Every historical event has a narrator and critic who criticize the first version of the story. Plutarch wrote about Julius Caesar, on the other hand, Shakespeare criticized it. Both of them chose the assassination event as a historical moment. Shakespeare who is unlike Plutarch focused on the marginalized characters as Brutus and Cassius more than Caesar although he named the play with his name, Julius Caesar.
The first character that Shakespeare focused on is Brutus as a tragic hero. He showed the story from Brutus’ perspective and presented why he wanted to kill Caesar through his monologue, he said:
It must be by his death. And for my part
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crowned:
How that might change his nature, there’s the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder,
And that craves wary walking. Crown him that,
And then I grant we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with.
Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections swayed
More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder (Shakespeare)
Brutus admits that he has no personal reason to attack Caesar, except for the “general” or for the whole of the society. Brutus states that Caesar would be crowned, then asks “how that might change his nature.” The rest is supposition which turns Caesar into a snake (“the adder”). That snake, in and of itself, isn’t dangerous, but when the “bright day” causes him to come out, others have to be “wary.” Brutus says that if Caesar is crowned, then Brutus “grants” that then Caesar will gain the “sting… that at his will he may do danger with.” May do danger, not will do. Brutus has to concede (“grant, v.; 4.a” OED.) that Caesar could become dangerous because Brutus doesn’t necessarily believe Caesar is either dangerous or would definitely become dangerous with power. For his logical argument to work, he has to agree to this theoretical possibility (critic). Shakespeare justified Brute’s’ situation by the language that he did not kill Caesar for personal cause but for general because he was afraid of the abuse of greatness and ambition after the coronation. Brutus was super Id. He justified his actions even towards Caesar whom he loved; he wanted the ideal thing to Rome.
The second character who is considered a tragic hero also is Julius Caesar. He has a tragic flow which is over-ambition and pride. He said: “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”(Shakespeare). This quotation shows that Caesar doesn’t want anyone to share the authority with him and he is afraid of anyone who thinks a lot, he loves the herd. Caesar had also a tragic end when he saw his friend Brutus stabbed him he said: “Et Tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!” (Shakespeare) he falls when he was betrayed not from all the other stabbing.
The third character that Shakespeare focused on is Cassius. He was the antagonist of the play. He made the plan and convinced Brutes and other conspirators to kill Caesar. He made all this out of jealousy, he saw that Caesar was weak and didn’t deserve all this power and respect and tried to convinced brutes by this. Shakespeare presented this through his language, he said:
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 dishonorable graves. Men at some time are masters of their fates: 230The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that ‘Caesar’? Why should that name be sounded more than yours? Write them together, yours is as fair a name; 235 Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well; Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ’em, Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar. Now, in the names of all the gods at once, Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed.
Shakespeare presents Cassius as a passionate man who is interested in the end, but not the means; he is jealous and hostile towards Caesar, and he is a manipulator who craves power. One can easily see the contrast in the passionate character of Cassius compared to a Brutus who is both rational and philosophical. He is passionate about getting rid of Caesar by masterminding the conspiracy and motivating the others to join. He displays a personal hatred for Caesar when he shows Brutus that Caesar is weak and inferior since he cannot swim in the River Tiber after he cries ”Help me, Cassius, or I sink!.” (1.2.111) More so; he hates him because Caesar is deaf in one ear; once had a fever and cried “As a sick girl”, (1.2.128) and suffers from epilepsy. The Irony that Shakespeare portrays here is not just that Cassius is jealous, but also, the fact that as much as he tries hard to demean and belittle Caesar, he ends up revealing his own envious and fickle-mindedness. Shakespeare likened Cassius with Eago in King Lear; he also guided people around him to reach to his plan. Like Cassius, he convinced the conspirators and bruits to get rid of Caesar because he was jealous of him.
Why did Shakespeare name the play Julius Caesar although he focused on marginalized characters? Firstly, he made this as marketing to his play because Julius Caesar was well known at that time and no one knows Brutis or Cassias. So he used this name to attract people to read although he focuses on brutes, the assassination, and the intentions of each character. The critic’s idea supports this who said: the tragedy of Caesar, carried away by his new powers and killed by his closest friend; and it shows at the same time the tragedy of Brutus … Julius Caesar was the better-known name and so likely to draw a larger crow. Secondly, he chose this name because Julius Caesar is the main Pearson or the main reason who leads to the climax and the suffering of the tragic hero, Brutis.
The purpose of Shakespeare’s drama in Julius Caesar is to give voice to the marginalized characters and present the other side’s perspective. Shakespeare assured that there is no absolute villain; everyone has his motivation to do something. He wanted to present the story of Brutis and Cassias and their motivation to kill Caesar. For Shakespeare, he cared about humanity and the civil war that took place because of this murder. Unlike Plutarch, he was biased and focused on murdering Caesar only, and he did not care about the other side or what happened after that.
To sum up, Shakespeare criticized Julius Caesar in his way and made more than tragedy and tragic hero. He mentioned Brutis and Cassias as well as Caesar: Brutis as the tragic hero was super id and self-righteous, Caesar as a second tragic hero, and cassias as antagonist. He named the play Julius Caesar because he was well known to people. The purpose of Shakespeare from this play is showing humanity and the other perspective.
- “Cassius Conspirators against Casear.” Weebly.com, juliuscaesarcharacteranalysis.weebly.com/caius-cassius.html.
- Hebron, Malcolm. “Republicanism and Assassination in Julius Caesar.” British Library, 18 Mar. 2106, www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/republicanism-and-assassination-in-julius-caesar.
- “Julius Caesar: Brutus’ Rationale Soliloquy.” The Bill Shakespear Project , 22 Dec. 2014, thebillshakespeareproject.com/2014/12/julius-caesar-brutus-rationale-soliloquy/.
- Shakespeare , William. “Julius Caesar .” Bartleby.com, www.bartleby.com/70/4031.html.
- Shakespeare , William. “Julius Caesar .” Opensourceshakespeare, 2003, www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=juliuscaesar&Act=1&Scene=2&Scope=scene&LineHighlight=180#180.
- Shakespeare, William. “The Life and Death of Julius Caesar.” Shakespeare Homepage , shakespeare.mit.edu/julius_caesar/full.html.