Study Guide

Julius Caesar Quotes

  • Fate and Free Will

    Act 1, Scene 1
    Flavius and Murellus

    FLAVIUS
    These growing feathers plucked from Caesar's wing
    Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,
    Who else would soar above the view of men
    And keep us all in servile fearfulness. (1.1.77-80)

    Even as early as the first scene of the play, we get a sense that some Romans foresee that no good can come out of Caesar's increasing power. They predict Caesar will keep them "servile," but they can't predict the terrible outcome of their decision to assassinate him: civil war and the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Soothsayer

    SOOTHSAYER
    Beware the ides of March.
    CAESAR
    He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass. (1.2.28-29)

    Even though Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to watch his back on March 15 ("ides" means "middle"), Caesar doesn't take the ominous warning seriously. As we know, Caesar was stabbed 33 times on March 15, so it's pretty clear to the audience that Caesar should heed this warning. And even though Caesar says a few moments later that he's wary of "lean and hungry" looking men like Cassius (1.2), it seems like his arrogance prevents him from taking the soothsayer's advice to heart. This, by the way, isn't the only time Caesar ignores warning signs – later, he blows off his own wife, who envisions his death in a prophetic dream. (See 2.2 below.)

    Brain Snack: In a Season 6 episode of The Simpsons called "Homer the Great," Lisa warns Homer to "beware the Ides of March."

    Cassius

    Men at some time are masters of their fates. 
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings. (1.2.146-148)

    As Cassius complains about Caesar's power, he claims that it's Rome's own fault for being servile to one man.  Men, according to Cassius, are "masters of their fates," which means it's up to them to take down Caesar.  This seems like a fine idea, but there's a lot of evidence in the play (like prophesies and omens that come true) that men don't have much control over their destinies.

    Act 1, Scene 3
    Casca

    CASCA
    Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
    And yesterday the bird of night did sit
    Even at noonday upon the market-place,
    Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
    Do so conjointly meet, let not men say
    "These are their reasons, they are natural,"
    For, I believe, they are portentous things
    Unto the climate that they point upon. (1.3.25-32)

    Uh oh.  Crazy weather and strange bird behavior are never good signs in a Shakespeare play.  Casca's observation about these "portentous things" reminds us of <em>Macbeth</em>, where nasty storms and animals gone wild also signal political turmoil and the murder of an important leader.

    CICERO
    Indeed, it is a strange-disposèd time.
    But men may construe things after their fashion,
    Clean from the purpose of the things themselves. (1.3.33-35)

    Ever the cynic, Cicero accuses Casca of reading too much into the strange events that have been occurring in Rome.  He says you read anything into an "omen," creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    I know where I will wear this dagger then;
    Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius.
    Therein, you gods, you make the weak most strong;
    Therein, you gods, you tyrants do defeat.
    Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
    Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron,
    Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;
    But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
    Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
    If I know this, know all the world besides,
    That part of tyranny that I do bear
    I can shake off at pleasure.                        Thunder still. (1.3.92-103)

    Cassius has already proposed his plan of conspiracy, yet here he brings up the fact that he could take his own life and be free no matter what else happened. This is eerie given his death later in the play. It seems Cassius has a prophetic sense of how the entire matter will end for him and takes the opportunity to tell us that he accepts that fate nobly.

    Act 2, Scene 1
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What,
       Rome?
    My ancestors did from the streets of Rome
    The Tarquin drive, when he was call'd a king.
    "Speak, strike, redress!" Am I entreated
    To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise,
    If the redress will follow, thou receivest
    Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus. (2.1.55-61)

    Brutus seems to suggest that it's his fate to take up the cause of Rome: he's compelled by the actions his ancestors once took to save it.  He has to follow in his forefathers' footsteps for both public reasons and his own honor.

    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace tonight.
    Thrice hath Calphurnia in her sleep cried out
    "Help, ho, they murder Caesar!" (2.2.1-3)

    Calphurnia experiences an ominous dream that foreshadows Caesar's death just before the Ides of March.  But will Caesar pay attention?  Keep reading... 

    Act 2, Scene 2
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Calphurnia here, my wife, stays me at home.
    She dreamt tonight she saw my statue,
    Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts,
    Did run pure blood, and many lusty Romans
    Came smiling and did bathe their hands in it.
    And these does she apply for warnings and portents
    And evils imminent, and on her knee
    Hath begged that I will stay at home today. (2.2.80-87)

    When Calphurnia dreams of Caesar's body spurting blood like a fountain, she correctly interprets this to mean that something bad is going to happen to her husband and warns him to stay home that day. (It turns out that Caesar is stabbed 33 times and does, in fact, look like a bloody fountain.) At first it seems like Caesar is going to heed his wife's warning. But Calphurnia's attempts to protect him are completely undermined when Decius shows up and says women don't know how to interpret dreams. If this dream hadn't come from Calphurnia (who is a woman, so implicitly considered less insightful during Caesar's day), would Caesar have listened?  

    Act 3, Scene 1
    Antony

    ANTONY
    Over thy wounds now do I prophesy
    (Which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips
    To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue)
    A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
    Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
    Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
    Blood and destruction shall be so in use
    And dreadful objects so familiar
    That mothers shall but smile when they behold
    Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
    All pity choked with custom of fell deeds;
    And Caesar's spirit ranging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
    Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial. (3.1.285-301)

    When Antony stands over Caesar's mutilated body, he prophesies that civil war and chaos will ensue in Rome.  So does Antony have magical powers or something?  Not really – he's just motivated by Caesar's death and has a huge stake in making his prediction come true.  When he delivers a carefully crafted speech at Caesar's funeral, he inspires the crowd to revolt against the conspirators.

