the fake letters which Brutus uses to convince himself that the assassination will be Honorable (Honor being public esteem to a Roman).
Caesar was ambitious but it's a career ladder that one can't step away from with Honor. And where did Caesar have to go once he was Dictator for Life? Emperor? God? Noble Romans were ambitious and the more they succeeded they more they had to strive. How utterly exhausting! No wonder Cassius felt sorry for Caesar even while he pursued his ambitions and plotted to assassinate Caesar. He didn't like him, hated him even and blamed him for the dying Republic, but he understood the drive of ambition in all Romans. It's a dog eat dog world, and if a man can best another to advantage, he has an obligation to do so. Goodness, there are so many people in the world who still practice that philosophy!
You are welcome. I know how it is to have a thought in ones mind and how much it can bother a person.
I saw two commercial movies of JC as I've mentioned before. Brutus is obviously a difficult part and the success of the play/movie, I think, depends on the actor who portrays Brutus more than any other character. But Shakespeare gives us many characters from which to choose our favorites.
Hi, GINGER! What do you think of Brutus or Cassius or Caesar? What about being "noble" -- what is meant by "noble" as mentioned in JC? Is Brutus noble? Is Cassius or Caesar? I'm still stuck on finding a definition for "noble."
Was there a hint in the play that Brutus feared for his life if he didn't join the conspiracy? I didn't find any but it doesn't mean it wasn't there. Shakespeare does shows us a Brutus goaded about THAT other Brutus the Liberator and how he become a hero. Perhaps Brutus fears not being able to fill his ancestor's shoes.
Did Caesar bring about a better life? He killed thousands of Romans in his insurrection. On the other hand, to rid the city of so many poor he reduced their grain dole and then opened farmland in the provinces for the poor willing to farm. He made many reforms which would've made the nobles uneasy. It's a balancing act, isn't it? One side of the scale is the disastrous, murderous Civil War and destruction of an established government and on the other side are the reforms that benefited the Countrymen (Plebians) and perhaps Rome itself. Perhaps his Civil War against the Republic lead to the inevitable events of the play, and the monumental changes to Rome that followed. Perhaps he upset the delicate balance of the social structure -- ambition limited by government -- when Caesar's ambition was greater, because he was more powerful, than Rome's government.
FLOTINUS, see see I told you, Brutus is different now! I was less blinded than in my younger days by Brutus' reputation on this current re-reading and was able to see more in Cassius, Antony, and Caesar etc than I had before.
Honor, like noble, is also outward to a Roman, it's public esteem and distinction.
Here's part of what I find about "soft" in the Short Version of OED:
The OED gives examples of the later definition which would be how Shakespeare intended it here in JC?
"When Fortune turns her wheel with her proud right hand, she is as unpredictable as the flooding Euripus..."
[a narrow straight seperating the island of Euboea from the coast of Boecotia, was most noted for iregular tides.] Poem 1 Book Two, The Consolation of Philosophy translated by Richard Green.
"If praise makes a person famous, then those who recieve praise are famous...In my opinion, therefore, if there is anything to be said for nobility, it lies only in the necessity imposed on the nobility to carry on the virtues of their ancestors." Boethius Book 3 Prose 6
CAROLYN and HATS, what is the definition(s) of 'noble.' What are we talking about when we say the word 'noble?' These questions are derived from 'Page II of Act I Topics' in the heading. How does Shakespeare use the word 'noble?' I hear people saying Brutus is noble, but how/why is he noble? That's where I'm stuck.
I don't see where Brutus acted nobly. I thought earlier about nobility, and read what Shakespeare said about it, and what I came up with was that Nobility in Rome is tied to one's ancestors and their achievements rather than personal high-mindedness -- nobleness is inherited. So Brutus' nobility is not of the spirit but is outward, if that makes sense? Anyway, I'll look at what everyone's said about this.
BARB, your thoughts on the litany used in judging the characters were stunning! Your comments are definitely keepers.
The Boethius is so apt to this play, GAJ. Thanks for sharing it with us.
HATS, no hauntings from Shakespere. I'm sure he'd be thrilled that you're reading his play and taking a strong look at the characters and motives.
Oh HATS you reminded me of something with the hauntings. I think Brutus was haunted all his life by THAT other Brutus the Liberator. Everywhere he went Brutus was preceeded by the ghost of his ancestor. I wouldn't consider his ancestor as acting nobly or high-minded. He was a brutal, unrelenting man who killed his own sons, yet he is considered Noble by Roman society, and OUR Brutus is considered Noble because of B. the Liberator and other ancestors.
Brutus was haunted with having to meet extremely high expectations and he hadn't met them yet and it was late, he was in his mid-30's with no great accomplishments of his own. So Brutus already had a ghost who 'squeaked and gibbered in the Roman streets' and time was running out.
Hi there I am not ignoring you just have nothing to say at this time except that I am enjoying all the posts.
JAN, hope you're feeling better? I also changed my opinion of Caesar while reading & thinking about this play.
START OF HISTORY
Caesar gave so much to Rome; he conquered the Gauls; brought great wealth to Rome; was instigating land reforms, adding Gauls to the Senate, extending Roman citizenship to lands within the empire, etc etc. Before he crossed the Rubicon with his army, he'd offered a number of compromises which Pompey and the Senate refused and Caesar felt he had no other choice. Did you know that generals financed and used their armies commonly as a power base, so Caesar did nothing untoward in that way?
END OF HISTORY
I too agree that the conspirators didn't seem to have a plan for a future government or leader. Did they expect that the Republic would just snap back into place without any leader?
JAN asks "What makes everyone so certain that this is the absolutely right thing to do?" That's the million dollar question about murder and violence and revenge. BARB, asked something similar. Do we see anyone in the play question the morality of assassination? Was that ever an issue in Rome?
I found this quote in Everitt's Cicero: "The Romans were tough, aggressive and, to reverse von Clausewitz, inclined to see politics as a continuation of war by others means." (9)
...change often comes with a heavy price, regardless of how desirable the final outcome is, and the outcome was indeed utopian in nature.
Week Two: March 8-14:
Act II, Scene i:
...the base degrees
Than honesty to honesty engaged
(II, i, 139). When does a man need to swear an oath? Does Brutus see this enterprise as "noble?"
This is the Roman system: it takes 3 generations of achievement for the empire to grant nobility to a family and only one generation to destroy their honors and title of nobles.
I'd still like to hear anyone's definition of noble -- I'd already offered mine -- and how Brutus fits that definition, if he does.
In the meantime I'll check out the other questions that followed the nobility question in Page II of Act 1.
nobiles "nobles", i.e., the "well known." At Rome, those families, whether patrician or plebian, whose members had held curule magistracies (later, the consulship only), and were therefore allowed to have images (imagines) of their ancestors. They enjoyed high status. [Actually my new book has a super statue of a guy carrying TWO of his ancestor's heads, I must scan it for you!]
Although all families at Rome which had a relatively recent ancestor in the senate were "senatorial" and they belonged to a fairly closed governing class, within this class the noblies became, toward the end of the republic , increasingly exclusive, believing that only the consulate conferred this entitlement. At all time it was possible, through rare, for a man not of a noble nor even of a senatorial family to achieve the consulship, usually with the backing of noble families; if he succeeded he was known as a novus homo ("new man") "recruit" These men were then absorbed into the nobility, which was thus revitalized. Under the empire the nobiles were those descended (on either side) from republican consuls.
Thanks again for the fabulous information and the pictures, esp the man carrying heads! And now we know why Pompey was so goofy looking.
In funerals for a very honored noble, actors in the procession wore the funerary masks of the ancestors and the dead man & acted the parts. Casts made from the faces preceded the bier with the corpse whose face was covered.
There were many customs to assure that the deceased was properly laid to rest, would have a good Afterlife, and would not return to haunt the living. The customs were also intended to reflect the deceased's place in the family and the continued importance of the living family.
Cassisus says he is noble and Brutus is noble and I think it's important that Shakespeare put that into the play. It indicates the inherited nobility. Perhaps the conflict within Brutus was his fear that he couldn't achieve at the level of THAT other Brutus and yet there was the need for his family line to keep the title and status and all its perks of noble.
Brutus wasn't a military hero though, although Cassius was and Cassius had many years of experience in the military. Shakespeare would know this through his readings.
According to Plutarch, our Brutus -- whose ghostly ancestor THAT Brutus the Libertor's honors preceded him everywhere he went -- our Brutus went to Pharsalus to join Pompey. Pharsalus was the site of Pompey's final defeat with Caesar the victor. When Brutus arrived at the camp, Pompey greeted him with open arms and didn't seem to mind that Brutus spent the majority of his time within the camp, where he read and wrote. Brutus spent very little time on the field of battle and Caesar had given orders that his men were not to harm Brutus at any cost. So Brutus was in this protective bubble, even during the short period he was on the battlefield, whether by virtue of his mother, once a lover of Caesar's, or the revered memory of THAT other Brutus.
Ater the defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus, Brutus made his way by night into a nearby settlement and immediately wrote to Caesar who pardoned Brutus and asked him to join him which Brutus did.
As Everitt writes in Cicero, that according to Plutarch, "he [Brutus] turned collaborator .... he advised Caesar that Pompey would flee to Egypt... Up to this point in his life, [Brutus] actions seemed to be governed by self-interest." (220-1)
Shakespeare would know this from the sources available to him; he'd read Plutarch at the very least. Brutus hadn't accomplished anything up to this stage of his life to keep the noble title in his family; Brutus needed to do something.
Ginny so thats a Toga, GEE I have seen lots of them just did not know the name of them. Wish I had gone to Minnesota instead of being a scardie cat.
Ginger just a wave as passing thru learning so much from Your posts.
