8 Matching Annotations
  1. Jun 2017
    1. 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.

    1. We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar; And in the spirit of men there is no blood: O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit, And not dismember Caesar! But, alas, Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends, Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully; Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods, Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds;

      In this scene, Brutus is introduced to his fellow conspirators for the first time. Cassius suggests in this scene for the conspirators to all swear oath to kill Caesar, but Brutus rejects it, convinced that their murder of Caesar was honourable and just, and that an oath would lessen their standing and decorum. In truth, Brutus was the only conspirator who acted for the greater good of the Roman Republic, yet in his naivety, believed that all the conspirators did so to “stand up against the spirit of Caesar”.

      Brutus maintained that since they were doing the right thing, that meant that “there was no blood” on the conspirators’ hands. This raises a question that Shakespeare clearly intended for the audience to consider; One that was relevant during the Roman times, one that was relevant during the Elizabethan era, and one that is still relevant today:

      Is it ever okay to pre-emptively murder someone?

      This question has had many forms and variations throughout the eras, with the most well known being: Would you go back in time to kill Hitler?

      Would it ever be appropriate to murder someone? In this case, Caesar had the potential to be dictator, but was that enough for the conspirators to murder him? Under what circumstances would pre-emptive murder be okay, if ever?

    1. ANTONY. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones: So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault; And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,— For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honorable men,— Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome, Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal 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. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once,—not without cause: What cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him?— O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason!—Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me.

      In this scene, Shakespeare balances the perspectives of two major characters, Brutus and Antony, and through them, the general population’s divided opinions on the assassination. In Brutus’ eulogy of Julius Caesar, his tone and manner of speech highlights his respect of Caesar, yet he laments for Caesar’s ‘ambition’, which was Brutus’ justification for conspiring against Caesar. Brutus also naively allows Antony to give a eulogy of Caesar, on the clause that he would not accuse the conspirators of any wrongdoings, in assumption that it would further the conspirators’ standing and claims. Antony does give a speech that is deferential and full of praise, yet his use of repetition, mockery, use of pathos, and sarcasm degrades the standing of Brutus and his fellow conspirators, expelling the crowd’s previous positive sentiment of the conspirators into, whipping them into an emotional frenzy against the conspirators.

      Mark Antony repeatedly asks rhetorical questions to the audience that contradict with Brutus’ claims of Caesar’s ever-dominating ‘ambition’ and ‘greed’, and deliberately ends each question by re-affirming that “Brutus is an honourable man”. His repeated use of rhetorical questions before stressing Brutus’ honour, who’s speech contradicted with Antony’s claims, forges a derisive and sarcastic tone to his praise of Brutus, undercutting and undermining Brutus’ standing with the plebeians, resulting in him fleeing from the city even before Antony finished his oration. This scene establishes Antony as a scheming and well-versed orator, who is bent on avenging Caesar as a front for advancing his own position in Roman society.

    1. O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet! Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords In our own proper entrails.

      In the play, Julius Caesar dies early on in a very mundane manner, with not much being revealed about his character to the audience, lest that he was extremely overconfident in his position and status, and believed his eternal status and power in public life could protect him against any dangers to his mortal life. Ironically, Caesar is killed only moments after he gives a speech about his mightiness and how he was the world’s only ‘constant man’.

      Though Caesar’s faith in his infallible power and status was incorrect, he was ultimately correct in his belief that his public position would remain eternal and everlasting. His spirit and others’ memory of him is used by Antony to rile up the crowd in Act3 Scene1, and his ghost appears to Brutus damning the conspirators for their actions. Brutus ultimately acknowledges his failure in separating Caesar from his clout and influence in Roman society in Act5 Scene3, when he states “Caesar, thou art mighty yet”. In fact, Caesar’s aura is seemingly elevated and boosted by his mortal body’s death. When Octavius later assumes absolute dictatorial power (After removing the other two members of the 2nd Triumvirate), he takes the title of ‘Caesar’, establishing Caesar into Roman society perpetually.

      Shakespeare uses Caesar to show how the most important aspect of a person is not their mortal self, but rather the memory of oneself, with how history and others remember a person the only lasting remnant of one’s character.

    1. Act I, Scene II

      Shakespeare has employed the upper classes’ fear of Caesar (Namely Flavius and Murellus) and Caesar’s overwhelming support with the plebeians to build up Caesar into a deity; An indestructible and perpetual force. However, in the second scene of the play, this image of Caesar is completely reversed, with all of Caesar’s imperfections placed starkly in the spotlight.