    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    The ides of March are come.
    SOOTHSAYER 
    Ay, Caesar; but not gone. (3.1.1-2)

    Geez, could Caesar be any more arrogant or misguided?  After being warned in advance to watch his back on March 15 and blowing off Calpurnia's ominous dream about being killed, Caesar ventures out to the Capitol (on the Ides of March!) and mocks the soothsayer.  Of course, we all know what happens to him a few lines later – he's stabbed by the conspirators, who wash their hands in his blood.  We do, however, wonder: even if Caesar had paid attention to the warnings, would it have made any difference?

    Act 5, Scene 1
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Why then, lead on.—O, that a man might know
    The end of this day's business ere it come!
    But it sufficeth that the day will end,
    And then the end is known. (5.1.133-136)

    We don't know how any given day will end, but we do know that it will. This is a truism, but it's a beautiful observation nevertheless: Men never know their fates, but that should be no reason to hang back from acting and living.

  • Gender

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
    The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
    Caesar said to me 'Dar'st thou, Cassius, now
    Leap in with me into this angry flood
    And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
    Accoutred as I was, I plungèd in
    And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
    The torrent roared, and we did buffet it
    With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
    And stemming it with hearts of controversy.
    But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
    Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'
    I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
    Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
    The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
    Did I the tired Caesar. And this man
    Is now become a god, and Cassius is
    A wretched creature and must bend his body
    If Caesar carelessly but nod on him. (1.2.107-125)

    There's nothing like a little (un)friendly male competition, is there?  Here, Cassius tells Brutus the story of how Caesar, as a young boy, challenged him to swim across the Tiber River, where Caesar's show of masculine bravado nearly cost him his life.

    CASSIUS
    'Alas,' it cried 'Give me some drink, Titinius'
    As a sick girl. Ye gods, it doth amaze me
    A man of such a feeble temper should
    So get the start of the majestic world
    And bear the palm alone. (1.2.134-138)

    In order to undermine Caesar's power and authority as a Roman leader, Cassius relates a story about how Caesar once fell ill and begged for water "like a sick girl."  Apparently, for these Romans, becoming sick or "feeble" and showing signs of weakness compromise one's masculinity and ability to rule. 

    Act 1, Scene 3
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Let it be who it is. For Romans now
    Have thews and limbs like to their ancestors.
    But, woe the while, our fathers' minds are dead,
    And we are governed with our mothers' spirits.
    Our yoke and sufferance show us womanish. (1.3.83-87)

    Hmm.  We seem to be detecting a pattern here.  In the last passage, Cassius equated Caesar's illness with "girliness."  Here, he claims that "the yoke" of Caesar's tyranny has turned all the Roman men into "womanish" mama's boys. 

    Act 2, Scene 1
    Portia

    PORTIA
    I grant I am a woman; but withal
    A woman well-reputed, Cato's daughter.
    Think you I am no stronger than my sex,
    Being so father'd and so husbanded?
    Tell me your counsels; I will not disclose 'em.
    I have made strong proof of my constancy,
    Giving myself a voluntary wound
    Here, in the thigh. Can I bear that with patience.
    And not my husband's secrets? (2.1.215-325)

    Yikes! Portia seems to buy into the all-too-common idea that women are weaker than men. Here she says she knows she's just a girl but reasons that, since she's the daughter and wife of two really awesome men, that makes her better than the average woman. To prove her point, she stabs herself in the thigh without flinching and demands that her husband treat her with more respect.

    History Snack: When Portia says she knows she's just "a woman" but she also thinks she's "stronger" and more constant (i.e., masculine) than most, she sounds a lot like Queen Elizabeth I (Shakespeare's monarch) who famously said "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king" ("Speech to the Troops at Tilbury," 1588). Queen Elizabeth I, like Portia, buys into the idea that women are generally weaker than men but presents herself as the exception to the rule.

    PORTIA
    Dear my lord,
    Make me acquainted with your cause of grief.
    [...]
    Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
    Is it excepted I should know no secrets
    That appertain to you? Am I your self
    But, as it were, in sort or limitation,
    To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed,
    And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the
       suburbs
    Of your good pleasure? If it be no more,
    Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife. (2.1.275-276; 302-310)

    When Brutus refuses to confide in his wife, Portia takes issue with his secrecy: as a married couple, she says, they should have no secrets.  In other words, Portia is sick and tired of being excluded from her husband's world just because she's a woman.  She also suggests that, when Brutus keeps things from her, he's treating her like a "harlot, not his wife." 

    Act 2, Scene 2
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come. (2.2.34-39)

    For Caesar, being a man means being completely fearless in the face of death.

    CAESAR
    Calphurnia here, my wife, stays me at home.
    She dreamt tonight she saw my statue,
    Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts,
    Did run pure blood; and many lusty Romans
    Came smiling and did bathe their hands in it
    And these does she apply for warnings and portents,
    And evils imminent, and on her knee
    Hath begged that I will stay at home today. (2.2.80-87)

    When Calphurnia dreams of Caesar's body spurting blood like a fountain, she correctly interprets it to mean that something bad is going to happen to Caesar and warns her husband to stay home that day.  At first, it seems like Caesar is going to heed his wife's warning (even though he doesn't want people to think he's staying at home because he's afraid).  But Calphurnia's attempts to protect her husband are completely undermined when Decius shows up.  Keep reading... 

