Categories: Literary

An Analysis on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act I Scene II

PART II

It must be moving to watch at the stage the entrance of Caesar with his retinue, especially upon the scene where Cassius has been cursing him. There are Brutus and Cassius isolated from other people, and involved in a secret talked. And there appears Caesar with a crowd. However, the effect produced is contrary to the expected, such as magnificent Caesar walking nobly with his people hailing him on the one hand, and secretive and sheepish Cassius and Brutus on the other hand. That is because something went wrong. Something happened that

overshadowed both Caesar’s and the ceremony’s magnificence. As Antony was offering Caesar the crown (for the third time) he swooned and fell down. That was terrible, of course, that a man who is hailed for his power in Rome and in the world should fall down because of his weakness just as the greatest power was being offered to him.

So far in the play we have seen Cassius’ attitude toward two people. One is Brutus, whom he appears to respect, and to whom he talks with utter respect, although his talking of Caesar in the way we have seen him talk might be considered disrespectful behavior toward Brutus as Brutus loves Caesar. The other is Caesar, of whom he talks insultingly as we have seen; but he talks of Caesar, not to Caesar. He has neither the courage nor the honesty or honor to talk to Caesar as he talked of Caesar. Now we see his attitude toward Casca. Casca is obviously an insignificant character. Cassius in no way refrains from emphasizing his insignificance although Casca was also born free as Caesar, and can endure the winter’s cold as well as he. For him, Casca is a man whom he can pluck … by the sleeve, and who has a sour fashion of telling what happened. So, there are three points to be made about Cassius regarding his attitude toward people:

1- He doesn’t care about people who rank lower than himself (Casca);

2- He appears to respect his equals (Brutus) but that respect must be out of necessity;

3- He will be never at heart’s ease while someone ranks higher than himself (Caesar), as Caesar puts it.

Caesar’s predictions about Cassius prove right, as we know. But they also prove another thing: it is Caesar’s being a true leader who has an insight into human nature and can understand people better than anybody else. Even Antony, who will soon prove to be a good politician, can’t see as much. When Caesar discloses to him his views about Cassius, that Such men are dangerous, Antony says He is not dangerous. He is a noble Roman and well given.fat, sleek-headed (healthy-looking) men and such as sleep a-nights. In other words, he wants men who are content with their life and their position, who feel comfortable and safe under their leader’s rule, and who trust their leader. Cassius, quite contrary to this description, is not fat, not healthy-looking, and he thinks more than he sleeps. This is not because he is poor. He is a nobleman in the same circles as senators. Therefore, he must have other concerns, as Caesar rightly guesses. Another thing that Caesar says about Cassius, that He is a great observer, and he looks quite through the deeds of men is also right. We have already seen how well Cassius knew how to approach Brutus and how he managed to manipulate him appealing to his sense of honor. Their short conversation about Cassius is the conversation of an experienced wise man and a young inexperienced naïve man. Men that Caesar wants about himself are

There is a nice irony in the same paragraph where Caesar is talking about Cassius. Caesar is not happy about Antony’s assurance that he doesn’t need to be afraid of Cassius. He says he doesn’t fear anything; he is not liable to fear ….for I am Caesar. His weakness is his power. It is his true Achilles’ heel. He can’t stand even a smallest stain, not even the shadow of a stain, upon his fame and power. This is why he looked angry when returning from the ceremony where he had fallen down because of his sickness and thus had made an involuntary show of weakness before all eyes looking intently and admiringly at him. At the height of his power he appeared to be the weakest of men. In fact, he is quite right in his concern for preserving his image as a powerful man who knows no fear, because it is his power as a politician, general, and leader that people admire. It is the magnificence and glory that he brought on Rome that people love. This is why they choose to see him as their king, not simply the head of the senate. A king is a symbol of power but not a senator. It is his power that makes people love him and his enemies hate him. In short, it is his power that has made him Caesar. So, his power is his greatest treasure. He has a natural and almost instinctive tendency to protect it. He doesn’t want even Antony, who is in every way a loyal comrade to him, to sense a feeling of fear in him. However, he can’t help repeating the word ‘fear’ four times in the same short paragraph and repeating twice that he doesn’t fear anything. What is ironic is that after thus emphasizing his fearlessness, greatness and his power, he tells Antony to come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf. There is also another point in this sentence. Antony must already know that his left ear is deaf. We can’t expect him not to have learnt of it. So, it has a dramatic aspect. Antony knows about his deafness but the audience may not. Shakespeare is teaching us this point.

As for Caesar’s refusal of the crown, it is a show, of course. By refusing the power thus encouragingly offered to him three times consecutively, Caesar is showing people that he has no lust for power. He will seem to accept it because it was offered him insistently, and because it is what people wanted. He is also showing people that he is powerful enough to resist the temptation of power. However, the show ends unexpectedly.

The closing lines of the scene are left to Cassius, who is left alone on the stage after Casca and Brutus exit. Here he is talking to himself and therefore talking without pretension. Shakespeare is making him reveal to the audience his true character. Perhaps some audience have had a dilemma about who is right, as there are reasons which could make Cassius to appear on the right. With this speech, however, that dilemma is resolved. Addressing Brutus in his imagination, Cassius says I see thy honorable mettle may be wrought from that it is disposed (your can be led astray). This is a celebration and acknowledgement of his success. Although not completely persuaded yet, Brutus has shows signs, which are easy for Cassius to detect, that he could be persuaded to take part in Cassius’ plans against Caesar. He is not so firm that cannot be seduced. Cassius has learnt it in this scene and it is enough for him for the moment. He is glad to deduce that it is meet that noble minds keep ever with their likes. This is strange because even evil men appear to have their own reasons and justifications for what they do, and from time to time they defend their actions with these reasons, at least against themselves. But with this sentence Cassius confesses that his plans and intentions are the products of his evil mind. As said above, this dramatization seems to have been made in order to clear away any doubts from the audience’s mind about who is evil. He even admits that if Caesar had loved him as he loved Brutus, he wouldn’t let any one thus influence him.

Cassius’ plans for Brutus for the night are meant to touch his sense of honor again, as he correctly divined that honor is his weak point.

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