I think some people can be persuaded to abandon ideals since perfection is difficult, if not impossible, to attain. Can a man be persuaded to turn against his friend if its for a noble cause? Since Butus' noble ideal or model was Brutus the Liberator, he would be following his ideal by joining in the conspiracy.
I don't think turning against friend Caesar and joining a murder conspiracy is the same as turning in your child to the police for wrong doing. There are degrees of responsibility and seriousness between the two acts. Turning in your child to the police may stop wrong-doing and help your child before they commit some serious crime. Murder is a crime against another human being, outside of society and justice, and which cannot be erased and which can cause more violence.
"The chain stretched from the foot of God's throne to the meanest of inanimate objects. Every speck of creation was a link in the chain..." page 26. "The chain is also a ladder." page 28.
They looked to the stars (astrology) to see what was to occur, thus they looked to the heavenss to God and to the stars.
"It's Greek to me" is Casca's line and I think is meant to be irony? Shakespeare knew that the real Casca spoke Greek, so it was either an author's in-joke or his audience was also "in" on the joke. (It's reported that Casca cried to his brother in Greek for help when Caesar fought back during the assassination.) Anyway, maybe that's why the line "It's Greek to me" stuck with Shakespeare's audience: Casca, as an educated noble, knew Greek, knew what Cicero said, knew the Plebians wouldn't understand what might have been insulting to them or perhaps didn't want to translate Cicero's words which might get Cicero in trouble.
One of my favorite lines in Act 2:
The meteor shower gives so much light that Brutus doesn't need a candle to read one the fake letters just handed to him. This is how Brutus responds to the 'monstrous' night of omens and portents.
According to their natures, Cicero observed men during the storm, Casca was terrified, Cassius confrontational, while Brutus took advantage of the storm to use the light.
Perhaps too this was another in-joke of Shakespeare's about Brutus' reputed penny-pinching in that rather than waste the expense of another candle, he'll figure out the letter by starlight.
Noble = something inherited such as in English nobles; for a Roman it took 3 generations of achieving something for Rome to earn the title and only one generation of not achieving to lose the title (this is how Brutus is referred to, sometimes ironically since he hadn't achieved anything yet); also, of an admirably high quality
Honor = public esteem/distinction to a Roman, it has to be public (and honorable would be some act that promotes public esteem which the Republican Brutus may see as his reenactment of Brutus the Liberator who rid Rome of a tyrant, although Caesar wasn't actually a tyrant and that little hitch will cause problems later in the play)
Ideals = a standard of perfection or excellence; a model of perfection or excellence to emulate; an ultimate aim or high or noble character (with Brutus his ideal model is THAT Brutus the Liberator)
I'll say in future: noble/inherited, honor/public esteem, and ideals/model to clarify when those are my meanings.
Civil disturbances in Rome led to the appointment of Pompey as sole counsul for 52 [Caesar being off in Gaul] and his measures included a law that allowed Caesar to stand for the consulship in his absence.
Caesar's governorship expired in 49 and he therefore needed the consulship for 48 if he was not to become a private citizen, liable to prosecution by the political enemies in Rome.
The senate wished to recall him before there could be any risk of his becoming consul while still at the head of his army and the consul C. Marcellus proposed that he should lay down his command by 13 November. Pompey hesitated whether to give his support, but finally threw in his lot with Caesar's enemies.
The issue was brought to a head by...Gaius Claudius Marcellus. He obtained resolutions from the Senate that Caesar should lay down his command but that Pompey should not lay down his command simultaneously.
Cuiro then obtained on Dec 1, 50, a resolution by 370 votes to 22 that both men should lay down their commands simultaneously. Next day Marcellus (without authorization from the Senate) offered the command over all troops in Italy to Pompey with power to raise more and Pompey accepted.
On January 1, 49, the Senate received from Caesar a proposal that he and Pompey should lay down their commands simultaneously. [This WAS the Republican vote of the Senate?] Caesar's message was preemptory, and the Senate resolved that Caesar should be treated as a public enemy if he did not lay down his command "by a date to be fixed."
The civil war was a tragedy, for war was not wanted either by Caesar or by Pompey, or even by a considerable part of the nobility, while the bulk of the Roman Citizen body ardently hoped for the preservation of peace. By this time, however, the three parties that counted politically were all entrapped.
Caesar trusted Brutus [this Brutus] so completely that he promised him the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul and allowed him to be his escort to the senate house on the day of his assassination.
"O, he sits high in all the people's hearts And that which would appear offence in us His countenance, like richest alchemy, Will change to virtue and to worthiness."
Aha - who is this Lucius Sulla? - he was a Dictator that has got to be significant!
- 510 BC: beginning of the Roman Republic; Rome, ruled by consuls, consolidates power throughout the Italian peninsula
- 82 BC http://heraklia.fws1.com/contemporaries/sulla/”>Lucius Sulla, a Roman general, became the dictator for three years.
- 71 BC slave revolt led by Spartacus, put down by Pompey
- 60 BC The First Triumvirate was established a death blow to the Republican form of government. It was a three-man political alliance between Pompey, Marcus Crassus, and Julius Caesar.
- 58-51 BC Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, present day France. The Senate feared his power so they ordered him to give up his command. - When Crassus died after the battle of Carrhae Caesar is at war with Pompey for the control of Rome.
- 49 BC the senate, backing Pompey, ordered Caesar to disband his army and give up his province of Gaul. Instead of giving up, Caesar crossed the Rubicon invading Italy setting off a civil war.
- 45 BC Caesar defeated Pompey and was sole ruler of Rome.
"Their hats are plucked about their ears, and half their faces buried in their cloaks, that by no means may I discover them by any mark of favor." (Act 2i: 79-82)
Of course, the conspirators didn't want to be recognized in the streets, just yet, although few people ventured out at night. As in most pre-electric societies, and even today with lighting prevalent, the night appeared full of danger. In a realistic sense one could fall and hurt oneself, be attacked by animals, or be robbed or murdered in the dark; but also, superstition holds that evil spirits roam at night. Perhaps that's why Roman hearth fires were kept lit all night.
Someone versed in ancient beliefs will have to tell me if the following conjectures are correct and where I've missed the mark:
The Romans believed in the lemures, spirits of the improperly buried who wandered at night. Covered heads and veils, which we still see in many modern religions and religious practices, protected the living from the spirits or ill-omened sight. I think adults might be especially susceptible to evil spirits, rather than children. Another group of Romans who'd be susceptible would be those engaged in sacrifice, whatever the time of day, which is ritual violence and a borderland between the sacred and the profane.
From harpy.uccs.edu: "The Altar of Peace [Ara Pacis] was dedicated to pietas and the pax romans of Augustus on July 4, 13 BCE....Replacing a temporary structure of wood and paintings, the beautiful altar was later rebuilt in Lura marble....It has been reconstructed near its original site on the Tiber in Rome. The Altar is decorated with reliefs representing allegorical, historical and mythological scenes."
Continuing from harpy.uccs.eu: "In the main frieze, [known as The Ara Pacis Augustae: The First Family] Augustus played the role of...rex sacrorum the king/priest with his head veiled who performed the ancient rites of blood sacrifice....He is shown accompanied by the flamen diales, identified by their spiked caps and the lictors, who with their ceremonical axes will deal the death blows to the sacrifical animals. Marcus Agrippa is probably the older man also veiled as an auger pontifex..."
When priests and emperors are depicted with the head covered by a hood-like fold of the toga, that's known as capite velato.
My guess, and whoever knows about Roman beliefs please tell me if I'm wrong, is that the covering by the visitors to Brutus' house is done to avoid discovery but also as a protection against ill-omened spirits; and that this forshadows the next Act of the play.
There are a lot of recent posts with some great points and I need to take time to read & understand them. Back later....
Regarding Cassius' persuasion of Brutus. In Act 1 first Cassius feels out Brutus' thoughts and closes his argument with
So Cassius both needles our Brutus with his ancestor's achievement and also shows him how he might retain his Honor/public esteem by following his ancestor's example. Brutus responds to "there was a Brutus once" by saying he'd been thinking along those same lines. Brutus concludes with this promise to Cassius:
"Brutus had rather be a villager than to repute himself a son of Rome under these hard conditions as this time is like to lay upon us." (Act 1 ii: 181-184)
When we next meet Brutus in Act 2, as Maryal noted, he's decided on the murder. So I don't think Cassius needed to do any persuading beyond pointing out the example of Brutus the Liberator to our Brutus which is what caught Brutus' interest.
HATS, Maryal gave the example of Portia. Women in Roman times were considered weak and Portia wanted to show Brutus that she was truly the daughter of Cato and thus worthy of Brutus' trust. It sounds from her stabbing her thigh that she's aware of some sort of conspiracy.
In Everitt's Cicero he writes that Cato was on the side of the Republic during the Civil War. Caesar, of the winning side, showed that he was willing to extend clemency to Cato. Cato refused saying "I decline to be under an obligation to the tyrant for his illegal acts ... He is acting against the law when he pardons people over whom he has no authority, as if he owned them." Cato attempted suicide by stabbing himself and when a doctor was called and stitched together his abdomen, Cato ripped out the stitches and his entrails in order to die. (Everitt 231) (Gory scene I know even after I neatened it up a bit.)
Brutus' wife Portia is this Cato's daughter which she proved with the dagger.
I read all of today's posts; they're wonderful but I may not be able to respond to all of them. For some reason tonight I'm tired and feeling cold and will probably snuggle in bed with hot mint tea and a book. Oh wait, that's what I do when I'm feeling good too. Hahahaha
Week Two: March 8-14:
Act II, Scene i:
...the base degrees
Than honesty to honesty engaged
(II, i, 139). When does a man need to swear an oath? Does Brutus see this enterprise as "noble?"