    CAESAR
    How foolish do your fears seem now, Calphurnia!
    I am ashamèd I did yield to them.
    Give me my robe, for I will go. (2.2.110-112)

    In the last passage we saw Decius warn Caesar that he would be seen as weak if he listened to the advice of a woman.  Here Caesar completely disregards Calphurnia's interpretation of her ominous dream in favor of what Decius has to say.  Of course, it turns out that Calphurnia was right all along – Caesar gets stabbed in the guts 33 times and his assassins wash their hands in his blood.  So even though Caesar and the other characters don't put much stock in what women have to say, it seems pretty clear that Calphurnia isn't so dumb after all.  In fact, it also seems like things would have turned out differently if the play's female characters hadn't been ignored.  

    DECIUS
    This dream is all amiss interpreted.
    It was a vision fair and fortunate.
    Your statue spouting blood in many pipes,
    In which so many smiling Romans bathed,
    Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
    Reviving blood, and that great men shall press
    For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance.
    This by Calphurnia's dream is signified.
    [...]
    Besides, it were a mock
    Apt to be rendered, for some one to say
    'Break up the senate till another time,
    When Caesar's wife shall meet with better dreams.'
    If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper
    'Lo, Caesar is afraid'? (2.2.88-95; 101-106)

    Decius not only says that Calphurnia isn't capable of correctly interpreting her dream, he also tells Caesar that everyone will think he's a sissy if he doesn't go to the Capitol just because his wife had a bad dream. 

    Act 2, Scene 4
    Portia

    PORTIA
    I must go in. [Aside] Ay me, how weak a thing
    The heart of woman is! (2.4.45-46)

    OK, OK, we get it.  The characters in Julius Caesar (including Portia, one of only two female characters in the play) think women are "weak." 

  • Art and Culture

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    [...] he loves no plays,
    As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music;
    Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort
    As if he mock'd himself and scorn'd his spirit
    That could be moved to smile at anything.
    Such men as he be never at heart's ease
    Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
    And therefore are they very dangerous. (1.2.213-220)

    Oh snap! When Julius Caesar wants to insult Cassius, he hurls the worst insult ever – Cassius doesn't like "plays"!  (That's Shakespeare the playwright's way of saying that Cassius is a "dangerous" guy.)

    Casca

    CASCA
    If the tag-rag people did not
    clap him and hiss him, according as he pleased and
    displeased them, as they use to do the players in the
    theater, I am no true man.
    [...]
    Marry, before he fell down, when he perceived
    the common herd was glad he refused the crown,
    he plucked me ope his doublet and offered them his
    throat to cut. An I had been a man of any occupation, 
    if I would not have taken him at a word, I would I
    might go to hell among the rogues. And so
    he fell. When he came to himself again, he said, if he
    had done or said any thing amiss, he desired their
    worships to think it was his infirmity. (1.2.269-272; 274-282)

    Here Casca describes Caesar's theatrical behavior in front of the adoring crowd.  After refusing Antony's offer of the crown three times, Caesar faints dramatically, and the crowd loves him all the more for it.  Casca suggests that when Caesar appears before his followers, he presents himself as an actor of politics, and the "tag-rag [common, or poor] people" respond to his theatrics like an enthusiastic audience at a playhouse. 

    CASCA
    And then he offered it the third time. He put it the
    third time by, and still as he refused it the rabblement
    hooted and clapped their chapped hands and
    threw up their sweaty nightcaps and uttered such a
    deal of stinking breath because Caesar refused the
    crown that it had almost choked Caesar, for he
    swooned and fell down at it. And for mine own part,
    I durst not laugh for fear of opening my lips and
    receiving the bad air. (1.2.253-261)

    In the last passage, we pointed out how Casca knows that Caesar's dramatic refusal of the crown and fainting spell are just cheap tricks used to curry favor with the "hoot[ing]" and "clap[ing]" crowd.  Here Casca continues to describe Caesar's adoring crowd as though they were an audience watching a performance in an Elizabethan playhouse. 

    In this passage, Shakespeare also seems to be making an inside joke when Casca refers to the loud audience's "stinking breath."  Crowded Elizabethan theaters were notoriously smelly places (there being no mouthwash or deodorant at the time).  Plus, Elizabethans thought the plague was contracted by breathing in strong odors like bad breath.  So when Casca says he was afraid to laugh at Caesar and the crowd because he didn't want to open his "lips" and breath in the "bad air," he's suggesting that 1) the crowd's bad breath might make him faint like Caesar and 2) he might catch the plague.  So basically, Casca is bagging on Caesar's rowdy crowd and Shakespeare is bagging on the theatergoers who pay to watch his plays at the same time.

    Act 2, Scene 1
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Good gentlemen, look fresh and merrily.
    Let not our looks put on our purposes,
    But bear it, as our Roman actors do,
    With untired spirits and formal constancy: (2.1.243-246)

    Brutus is pretty crafty here, don't you think? He urges the conspirators to pretend everything is hunky dory so nobody will catch on to their secret plot to assassinate Caesar.  What's interesting is that when Brutus tells the plotters to behave like "actors," Shakespeare makes an explicit connection between stage acting and rebellion. 

    Brain Snack: This connection between acting and rebellion is pretty provocative because government censors and officials were always worried that playhouses where large crowds gathered could potentially incite riots and acts of treason. This was even more of a concern if the play portrayed rebellion against a monarch or powerful political leader onstage, or if it used the stage as a political platform.

    Act 2, Scene 2
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Caesar should be a beast without a heart
    If he should stay at home to-day for fear.
    No, Caesar shall not. Danger knows full well
    That Caesar is more dangerous than he.
    We are two lions littered in one day,
    And I the elder and more terrible.
    And Caesar shall go forth. (2.2.45-51)

    Ever notice the way Julius Caesar likes to talk about himself in the third person? This is called "illeism," and it's pretty common in the play – Cassius and Brutus do it too. What's up with that?

