Ceasar

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English II March 28,2001 An Analysis of Julius Caesar In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare was able to use the public figure of Julius Caesar in order to weave a web of deceit. By using one of his favorite writing styles, Shakespeare foreshadows many of the events. The characters never directly say what they are meaning. The following information is an analysis, by act, of some of the major conflicts, prophecies, and the eventual doom of Julius Caesar.

Act I The play, Julius Caesar, opens with the tribunes (political speakers) of the people criticizing the plebeians (commoners) for being fickle because they have forgotten Pompey and all his war victories. These plebeians are quick to change their allegiance from Pompey to Caesar. In fact, they consider Caesar a "god". The tribunes refer to the people as "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!" (1.1.35). This indicates that the people are easily swayed by whoever is speaking to them.

Again this is later when Antony turns the angry crowd into a mob against Brutus and Cassius.

In the play, Caesar greatly desires an heir. He speaks to Antonio to touch Calpurnia during the race on the Feast of Lupercal to "Shake of their sterile curse" (1.2.9). Brutus overhears Caesar's comment and believes that Caesar wants an heir to create a dynasty. This becomes one more reason for Brutus to destroy Caesar.

Misinterpretation happens throughout the play. For example, Cicero defines this when speaking with Cassius, "Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time; But men may construe things after their fashion, Clean from the purpose of the things themselves" (1.3.32-35). This means that man will interpret according to his nature instead of seeing the true meaning. Omens appear early. Caesar dismisses the soothsayer and the information from Calpurnia's dream. Everyone disregards the signs of the weather and nature. These signs are the civil unrest in the heavens, the owl hooting during the day and the lion walking through the marketplace.

Shakespeare creates the mirror as a prominent image. Cassius asks Brutus, "Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?" (1.2.51). Cassius continues, "That you have no such mirrors as will turn Your hidden worthiness into your eye That you might see your shadow" (1.2.58-60) "So well as by reflection, I, your glass"(1.2.68). Basically, Cassius is telling Brutus that Brutus will speak of his true feelings and nature. This is where we see Cassius' own agenda. He is a false mirror for Brutus, a mirror that only reflects what he wants Brutus to see. There must be a distinction made between the two versions of Caesar, the man and the god. The two versions of the same man is missed by the conspirators. There is the weak Caesar whom Cassius must save from drowning and who has epileptic fits, but there is also the aura of Caesar, the man who can say, "… always I am Caesar." (1.2.213). The "god" Caesar is implied in the language used by Caesar. His every word is a command. He uses speech acts to define his actions. Antony makes this very clear when he states, "When Caesar says 'Do this', it is performed" (1.2.10).

Act II This play is mostly focused on the actions of Brutus, who dominates the entire plot. The internal conflict of his struggle between his friendship for Caesar and his loyalty to the Roman Republic is something Brutus must deal with. Brutus is the only conspirator who seems to have a conscience because he cannot sleep. This is indicative of an internal struggle. It is this internal struggle within Brutus that will lead to an external civil war in the end. Brutus says that, "Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar I have not slept" (2.1.61). Additionally, Brutus says, "Like to a little kingdom, suffers then The nature of an insurrection" (2.1.68-69). This foreshadows exactly what is going to happen, the insurrection over the death of Caesar. Brutus also faces sleeplessness when Caesar's ghost appears to him later in the play.

The women play a very small role throughout Julius Caesar. Calpurnia and Portia are the only two women with any voice, and they are confined to their homes. Portia is the first of the women to appear, and she tries to convince Brutus to confide in her. She first kneels to Brutus and then stands up and states, "Think you I am no stronger than my sex, Being so fathered and so husbanded?" (2.1.296-297). She then stabs herself in her thigh to prove that she is as strong as any man. Brutus relents and agrees to tell her what has been troubling him.

Portia's victory with Brutus contrasts with the failure of Calpurnia. Calpurnia even mimics Portia's kneeling but she is unable to convince Caesar to stay at home that day of his death. The differences between what the two wives hope to achieve indicates their limited power. Portia must go to extreme lengths to make Brutus confide in her, and it is abundantly clear that she has no influence over his actions.

Calpurnia, therefore, has no hope of actually prevailing over Caesar, because her goal is to force him to do something against his will. One of the greatest irony is Calpurnia's dream of a statue bleeding from a hundred holes with which smiling Romans bath their hands. Decius first mocks the dream, saying, "Break up the Senate till another time, When Caesar's wife shall meet with better dreams" (2.2.98-99). He then deliberately misinterprets the dream by saying, "Your statue spouting blood in many pipes, In which so many smiling Romans bath'd, Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck reviving blood" (2.2.85-88). The dream will of course be true but ironically Decius' interpretation foreshadows the bloody civil wars to follow.

Brutus is a vain man. This vanity allows Cassius the opportunity to compare Brutus to Caesar. First Cassius compares their names, and then tells Brutus that he has the best qualities of Caesar without the flaws. Next, Cassius writes letters to Brutus. These letters are delivered by Cinna and placed where Brutus will easily find them. It is flaw of Brutus, upon receipt of the first letter, to responds to it according to his personal beliefs. The letter is misinterpreted to mean what Brutus wants it to mean. Brutus believes the letter is about him, and has nothing to do with the actual content of the letter. He is so focused on his inner conflict that when he reads the letter, he sees exactly what he wants to see. Thus he fills in the "et cetera" with "Shall Rome stand under one man's awe?" He further misinterprets the letter by applying it to Rome, as if this were an actual call from the people rather than the belief of Cassius'. The letter is the reason that Brutus needs to convince him to join the conspirators. Brutus needs the support of the Roman citizens and is hesitant to go against Caesar. This letter gives him the excuse he needs and has been secretly wishing for.