Via Labicana Augustus (to follow in our discussion) "the veiled head of Augustus. The motif of the capite velato the veiled head, was taken from actual sacrificial practices and came to be a cipher for hte piety of Rome's rulers, and an expression of their respect for gods and ancestors." (Rome, Art and Architecture)
Brutus does not want to involve Portia, just hearing about such treason could bring her harm.
Also, I think, Brutus does not want to hear any opposing ideas. He doesn't have time to get into an argument with his wife who would probably tell him to forget the whole foolish idea. He doesn't want to hear her objections.
WHAT???? She bears a voluntarily inflicted wound? Hellllooo Portia, dear, that's called sado-masochism. Was it a tatoo?????
Allow me to ask a question that troubled me when I watched the movie also in Act II - scene I . WHY does Shakespeare make such a big production of Lucius bringing the bloody candle to his master? Is it that Brutus trusts this lad to his secrets? Does he expect him to listen as he yammers on about Caesar's conduct? Is he introduced here to perform a major role or just someone to remind us about the approaching Ides?
Brutus says "he'll never follow any thing that other men begin," and says not to tell him the secret. NOW-- all of the sudden after he says that Casca and Cassius change their mind in midstream.
"then leave him out; Indeed he's not fit"
Is Brutus saying that Cicero can NOT be controlled by another man, that he will not follow their orders nor their commands? Hmmm interesting isn't it that that should bother Brutus ? POWER!!! Could he fear Cicero's leadership abilities being superior to his own? OR-- does he conspire plotting to become the dominant leader?
Now they go for beloved, shrewd Mark Antony
& Brutus admonishes the conspirators that it will seem too
bloody! Now that's a joke, stab a guy 23 times and
it's not too bloody.
How 'bout we stab Caesar 12 times and MA only 11 times. There that's less bloody now, Brutus.
Her greed for the jewelry of the Sabines led her to betray the entrance to the fortifications to them. She hoped for their gold armlets which they wore on their left arms. The victorious Sabines kept their promise to give her all they wore on their left arms, and they buried her under their shields [which they carried on their left sides]. The famous Tarpein rock is named after her.There are several legends about Tarpeia, but that one, I think is stunning, and since I had never heard it I thought you might be interested. Talk about be careful what you wish for? I have a feeling Brutus is going to feel the same way very shortly, what about you?
Isn't that something? See next post for what some of the gold (not of the Sabines but of the Romans looked like)
Romans in war had been known to endure self-torture and mutilitation in order to convince the enemy that they were fierce and could not be defeated. And Portia was Cato's daughter -- the man who stabbed himself and ripped out his entrails because he'd rather die than be pardoned by Caesar in the Civil War -- and I think Portia is showing Brutus that she'd be an important ally to him. It also foreshadows something in the latter part of the play.
Cicero was known to hate Caesar and Antony. He was mentor to many of the younger noblemen and well respected but he was a timid man devoted to literature and not the sword. Brutus knew this and that would be one reason why Cicero wouldn't be acceptable. Also, Brutus wanted to be the leader of the murder like that other Brutus, his ancestor.
Brutus deceives himself that the assassination is noble and honorable while Cassius knows it isn't. Brutus' argument against killing Antony to preserve the honor of their actions against Caesar rings false to Cassius because he more fully understands the situation in which they're involved. I cannot see Cassius as the 100% villain and actually Brutus with his self-righteousness and self-deception is more chilling.
JAN, we agree on much in this play. Brutus has to self-deceive; he can't ask if any murder is morally justified. This is what gets me the most about Brutus and anyone who justifies their immoral acts saying it's for an 'honorable' cause.
"It's horror is obscured by it's aesthetics." Nice, JONATHAN.
The concept of fear in JC is interesting, BARB. Is every Roman driven by fear because their society is based on the drive to achieve in some public form?
Question 7: What is the reason Brutus gives for rejecting Cicero as a conspirator? Does his reason support or detract from the 'honor' of the enterprise?
Brutus rejected Cicero following Metellus speech that Cicero's
First, Brutus doesn't want to share the stage of 'honor' with Cicero. Brutus wants his name and his ancestor to be the only lustre for the enterprise. (Brutus envys Cicero? Is jealous of his personally earned reputation?) Certainly Cassius doesn't claim it, nor Casca or the others. And Brutus only wants men who will follow his lead for he's decided on that role for himself which he shows in his decision making. Brutus' reasons detract from the 'honor' of the conspirators.
This is where Cassius shows his understanding and acceptance of Brutus' nature and purpose. Cassius who originally wanted Cicero, supports Brutus' rejection of Cicero, even though it isn't a practical decision.
The Romans, in their relations to the gods and as part of their religious contract with them, believed that the gods communicated their will and desires to them through various means, such as oracles, strange sights, singular events and remarkable coincidences;also by the flight of birds and entrails of animals slain at sacrificial ceremonies: hence the auspices (who foretold the future from an interpretation of the flight of birds) and the haruspices (who foretold the future from a study of the entrails).
Week Two: March 8-14:
Act II, Scenes ii, iii, iv:
Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?" (II, ii, 27).
Does Caesar seem a believer in fate versus free will, a preordained path through life? How does this contrast with the other characters in the play? Does he take the eruptions of the skies as omens or messages?
"That every like is not the same, O Caesar,What does this show about his character?
Alea Jacta Est....Caesar Crosses the Rubicon
I brought up the religious sacrifice issue of the conspirators meeting because the entire scene is performed as a ritual by Brutus. His greeting each person individually and his talk of Caesar as a sacrifice for the gods. That's why the priest-hoods apply I think as foreshadowing by Shakespeare for Act 3.
KYLIE, you all have made important points, like "Brutus must have thought about not liking Caesar before, or he wouldn't change so quickly from a friend to a murderer." It is a drastic, violent change isn't it? And this: "Maybe Portia needed to prove something, like how brave she was, or noble." I think that's important. Brutus doesn't listen to Portia or pay much attention to her? Unlike Caesar and Calpurnia. Does Brutus listen to anyone?
I hope Robert gets well soon!
GINNY, I never got around to saying how much I liked the picture of Brutus' garden that was in the previous set of questions. I could see the conspirators lurking about there in the orchard/garden. And now in the new questions we have a lovely painting of the fateful crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar. It's wonderful and amazing, the number of images you've found for us to enjoy; and I'm enjoying!
Did you note that in the garden scene Brutus rejected every proposal from the others -- Cicero as conspirator because he can't follow what others began, taking an oath, Antony's death?
Will be back later to respond to Act 2 ii.
Now, one of my favorite quotes is read by Artemidorus:
If youread this, O Caesar, thou mayest live;
If not, the Fates with traitor do contrive. "
don't you love that? Read what I have read and face your conspirators; If NOT... (well beware....)
Barb is weighing what Shakespeare knew with how he presented the characters, what changes he made etc. -- it's an open, receptive learning approach.
Meg lists what characters say and do. Both approaches by Barb and Meg are valid and show how we can look at literature from different perspectives.
SOLILOQUY is a dramatic speech intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections; it's the inner thoughts that obviously the other characters are not privy to 'hearing.'
Meg, fancier defs or research into topics are never easily obtainable but you'll learn from it. Try it. With internet searches you'll be faced with a lot of deadends and choices and it's work but the rewards can make it worthwhile -- sometimes? usually?
More on the questions....
We'll never know for sure will we? It's in the realm of 'might have beens,' but we can guess.
Brutus told Cassius he was thinking along similar lines about Caesar but I think he needed that extra outside push from someone. Brutus needed public esteem and admiration and I don't think he would have acted alone. Actually, 'acted' is a good word for Brutus because he need an audience of admirers IMO, which is what he reduced his co-conspirators to in his own mind.
On the other hand, if it wasn't Cassius, someone else would probably have approached Brutus with the thought of Super Brutus the Avenger.
These lines spoken by Decius can symbolize two things:
-- 1. Romans come to Caesar as a saint for relics; to worship at his feet so to speak.
-- 2. Romans come to Caesar as a prince for honors.
But there's more to this meaning. The idea of relics brings up contrasting images, disturbing when related to Caesar. The picture I see is of the past; of a dead martyr who may be venerated for past accomplishments. (Not for the present accomplishments of the living man.) While Caesar may have seen the words as the image of what he'd sacrificed for his Countrymen.
Could Decius have given this speech as a warning to Caesar? Caesar would only have listened if he wasn't susceptible to flattery and wasn't ambitious for the crown. Perhaps this was a test for Caesar's ambitions and Decius couldn't resist the sly irony of it.
So the dual purpose or intention would be flattery on one side and warning on the other.
A piece of work that will make sick men whole.
And Ligarius answers:
But are not some whole that we must make sick?
Previously I tried to answer the question about stains, tinctures, and relics without getting to complex. Was I clear before that the warning was in the image of violent, bloody death suffered by martyrs? I do feel there were other reasons that Caesar went to the Senate.
HISTORY: We know the real Caesar went about with a group of professional bodyguards and that he'd heard warnings of a conspiracy that even named Cassius and Brutus. He knew his life was threatened and yet he dismissed his bodyguards and went to the Senate.
Shakespeare's Caesar is an old man, worn out by his service to his country as a soldier and politician, frail and given to seizures. He'd fulfilled his obligations to Rome and, in the normal course of things, he'd be able to retire from public life and live in the countryside. Caesar, however, can't retire because who was strong enough to succeed him and cope with a dangerously weak government? Would chaos reign if Caesar retired to the countryside?
These issues are what I think Shakespeare's Caesar is facing. So he holds on and yet he becomes 'careless' by letting his bodyguards go, by showing interest in the crown (deliberately tempting fate?), by having close to him men of the opposition. I wouldn't say Shakespeare's Caesar had a death wish but he knew he was boxed into his current role and for once he was in the hands of fate.
