How do Brutus and Cassius change throughout the play of Julius Csar?

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Bhavik Morar 10U   20/09/04

How do Brutus and Cassius change throughout the play of Julius Cæsar?

William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, is one of his most inspirational, influential and greatest tragedies. Although Julius Caesar is set in Rome over 2000 years ago, it explores themes that are relevant to our own modern times and would have been relevant to Elizabethans in Shakespeare’s England. One of the main issues explored in the play is the nature of government or people and power. Shakespeare looks in detail at the choices and life Roman citizens had and what their place was in relation to the various kings of Rome. In real life, Julius Caesar emerged to be similar to all the previous kings of Rome in that he was a dictator who was feared by the Roman people rather then loved or valued. In the play, Shakespeare portrays Caesar as a character that has become so influential and strong that he effectively controls the Senate, something which the Republicans, especially Cassius and later on Brutus, will not stand for. This play also relates to the Elizabethan audience, as they would also have been asking what the internal affairs of the Queen and government had to do with them. Queen Elizabeth was a forceful ruler and had survived many plots against her, and it is clear to see that William Shakespeare has taken some of these incidents and superimposed them over this play in the form of the Conspirators.

At the start of the play we see that both Brutus and Cassius are deeply concerned about the popularity and attention Julius Caesar is receiving, Cassius more so than Brutus. At this time in the play, the whole of Rome is in a state of confused and mixed loyalties. Caesar had recently overthrown and killed a fellow general, Pompey, and this has created differences between those who liked Pompey, those who praise Caesar for removing Pompey from power, and those who are not in favour of either person but are shocked that something as evil as Romans fighting against each other has taken place. We see the full extent of Cassius’ feelings towards Caesar when they stand together on the upper balconies watching the procession of Caesar and his troupe at the ‘Feast of Lupercal’. As Caesar receives a rapturous applause and cheer from the crowd, Brutus reveals that he thinks Caesar will be made king and Cassius works on this statement and pursues him on the subject. Whereas Brutus speaks only two lines to say his fears, Cassius launches into a long speech about how if Brutus feels that this is wrong, he should stand up on his honour and stop this from happening. However Brutus stops him by saying that although he fears this will happen, he loves Caesar as a friend too much to do anything about it. Cassius continues nonetheless, stating on line 97 of Act 1, Scene 2:

“I was born free as Caesar, so were you;

We have both fed as well, and we can both

Endure the winter’s cold as well as he.”

This in simpler terms means that he and Brutus are just as good as Caesar and he does not deserve to be treated any differently or better. He emphasises this point by telling Brutus of a time when Caesar dared Cassius to join him in the gusty and fast-flowing River Tiber and swim to a distant point, when suddenly, Caesar began to flounder and cried, “Help me Cassius, or I sink.” Cassius, putting himself alongside the likes of Aeneas, a great Trojan Prince, came to his aid and saved him. He shows his disgust that such a weak man who cried for help like a child has now become a “God” and that he, a stronger person, must now bow down to him. Cassius also recalls a time later on when Caesar was struck down by a fever in Spain, and in a fit, he trembled like a coward and begged for a drink like “a sick girl”. It is evident by this time in the play that Cassius not only dislikes Caesar terribly, but also has a subconscious game-plan to persuade Brutus onto his side. Cassius needs to do this, as he alone does not receive the reverence that the noble Brutus receives.

In the movie adaptation of this play, Cassius is seen glaring at Caesar’s name graffiteed on the wall, and tearing through it with his dagger, and writing Brutus’ name beside it. In my opinion, this is where Cassius’ game-plan comes into its second stage. This is extremely hypocritical as these are not the actions of a honourable man.

Back in the play, Cassius changes his tactics and pairs himself up on Brutus’ side and opposes himself against Caesar. It is evident that Cassius is trying to provoke a fierce reaction from Brutus, however Brutus remains calm and collected, as he does for much of this scene, so instead, Cassius continues. As another cheer directed to Caesar arises, he talks of the way they and other people from the Senate cower away and do not offer any resistance whilst the citizens of Rome inflate Caesar’s ego to the size of ‘Colossus’. He suggests that the fault lies not in fate, but in their inferior attitude. He tries to goad Brutus by saying on line 144, “Why should that (referring to Caesar) name be sounded more than yours?” He questions what ‘meat’ Caesar eats that he should grow so great. The final straw that triggers a reaction in Brutus is Cassius’ reminder of Brutus’ ancestors’ dislike of royalty and their efforts to abolish it and make a Republic. He says on line 159:

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                                “There was a Brutus once that would have brooked

                                Th’ eternal devil to keep his state in Rome

                                As easily as a king.”

This in other words means that once there was a time when Brutus (his ancestor) would have endured the devil in Rome rather then have a king as head of state. This taunt on his ancestors pushes Brutus to the limit and he finally speaks up. He first of all pleads to Cassius that he stop trying to persuade him and states that he would rather be a mere villager then be called a ...

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