    In a book called Roman Shakespeare, literary critic Coppelia Kahn argues that when characters talk like this, it is "as though they are spectators and audience of themselves as public figures" (78). Sounds right to us, and we also might add that Caesar is a pretty admiring "audience" of himself.

    According to Kahn, the repeated third person references are examples of the play's "public mode." In other words, Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius are very much aware of the public roles they play. We also know that these guys are pretty active when it comes to shaping and creating their public images.

    Brain Snack: During the 1996 US presidential election campaign, candidate Bob Dole often referred to himself in the third person. (At one point, he said, "If you had to leave your children with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, I think you'd probably leave them with Bob Dole" (source). Other famous "illeists" include Fez (That 70's Show), Elmo (Sesame Street), The Rock (actor Dwayne Johnson), and The Todd (Scrubs).

    Act 3, Scene 1
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    [...]How many ages hence
    Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
    In states unborn and accents yet unknown! (3.1.124-126)

    Cassius predicts how the actions of the conspirators against Julius Caesar will be "acted" out in future "states unborn and accents yet unknown."  This is Shakespeare's way of winking at the audience, who is watching this play centuries later, in a "state unborn" (16th century England), being performed in a language that didn't exist yet (English).  

    CASSIUS
    [Aside to Brutus] You know not what you do. Do
       not consent
    That Antony speak in his funeral.
    Know you how much the people may be moved
    By that which he will utter? (3.1.255-259)

    When Brutus grants Antony permission to speak at his friend Caesar's funeral, Cassius seems to be the only person who knows how dangerous Antony's speech will be.  As we know, Antony plays the crowd perfectly (just like Caesar did back in Act 1), and his delivery of a carefully crafted speech helps incite a civil war.

    Act 3, Scene 3
    Cinna (the Poet)

    CINNA THE POET
    Truly, my name is Cinna.
    FIRST PLEBEIAN 
    Tear him to pieces! He's a conspirator.
    CINNA THE POET
    I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet!
    FOURTH PLEBEIAN
    Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses!
    CINNA THE POET
    I am not Cinna the conspirator.
    FOURTH PLEBEIAN
    It is no matter. His name's Cinna.
    Pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him
    going. (3.3.28-36)

    Poets don't get any love in Julius Caesar, do they?  After Caesar is assassinated, chaos ensues on the streets of Rome and nobody is safe.  Here, Cinna the poet is mistaken for Cinna the conspirator, but even after he declares his true identity to the angry mob, he's ripped to shreds for his "bad verses."  Gee, is poet and playwright Will Shakespeare trying to tell us something?  Check out the quote below for more on this.

    Act 4, Scene 2
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Cassius, be content.
    Speak your griefs softly. I do know you well.
    Before the eyes of both our armies here
    (Which should perceive nothing but love from us),
    Let us not wrangle. Bid them move away.
    Then in my tent, Cassius, enlarge your griefs,
    And I will give you audience. (4.2.46-52)

    Brutus knows how dangerous it is for him to argue with Cassius on what amounts to a public "stage."  Because he knows the troops are watching closely, he urges Cassius into the tent, where these two generals can hash out their differences in private.

    Act 4, Scene 3
    Cinna (the Poet)

    Poet
    For shame, you generals, what do you mean?
    Love and be friends as two such men should be,
    For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye.
    CASSIUS
    Ha, ha, how vilely doth this cynic rhyme!
    BRUTUS
    Get you hence, sirrah! Saucy fellow, hence!
    CASSIUS
    Bear with him, Brutus. 'Tis his fashion.
    BRUTUS
    I'll know his humor, when he knows his time.
    What should the wars do with these jigging fools?—
    Companion, hence!
    CASSIUS
    Away, away, be gone! (4.3.149-158)

    Now this is weird.  What the heck is a poet doing roaming around on a battlefield?  After Brutus and Cassius get into a heated argument, the poet shows up and urges the guys to "love, and be friends." Unfortunately, Brutus and Cassius assume that "jigging fools" don't have anything valuable to say about politics, warfare, or even friendship. But it seems pretty clear that Shakespeare (whose work was important enough that he gained royal patronage from King James I) disagrees.  If you want to know more, go to "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" and check out our discussion of "Poets and Teachers." 

  • Principles

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans
    Mark him and write his speeches in their books,
    'Alas,' it cried, 'Give me some drink, Titinius'
    As a sick girl. You gods, it doth amaze me
    A man of such a feeble temper should
    So get the start of the majestic world
    And bear the palm alone. (1.2.132-138)

    Part of what bothers Cassius about Caesar isn't ambition; it's the sheer gall of Caesar wanting to be immortalized.

    CASSIUS
    Well, honor is the subject of my story.
    I cannot tell what you and other men
    Think of this life; but, for my single self,
    I had as lief not be as live to be
    In awe of such a thing as I myself. (1.2.99-103)

    Cassius uses the veil of honor to mask his own ambition.  His pride will not allow him to be led by a peer.  His pride is wounded by the fact that Caesar, whom Cassius sees as no more worthy than him, has assumed the leadership of Rome.

    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Till then, my noble friend, chew upon this:
    Brutus had rather be a villager
    Than to repute himself a son of Rome
    Under these hard conditions as this time
    Is like to lay upon us. (1.2.180-184)

    Brutus' honor gets the better of him here – or does it?  Does this mean he'd rather not deal with the whole mess, or that he'd never be a villager and won't stand by and let Caesar take Rome?