I felt a change in my response to Caesar from sympathy for his tender regard for his wife and his gracious host to his 'friends' who wish to accompany him to the Senate; to a feeling of distance when he exhibited arrogance. Did he recognize the warning in Decius' words and in the group of friends anxious to take him to the Senate and was he then preparing for the inevitable? Caesar was a warrior and not a coward and could he have seen this as a better end?
ANNE, I think Shakespeare shows us an arrogant Caesar in this scene and the next so that the audience will be shocked by the later downfall. He did that with Lear as well with first a proud Lear and then a humbled Lear. In any case, Caesar becomes even more arrogant as he walks to the Senate and sits in front of the assembly and we, the audience, know what awaits him but cannot warn him. We have that insider information as the audience so are deliberately pulled in two directions by Shakespeare and that adds to the tension of the play and the, to me, ultimate horror of what is coming.
In re-reading my post I've seen I've made a muddle but I'll have to let it stand as is.
Help! What does it all mean?
Week Two: March 8-14:
Act II, Scenes ii, iii, iv:
Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?" (II, ii, 27).
Does Caesar seem a believer in fate versus free will, a preordained path through life? How does this contrast with the other characters in the play? Does he take the eruptions of the skies as omens or messages?
"That every like is not the same, O Caesar,What does this show about his character?
What do these lines mean? Could they symbolize more than one thing? Why would Decius tell Caesar this interpretation?
Alea Jacta Est....Caesar Crosses the Rubicon
Caesar had in mind to do many things for the advantage of the Roman people and state, following the end of his military campaigns.
Among some of the proposed projects, he planned to drain the great Pontine marshes because of the unhealthy air they caused and because he would make the land serviceable for housing projects; he intended to open a communication between the Ionian and the Aegean Seas, by cutting through the Isthmus of Corinth; to build harbors along the coast of Italy; to open wide roads over the Apennines; to have a canal dug from the Anio and Tiber to the sea, and to rebuild Carthage and Corinth. He had many plans to build splendid public buildings and for establishing public libraries in Rome, to revise the whole code of Roman laws of the Twelve Tables by reducing them to simpler form. Augustus followed through on some of these proposals.
How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
I am ashamed I did yield to them.
Give me my robe, for I will go.
I do see some arrogance with Caesar as I did in Lear and that's deliberate by Shakespeare to sway our affections and then shock us out of that with what follows. Shakespeare didn't see anyone as all good or all bad but it seems we'll have to disagree on that.
What intrigues me about Shakespeare's Caesar is the fact that he doesn't appear that often in the play yet he's a force throughout. Everyone speaks about him, thinks about him, dreams about him, acts because of him. When we finally are presented with Caesar we know he is a great man because of this. His reactions to Calpurnia and his guests show the human side. His royal 'we' shows the ruler. In the end I think he is the most three-dimensional of all the characters in the play even though the speaking part is small.
I hadn't thought about an epitaph!! And it's the IDES!! Here's something slapped from the encyclopedia, jeepers:So he WAS a giant, Cassius was right: a Colossus, and note in this next scene how the mighty have fallen and the reactions of al the characters!"Caesar was a "supreme virtuoso... great beyond—and even in conflict with—the requirements of his political ambition. He showed a human spiritual greatness in his generosity to defeated opponents, which was partly responsible for his assassination... he [is] a giant by comparison with the common run of human beings." Encyclopedia BritannicaThat's not a bad epitaph 2000 years later.
I tell you what, I can find a better one, at the end maybe, Warsley says,"Julius Caesar is considered by many historians to have been, in natural talent, one of the most remarkable men that ever lived...He was military genius, an orator, a statesman, an historian, an astronomer, and engineer, a poet, a writer, and a grammarian."
Week Three: March 15-22:
Act III: Scene I
The Ides of March
"The Ides of March are come."
Barbara sees JC as wishing to be better than anyone around him. Act III, scene I, 7 Caesar responds to Artemidorus plea to read a document with :
"What touches us ourself shall be last serv'd" - did he mean that he is putting himself last? Maybe, because of the portends he "knew" the news was not good.Ginny: You said to print out JC and pictures for the plane. Here, next week, I'll be flying in international air space carrying a Roman statemans picture, a brand new passport, tickets for Ireland, Italian garlic breath and Greek olive juice stains on my . Whew! From whence DID I come they'll ask.
Riverside says: ...The play is throughout beautifully bruilt, as in the fast-moving, variously lit passage from II.ii to III.i- the decision of Caesar to go to the Senate, Portia's anxiety, the tense minutes before the assassination, the arrival, large and menacing of Antony and finally of Octavius' messenger: 500 lines tightly written, describing one great dramatic curve, followed instantly by the next movement:
- In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
In the garden Brutus took the hand of each man and said:
This idea of a bloodless, ritual sacrifice is one of Brutus' delusions.
At the Capitol the conspirators kneel ritually & respectfully, befitting the sacrifice, at Caesar's feet (and this is horrible hypocrisy for there is nothing respectful or fitting about murder). Then Casca stabs Caesar in the back and then the others stab until Caesar, the mortal man, is dead.
IMO Brutus gets the sickening idea of murder as public sacrifice -- for the Republic's benefit -- by having each man bathe their arms in Caesar's blood. Then all the conspirators can think to do is brandish their blood red swords in the streets, shouting empty slogans.
The irony here is that they didn't sacrifice, bloodlessy, the spirit of Caesar but instead killed Caesar the man in a bloody massacre.
Antony undoes the sacrifice in subtle ways when he first faces the murderers over Caesar's body. He praises Brutus but in comparison to Caesar: "Brutus is noble, wise, valiant, and honest; Caesar was mighty, bold, royal, and loving. Say, I love Brutus, and I honor him; Say I feared Caesar, honored him, and loved him." (Act III i 141-4) Brutus cannot compare to Caesar in Antony's ironic flattery.
Every sentence of Antony hammers home the bloody murder of Caesar by these other men. As Brutus in the garden took the conspirator's hands to seal the sacrifice of Caesar; now Antony reverses Brutus' conceit of ritual sacrifice by taking each man's hand -- "Let each man render me his bloody hand" (Act III i 201) -- and calling each by name. This Antony does to mark the murderers with the naming I believe; he will not forget who they are and what they did and they will soon realize this. This is Antony's own ritual to reverse Brutus' imaginary sacrifice to the butchery it actually was. Antony convinces Brutus, through mock flattery of appeal to his nobleness, to allow a funeral oration. We, the audience, know that Antony plans revenge. Alone with Caesar's body he says:
The entire scene 'reeked and smoked' of blood and unclean hands... so different from Brutus' waking dream in the meteor-lit garden of conspirators.
Is anyone else besides me having trouble talking about this scene?
This is a long post because I'm having difficulty with the topic. I didn't think it would be this hard to address. Hopefully, with a few initial posts we all can respond to this section of the play. I mainly addressed the conspirators' false sacrifice with Antony destroying that 'noble' idea and revealing it as the ugly murder it is.
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
I don't think Caesar's retirement would have stopped Brutus who was slow to make up his mind and who stubbornly clung to his decisions no matter what. Brutus' motive is to earn the public reputation of his ancestor, Super Brutus, and he wouldn't be deterred by anything Caesar could have said or done. Certainly the liberal granting of pardons didn't stay the conspirators daggers.
GINNY, the correlation between the blooding of a hunter following his/her first kill with that of Brutus and co-conspirators bathing their arms in Caesar's blood is right-on IMO. Both are public marks of 'now you've earned your right to be called a man', that sort of thing. Brutus may have thought he was marking himself as Super Brutus II. What a serious miscalculation on Brutus' part but it is excellent theatre for Shakespeare with more shock value to show that the sacrifice was really a butchery.
BARB, that was the line that I found most affecting especially when contrasted with Brutus' line:
JAN, I agree with you assessment of Brutus and Cassius. Cassius knows what's important to Brutus and that Brutus must have his way or else he could walk. I also could see Cassius changing his mind about Caesar's death if Caesar said he was retiring from public life but don't believe Caesar would have retired.
Will try to sign on again late tonight to discuss this section of the play. It's so overpowering emotionally that it's hard for me to talk about.
"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."
To me this is a very important quote. It gives insight to how Caesar could go into so many battles, he claims to not fear death. The Roman's didn't believe in an afterlife (heaven) or did they? However, the Elizabethans sure did believe in heaven and hell! Is it hell that makes people fear death?
Tonight on the news they showed many of the soliders praying and straightening out stuff with the chaplans. The possibility of going into 'action' maakes a person confront themselves. With the number of battles Caesar fought in, he sure must of learned what he was made of.
"When Caesar was dispatched, Brutus stood forth to give a reason for what they had done, but the senate would not hear him, but flew of doors in all haste and filled the people with so much alarm and distraction, that some shut up their houses, others left their counters and shops. All ran one way or the other.
The day after Brutus with the rest [they had marched thru the streets that afternoon calling to people to come join them, and a few did, to their eventual doom] came down from the capitol and made a speech to the people, who listened without expressing either any pleasure or resentment, but showed by their silence that they pitied Caesar and respected Brutus... [The senate took measures to reconcile all parties, ordered Caesar to be worshipped as a god, and nothing, no matter of the slightest consequence, should be revoked that he had begun. At the same time Brutus "and his followers," were given command of the provinces. "So that all the people now thought things were well settled, and brought to the happiest adjustment."]
Caesar, Brutus and Cassius and quite accurate depictions rather than "Shakespeare's" anything. It is only "Shakespeare's Antony" whose actions diverge from the historical Antony.
Shakespeare stuck closely to Plutarch's Lives except for Antony and for that we have to ask why? What was Shakespeare's purpose in changing Antony's actions and adding to his role?
