- Dec 2019
Cæsar would have spared his country
Shelley refers to Julius Caesar's empire-building through his military campaigns. According to Enlightenment historians, his conquests provoked a political crisis in Rome, and Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE marked the end of a more peaceful Roman Republic and the beginning of its Empire. Romantic liberals like the Shelleys, Leigh Hunt, and Lord Byron idealized the republic as a political form and set it against militaristic empire building. However, Mary Shelley is original in associating "domestic affections" with the idea of a republic based on reason.
- Jun 2017
These growing feathers pluck’d from Caesar’s wing Will make him fly an ordinary pitch, Who else would soar above the view of men, And keep us all in servile fearfulness.
Shakespeare utilises this extended metaphor to highlight the apprehensive sentiment that many higher class Romans had towards the newfound power Caesar had gained, and the upper class' incredulity of Caesar’s overwhelming support with the plebeians. In context, this scene is a dialogue between two Tribunes, Flavius and Murellus, with them fearing the ever-increasing power and arrogance of Caesar, and their concern that the blind worship of him would elevate Caesar to an untouchable god-status.
They discuss about plucking the feathers from Caesar’s wing to make him fly an ordinary pitch, which is to tow Caesar back from the lofty status of power he has assumed. In this scene, they disrobe the lavish ornaments placed on the monuments of Caesar in an attempt to bring Caesar down to the level of an ordinary man, and in a bid to remove the perception of a deity the plebeians had towards Caesar. The uneasiness they had was that if they did not bring Caesar down, he would ‘soar above the view of men’, and would rule over the people by keeping them in a subservient status.
It is debatable whether or not the Tribunes and Senators who were against Caesar did so in fear of him gaining too much power, or if they were against him to further their own ambitions and desires. However, this scene helps foreshadow the further conflicts that will occur, and helps define the higher classes and their viewpoints. In fact, in Act1 Scene2, it is stated that Murellus and Flavius were put to silence for defacing Caesar’s images, which helps solidify the concerns of many Romans as to whether or not Caesar’s rule would be dictatorial.
Go you down that way towards the Capitol; This way will I. Disrobe the images, If you do find them deck’d with ceremonies.
Although he is not tangibly introduced until the next scene, the audience is already presented with a fairly clear characterisation of Julius Caesar. However, Caesar's exact nature is determined through two juxtaposing attitudes towards the Empire.
The Roman common-folk praise the defeat of Pompey, in fact making a "holiday to see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph." On the contrary, the noble classes express a more pessimistic attitude; Flavius cautions that the new leader will "soar above the view of men, and keep us all in servile fearfulness."
The tribunes believe that Caesar's power is too great for one man, and that his rise as Emperor will lead to the downfall of Rome. It is also a valid argument to say that they envy Caesar's might, especially since Flavius and Murellus are to lose an element of their own authority.
After commanding the people to weep for the coming events, Flavius and Murellus leave to "disrobe the images" of Caesar. This metaphor refers to removing the decorations off Caesar's statues, a crime which they are later punished for. The desperation of such an act is an indication of how strongly Caesar is feared and detested by the noblemen.
This scene leaves the audience with a preconceived image of Caesar as ambitious, influential and excessively powerful. The loathing of Flavius and Murellus towards the new Emperor foreshadow the upcoming conspiracy and the ultimate demise of Caesar.