    Act 1, Scene 3
    Casca

    CASCA
    O, he sits high in all the people's hearts,
    And that which would appear offense in us
    His countenance, like richest alchemy,
    Will change to virtue and to worthiness. (1.3.162-165)

    Honorable men have incredible power; they can make any enterprise (even a dirty one) seem noble by attaching their name to it.  On the flip side, they've got to be responsible and discerning about what causes they choose to support, because people trust them to make the right decisions.

    Act 2, Scene 1
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    O conspiracy,
    Sham'st thou to show thy dang'rous brow by night,
    When evils are most free? O, then, by day
    Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough
    To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none,
       conspiracy.
    Hide it in smiles and affability;
    For if thou path, thy native semblance on,
    Not Erebus itself were dim enough
    To hide thee from prevention. (2.1.84-93)

    Brutus senses that these dishonorable means can't be justified, even by an honorable cause.  He can tell from early on that the shadow hanging over Caesar's murder will stretch far beyond the act itself.  Even if the murder didn't end up causing civil war, it would have still cost Brutus, in his own mind, some degree of his personal honor.

    BRUTUS
    what other bond
    Than secret Romans that have spoke the word
    And will not palter? (2.1.135-137)

    Does Brutus really believe everyone is as honorable as he is just because they're all Romans? How does he view Cassius' motives, and why then should he distrust Caesar?

    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Decius, well urged. I think it is not meet
    Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,
    Should outlive Caesar. We shall find of him
    A shrewd contriver; and, you know, his means,
    If he improve them, may well stretch so far
    As to annoy us all; which to prevent,
    Let Antony and Caesar fall together. (2.1.168-174)

    By suggesting that they also murder Antony, Cassius removes the veil of honor from the plan.  This isn't simply about protecting Rome from tyranny; it's making practical moves to protect them from further "annoyances" in whatever it is they plan after the murder.

    CASSIUS
    Yes, every man of them, and no man here
    But honors you, and every one doth wish
    You had but that opinion of yourself
    Which every noble Roman bears of you. (2.1.98-101)

    What does it mean to be honored by dishonorable men, or men willing to commit a dishonorable act?  Do these men see themselves as honorable, or is self-interest at the heart of their plot?

    Act 3, Scene 2
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Believe me
    for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor
    that you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom,
    and awake your senses that you may the better
    judge. (3.2.15-19)

    Brutus still believes that he retains his honor, even after the whole "murdering our leader" incident.  It's interesting that he relies on his honor to convince the people the murder was justified, when it's likely that the murder is the very thing that compromised his honor.  That Brutus doesn't see this is probably a good indicator that he actually did have honorable intentions: he intended no wrong, and thus can't see how anyone would think so.

    Act 4, Scene 3
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Remember March, the ides of March remember.
    Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?
    What villain touched his body that did stab
    And not for justice? What, shall one of us
    That struck the foremost man of all this world
    But for supporting robbers, shall we now
    Contaminate our fingers with base bribes
    And sell the mighty space of our large honors
    For so much trash as may be graspèd thus?
    I had rather be a dog and bay the moon
    Than such a Roman. (4.3.19-29)

    Brutus isn't politicking here. They've obviously fled the country, so it doesn't matter so much what the Romans think. Instead, this bribery is a question of personal honor.  For Brutus, his honor is at stake more than anything else, especially given that he's resigned himself to some sad fate after murdering his friend.

    Act 5, Scene 1
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Let's reason with the worst that may befall.
    If we do lose this battle, then is this
    The very last time we shall speak together.
    What are you then determinèd to do?
    BRUTUS
    Even by the rule of that philosophy
    By which I did blame Cato for the death
    Which he did give himself (I know not how,
    But I do find it cowardly and vile,
    For fear of what might fall, so to prevent
    The time of life), arming myself with patience
    To stay the providence of some high powers
    That govern us below.
    CASSIUS
    Then, if we lose this battle,
    You are contented to be led in triumph
    Thorough the streets of Rome?
    BRUTUS
    No, Cassius, no. Think not, thou noble Roman,
    That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome.
    He bears too great a mind. But this same day
    Must end that work the ides of March begun.
    And whether we shall meet again, I know not. (5.1.106-125)

    Honor trumps everything else here.  Though Brutus would not gladly kill himself (as his father-in-law Cato did when faced with defeat), he reneges on his feeling that suicide is cowardly when he faces the alternative. Anything is preferable to the shame and dishonor of returning to Rome in chains.  Brutus fought to make Rome free, and so he'll go to his death free rather than return to Rome by force.

    Act 5, Scene 5
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Caesar, now be still.
    I killed not thee with half so good a will.         He dies. (5.5.56-57)

    Brutus admits that he killed Caesar willingly, but given everything that's transpired, and everything he now knows, he is doubly resigned to kill himself.  This is his honorable acceptance of his own faults, and his fate.

  • Friendship

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Caesar said to me 'Dar'st thou, Cassius, now
    Leap in with me into this angry flood
    And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
    Accoutred as I was, I plungèd in
    And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
    The torrent roared, and we did buffet it
    With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
    And stemming it with hearts of controversy.
    But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
    Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'
    I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
    Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
    The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
    Did I the tired Caesar. And this man
    Is now become a god, and Cassius is
    A wretched creature and must bend his body
    If Caesar carelessly but nod on him. (1.2.109-125)

    In this passage Cassius relates a story that suggests that male friendship, from an early age, is marked by potentially deadly competition and rivalry. When a young Caesar double-dog-dared Cassius, his childhood friend, to swim across the Tiber River, it nearly cost Caesar his life.  Cassius saved the "wretched creature" from drowning, so it's infuriating that now he has to bow every time he sees him in the street. 