This is where knowing the history as reported by North's Plutarch's Lives can help because, as Ginny says, Shakespeare changed events involving Antony for a reason. The rest of the characterizations are quite true to life but Antony is now Shakespeare's Antony.
" For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it; neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him; But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company" (Psalm 55:12-14)
"It appears to be thought that the spirits of the dead survived, capable of influencing in some vague way the fortunes of the living. These spirits were at first regarded as hostile later the fear of them gave place to a more friendly feeling and a sense of a bond between the living and the dead members of the family developed. The idea of deities of the underworld arose, perhaps through Greek influence. " (OCCL)
I feel that historical writings -- whether written yesterday or 2000 years ago -- are constantly being 'revised' due to changing values and perspectives. But for myself history has to be considered, as well as its changing nature, when reading literature or philosphy because it helps to understand the background of the literary writer, where he acquires his knowledge, and how he perceives events. This is where I'm at with Shakespeare; knowing his times, his culture & important events, and his sources helps me get a more in-depth understanding & appreciation of his works than I previously had before my close look.
For instance, it helps to know history when reading Locke's Treatsies on government. If we acknowledge that he didn't write in a vacuum and that he wrote in a certain period in history, we may question some of his statements such as (to paraphrase): if land isn't being used then no one owns it and picking nuts fallen from a tree is not using the land, therefore, Locke's argument goes, you may seize the land, cut down trees to use it properly and you then have the right to defend your used land. Or Locke's statement: if people behaved like wild animals they forfeited their freedom and their right to life.
Some of Locke's connection to Africa and the Americas, include the facts that he:
Knowing this, aren't we sceptical about the inspiration for Locke's treatsies which were used to justify taking land from the Natives in the Americas and making slaves of Africans who fought invaders? And this justification was set out in the form of a philosophy. We know, however, that this new philosophy of Locke wasn't formed in the air but based on English history and Locke's real-life background.
Thus, I look closely at authors and their backgrounds and the history they make use of in order to better understand, critique and appreciate their writings. I opt for the close look at literature for myself.
Now I thoroughly sidetracked myself and I'll get off my Lockeian soapbox and think abot some of the questions posted about Caesar, Antony, Brutus and friendship. (Cassius remained a friend to Brutus throughout the play, despite Brutus' disregard of Cassius' opinions and military experience. I'll re-read to see if any other friendship was sustained in the play.) Back later....
Plutarch, 46 ACE-120 ACE, wrote the life of Caesar approx. 75 ACE. Suetonius (69 ACE-140 ACE), the offical biographer and Appian (95 ACE-165 ACE) the Greek scholar and historian of Rome also wrote about the funeral.
In the above two links, it states that Appian derived his account from Suetonius and I've verified Suetonius' reportage of the oration with some edu sites. I've expressed above my opinion about why Shakespeare chose the dramatic oration by Antony. I also believe that there are intimations in Antony's speech of the disastrous part revenge will play in this 'play.'
Brutus' speech in Shakespeare was dispassionate and reasoned. His speech might engage the mind but not the heart. Antony's speech engages the heart. Perhaps Shakespeare also is showing us his viewpoint on the danger of crowd rule; the danger of chaos and "Cry Havoc!" He was a monarchist after all and England was facing an uncertain future with the aging Virgin Queen and no successor in sight and the potential for utter chaos in England as a result. (This is how I see Shakespeare's perspective and isn't necessarily my own.)
I thought of Locke when considering an example of how knowing an historical framework creates a deeper understanding of a work; and because his revolutionary ideas are the extreme opposite of Shakespeare's monarchist ideals; and because of BARB's thoughts on freedom and liberty; and because Locke's honored beliefs in liberty, freedom and possession ended up ironically as being for the select few rather than all the people (certainly not for Native Americans and people destined in Locke's philosophy for slavery).
Brutus would have approved of Locke's theories of government in the abstract (but not if he -- Brutus -- achieved power for then the plebians like me would have been out of luck).
ANNE, we each have our ways of looking at literature. As a writer I take a close look at structure, technique, plot, characterization, and influences to a writer's work etc. I enjoy and learn so much with that exploration, historical and literary, as well as with the comments of others. I feel that inclusion of history in a 1599 work is a valid perspective when discussing an historical tragedy, but understand that others view it sans history. Our combined perspectives make for a wonderfully insightful look into Julus Caesar IMO.
Brutus' speech is short and simple. First, he appeals to reason rather than the emotions -- a serious error for a politician. He's dispassionate and his speech is filled with generalities and not specifics. Some of Brutus points:
Now the crowd is mildly worked up but Brutus was dry in his speech. He spoke in generalities such as ambition, valor, love, fortune. He says he slew Caesar (but doesn't say how specifically) and I think that admission has to do with Brutus' need to be the next Super Brutus the Avenger. Brutus speaks more of himself than of Caesar.
Shakespeare uses the technique of prose for Brutus versus the poetry that Antony will later speak. Poetry gives specific examples: you say maple rather than just a tree, Madonna lily rather than flower. Brutus' prose is general and reasoned to instruct the mind in as few words as he can possibly manage. Antony's poetry is emotional and vivid and evokes images in your mind's eye and feelings in your heart. These images and feelings are artfully strung together to create the planned for emotional response of the crowd. The very beginning of their speeches, just a few of those lines, shows the stylistic differences:
"Be patient to the last. Romans, countryman, and lovers, hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear." Brutus (Act 3.2:13-15)
"Friends, Romans, countryman, lend me your ears." Antony (Act 3.2:82)
"Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor that you may believe." Brutus (Act 3.2:15-17)
"I come to bury Caesar not to praise him." Brutus (Act 3.2:83)
So there's a rhythm between the two speeches as they continue. Prose vs. poetry, general vs. specific, reason vs. emotion, justification vs. grief, dispassion vs. rage. Cunning Antony knew how to sway the crowd as Brutus never could. Would we say that Brutus is alienated from other people being so self-absorbed? More....
The Prologue, lines 68-81: Antony gently eases into the crowd, knowing they've just finished listening to Brutus who's told them he's allowed Antony to speak at the funeral of Caesar. Antony says: "For Brutus' sake, I am beholding to you." The crowd grumbles a bit and then settles down to listen.
Part 1, lines 82-129 "Caesar's Deeds vs Brutus' Honor": Antony says "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." Antony continually reminds the crowd that Caesar is dead, that Brutus was one of the men responsible for the death, and ironically follows up the fine qualities & deeds of the dead Caesar with Brutus' words of ambition of honor. It's a refutation of Brutus' claims of the righteous murder of ambition.
Each time Antony gives an example of the good that Caesar did for Rome, he follows with the irony of Brutus' claims to his own honor and to Caesar's ambitions. Left vividly unsaid is the fact that Brutus did not give Rome anything except Caesar's death, the death of Rome's benefactor. Antony says he & the crowd love Caesar which joins them together emotionally. Antony pauses to weep over Caesar's coffin which reinforces the idea of death and Rome's loss.
Part 2 - lines 130-180 "What Wrongs-Rome's Loss": Having established Caesar's greatness and the conspirators dubious claims to honor, Antony begins Part 2 of his oration: "But yesterday the word of Caesar might have stood against the world. Now lies he there, and none so poor to do him reverence." Then he suggests 'mutiny' and 'rage' and stresses the 'wrong' of such action. Immediately Antony tantalizes the crowd with hints they are heirs in Caesar's rich legacy of a will. He says "I have o'ershot myself to tell you of it. I fear I wrong the honorable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar" which turns the wrong to be one of the murderers against Caesar and Rome. Now the crowd begs to hear the will and Antony asks and receives the crowd's permission to descend the steps to be closer. In this Antony establishes intimacy with the crowd. (Antony asks the crowds' permission, giving them the welcome sense of power.)
Part 3 - lines 181-221 "Traitors Established": Now Antony pulls out more stops, knowing he has inflamed the crowds' grief for the loss of Caesar. He shows the crowd Caesar's cloak and says "in this place ran Cassius' dagger through....[see the rent] the envious Casca made....through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed...Caesar's angel...then burst his mighty heart...great Caesar fell....[and with this the] bloody treason flourished over us." Antony lift's Caesar's cloak to show the terrible wounds and utters the word 'traitors' with the crowd reacting a more violent echo of Brutus' words in the garden (Speak, strike, redress). Here the crowd responds with Revenge, burn, fire, kill, slay! whipped into a frenzy by Antony's skillful speech.
Part 4 - lines 222-276 "Caesar's Wounds Speak": Antony isn't finished with the crowd yet. He needs to make sure they won't waver in their resolution of revenge. He's sly in that he says he doesn't want to stir them to mutiny but he also debunks the murderers claims to a righteous killing by calling their reasons "private griefs" rather than public/Roman grievances. He claims to be a rough speaker compared to Brutus' overly polished speech (but Antony is only fooling the crowd with that remark) and says he'll let Caesar's wounds do the talking by visual display of the violence done to a ruler:
The crowd is more frenzied then ever but Antony doesn't let them go just yet as he tells them what is bequethed them in Caesar's will at which they resolve to burn down the traitor's houses. Antony walks away, satisfied at last that "Mischief, thou art afoot; Take thou what course thou wilt."
Antony is superb in rousing the crowd to violence yet he doesn't care where that violence will lead. I see Antony here as a premier spin-doctor, turning the crowd into a dangerous mob, but that doesn't make Antony a hero. It could be ambition for him and revenge on a huge scale and I don't see any pardons coming from Antony. Neither hero nor villain?
fear of the supernatural is merely a superstition* that diminishes one's free enjoyment of life.
