WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: JULIUS CAESAR
Most high, most mighty, and most puissant Caesar,
Metellus Cimber throws before thy seat
An humble heart,--
I must prevent thee, Cimber.
These couchings and these lowly courtesies
Might fire the blood of ordinary men,
And turn pre-ordinance and first decree
Into the law of children. Be not fond,
To think that Caesar bears such rebel blood
That will be thaw'd from the true quality
With that which melteth fools; I mean, sweet words, Low-crooked court'sies and base spaniel-fawning.
Thy brother by decree is banished:
If thou dost bend and pray and fawn for him,
I spurn thee like a cur out of my way.
Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause
Will he be satisfied.
Is there no voice more worthy than my own
To sound more sweetly in great Caesar's ear
For the repealing of my banish'd brother?
I kiss thy hand, but not in flattery, Caesar;
Desiring thee that Publius Cimber may
Have an immediate freedom of repeal.
Pardon, Caesar; Caesar, pardon:
As low as to thy foot doth Cassius fall,
To beg enfranchisement for Publius Cimber.
I could be well moved, if I were as you:
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber'd sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine,
But there's but one in all doth hold his place:
So in the world; 'tis furnish'd well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive;
Yet in the number I do know but one
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshaked of motion: and that I am he,
Let me a little show it, even in this;
That I was constant Cimber should be banish'd,
And constant do remain to keep him so.
Hence! wilt thou lift up Olympus?
Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?
Speak, hands for me!
CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and BRUTUS stab CAESAR
Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.
Explore how the above extract is made dramatically significant through the use of irony.
This extract is from Act 3 Scene 1 of ‘Julius Caesar’. It is the Ides of March and Caesar has just been warned once again by the soothsayer and encountered a mysterious missive from Artemidorous, who he contemptuously refused to listen to or read his letter. Now, at the Capitol, Caesar is surrounded by the conspirators, who had escorted him all the way from his house to ensure he would attend the Senate. An act crucial to the success of their plans.
This extract is laced with irony, even dramatic irony. Perhaps the supreme irony is that while Caesar in his flight of rhetoric compares himself to the immortal gods, his humanity is albeit soon realised. When Metellus petitions Caesar by flattering him ‘Most high, most mighty, and most puissant’, the audience knows that this is but a pretext for the conspirators to move closer to Caesar. Through the act the conspirators have planned, Caesar will neither be ‘high’ or ‘mighty’ or ‘puissant’. It is very striking to the audience that just when Caesar is being addressed as ‘most puissant’, his position is ironically becoming weaker and weaker, as his would be assassins position themselves ever closer and within striking distance of him.
Yet, Caesar, while proclaiming himself unmoved by ‘these couching and these lowly courtesies’ is clearly affected, for he launches himself on a flight of rhetoric...