Julius Caesar


Symbols and Themes


The power of speech/ oratory

Julius Caesar is a political play, and it is full of powerful speeches. From Cassius’s impassioned speech to Brutus which plants the seeds of the assassination conspiracy to Marc Antony’s brilliant use of rhetoric at Caesar’s funeral, the events of the play hinge on the persuasive verbal skills of the political players. In particular, Antony’s use of oratory to win the citizens to his side underscores the importance of language in shaping popular opinion and defining history.

Conflict between private feeling and public action

Brutus’s moral conflict is one of the central issues of the play, and it defines the tragic nature of his character. His conflict is, essentially, the tension between his private feelings for Caesar, whom he loves, and his sense of public duty. Brutus, the individual, does not wish to kill his friend but Brutus, the public servant, feels honor-bound to prevent Caesar from becoming king. Both Caesar and Brutus repeatedly allow their personal well-being to be obscured by their public personas. Nowhere is this more clear than in the scenes involving their wives, Calpurnia and Portia. Note how Brutus will not allow himself the consolation of confiding in his wife, and how Caesar ignores his wife’s warnings out of a mistaken belief in his infallibility.

Obstinacy versus adaptability

The inability to compromise and adapt prove fatal flaws for both Caesar and Brutus. Just before his death, Caesar asserts, “I am as constant as the northern star,” and it is this very inflexibility that proves his undoing. Brutus’s rigid idealism causes him to make a number of fatal errors throughout the play, not least of which is allowing Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Antony, on the other hand, easily changes his plans and allegiances to adapt to various situations, thus securing his own victory in the end.

Blindness to...

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Essays About Julius Caesar