Now the crowd is mildly worked up but Brutus was dry in his speech. He spoke in generalities such as ambition, valor, love, fortune. marvelle Antony's poetry is emotional and vivid and Each time Antony gives an example of the good that Caesar did for Rome, he follows with the irony of Brutus' claims to his own honor and to Caesar's ambitions .evokes images in your mind's eye and feelings in your heart 'traitors' with the crowd reacting a more violent echo of Brutus' words in the garden (Speak, strike, redress).
Antony is superb in rousing the crowd to violence yet he doesn't care where that violence will lead. I see Antony here as a premier spin-doctor, turning the crowd into a dangerous mob, but that doesn't make Antony a hero. It could be ambition for him and revenge on a huge scale and I don't see any pardons coming from Antony. Neither hero nor villain?
Brutus was a Stoic and studied philosophy in Athens (his half-uncle Cato was a famous stoic and Brutus, as we know, married Cato's daughter Portia, by her actions another Stoic).
Funny to think f C & C following the same philosophy but they basically did -- especially regarding friendship and loyalty.
BARB, I was posting this then saw your remarks about the philosophy and the websites you posted. I'll have to look at the links later.
The philosophy of Epicureans would be why great Caesar's heart burst, knowing that Brutus his angel, turned against him. I do remember reading how considerate Caesar was with his soldiers. Once, when only one room was available for lodging, Caesar said that the oldest and frailest of his company should have the room (a philosopher-secretary I think?) and Caesar himself slept outdoors with the rest of his men. This he did even though he was not in robust health himself. Such behavior and his generosity earned him the love of his soldiers.
Brutus as Stoic would not be moved by emotions unlike the Epicureans Caesar and Cassius.
Cassius is emotional, even volatile, and a loyal friend which Brutus is not. Antony is ambitious too and vengeful; he knows how to move a mob but I doubt he has the ability to run a government.
Does anyone besides me see Caesar growing in stature as each of these lesser men try to assume his place on the Roman stage? And did we really know Caesar until this third act of the play?
MEG, I read first for pleasure. I'm a writer and poet and I automatically notice such things as allegory, metaphors, similes and the other techniques; I've studied Ancient History because I love the Ancient literatures (among others). So I notice things as I read; but I don't dwell on those "things" on a first reading because first I want the pleasure of entering a book's world and losing myself in it. Only later will I return, if I find the book interesting, and give a close reading & research if necessary...and a third, or fourth depending on how complex the book and how deep my pleasure in the book.
I tried these book discussions without reading the work first but found I missed out on so much over the length of a one-month discussion. I finally decided that to get the benefit of everyone's comments, experience, knowledge, insight -- like having my own private tutors -- it helped if I read the work before the discussion. The one time I can't do that is with a mystery because I don't want to know the ending of the book until near the discussion's end. Anyway, that's how & why I read -- for both pleasure and learning.
I sidetracked myself again and will come back later tonight to try to answer some of the questions posed by everyone.
The Question of his Death is enroll'd in the Capitol: His Glory not extenuated, wherein he
was Worthy:nor his Offences enforc'd for
which he suffered Death.
Does this mean literally written out and deposited in the Capitol for the consideration of the powers that be, I wonder? That doesn't seem the act of an about to be dictator.
Ginny, I truly believe that two honourable people can believe two diametrically opposed ideas, Here in Oz, we had a Referendum on becoming a Republic, or staying a Monarchy, and there were passionate honourable people on both sides of the fence.
You asked about the meaning of "resolved" in, "as rushing out of doors to be resolved If Brutus so unkindly knocked or no:" My Guide says to be resolved means to have all doubts removed.
Maryal, so true, the thing we remember best is the last thing we hear! I guess that's why in court cases, the Barrister who sums up last has a subtle advantage. If only Brutus had more of a common touch, there would be a different outcome to this story. As soon as the deed is done, Brutus is out of there mentally. He's moved on, to his detriment.
If only he'd had a little more understanding of the role feelings play in anything, he would have been so much more careful. Caesar, had the common touch. Using Anne's analogy to Diana, I remember the depth of feeling against the Queen immediately after Diana's death when the people of England and London in particular were grieving so badly. The Queen didn't lower the Flag to half-mast at Buckingham Palace( I forget the exact reason, something to do with protocol?) and didn't appear in public.
The newspapers were outraged, "Ma'am, your people are hurting!", screamed the Headlines. A lot of words like cold and unfeeling, were bandied about. I don't think that's true, but she often comes across as remote and lacking in emotion, utterly unlike Diana. I can see so many parallels to Brutus and Antony, in the actions of Elizabeth and Diana.
The function of poetry is to create an emotional reaction to the sound and sense of words. That's the basic PURPOSE of poetry; the poet's aim is to shake the listener to a waking state & to feel life in all its intensity.
The sound of poetry rests with rhythm, meter, the nature and order of vowels and consonants, alliteration & all sounds, the flow of the poetic line with its stops and starts that add emphasis to particular words; so different from average prose.
Looking at the two orations in the heading, and speaking them aloud, the differences between the two are clear. Spoken aloud -- with punctuation to mark a pause or a line break; & the length of a line -- there is emotional intensity and compression to Antony's speech. While Brutus' abstract ideas run together with little rhythm or pauses. Brutus' speech doesn't aim for an emotional reaction. Nor does it attempt to persuade.
A poem consists of the suggestions that the words accumulate, one word laid next to another to another, in addition to a dictionary meaning to a single word. Antony's oration has done this & the sum is greater than its parts. Brutus' rhetoric has not succeeded in part because his ideas don't string together into any greater meaning or emotional truth.
I agree that Antony felt deep grief and he moved the crowd to grieve as well. But he also deliberately moved their emotions in another direction with his words of "traitors" and "mutiny" and the repeated use of "wrongs."
IMO Antony mourned and he wanted revenge & control (which he got for a moment with the crowd). He was a complex man as were all of our Romans.
I've been trying to figure out Ginny's question: Has there been enough demonstration of character flaws or a tragic flaw for Caesar to justify his being called the protagonist of this play?
I'm going to rest overnight on this question which isn't as easy as it initially appeared to me because another character keeps intruding into my thoughts about Caesar's flaws. Perhaps someone (HATS? with your common sense) can tackle the question too.
I dreamt tonight that I did feast with Caesar,
And things unluckily charge my fantasy.
I have no will to wander forth of doors,
Yet something leads me forth.
According to the Arden Shakespeare edition: to be resolv'd = to learn for certain; and unkindly = perhaps a play on two meanings of cruelly or unnaturally.
The image is of someone knocking at a door -- 'let me in' -- only it isn't a wood door but a living, flesh and blood Caesar and the knock isn't by the well-beloved Brutus' gentle flesh and blood hand but by a cutting sword. Antony is describing such an unbelievable treachery to Caesar that his life's blood follows the killing weapon to confirm Brutus as the traitor. With the image of these lines, Antony shows us a Caesar who believes in friendship and loyalty and a Brutus who turns Caesar's trust into an opportunity for murder.
Again from the Arden Shakespeare about Brutus' talk of the murderers' grievances against Caesar: "The question of his death is enroll'd in the Capitol...." (Act 3.2:38-39)
The Arden states "there can hardly have been time for a debate in the Senate. Perhaps Shakespeare, though he does not use it in his play, had in mind another speech that Plutarch says (Sk., p 120) Brutus made in the Capitol when he and the other conspirators took refuge there immediately after the assassination."
I discussed the 'question of his death' quote in an earlier post #406, looking at Brutus' speech. And Brutus made a serious error here, as in many other parts of his speech. His entire speech was general (noble, honor, ambition) without concrete examples. His killing of Caesar was even mentioned in the abstract, which was good for him, except he left it open for Antony to vividly describe the bloody murder. For Brutus to leave out specifics (not an abstract 'ambition') of the grievances was an error when he tells the crowd 'you can always go research our reasons for the murder if you're so inclined.' Dumb, dumb, dumb. The crowd needed to know then and there. Brutus should have used the moment, the opportunity, to show the crowd why/how he thought Caesar had to be killed.
Like Hats, the most moving lines to me are the ones above, esp the first 'Caesar's angel.'
The imagery of Brutus stabbing Caesar as the knock at a door is stunning. A house is your safe place and who knocks normally but a friend? It was as a friend that Brutus was given entry to Caesar's home and heart and the treachery was all the more heart-rending given the trust and love of Caesar.
Shakespeare symbolically makes Caesar deaf in one ear so he hears from only one side. (The real Caesar had no physical hearing problem.) Caesar had his own kind of naivety in that he believed that what he felt and the standards of his behavior were common to all men.
Cassius and Caesar were Epicureans but Cassius had difficulties with being satisfied & happy. According to the wonderful links that BARB provided, the Epicurean beliefs are:
-- don't fear god
-- don't worry about death
-- what's good is easy to get
-- what's terrible is easy to endure
-- all knowledge is based on perception of the senses (not reason)
-- pleasure is obtained in a stress-free life, music & friends
-- friends are our most important defense against insecurity and are our greatest sources of strength, after the truths of Epicurean philosophy
-- more satisfying & valuable than public office is the development of personal relationships of mutual confidence for a friend will come to your assistance when an ordinary member of the public will not
-- to live tranquilly without fear of other men, make friends. Those you cannot make friends, avoid making them enemies, and if that cannot be done, avoid all intercourse with them
Brutus is a Stoic and the links show Stoic beliefs to be:
-- extinguish all desires -- friendship, love, anger/hate, passion etc -- in order to be happy
-- reason is humanity's special link to god
-- the cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude, & temperance
-- virtue is the only good & vice the only evil
-- live in the present without hope or fear of the future
Caesar so lived by his philosophy that he was willing to ignore, or couldn't see, that other men -- like Brutus his friend -- could believe and behave differently than he? But he 'feared' Cassius because he knew his philosophy and because Cassius couldn't be made a friend?
