Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, man and power
Shakespeare’s plays are far from the
unity of place, time and action:scenes in one place or in places not too distant
from each other, events spread within a short period of time, just the main
Shakespeare’s plays show the author’s great knowledge of human nature and behaviour with variation in place, time and action in a classical point of view in which characters are the image of common humanity disclosing general passions and emotions:joy and sorrow, good and evil, true and false, in different proportion and combination, are the image of real life in a mixture of comic scenes written without labour, and tragic scenes written with incredible skill, where surprise and plot surpasse expectation.
In Julius Caesar, the action begins with his coming back to Rome in triumph after his last victory and during the celebration he is warned by a soothsayer to beware the Ides of March; Caesar’s wife Calpurnia, terrified by horrible nightmares tries to persuade him not to go to the Senate and a warning is pressed into Caesar’s hand on the steps of the Capitol:he refuses both to listen to and to read and was killed by the sword of the conspirators.
Caesar, a figure of legendary greatness of the Roman Empire in his refusal to consider warnings expresses his power in the dominant feature of superiority towards the others around him: as the ruler of Rome he does not fear his enemies, because he thinks he is beyond fallible himan beings, even if fellows, who cannot reach him; just before his murder he compares himself to the gods of Olympus. Brutus, with a deep sense of honour and reputation, sees in Caesar’s political reform the end of his aristocratic power in privilege, and in his idealism wants to protect and defend his position as an elected man, detached from realism and right practical criticism and judgement.
Brutus speaks after the murder deciding to deliver the funeral oration to Mark Antony, who begs permission to speak, thinking he wants to convince population of the necessity for Caesar’s death and without realizing how dangerous the powerful general, with a strong desire for ambition through revenge, may be talking to an angry crowd.
Both of them try to gain power by conquering the mob, by using their language as a weapon, but two different men , with different dominant features in their power, use two different ways of speaking.
Brutus, an idealist and a philosopher, speaks in prose, whereas Mark Antony, a realist and a politician speaks in verse aware of the greater effect on people; Brutus uses abstract words, such as honour and wisdom whereas Mark Antony shows Caesar’s body, his sacrifice for his people; Brutus appeals to the Romans, and then to countrymen and friends; Mark Antony inverts the order: first fiends and then Romans and countrymen; Brutus insists on the first person, “Me” and “I”, while speaking whereas Mark Antony insists on “You”, involving the public and sharing his feelings;Brutus puts the mob on his level, inviting to a discussion, Mark Antony asks for permission : “Will you give me leave?”, revealing his respect in a sense of dependence, for the mob’s opinion and will; Brutus recalls Caesar’s military qualities, Mark Antony recalls Caesar as a friend for the poor.
The effects of the power on the crowd are represented by a changeable mob and shifting thoughts according to the best orator; the broken language based on stichomythia, with single lines of verse spoken alternately by different characters, reveals confusion and contradiction as a result.
Alessandra d'Epiro Dusmet de Beaulieu
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