    CASSIUS
    Brutus, I do observe you now of late.
    I have not from your eyes that gentleness
    And show of love as I was wont to have.
    You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
    Over your friend that loves you.

    BRUTUS
    Cassius,
    Be not deceived. If I have veiled my look,
    I turn the trouble of my countenance
    Merely upon myself. Vexèd I am
    Of late with passions of some difference,
    Conceptions only proper to myself,
    Which give some soil, perhaps, to my behaviors.
    But let not therefore my good friends be grieved
    (Among which number, Cassius, be you one)
    Nor construe any further my neglect
    Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
    Forgets the shows of love to other men. (1.2.37-53)

    It's obvious that male bonds are a big deal to the characters in the play. When Cassius asks Brutus why he's been so distant lately, Brutus goes out of his way to apologize to his pal for neglecting their friendship. 

    CASSIUS
    And be not jealous on me, gentle Brutus.
    Were I a common laugher, or did use
    To stale with ordinary oaths my love
    To every new protester; if you know
    That I do fawn on men and hug them hard
    And after scandal them, or if you know
    That I profess myself in banqueting
    To all the rout, then hold me dangerous. (1.2.77-84)

    Here Cassius tries to convince Brutus that he would make a better leader than Brutus' friend, Julius Caesar. Although Cassius claims he would never try to manipulate a friend, his excessive flattery seems to suggest otherwise. 

    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    I would not, Cassius, yet I love him well. (1.2.89)

    When Cassius asks Brutus if he would want Julius Caesar to be crowned king, Brutus says that even though he loves Caesar, he doesn't want him to be a monarch. (Remember, the idea of a monarch ruling Rome with absolute power went against the ideals of the Roman Republic.)

    Act 1, Scene 3
    Casca

    CASCA
    O, he sits high in all the people's hearts,
    And that which would appear offence in us,
    His countenance, like richest alchemy,
    Will change to virtue and to worthiness.
    CASSIUS
    Him and his worth and our great need of him
    You have right well conceited. (1.3.162-167)

    Earlier we saw Cassius try to flatter his friend Brutus into believing that he would make a better Roman leader than Caesar (1.2).  Now it seems pretty obvious that Cassius was trying to manipulate his pal, because here he acknowledges that the conspirators want Brutus on their side. He's popular with the commoners and will make the plotters against Caesar look "virtu[ous]" rather than "offen[sive]."   

    Act 3, Scene 1
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Et tu, Brutè?—Then fall, Caesar. (3.1.85)

    This is one of the most famous and moving lines in literature.  After being stabbed by his so-called pals (33 times, according to Octavius in 5.1), Caesar looks up at his friend and says something like "Even you, Brutus?  I thought we were homies!"    

    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Why, he that cuts off twenty years of life
    Cuts off so many years of fearing death.
    BRUTUS
    Grant that, and then is death a benefit.
    So are we Caesar's friends, that have abridged
    His time of fearing death. Stoop, Romans, stoop,
    And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood
    Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords. (3.1.113-119)

    After stabbing Caesar in the back (and the guts, arms, legs, and chest), Cassius and Brutus reason that they've done their pal a favor: now that Caesar's dead, he no longer has to worry about dying. Then Brutus has another good idea – the conspirators should wash their hands in their friend's blood to signal that they've freed Rome from tyranny. 

    Act 3, Scene 2
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    If there be any in this assembly, any dear
    friend of Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love
    to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend
    demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my
    answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
    Rome more. (3.2.19-24)

    According to Brutus, his decision to assassinate Caesar came down to a choice between his love for Rome and his love for his friend.  Does Brutus' sense of patriotism justify his decision to kill his friend? 

    Act 4, Scene 3
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Strike as thou didst at Caesar, for I know
    When thou didst hate him worst, thou lovedst him
       better
    Than ever thou lovedst Cassius. (4.3.116-119)

    Cassius sure knows how to fight dirty.  When he argues heatedly with Brutus, he throws Brutus' betrayal of Caesar in his friend's face and accuses Brutus of not loving him (Cassius) as much as he loved the man he helped kill.  As nasty as he is, we think Cassius raises a valid point.  How is one supposed to feel about his so-called pals when best friends think nothing of killing each other over political matters? 

    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    When I spoke that, I was ill-temper'd too.
    CASSIUS
    Do you confess so much? Give me your hand.
    BRUTUS
    And my heart too.
    CASSIUS
                                O Brutus! (4.3.131-135)

    After a heated argument that sounds more like a lovers' quarrel than a fight between friends, Brutus and Cassius finally kiss and make up, so to speak. 

    Act 5, Scene 5
    Antony

    ANTONY
    This was the noblest Roman of them all.
    All the conspirators save only he
    Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
    He only in a general honest thought
    And common good to all made one of them. (5.5.74-78)

    These days, we tend not wage war against our friends and then stand over their dead bodies waxing poetic about how "noble" they were.  But in <em>Julius Caesar</em>, this kind of behavior is par for the course. 

  • Manipulation

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Casca

    CASCA
    Three or four
    wenches where I stood cried, 'Alas, good soul!' and
    forgave him with all their hearts. But there's no
    heed to be taken of them; if Caesar had stabbed
    their mothers, they would have done no less. (1.2.282-286)

    Casca suggests that public opinion is easily won and is therefore meaningless.  Plus, even though the Romans are supposed to be a republic of equal citizens, those in charge think everyone else is dumb and treat them accordingly.  (All Romans are equal, but some are more equal than others.)

