Conflicting: Roman Republic and Caesar

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Composers actively manipulate the perspectives and representations of their characters and events in order to influence the opinions of their audience. In Shakespeare’s 1599 tragic play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare challenges the audience’s perception of Caesar and the conspirators, in order to confuse the concepts of good and evil. Likewise, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in his beat poem “Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes” (1962), challenges the audience’s perception of democracy and equality. Finally, in the 2005 film Thankyou for Smoking, directed by Jason Reitman, the social stigma of smoking and cigarettes is highlighted by the composer, urging the audience to contemplate its acceptability. The composers all subtly challenge established people, events and situations by presenting two conflicting perspectives on the subject, and using forms, features and structures to persuade the audience to their viewpoint, thus challenging the social norm.

Julius Caesar is often held in the utmost respect as an ancient ruler, however Shakespeare challenges this concept through Cassius’ manipulation of Brutus’ perspective. This can be seen in Act 1, Scene 2 where Cassius attempts to persuade the noble Brutus to the cause of the conspirators. Cassius is characterised as a scheming mastermind, shown after he senses confusion and dissatisfaction on Brutus’ behalf created after the diegetic stage direction of flourish and shout; “I do fear the people choose Caesar for their king.” Upon which, Cassius launches into a speech attempting to manipulate this confusion and change it to contempt; Cassius’ persuasive methods include references to Brutus’ past “There was a Brutus once…” which plays on Brutus’ hubris of being noble and honourable. He belittles Caesar with a sarcastic, mocking tone “This god did shake, his coward lips” and this undeniable contrast, as Edward Dowden puts it, between the myth of Caesar, and the real Caesar urges action from Brutus, who...
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