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What do we learn about the characters of Cassius and Brutus and how they change through the course of the play

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Introduction

What do we learn about the characters of Cassius and Brutus and how they change through the course of the play? Focus on act 1.2 and act 4.2-4.3. The play Julius Caesar, which is set around 44 BC, is one of the tragedies written by William Shakespeare. Set in Rome, it tells the story of a conspiracy against Caesar, led by the two main characters in the play, Cassius and Brutus in which they stab Caesar halfway through the action. Since such a play would have been performed to an Elizabethan audience, it would have had great significance as Caesar and Elizabeth were alike in many ways , as they are both weak yet bear great power and are childless. We must also remember the important themes of friendship, loyalty, and honour and respect which are the driving forces of many of the plays workings. Also to be noted is Shakespeare's use of language which Shakespeare uses to portray these themes and the changing characters of Cassius and Brutus which will be the subject of this essay. In the beginning of scene 2, Shakespeare establishes Cassius as a close friend of Caesar since it is he who helps Caesar locate the soothsayer when he cries, "Fellow, come from the throng". Since it is Cassius and not any of the other men who helps Caesar in this way, we learn that Cassius is close in terms of position with Caesar and that Shakespeare wishes to draw our attention to him. But Cassius's close position to Caesar does nothing to improve Cassius's relationship with Caesar, in fact, it encourages jealousy and hate since Cassius thinks that "We [Cassius and Brutus] have both fed as well..." and bitterly says that he must "bend his body,/ if Caesar carelessly but nod on him". Imagine the bitterness as he utters these words, the jealousy and hatred which demonstrates his extreme malice towards his ambitious peer which shows why he later decides to murder Caesar. ...read more.

Middle

Just at the beginning of the scene when everyone goes to watch the races, Brutus does not, yet he says, "Let me not hinder, Cassius" rather than request company. Such words show Brutus to be thoughtful for others and that he is a kind man. We also learnt that Brutus is undecided, having mixed emotions about Caesar. We learn this when he says himself that "poor Brutus is with himself at war". It is confirmed his conflicting emotions are about Caesar when he says, in response to Cassius's question about fearing the coronation of Caesar, "I would not Cassius, yet I love him well." This undecided state means that he is prone to Cassius manipulative powers, which is later proved when Brutus takes part in the conspiracy. Brutus is also seen to be cautious, especially when he says, "Into what dangers would you lead me." This shows he is cautious because though he knows what Cassius is talking about he still asks Cassius to do the talking rather than himself, since words spoken can be turned against people later on. Therefore, maybe as a result of his caution in this scene, he remains passive, and maybe thoughtful, allowing Cassius to sway him. Even at the end of the scene, he remains passive, only saying they should keep in contact to further discuss matters. Later on, Brutus joins the conspiracy and in a meeting in his house where he is joined by the rest of the conspirators, he begins to show changes in his character. There he starts to override Cassius who calls for an oath to be made by all conspirators, confirming their part in the plan but Brutus openly objects and also starts his series of bad mistakes leading to the failure to the conspiracy by imposing his opinion that Antony should not be killed. After the stabbing of Caesar, Brutus's effectiveness with the crowds of Rome is justified when he makes the crowds think it was right that Caesar was to be ...read more.

Conclusion

It is also pointed out by Cassius that it would be better to stay and since the conspirators lose in the end, it is suggested by Shakespeare that it was wrong for Brutus to disagree, and that Cassius's ability as a practical general is proven. Many changes have been made to the characters of Brutus and Cassius throughout the play, most notably their reversal in roles. While in the beginning, Cassius dominated Brutus in their relationship, with well thought out dialogue, at the end, he is reduced to a grievous state, deep in depression. In this transformation, Shakespeare shows friendship as a driving force, where Cassius sinks to this state, out of lack of compassion from Brutus. Where we had once seen quick wit, cunning, eloquence and traces of deviousness from this man, it seems that it has been washed away from him after the murder of Caesar, to be replaced by the lack of tact, especially in his argument from Brutus, whose lack of respect reduces him to a wailing wreck. Shakespeare shows how the lack of compassion, respect, and friendship destroys this man, having no-one to share his griefs about his world. But Brutus takes a less negative transformation as he develops in the play, changing from passive to being active, as he pushes Cassius under him and starts to take control of the conspiracy, leading it to its downfall, due to his inexperience and need for honour. It is quickly discovered that Brutus' need for honour will always be present, and it is this which draws him into the conspiracy and leads it to its downfall. Shakespeare explores how Brutus goes to crazy lengths to satisfy this honour lust as he abandons his loyalty to Caesar, all for honour, which can be seen as the driving force of the play and though we still respect him, he is no-longer the humble man he was towards the end of the play. But Brutus will always be remembered for his honour. Even his greatest rival said, "This was a man". ...read more.

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