    CASCA
    I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it.
    It was mere foolery; I did not mark it. I saw Mark
    Antony offer him a crown (yet 'twas not a crown
    neither; 'twas one of these coronets), and, as I told
    you, he put it by once; but for all that, to my
    thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he offered 
    it to him again; then he put it by again; but to my
    thinking, he was very loath to lay his fingers off it.
    And then he offered it the third time. He put it the
    third time by, and still as he refused it the rabblement
    hooted and clapped their chopped hands and
    threw up their sweaty nightcaps and uttered such a
    deal of stinking breath because Caesar refused the
    crown that it had almost choked Caesar, for he
    swooned and fell down at it. And for mine own part,
    I durst not laugh for fear of opening my lips and
    receiving the bad air. (1.2.245-261)

    Caesar deliberately deceives the public here.  It's clear he's putting on a great show by refusing the crown, even though he'd secretly love to have it. He understands that public refusal is a smart political maneuver to get the people to love him more and think him less ambitious.

    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Men at some time are masters of their fates.
    The 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;
    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.' (1.2.146-156)

    Cassius seems to think that by playing on his desire for personal glory, he can sway Brutus to join the conspirators.  The thing is, we're not sure if Brutus is interested in self-gain.  It seems Cassius keeps bringing up personal gain because it's <em>his</em> motivation for taking down Caesar.

    CASSIUS
    'Tis just,
    And it is very much lamented, Brutus,
    That you have no such mirrors as will turn
    Your hidden worthiness into your eye,
    That you might see your shadow. I have heard
    Where many of the best respect in Rome,
    Except immortal Caesar, speaking of Brutus
    And groaning underneath this age's yoke,
    Have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes.
    BRUTUS 
    Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius,
    That you would have me seek into myself
    For that which is not in me? (1.2.60-71)

    Cassius sure is smarmy, don't you think?  It's obvious he wants Brutus to join the conspiracy against Caesar, but instead of coming right out and asking him, he tries to stroke Brutus' ego by suggesting that the people are clamoring for Brutus to lead Rome.   

    CASSIUS
    I will this night,
    In several hands in at his windows throw,
    As if they came from several citizens,
    Writings, all tending to the great opinion
    That Rome holds of his name, wherein obscurely
    Caesar's ambition shall be glancèd at
    And after this, let Caesar seat him sure,
    For we will shake him, or worse days endure. (1.2.327-334)

    Cassius hopes that by planting fake letters from "citizens" urging Brutus to lead Rome, Brutus will be convinced to join the conspiracy against Julius Caesar.

    CASSIUS
    Well, Brutus, thou art noble. Yet I see
    Thy honorable mettle may be wrought
    From that it is disposed. Therefore it is meet
    That noble minds keep ever with their likes;
    For who so firm that cannot be seduced? (1.2.320-324)

    Even though Cassius thinks Brutus is a "noble" guy, he also thinks that just about anyone, including Brutus, can be manipulated or "seduced." 

    Act 2, Scene 2

    DECIUS
    This dream is all amiss interpreted.
    It was a vision fair and fortunate.
    Your statue spouting blood in many pipes,
    In which so many smiling Romans bathed,
    Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
    Reviving blood, and that great men shall press
    For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance.
    This by Calphurnia's dream is signified.
    CAESAR
    And this way have you well expounded it.
    DECIUS
    I have, when you have heard what I can say.
    And know it now: the Senate have concluded
    To give this day a crown to mighty Caesar.
    If you shall send them word you will not come,
    Their minds may change. Besides, it were a mock
    Apt to be rendered, for someone to say
    'Break up the Senate till another time,
    When Caesar's wife shall meet with better dreams.'
    If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper
    'Lo, Caesar is afraid'?
    Pardon me, Caesar, for my dear dear love
    To your proceeding bids me tell you this,
    And reason to my love is liable. (2.2.88-109)

    This is pretty brazen lying on Decius' part, but Caesar wants to hear it – he eats it up.  Decius is particularly wily – he knows Caesar will not refuse the crown again.  The suggestion of power, and Caesar's own attraction to it, is all it takes to draw Caesar out to his doom.

    Act 3, Scene 2
    Antony

    ANTONY
    Have patience, gentle friends, I must not read it.
    It is not meet you know how Caesar loved you.
    You are not wood, you are not stones, but men.
    And, being men, hearing the will of Caesar,
    It will inflame you; it will make you mad.
    'Tis good you know not that you are his heirs,
    For if you should, O, what would come of it? (3.2.152-158)

    This is the point at which Antony begins using some really questionable methods of rhetoric (the art of persuasion).  It's obvious to the reader that Antony wants a disastrous outcome, and he's inviting it by playing on the public's own willingness to be taunted and deceived by this game of peek-a-boo with a dead man's will.  For shame.

    ANTONY
    Here is the will, and under Caesar's seal:
    To every Roman citizen he gives,
    To every several man, seventy-five drachmas.
    SECOND PLEBEIAN
    Most noble Caesar! We'll revenge his death.
    THIRD PLEBIAN
    O royal Caesar!
    ANTONY
    Hear me with patience.
    PLEBEIANS 
    Peace, ho!
    ANTONY
    Moreover, he hath left you all his walks,
    His private arbors, and new-planted orchards,
    On this side Tiber. He hath left them you,
    And to your heirs forever—common pleasures
    To walk abroad and recreate yourselves.
    Here was a Caesar! When comes such another?
    FIRST PLEBEIAN
    Never, never!—Come, away, away!
    We'll burn his body in the holy place
    And with the brands fire the traitors' houses.
    Take up the body. (3.2.254-270)

    Something like ten minutes ago, the people swore with Brutus that they loved their freedom as Romans above all else.  But Antony, with the promise of two months' wages and some public gardens, convinces the people to riot.  They forget all about the tyranny Brutus just warned them of.