Tragedy occurs when one chooses to fight a force greater than himself (God, the gods, nature, society etc.) even though there is most likely no hope of defeating that force and the challenger will most likely be destroyed by the encounter. This choice to challege ennobles man.
Comedy, on the other hand, occurs when man "bumbles" against a force that may seem greater, but he is never really in danger of being harmed. Comedy illustrates our human foibles and quirks; it humanizes us.
According to A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean tragedy is:
Bradley: "In Shakespeare, the hero, recognizes his own responsibility for the catastrophe, which befalls him too late to prevent his death." My note: Caesar recognizing he didn't understand Brutus, his trust was misplaced, as Brutus too stabs him? Is this a self-recognition of his (Caesar's) pride, the greatest of the 7 Deadly Sins? Is it pride at all?
Bradley: [Only great men in Shakespeare qualify as tragic heroes and] "...his fate affects the welfare of a whole nation or empire; and when he falls suddenly from the height of earthly greatness to the dust, his fall produces a sense of contrast of the powerlessness of man, and of the omnipotence -- perhaps the caprice -- of Fortune or Fate which no fate of private life can possibly rival." For a detailed look at S. tragedy see:
The Seven Deadly Sins, a well-used conceit in Elizabethan times & by Shakespeare -- and the animal equivalents of the sins -- are: Pride (aka vanity)=lion; Envy=dog; Gluttony=pig; Lust=cow; Anger=bear; Greed=wolf; Sloth=goat.
Greed is a desire for material wealth or for gain, ignoring the spiritual; aka avarice or covertness. Pride is an excessive belief in one's abilities that interfere's with an individual's recognition of the grace of god. Pride is the greatest/worst of sins from which all others arise.
Now Decius Brutus says Caesar is vain and can be flattered (pride); while Brutus says Caesar was ambitious. What would be Caesar's fatal flaw (aka flawed perceptions & human frailty)? Pride because he thought his abilities to win people over as friends blinded him to Brutus' nature and motives, & those of other men?
Is Brutus' fatal flaw that of greed because he covets his ancestor Super Brutus the Avenger's honor/public esteem which is an ambition? Is this the "needy place" for Brutus that BARB talks about? Brutus is a penny pincher and there are indications, later in the play, as to his greed for money-- an arrow pointed by Shakespeare to identify his flaw; just as Caesar's partial deafness is a pointed arrow to his flaw?
Does Cassius have the fatal flaw of envy?
In Shakespeare there can be more than one tragic hero, but I don't know if there can be three?
HATS, love your take on the play. The poet Cinna couldn't win, could he? It actually happened. I think Shakespeare was showing the chaos of mob rule. Being a monarchist, he could have been warning England what could happen with a successor to the throne undecided? I also think this is a poet's dark humor shown by Shakespeare. Poetry has always been seen as dangerous & a form of anarchy and Shakespeare could see himself as the personally harmless and innocent Cinna in a choatic England.
Perhaps too we've been shown in JC that neither the heart nor the mind should rule alone but be partners? Brutus' mind led him into vicious murder and disaster for all of Rome. The mob, ruled by the heart's emotions, murdered innocent Cinna. I'm with ANNE in being led by my emotions & reading Antony's speech made me more so. I always struggle with trying to achieve mind-heart in public life.
T he Temple of Caesar (Aedes Divus Iulius or Templum Divi Iuli) was built by Augustus after the senate deified Julius Caesar after his death. The temple was dedicated August 18th, 29 BCE. It stands on the E. side of the main square of the Forum Romanum, between the Regia, Temple of Castor and Pollux and the the Basilica Aemilia.
After Julius Caesar was murdered, his body was carried to the forum, near the Regia, which was his official residence as pontifex maximus. A funeral pyre was built and his body cremated. Initially a commemorative column was erected on the spot with a dedication to the "father of the fatherland", but soon after Augustus started the construction of a temple for his adoptive father who the senate had declared a god. The temple was finished and consecrated in 29 BCE.
The temple was built in the Italian style. It rested on a tall podium in opus caementicium with access stairways on the sides of the temple. It was prostyle, hexastyle with two columns on the sides of the pronaos. No columns have survived but the temple was probably of the Corinthian order. In the front of the pronaos there was a semi-circular recess with a small altar inside. This might indicated the location of the funeral pyre. The protective wall in front of the altar was added later by Augustus.
- A Grafted Tongue
- by Johm Montgue
- bloodied, the severed
head now chokes to
speak another tongue -
- As in
- a long suppressed dream,
some stuttering garb -
led ordeal of my own)
- An Irish
- child weeps at school
repeating its English.
After each mistake
- The master
- gouges another mark
on the tally stick
hung about its neck
- Like a bell
- on a cow, a hobble
on a straying goat.
To slur and stumble
- In shame
- the altered syllables
of your own name:
to stray sadly home
- And find
- the turf-cured width
of your parents' hearth
growing slowly alien:
and field, they still
- In cabin
speak the old tongue.
You may greet no one.
- To grow
- a second tongue, as
harsh a humiliation
as twice to be born.
- Decades later
- that child's grandchild's
speech stumbles over lost
syllables of an old order.
I beg of you, since you have always loved me for myself, to preserve your affection for me. I am still the same. My enemies have robbed me of all I had, but they have not robbed me of myself. Take care of your health.
The Latin is
Tantum te ori, ut, quoniam me ipsum semper amasti ut nunc eodem amore sis; ego enim idem sum. Inimici mei mea mihi, non me ipsum ademerunt. Cura, ut valeas.
Speaking of Caesar: (Atticus IV 19)
If one does not fall in love with such a man, which of the others could one fall in love with?
The Latin: Hunc tu non ames? Quem igitur istorum?
The Threefold World Divided:
"He shall not live; look, with a spot I damn him." (IV, i,
Act IV opens with the members of the Second Triumvirate, Antony, Octavius and Lepidus, pricking out names of people to be killed in the proscription.
Having read some of the history, Antony was 'left in charge' when Caesar waged war and Antony proved to be a poor administrator and didn't Caesar then replace Antony with Lepidus? So it's a matter of jealousy and unwarranted revenge on Antony's part?
The quote in #8 is finished with
Such beautiful language and imagery -- of a prancing horse who is tried by a rider to its limited abilities and who is discovered to be a broken-down nag. IMO the entire quote says that weak, fair-weather friends (hollow men) start out true blue but such friends prove worthless and fickle under adversity. This is what Brutus says of Cassius but wouldn't it be more true of Brutus? Brutus as we know wasn't a loyal friend (ask Caesar) but he expected more of Cassius. Why the suspicion that Cassius had cooled on his friendship? Because he didn't readily share a bribe? And we know that Brutus was a penny-pincher and, historically, had extorted money as an official of Rome.
This ties in to question 10 when Brutus so high-mindedly scolds an offended Cassius regarding a bribe and then, ironically -- and Brutus fails to see the irony -- demands to be given a share of it.
Brutus still deceives himself and can complain about money without seeing the additional irony that men who murder have no moral high ground on which to stand. Cassius in this case is the realist about their situation while Brutus still thinks he can clink coins together righteously.
Cassius is right when he said that he's the seasoned soldier, not Brutus, and the more abler of the two to make combat decisions. Yet he gives in to Brutus' rash, grand gesture, of exhausting their men in a march to Philippi when the highlands they were stationed at was strategically better for them.
I see this as a turning point for Cassius, for whatever reason (and I hope Ginny can tell us the historical reason) -- for whatever reason, Cassius will accept what he knows is a fatal decision by Brutus to march to Philippi rather then be a "hollow man" in his friendship to Brutus. This turning point is the saddest for me with Cassius. He's a friend to the very man who has proved himself to be a "hollow man" and Cassius knows this but stays true to his Act 1 vows of friendship to Brutus.
The entire scene does play out like little brothers squabbling or else spouses. The two spouses being an exasperated, tolerant Cassius and strong willed Brutus. We know who'll win that argument. Funny, except that they're playing with their lives and the lives of so many others.
The argument doesn't feel to me like fighting over the spoils but more one of Brutus testing how far he can go with Cassius, although I'm not sure of this. Brutus flexing his emotional power over Cassius? Doesn't it seem that Brutus is the one with the bad-temper here? Cassius apologizes to help Brutus save face?
Eventually Brutus too says that he's out of sorts because his wife Portia took her life and Cassius rushes in with sympathy, grateful, I suspect, to have an excuse to forgive. It appears to me to be a 'limited' emotional response by Brutus to his wife's death because I think the heat of the argument was fanned more by money than by grief. Perhaps I have a wrong impression here and it's a combination of the different stresses on Brutus.
It is at this point that Brutus, repairing more fences, tells Cassius that Portia is dead. (She took her life swallowing hot coals. Was she proving herself worthy of her stoic husband and her stoic father, Cato, who took his life in a similarly gruesome manner. Or was it something she said that shamed her as Ginny intimated? Perhaps having a 'woman's weak heart' which is not acceptable for a stoic so she had to prove she wasn't weak, as she defines weakness?)
Next the commanders, Titinius and Messala, enter the tent -- such a busy, tiny tent! -- while Cassius says "Portia, art thou gone?" (stage direction: quiet voice? so the two commanders wouldn't overhear?) and Brutus shushes him. The commandrs get down to business and Messala tells Brutus that Portia is dead. Brutus pretends both ignorance of her death and stoicism upon hearing of it:
Now this is a sham. Brutus already knew Portia was dead but he wants to appear stoic, to live up to his image. Messala replies: "Even so great men great losses should endure." And Cassius, having been shushed once, knows now to take his cue from Brutus and says in pretend-admiration of his stoic 'greatness':
Art means theory. And Cassius is saying 'in theory, on paper, I may be as great as Brutus but I'm not because look how well he bears up on first hearing of his wife's death. I couldn't do so.'
