Julius Caesar Essay

I could be well moved if I were as you.
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.
But I am constant as the Northern Star,
Of whose true fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
They are all fire, and every one doth shine;
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place. (III.i.58-65)

The conspirators have come to Caesar in the Senate under the pretense of pleading for amnesty for Metellus’s banished brother, Publius Cimber. Caesar replies that he will adhere to his word and not change his earlier decision.

Caesar is shortly assailed and killed. In announcing his “constancy,” Caesar claims permanency, immortality even. The assassins quickly prove Caesar mortal, however. But as the later events of the play reveal, Caesar’s influence and eternality are undeniable. His ghost seems to live on to avenge the murder: Brutus and Cassius directly attribute much of their misfortune to Caesar’s workings from beyond the grave; so, too, does the name “Caesar” undergo metamorphosis from an individual man’s name to the title of an institution—the empiric rule of Rome—by the end of the play. In these more important ways, Caesar’s lofty estimation of himself proves true.

Who: Julius Caesar
Where: in Act 3, Scene 1
He was my friend, faithful and just to me.
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man.
. . .
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.
. . .
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man.
. . .
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honourable man. (III.ii.82-96)

He has asked Brutus’s permission to make the speech, and Brutus foolishly allows him the privilege, believing that the boost in image that he and the conspirators will receive for this act of apparent magnanimity will outweigh any damage that Antony’s words might do. Unfortunately for the conspirators, Antony’s speech is a rhetorical tour de force, undermining the conspirators even while it appears deferential to them.
This clever strategy recalls the previous scene (III.i), in which Antony shook hands with each of the murderers in turn, thus smearing Caesar’s blood among all of them; while appearing to make a gesture of reconciliation, he silently marked them all as guilty. In both the handshake and the speech, Antony damns the murderers while appearing to pay respect, showing his consummate skill as a politician and rhetorician.

Who: Mark Anthony
Where: Act 3, scene 2
[My horse] is a creature that I teach to fight,
To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
His corporal motion governed by my spirit;
And in some taste is Lepidus but so.
He must be taught, and trained, and bid go forth—
A barren-spirited fellow, one that feeds
On objects, arts, and imitations,
Which, out of use and staled by other men,
Begin his fashion. Do not talk of him
But as a property. (IV.i.31-40)

In this passage from Act IV, scene i, in which Antony and Octavius (with Lepidus, who has just left the room) are making plans to retake Rome, the audience gains insight into Antony’s cynicism regarding human nature: while he respects certain men, he considers Lepidus a mere tool, or “property,” whose value lies in what other men may do with him and not in his individual human dignity. Comparing Lepidus to his horse, Antony says that the general can be trained to fight, turn, stop, or run straight—he is a mere body subject to the will of another.
Caesar are punished in the mortal realm for their inflexible commitment to specific ideals. Though Antony criticizes Lepidus, perhaps Shakespeare is subtly suggesting that a man such as Lepidus, “barren-spirited” and seemingly lacking in ambition, will be as satisfied in the political realm as his more directed counterparts.

Who: Mark Anthony
Where: Act 4, Scene 1
We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures. (IV.ii.269-276)

Brutus speaks these words in Act IV, scene ii in order to convince Cassius that it is time to begin the battle against Octavius and Antony. He speaks figuratively of a “tide” in the lives of human beings: if one takes advantage of the high tide, one may float out to sea and travel far; if one misses this chance, the “voyage” that one’s life comprises will remain forever confined to the shallows, and one will never experience anything more glorious than the mundane events in this narrow little bay. Brutus reproaches Cassius that if they do not “take the current” now, when the time is right, they will lose their “ventures,” or opportunities.
The passage elegantly formulates a complex conception of the interplay between fate and free will in human life. Throughout the play, the reader must frequently contemplate the forces of fate versus free will and ponder whether characters might be able to prevent tragedy if they could only understand and heed the many omens that they encounter. This musing brings up further questions, such as whether one can achieve success through virtue, ambition, courage, and commitment or whether one is simply fated to succeed or fail, with no ability to affect this destiny. Here, Brutus conceives of life as influenced by both fate and free will: human beings must be shrewd enough to recognize when fate offers them an opportunity and bold enough to take advantage of it. Thus, Brutus believes, does man achieve a delicate and valuable balance between fate and free will.

Who: Marcus Brutus
Where: Act 4, Scene 2
The only way is to kill Caesar. I have no personal reason to strike at him—only the best interest of the people. He wants to be crowned. The question is, how would being king change him? Evil can come from good, just as poisonous snakes tend to come out into the open on bright sunny days—which means we have to walk carefully. If we crown him, I have to admit we’d be giving him the power to do damage.Rulers abuse their power when they separate it from compassion. To be honest, I’ve never known Caesar to let his emotions get the better of his reason. But everyone knows that an ambitious young man uses humility to advance himself, but when he reaches the top, he turns his back on his supporters and reaches for the skies while scorning those who helped him get where he is. Caesar might act like that. Therefore, in case he does, we must hold him back. And since our quarrel is with his future behavior, not what he does now, I must frame the argument like this: if his position is furthered, his character will fulfill these predictions. And therefore we should liken him to a serpent’s egg—once it has hatched, it becomes dangerous, like all serpents. Thus we must kill him while he’s still in the shell. (II.i 10-35)

Explains directly to kill Julius Caesar

Who: Marcus Brutus
Where: Act 2, scene 1
Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply (III.ii)

Notice that Brutus speaks with studied plainness of manner, disdaining oratorical tricks and presenting his case with fewest possible words. He believes that his cause is plainly right and needs no defence. He tries to seem to have brought no passion to his deed as assassin.

Who: Marcus Brutus
Where: Act 3, Scene 2
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Antony, on the contrary, uses all the tricks of a mob leader. He is overwhelmed with grief and apologizes for his emotion, which, however, he displays before the people with clever effect. He evidently understands his audience better than does Brutus.
Who: Mark Anthony
Where: Act 3, scene 2
Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.
Who: Marcus Brutus
Where: Act 3, scene 2
Farewell to you; and you; and you, Volumnius.
Strato, thou hast been all this while asleep;
Farewell to thee too, Strato. Countrymen,
My heart doth joy that yet in all my life
I found no man but he was true to me.
I shall have glory by this losing day
More than Octavius and Mark Antony
By this vile conquest shall attain unto.
So fare you well at once; for Brutus’ tongue
Hath almost ended his life’s history:
Night hangs upon mine eyes; my bones would rest,
That have but labour’d to attain this hour.(V.v)

Farewell to you, and you, and you, Volumnius. Strato, you’ve slept this whole time. Farewell to you too, Strato. Countrymen, my heart rejoices that in all my life I knew no men who were untrue to me. I’ll have glory in this losing day—more than Octavius and Mark Antony will gain by their foul conquest. So farewell, all, for my tongue has almost finished with its life. I can’t see ahead of me. My bones want to rest after helping me up to this hour.

Who: Marcus Brutus
Where: Act 5, scene 5
This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
He only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man.” (V.v)

This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the rest of the conspirators acted out of jealousy of great Caesar. Only he acted from honesty and for the general good. His life was gentle, and the elements mixed so well in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man.”

Who: Mark Anthony
Where: Act 5, Scene 5