Betrayal By Friends
Julius Caesar once wrote, “Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt” (Caesar, Book III, Ch. 18), which means, “Men willingly believe what they wish” (Ramage, 442). This is apparent in the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. The conspirators who assassinated Julius Caesar convinced themselves that killing Caesar was necessary for multiple yet individual reasons. Cassius, the lead conspirator and instigator, convinces himself that Caesar is not better than he and should not be allowed to rule. Brutus allowed himself to be convinced by Cassius that Caesar needed to die for the greater good of Rome. The remaining senators who took part in the conspiracy also allowed themselves to be misguided by Cassius into believing Caesar should die for the greater good of Rome. In this play all of these men let themselves believe Julius Caesar had to be killed, proving Caesar’s proclamation to be true. Each of the men involved in the conspiracy were motivated to take part in Caesar’s death by different reasons. The conspiracy that ultimately lead to Julius Caesar’s death was motivated by a variety of personal, political, and philosophical motives. Cassius’ personal issues with Julius Caesar played a significant role in the conspiracy of Caesar’s assassination. Without Cassius’s severe jealousy of Caesar’s status, the assassination would not have been implemented. Cassius’ personal feelings towards Caesar are clear when he says, “I was born free as Caesar. So were you. We both have fed as well, and we can both endure the winter’s cold as well as he” (Shakespeare, 21). Cassius is saying that he and Caesar is no different, therefore Caesar is not better than him. Cassius makes his feelings about Caesar more apparent when he asks, “Brutus and Caesar- what should be in that “Caesar”? Why should that name be sounded more than yours? Write them together, yours is a fair a name. Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well. Weight them, it is as heavy” (Shakespeare, 43). In this statement Cassius is stating that Caesar is not specialized nor is he any more significant than Brutus. Clearly Cassius cannot stand the idea that Caesar is powerful or any different than himself or Brutus. The thought of Caesar being better than Cassius sickens him. It is these personal feelings that drive Cassius to conspire and assassinate Julius Caesar. Cassius utilized Brutus’ devotion and love for Rome to turn him against Julius Caesar. Cassius’ individualized issues with Caesar motivated him to mislead Brutus and Roman senators into believing that the death of Caesar would benefit the people of Rome. Brutus and the senators are lead to believe by Cassius that Caesar plans to turn the Roman republic into a monarchy to be ruled by Julius himself. This is indeed fabricated as part of Cassius’ conspiracy to get Brutus and the others to conspire with him against Caesar. Cassius’ conspiracy drew upon Brutus’ and the senators’ political positions to turn them against Caesar. Cassius also fabricated letters supposedly sent from citizens of Rome calling for a political change. After receiving these letters and being lead to believe Julius is going to turn Rome into a monarchial society, its then Brutus turns against Cesar. He believes that the death of Caesar would benefit the political wellbeing of the Roman republic. This is demonstrated when Brutus says, “I know no personal cause to spurn at him but for the general” (Shakespeare, 47). The idea that he is going to kill Caesar for the good of the public is how Brutus justifies Caesar’s death. This political viewpoint is what ultimately caused Brutus to betray Caesar. This can be illustrated when Brutus says, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” (Shakespeare, 111). Julius Caesar was the most powerful man in Rome and history has proven time and again that with success and power, comes envy. Due to Julius Caesar’s military accomplishments and success, the senators named him “dictator for life” (Burch, 1). A title such as this clearly demonstrates the power Caesar had. Cassius’ jealousy of Caesar’s power caused him to develop the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar. Throughout the play Cassius demonstrates his disgust for Caesar’s superiority. One example of this is when Cassius says, “Ye gods, it doth amaze me a man of such of such feeble temper should so get the start of the majestic world and bear the palm alone” (Shakespeare, 21). Cassius is saying that Caesar is a weak and “feeble” man who does not deserve to be superior to others. He thinks Caesar is too weak of an individual to have defeated and claim victory over the “world”. In these words from Cassius we can also see that at this time, Julius Caesar was viewed as a very powerful leader, ruler, and individual. When you have as much power as Julius Caesar had, its no surprise that people would want to take it away. Cassius’ conspiracy aimed to do just that. This philosophical view about life can be added to the
list of motives that ultimately killed Julius Caesar. When people allow themselves to believe what they want their views often become skewed and misguided. Cassius, Brutus and the other conspirators allowed themselves to believe what they wished in order to justify killing Julius Caesar for their own individualized reasons. Their personal, political, and philosophical motives combined with their credulous mind frames caused them to facilitate and take part in the conspiracy of Julius Caesar’s death. Cassius’ personal feelings of powerlessness lead him to betray Julius and organize the conspiracy of his death. Brutus’ belief that Julius Caesar’s death would benefit the people of Rome allowed himself to consciously justify the betrayal of his best friend. In addition to his friends conspiring against him, Julius Caesar was the most powerful man in Rome. Philosophically it’s clear that with such power comes envy. This envy only fueled Cassius’ motives to assassinate Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar’s death serves as an example of how influential a misguided person’s beliefs can be. A susceptible mind is a dangerous tool that can lead to irreversible outcomes.
Burch, Jessica. “Greek Philosophers Notes.” World History. ANHS, Aliso Viejo, CA. 12 September 2013. Class Notes.
Caesar, Julius. De Bello Gallico, Book III, Ch. 18. Print.
Ramage, Craufurd Tait. Great Thoughts from Classic Authors. 1891. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Evanston: McDougal Littlel, 1997. Print.