I tell you, I'd rather have a husband who grieved for me openly. It wouldn't be the stoic way; it'd be Cassius' way of grief.
Brutus needs his image of nobility, of being Super Brutus II, of being stoic. Cassius proves his loyalty as a friend once again by helping Brutus with his honor/public image/esteem and being Brutus' audience and chorus.
I think Octavian was 18 years old and yet he already knew the course he would take. We can tell from his interaction with Antony that Octavian has a strong will and we see how Antony wants some of Caesar's money that'd been left to others. There's a feeling here that young Octavian was well chosen by Caesar to be his successor.
Historically, Antony seized most of Caesar's money for his use, I think funding his army in part, and Octavian, the 18 year old, borrowed from friends and family and used his own money too in order to pay the legacies in Caesar's will. Quite a contrast in character between the two.
Brutus -- who historically had a scandal of his own when he extorted money -- is not above getting down and dirty when it comes to money. What a relief it must have been to him then, as ANN mentions, that he can let Cassius do the dirty work while he tries to take the high moral ground. (Yet he, Brutus, demands his share. What delicious irony.) Amazing how in a few lines Shakespeare can draw such finely etched personalities to marry the characters in his play to what was known historically about them.
ANN, I enjoyed your post so much that I can't pinpoint just one item to say 'yes, yes' to but here are some of your points -- Brutus and his evil spirit; Cassius placates; Antony arrogant and calculating, Portia giving the whole thing a miss.
Caesar's Ghost is with us all yet today.
It must be by his death:and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
but for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his Nature, there's the question.
Reading it back, I'm not sure now whether it's the same sort of technique, but I thought of it immediately, so I'll leave it here. He states the end and goes on to explain all the reasons after.
I had a bit of a light bulb moment when you pointed out the part about the poets, and the soldiers disconnecting their spiritual selves.
I love reading things that I would never have thought of myself. Add to this Marvelle's thoughts on Portia, and I have a lot to think about. I talked the Library into extending Julius for the third time, against the Rules, I think they realized no-one was fighting over this Best Seller!
It comes upon me.—Art thou any thing?
Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil,
That mask'st my blood cold and my hair to stare? [love that]
Speak to me what thou art.
Thy evil spirit, Brutus.
Why com'st thou?
To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.
Well, then, I shall see thee again?
Ay, at Philippi.
Why, I will see e thee at Philippi, then.
Now I have taken heart, thou vanishest.
Dolabella broke into the town by night. He captured Trebonius and tortured him for two days with a whip and rack before having him beheaded. Some soldiers kicked his head around like a football." (Cicero)
This important diplomatic success was skillfully given a pictorial rendering by Augustus (Octavian in later years) in order to secure his dynastic aims.
Another thing about Roman deaths, there was a tradition that a dying man should be given all honors by his family and his closest relative should be there to take in the man's last breath. (I'm saying dying 'man' as I'm thinking of Caesar but it applies to all Romans.) It had something to do with reverence and keeping the spirit of the man in his family where he would continue then to live in a way. This would be a good spirit.
Togas were Roman status symbols -- some togas were bordered in purple cloth for the very great -- which indicated their public worth. Romans were buried in their togas so in a sense they took their wealth with them to the grave (like the rich Texas woman some years back who was buride IN her Rolls Royce).
I think covering one's face with a toga when dying has to do with keeping the spirit inside the dying person so it isn't free to roam the countryside after death. Caesar didn't get a chance to cover his face.
Brutus had to have his way even though Cassius said 'it isn't practical to exhaust our soldiers on a march when we have a superior strategic position where we are right now. Let them come to us and exhaust themselves.' Brutus wouldn't listen and Cassius, despite his experience as a soldier and knowing what could happen, agreed to march to Philippi.
The next link has photos showing the city, mountain, and the plain.
Philippi is located in eastern Macedonia; 115 miles northeast of Salonika (Thessaloiki), now close to the Bulgarian border. The city occupies the edge of a plain -- once swampy until drained in the early 1900's -- tucked in a valley of Mount Pangeo (aka Pangaeus I believe), the sacred mountain of Dionysos in antiquity.
"Octavius, lead your battle softly on
The power of words to wound is apparently an old one, how many contrasts can you see in the meeting of the commanders?
And his opinion. Now I change my mind
And partly credit things that do presage.
Two mighty eagles fell...." (V i, 85)
Legions and their standards assemble before Caesar (right)
Scenes ii and iii:
"Mistrust of good success hath down this deed."
But if of fortune's wealth my praise is due...
At the Age of nineteen, on my own initiative, and at my own expense, I raised an army, by means of which I liberated the Republic which was oppressed by the tyranny of a faction [He means Brutus and Cassius, and then Antony and his friends]... (2) Those who assassinated my father [Julius Caesar] I drove into exile, avenging their crime by due process of law. And afterwards, when they waged war against the state, I conquered them twice on the battlefield [Philippi, April 42 B.C.]... I deposited on the Capitol laurel wreaths adorning my fasces, after fulfilling the vows which I had made in each war.But this is the one I thought most interesting -
An (HTML availible PDF) site with the entire document The Accomplishment of Augustus deposited with the Vestal Virgins shortly before his death.
An HTML link (available PDF) that explains the rituals for Imperial Salvation. http://18.104.22.168/search?q=cache:2OXmZG_Vd6gC:www.bol.ucla.edu/~jmoralee/3Chapter2.doc+roman+generals+fulfilling+war+vows&hl=en&ie=UTF-8
Wind cults - in Crete, Greece and Rome - the Athenians...raised an altar to Boreas instead, to give thanks for his help in the wars. Commemorative altars and thank-offerings are the most common reasons for the establishment of a cult to the Winds, even during the Roman period, such as the cult to the mistral founded by Augustus in Gaul. Some may be established in response to a prophecy, or as a bribe to a wind before a journey. The sacrifices made to the Winds also vary with location and wealth:Looks like so far we have our white hat hero in Octavius - but his character is not developed enough to be the protagonist is it. But in the ashes so to speak of Caesar we have Octavius saying that Octavius is Caesar incarnate regardless Caesar's ghost. Octavius vindicates Caesar by disposing of his enemies. This hits on Maryal's pointing out that Octavius is called Caesar at one point in the play.
Free from the bondage you are in, Messala:
The conquerors can but make a fire of him;
For Brutus only overcame himself,
And no man else hath honour by his death.
On the last link, scroll down to the diagram of toga-folding.
Is Brutus saying goodbye to their friendship, whether they win or lose the battle? And does Cassius willingly echo the goodbye to friendship with Brutus?
Titinius is Cassius' best friend. Cassius wrongly thinks T has been captured. Cassius commits suicide over his friend's 'capture', his troops defeat, and the crows and vultures and the compass thing; and T also kills himself when he finds C dead. I don't think Cassius' death would be considered noble by Roman standards because it was done for a personal cause rather than a public one.
Titinius and Messala knew enough about Cassius to know he was mercurial and melancholy by nature. Cassius was ready to believe in bad news rather than good news and for this he killed himself. As Messala said:
The mother, of course, is Cassius whose nature gave birth to despair.
A leather band doesn't sound comfortable at all, HATS, and washing togas sounds drastic too. Altogether I prefer today's more practical and comfortable styles.
I think Cassius and Brutus both used each other. Cassius kept his vows of friendship but Brutus wasn't loyal to personal friendships, which Cassius knew beforehand. Brutus loved Caesar but slew him; he loved Rome more but didn't provide for Rome's future and let it slide into bloody chaos. Ultimately, I think Brutus' best friend was his ideal self -- Super Brutus II the Avenger.
If I understood MARYAL correctly, the Elizabethans knew about the Roman concept of honorable suicide which was done in order to avoid conquest by one's enemy; death at the enemy's hands.
Using that definition as a yardstick, I say Cassius' death wasn't noble. His greatest enemy was his extreme melancholy which he'd been fighting the entire play. He threatened suicide at every tiny glitch in his life. 'Oh, I can't get the folds in my toga right, I'm gonna kill myself!' and 'If I can't kill Caesar today -- here and now -- the stress is unbearable so I'm gonna kill myself!' In effect, Cassius let his greatest enemy -- his melancholia -- conquer him when he committed suicide.
Brutus' inclination, on the other hand, was towards life. He said he didn't approve of suicide. (How Portia's suicide must have irritated him. I don't see grief in Brutus over her death.) Yet Brutus killed himself rather than be conquered by his enemies, the successors to an imperial Rome. According to Roman standards, Brutus' death would be noble. 'The noblest Roman of them all.'
That said, while Cassius' bouncing-off-the-wall temperment would be tiresome to be around; Brutus' cold nature would make me feel zero to the bone. Brutus lived disassociated from humanity and replaced natural feelings with logic and reason. Cassius and Brutus were both half-men with Cassius the heart and Brutus the head. A complete man would be both heart-and-head.
Is Brutus saying goodbye to their friendship, whether they win or lose the battle? And does Cassius willingly echo the goodbye to friendship with Brutus?
Shakespeare makes a point( I don't know whether he means to) that violence doesn't solve anything but it seems to me the world still isn't listening.
but Brutus wasn't loyal to personal friendships, which Cassius knew beforehand. Brutus loved Caesar but slew him; he loved Rome more but didn't provide for Rome's future and let it slide into bloody chaos.
but now, [Cassius] pulling up his mantle over his head, made his neck bare, and held it forth to Pindarus, commanding him to strike. The head was certainly found lying severed from the body. But no man ever saw Pindarius after, from which some suspected that he had killed his master without his command. Soon after they perceived who the horsemen were,