      When Cassius attempts to convince Brutus of the danger that Julius Caesar poses, he juxtaposes the public image of Caesar with the reality. The truth that Cassius tells is of a Caesar that nearly drowned, and cried to Cassius “Help me, Cassius, or I sink!” Though Cassius may be exaggerating or spinning tales in an attempt to convince Brutus to their cause, this scene still sharply contrasts with the figure of Caesar built up so far in the play.

      While Caesar is talking to Antony, he commands him to “Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf”, indicating that Caesar is deaf in his left ear. Shakespeare goes to extreme lengths to let the audience know of Caesar’s many physical and mental flaws in an attempt to show how even the seemingly most perfect people have their imperfections, and that in the end, everyone is as much of a human as one another, and that no human can ever become a god.

    1. CINNA. I am not Cinna the conspirator. FOURTH CITIZEN. It is no matter, his name’s Cinna; pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.

      In this act, mistaken identity is used to break tension. Apart from the obvious comedic relief this scene adds to the ever mounting tension and drama in the play, this scene also indicates the disintegration of society and the lack of social restraints of the general public after Caesar’s death.

      In this scene, the plebeians initially surround Cinna the poet after confusing him with Cinna the conspirator. Even when Cinna repeatedly tells them “I am not Cinna the conspirator”, the citizens, in their bloodthirsty rampage, still decide to kill him, stating that “It is no matter, his name’s Cinna”. This degradation of social standards and the crumbling of the social foundations of Ancient Rome bolster the image of the plebeians as ‘sheep’ to be swayed and controlled by the ruling classes, and solidifies their position in the play.

      It is also no coincidence that Shakespeare made Cinna a poet. In the citizens’ interrogation of Cinna, Cinna not only speaks for himself, but as a poet and as a projection of those in scholarly fields and free speech as a whole. With this, Shakespeare compels the audience to question whom poets and those who provide information to the public are accountable to, and whether free speech is more important than a stable and safe society.

    1. Act II, Scene III

      The play Julius Caesar had its inspirations in the real life assassination of Julius Caesar and events that followed after. William Shakespeare drew its characters from real people who lived in that time era. However, Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC, while Artemidorus lived around 200AD. Artemidorus is an anachronism, which is something that belongs to a different time period.

      In this scene, Artemidorus attempts to change the inevitable; The assassination of Caesar. Shakespeare’s use of anachronism indicates that there is no place for one to change the events that will follow, and that the assassination of Caesar is inescapable.

      Shakespeare uses this to carry the idea that with great power, others’ jealousy will come inevitably. In fact, in this scene, Artemidorus laments that “My heart laments that virtue cannot live out of the teeth of emulation.” This reaffirms the core idea in this scene: That people will always be envious and plot against those better than them, even virtuous men such as Caesar.

    2. “Caesar, beware of Brutus; take heed of Cassius; come not near Casca; have an eye to Cinna; trust not Trebonius; mark well Metellus Cimber; Decius Brutus loves thee not; thou hast wrong’d Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar. If thou be’st not immortal, look about you: security gives way to conspiracy. The mighty gods defend thee! Thy lover, Artemidorus.”

      Shakespeare employs this very short scene to build up tension in the play for the assassination of Caesar. The scene focuses on a letter written by Artemidorus, who is one of Caesar’s true supporters. This letter warns of an assassination that is being plotted against Caesar, and lists all of the conspirators involved.

      There is a sense of irony in the manner in which the letter in written. Artemidorus writes with an incessant urgency in his letter, stating to “Beware of Brutus, take heed of Cassius, Come not near Casca, …” and on and on. Its irony lies in the fact that Artemidorus, a man capable of great prose, is reduced to simple words in his desperation and fear of Caesar’s life.

      This letter, and how Artemidorus views Caesar, give an indication to us of the greatness of Caesar. In the letter, he states that “There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar”. This claim contradicts with the impressions the audience would have had of Brutus, with his supposed struggles in going ahead with the assassination.

      As Constantin Stanislavski said, “There are no small parts, only small actors”. This is especially true with Artemidorus. Although he does not appear otherwise in the play, this short scene and his letter demonstrates the greatness of Caesar, and the love and admiration that many have of him. It also acts to clarify the friends and foes of Caesar, as well as discrediting their supposed struggles in going ahead with the assassination.