Brutus' greatest error in judgment was trying to justify the murder into two categories. He wanted to uphold the republic but at the same time broke the rules of the republic. Brutus tries to justify the murder of Caesar by not treating it as a murder but as an action for the betterment of Rome. No one can deny this awful act as anything but murder.

Act III Caesar is portrayed as constant and great. "But I am constant as the northern star" (3.1.60), "Hence! Wilt thou lift up Olympus?" (3.1.74). Cassius even compares Caesar to greatness by saying, "Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus, and we petty men Walk under his huge legs, and peep about" (1.2.135-137). Therefore, when Caesar falls, the world falls apart. There in no one able to replace Caesar's power immediately after his death, and so anarchy reigns until Octavius id able to seize power in the distant future.

Caesar's greatest flaw is his refusal to acknowledge that he's mortal. He usually refers to himself in the third person, and thus fails to realize that he is also a man in need of protection. Artemidorus tries to hand him a note warning him about the dangers of the conspirators, but Caesar refuses because Artemidorus informs him that the note is personal. "What touches us ourself shall be last serv'd" (3.1.7).

Immediately following Caesar's death the murderers cry out, "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!" (3.1.78) They have committed an outrageous act and now cry out liberty. They then dip their hands in the blood of Caesar.

Mark Antony does not make the mistake of believing the conspirators to be justified in crying "peace", He is the first person to condemn the murderers for their actions. At first he appears to be joining them by saying, "Let each man render me his bloody hand" (3.1.184). He is actually marking them. He shakes hands with each of the conspirators, naming them as he shakes their hand. The last hand he takes is that of Trebonius, who actually did not commit the murder. Instead, he distracted Mark Antony during the murder. Nonetheless, Trebonius deserves to be marked. Antony's hands, now bloody from touching the other mens' hands, serve to put the blood of Caesar on Trebonius as well.

At this point, Antony becomes a symbol of anarchy. He blames the conspirators and marks them. He shows his desire for chaos when he is left alone with Caesar, saying, "O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!" (3.1.254-255). His final words indicate his goals, stating, "Domestic fury and fierce civil strife Shall cumber all the parts of Italy" (3.1.263-264).

The eventual loss of power by Brutus is due to many factors. Brutus' first mistake was allowing Antony to live. However, his greatest mistake was letting Antony speak to the crowds alone at which time Antony turned the crowd against the conspirators.

Antony worked the crowd. He said, "You are not wood, you are not stones, but men" (3.2.140). This contrasts with Murellus in the beginning. Antony is able to influence the crowd because he poetically repeats himself. Repetition makes what is said simple. This method "outwits" Brutus' logic. Though the rhetoric is not sufficient to win the crowd, Antony must use the name of Caesar. Even after his death, Caesar is the only one who is able to speak directly to the people. Antony shows this when he says, "put a tongue In every wound of Caesar, that should move The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny" (3.2.224-226). Through this brilliant speech, Antony sways the crowd.

Act IV After Antony's speech, he forms a triumvirate with Octavius and Lepidus. They have none of the passion or idealism of Brutus and his conspirators. They are willing to condemn their enemies and even their families to death. "These many then shall die, their names are prick'd." (4.1.1). Also, the fact that Antony wants to remove Lepidus quickly indicates that Octavius will be able to remove Antony soon.

Brutus continues to be an example of strength on the battlefield. Even when asked about Portia's death, he is calm. He cannot show his weaknesses to his troops. Honor means everything to Brutus.

Again, Brutus is unable to sleep. He attempts to read a book but is interrupted by the ghost of Caesar. The ghost tells Brutus that he will see him again in Philippi, at his death.

Act V Octavius emerges as a new leader. He begins to contradict Antony. At one time Antony orders Octavius to , "lead your battle softly on Upon the left hand of the even field" (5.1.16-17). Octavius marches on the right and contradicts Antony. This annoys Antony and he says "Why do you cross me in this exigent?" (5.1.19). Octavius responds, "I do not cross you, but I will do so" (5.1.20). This line indicates that Octavius will eventually cross Antony. In the end, Octavius will be completely in charge. He is, unlike Caesar, a ruthless, politician without morals or emotional conflicts.

The power shifts when Antony responds to Octavius saying, "No Caesar, we will answer on their charge" (5.1.24). This is the first time Octavius is called Caesar and remains Caesar throughout the play.

Through the deaths of Cassius and Brutus, proves that Caesar is as strong as ever. Cassius' last words are, "Caesar, thou art reveng'd, Even with the sword that killed thee" (5.3.44-45). Brutus also speaks to the image of Caesar upon his death and the death of Cassius and says, "Oh Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!" (5.3.94). Titinius, upon seeing the body of Cassius, says, "Alas, thou hast misconstrued everything" (5.3.84). This implies that Cassius was wrong about Caesar and misconstrued the facts to convince Brutus to join the conspirators.

Brutus' inability to overcome his internal struggle allows Antony to say, "This was the noblest Roman of them all" (5.5.69). This implies that Brutus really believed the killed Caesar for the republic. Brutus is the only conspirator to maintain his humanity and dignity throughout the play. Antony continues his epilogue for Brutus, saying, "His life was gentle, and the elements So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world 'This was a man'" (5.5.73-75).

Brutus' tragic ending results in the ascension of Octavius. This ending combines the sad defeat of the "noblest Roman" with the emergence of a new Caesar. This leads to the final line of the play as recited by Octavius, "So call the field to rest, and let's away, To part the glories of this happy day" (5.5.80-81). Happy is not a way to describe this tragedy. But for Octavius it is a happy ending resulting in a throne and an empire.

Shakespeare, through his use of symbolism, created a tragedy. This tragedy is believed by many to foreshadow the fall of the monarchy, even in England.