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What do we learn about the characters of Cassius and Brutus in these scenes, and how does their behaviour change from one scene to the next?

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Introduction

Julius Caesar Question: What do we learn about the characters of Cassius and Brutus in these scenes, and how does their behaviour change from one scene to the next? Julius Caesar is the story of a political murder and a posthumous revenge. In the opening scenes of the play Rome is portrayed as being in a state of turmoil. Julius Caesar defeated the former Roman general Pompey, who used to be one of his closest friends. Pompey was also the person who gave Caesar a position of power by making him governor of Gaul. All the turmoil and problems arose as Julius Caesar was going to be crowned king of the Roman Empire. Two powerful senators Brutus and Cassius cause unrest because they are strongly opposed to the notion of Julius Caesar becoming king. In this play we are going to see the reasons why they wanted to kill Caesar and their changing relationship during the course of the play. On the one hand there is a very devious, manipulating and vengeful senator in Cassius, who will "be never at hearts ease whiles they behold a greater than themselves." Cassius is motivated by a personal achievement rather than the good of Rome. That is why Cassius loathes Caesar and is very discontented by the fact that Caesar has all the power. The other main senator who is involved in Caesar's assassination is Brutus who has another agenda for killing Caesar, which is that "it is for the general good." So we can see instantly that Brutus's reason for killing Caesar are more virtuous and honourable. This sense of Brutus's honour is very important because it is one of the main themes in the play and it is driven from family honour because it was his grandfather that drove away Rome's last king and made the place a republic in 509 BC. We learn many things about the character of Cassius in act 1 scene 2, one of the most important of the points is that Cassius is a very observant man. ...read more.

Middle

I think that he wants to kill Caesar because he feels that his great position in society will be under threat once Caesar is crowned king. This fear of belittlement is drawn out by his violent imagery with phrases like "would run to these and these extremities" and "kill him in the shell." From the two scenes we are comparing, we can clearly see that Brutus is a very condescending and patronising figure, who takes pleasure in being superior e.g. "Not I." This very sharp response can also show a very serious side to Brutus's nature. I think that Brutus is a very assured person by character who has fixed ideas in his head, which leads to his downfall. A good example to show this part of his nature is when he remarks to Cassius "I am not gamesome." The use of the word "gamesome" shows the audience that Brutus is a very serious character. Other good words to describe Brutus's nature are stolid, phlegmatic, egocentric and his sense of superiority. This is summarised when he says to Cassius "Conceptions only proper to myself." This shows that Brutus is somewhat a private person and does not want to express his emotions without due thought, because of the ruthless nature of Roman politics. We can see that there is a stark contrast between Cassius and Brutus, at the start of the play; Brutus from the outset is a very stolid person. This is different from Cassius who is much more passionate when he remarks, "To find ourselves dishonourable graves." Whereas the thoughtful Brutus shows little passion and only calmly says, "For some new honours that are heaped on Caesar." This comparison of Cassius and Brutus dramatically changes in Act 2 scene 1, because this time it is Brutus who is talking in a very violent and emotive tone when he says "And therefore think of him as a serpents egg, which hatched, would as his kind, grow mischievous, and kill him in the shell." ...read more.

Conclusion

On the other hand some people feel that Brutus was not an innocent man but was in fact a person who felt that his honour and pride was more important to him than the honour of friendship. We can see from his language during the course of the play that he chose his personal honour over friendship and that he was preserving his innocence over the false sense of the "general good." A good example when he was defending his virtue is when he says, "It is the bright day that brings forth the adder." Other interpreters think that Brutus was coming up with these excuses as a way of defending his honour against his worst enemy - his conscience. Another very important point in the play is this personal power struggle within Brutus, which has lead to his scorn of Cassius. This is because if he scorns Cassius as well as the other conspirators his conscience feels that he is doing justice, this is evident when he says, "they are the faction. O conspiracy." On the other hand I feel that Brutus is ridiculing Cassius as a way of releasing his anger at Cassius for "whetting me against Caesar," I feel that he knows in the depths of his heart that he is doing the wrong thing and by blaming Cassius for making him want to kill Caesar he is washing his hands clean of any blame. Cassius is more deeply conscious than anyone else of "Julius Caesar." He is too stirred by personal feelings to be a successful politician or a conspirator. He always prefers his friends and hates his enemies. He therefore never suffers from Brutus's painful awareness that a man may be a friend and at the same time embodies a detested principle. I applaud Shakespeare's choice of two of the greatest hero's of their age both likewise interested in the liberty of Rome and their own honour. It is a contrast between political duty and private emotion. ...read more.

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