The Degeneration of Political Morality in Julius Caesar
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. (Act III. Scene ii.74-78)
Julius Caesar is among the best of Shakespeare’s historical and political plays. The play is about the power struggle that occurs after the assassination of Julius Caesar. This play takes place in ancient Rome in 44 BC, when Rome was the center of an empire stretching from Britain to North Africa and from Persia to Spain. Even as the empire grew stronger, so, too, did the force of the dangers threatening its existence.
Gliding into the ancient history of Rome we discover that Gaius Julius Caesar threw a country into chaos and this led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. Caesar, Crassus and Pompeii formed a political alliance which was called the first Triumvirate and dominated Roman politics for several years. The political alliance of this triumvirate crumbled. Caesar conquered Gaul and this granted him unmatched military power. Civil war resulted from which he emerged as the unrivaled leader of Rome. After assuming control of the government, he began a program of social and governmental reforms; including the creation of the Julian calendar. Caesar was deemed to be one of the greatest military commanders in history.
In the play Julius Caesar, we see Rome groping towards a new political structure in an effort to accommodate Caesar; the language of monarchy, dimly remembered from the past, is the only language they have for this new structure.
A Timeless Thirst for Power
Caesar in the play is returning to Rome in triumph after defeating the sons of Pompey in the battle of Munda. Caesar rejoices in his triumph and is pleased with the reaction of his people and overwhelmed with their welcome. However, He is stubborn to heed the nightmares of his wife, Calpurnia, and the supernatural omens pervading the atmosphere. Caesar is ambitious indeed; he refuses to listen to those who love him yielding to the flattery of the conspirators he ultimately goes to the Senate, at the prospect of being crowned. Caesar shall forth. The things that threatened me
Ne'er looked but on my back. When they shall see
The face of Caesar, they are vanishèd. (II. ii. 10-12)
Caesar prevailed in conquering Rome but he was self-aggrandizing and had a feeble constitution. In act III scene i, Mettilus Cimber draws towards Caesar with a petition for the recall of his brother from banishment. Caesar disagrees and he stays firm in his decision to punish Publius Cimber. The conspirators beg and intercede in favour of Publius. Caesar is constant in his decision and refers to himself as the ‘Northern Star’ unshakeable.
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament. (III. i. 60-62)
Prior to all this, Cassius manages to manipulates Brutus into joining the conspiracy. Brutus is a powerful public figure and Cassius urges him to join the conspiracy, so that he would be a weapon of hegemony over Julius Caesar. Brutus was always a man who worked for the welfare of Rome. As Brutus was the right hand of Caesar, Cassius and the other conspirators believed that Caesar would turn a blind eye if Brutus was part of their conspiracy. Brutus’s rigid idealism is both his greatest virtue and his most deadly flaw. Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves. (I. ii. 135-138)
Marcus Junius Brutus was a Roman senator and masterminded the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. Brutus reconciles with Cassius and feels the necessity of...
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