Julius Caesar Essay Example




Julius Caesar

 Everybody will have to do an essay on him eventually. There are many ways to tackle the subject here are a few versions of basically the same type of essay.


Version 1


Et tu, Brute?” (Act 3, scene I, line 85) is a quotation widely used in Western culture to signify the utmost betrayal by a friend. In the play, these were Caesar’s last words as he looked into the face of his best friend Brutus, as Brutus stabbed him. Shakespeare’s play, believed to have been written around 1599, is set in ancient Rome. It is based on a real man and a real happening, that being the assassination of one of the Republic’s most popular leaders, Julius Caesar. It is a play about loyalty and betrayal. As William Blake says, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”

In quick background, when the last king was overthrown, the people of ancient Rome vowed never to be ruled by a king again. For the next 500 years, Rome was a Republic, ruled by the Senate and the people of Rome. This play is set towards the end of the Roman Republic, when a body of free noblemen called Senators ruled Rome. Rome did not become an empire until after the assassination of Julius Caesar.   


In the play, Caesar's closest friends and allies are loyal. The definition of loyalty according to The Free Online Dictionary is (1) Steadfast in allegiance to one’s homeland, government, or sovereign. (2) Faithful to a person, ideal, custom, cause or duty. The problem for Caesar is that his friends are more loyal to the Roman Republic than they are to Julius Caesar. His assassins believe that Caesar wants to be king. They do not wish to be ruled by a king. If Caesar became king, his friends and allies fear they will no longer be equal free men.


In Act I, Cassius and Brutus discuss Caesar. Cassius devises a plan to sway Brutus into joining the conspiracy. Cassius was a Roman Senator and a leading instigator in the plot to kill Julius Caesar. Cassius resents the fact that the Roman people are starting to treat Caesar like a God. "Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world / Like a Colossus, and we petty men / Walk under his huge legs and peep about" (I, ii, 138). Cassius organized the conspiracy out of fear of losing hard-won democracy, but also to help his dear friend Brutus. Cassius believes Caesar is a tyrant and a corrupter of his dear friend. Cassius manipulates Brutus into believing that Caesar intends to turn Republican Rome into a monarch under Caesar’s rule by writing letters to Brutus in different handwriting. “That noble minds keep ever with their likes; For who so firm that cannot be seduced?” (1, ii, 305).


Cassius’ soliloquy at the end of Act One portrays his deep feelings for Brutus: “Oh, he sits high in all the people's hearts”. He fears that Brutus has become too close to Caesar, and therefore is in danger of being corrupted and blinded to Caesar's faults. Brutus and Cassius fight in Act Four because Cassius values his friendship with Brutus so highly. “Do not presume too much upon my love. I may do that I shall be sorry for” (4, iii, 68). Cassius is willing to risk his own ambitions and even his own life to keep Brutus’ good opinion of him. Cassius says, “When thou didst hate him worst, thou lovedst him better than ever thou lovedst Cassius” (4, iii, 110).  In this scene, Cassius bares his soul to Brutus and expresses his deep love and his deeper jealousy of the relationship between Brutus and Caesar.

Cassius may have been the ringleader, but Casca, Trebonius, Ligarius, Metellus Cimber, Decius Brutus, and Cinna all conspire against Julius Caesar. These men are of aristocratic origin. They are afraid of the popularity Caesar is gaining with the people. They can see the end of their ancient privilege in Caesar's political reforms and conquests. They are envious of Caesar's power and prestige. Artemidorus reads a letter out loud in Act Two, Scene Three, which lists Caesar’s many enemies. He says, “There is but one mind in all things man, and it is bent against Caesar. If thou Beest, not immortal, look about you”.  


On March 15, the Ides of March, 44 BCE, Metellus Cimber gives the signal for the attack on Caesar. (He was initially one of Caesar’s strongest supporters and Caesar granted him governorship of two provinces.) First, Casca stabs Julius Caesar in the back of Caesar’s neck. The others follow in stabbing him. Caesar initially fights back against his attackers, but when he sees his closest friend Brutus stabbing him, Caesar resigns himself to his fate. Brutus, after killing Caesar, says, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” (3, ii, 20).  


Brutus is visited by the ghost of Caesar. "I shall see thee at Philippi" (4, iii, 287) the spirit warns him, but Brutus' courage is unshaken and he goes on. Brutus is proud of his reputation for honor and nobleness, but he is not always practical, and is often naive. Brutus is the only major character in the play intensely committed to fashioning his behavior to fit a strict moral and ethical code. Brutus believes that the Senators have allowed a man to gain excessive power; therefore they have the responsibility to stop him. With a man of Caesar’s well-known ambition, that can only mean assassination. But that does not mean he is happy with the solution. In the end, Brutus commits suicide.


In the final scene of the play, and in the wake of Brutus’ suicide, Antony gives Brutus’ eulogy, calling him "the noblest Roman of them all" (5, iv, 68).   According to Antony, even in death Brutus was noble. He ran himself through with a sword rather than surrender. Caesar's murder has been avenged, order has been restored, and, most importantly, the Roman Republic has been preserved. As Confucius said, “It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.”



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