    ANTONY
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
    And sure he is an honorable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love him once, not without cause.
    What cause withholds you then to mourn for
       him?—
    O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason!—Bear with me;
    My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
    And I must pause till it come back to me. [He weeps.] (3.2.107-117)

    Antony doesn't suggest the people adopt his judgments; instead he masterfully suggests they think back on their own past judgments.  It's not just that Antony loved Caesar, but that the people did too.  This is a masterful rhetorical move: Antony gets the crowd to come to the conclusion he wants them to without their realizing it. Now if they go against what they used to believe, they'd seem fickle, which nobody likes.  Antony even gives them the time they'd need to reflect on their past beliefs and come to his conclusion.

  • Pride

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Such men as he be never at heart's ease
    Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
    And therefore are they very dangerous.
    I rather tell thee what is to be feared
    Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar. (1.2.218-222)

    Caesar is unashamed of his arrogance.  He doesn't see his condescension as arrogance; instead it's a quality he has earned by proving himself a powerful man.

    Act 1, Scene 3
    Casca

    CASCA
    But wherefore did you so much tempt the heavens?
    It is the part of men to fear and tremble
    When the most mighty gods by tokens send
    Such dreadful heralds to astonish us. (1.3.56-59)

    Casca has fear before the gods, while Cassius interprets heavenly interference as a sign that his traitorous enterprise will go well.  Cassius is arrogant in his interpretation that the gods are on his side, while Casca displays humility.

    Act 2, Scene 2
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Caesar should be a beast without a heart,
    If he should stay at home today for fear.
    No, Caesar shall not. Danger knows full well
    That Caesar is more dangerous than he. (2.2.45-48)

    Ever notice the way Julius Caesar likes to talk about Julius Caesar in the third person?  He sounds a lot like Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, don't you think?  Grrr.

    CAESAR
    Caesar shall forth. The things that threatened me
    Ne'er looked but on my back. When they shall see
    The face of Caesar, they are vanished. (2.2.10-12)

    Caesar is shockingly cocky.  Even if he just talks a good game, it's hard to be sympathetic toward him.

    Act 3, Scene 1
    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    I could be well moved, if I were as you.
    If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.
    But I am constant as the Northern Star,
    Of whose true fixed and resting quality
    There is no fellow in the firmament.
    The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
    They are all fire, and every one doth shine.
    But there's but one in all doth hold his place.
    So in the world: 'tis furnished well with men,
    And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive.
    Yet in the number I do know but one
    That unassailable holds on his rank,
    Unshaked of motion; and that I am he
    Let me a little show it, even in this;
    That I was constant Cimber should be banished 
    And constant do remain to keep him so. (3.1.64-79)

    During Caesar's famous "I'm the brightest star in the sky" speech, he claims to be the most "constant" (steady) guy in the universe because he can't be swayed by the personal appeals of other men. This says a whole lot about Caesar's character, don't you think? When Caesar aligns himself with the "northern star," he attempts to elevate himself above all other men. According to Caesar, even though there are other stars (men) in the sky (Rome), "there's but one in all doth hold his place." In other words, Caesar claims that he's the only guy solid enough to rule Rome (as evidenced by his refusal to relent after having banished Cimber).

    The irony here is that Caesar delivers this big, fancy speech mere seconds before he's assassinated. Just as our superstar declares how "unshak[able]" and immovable he is, the conspirators surround him and then stab him to death (33 times!), obviously unseating him from power. But before we conclude that Caesar isn't as "constant" as he claims to be, we should also keep in mind that, centuries after the historical (and still famous) Caesar was assassinated, Shakespeare wrote a play about him...and we're still reading it.

    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    Stoop then, and wash.
    [They smear their hands and swords with Caesar’s blood.] 
                                       How many ages hence
    Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
    In states unborn and accents yet unknown!
    BRUTUS
    How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
    That now on Pompey's basis lies along
    No worthier than the dust!
    CASSIUS
    So oft as that shall be,
    So often shall the knot of us be called
    The men that gave their country liberty. (3.1.123-132)

    The conspirators believe they'll go down in history for their act, yet they arrogantly (or naively) assume they will be remembered as heroes, not traitors.  The glory of being preserved by history is enough of a lure that that's what they dwell on after the murder, second only to having liberated Rome.

    ARTEMIDORUS
    O Caesar, read mine first, for mine's a suit
    That touches Caesar nearer. Read it, great Caesar.
    CAESAR
    What touches us ourself shall be last served. (3.1.6-8)

    This seems like a bad time for Caesar to be self-sacrificing.  Then again, we've only seen Caesar be really arrogant when he's being challenged.  What evidence do we have that Caesar would put his own affairs above the affairs of the state?

    Act 3, Scene 2
    Antony

    ANTONY
    Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
    To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
    They that have done this deed are honorable.
    What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
    That made them do it. They are wise and honorable
    And will no doubt with reasons answer you.
    I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts.
    I am no orator, as Brutus is,
    But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man
    That love my friend, and that they know full well
    That gave me public leave to speak of him.
    For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
    Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech
    To stir men's blood. I only speak right on.
    I tell you that which you yourselves do know,
    Show you sweet Caesar's wounds, poor dumb mouths,
    And bid them speak for me. (3.2.222-239)

    False humility is often worse than arrogance.  Antony sets himself up as an ignoble and untrustworthy character here.

    Act 4, Scene 1
    Octavius

    OCTAVIUS
    You may do your will,
    But he's a tried and valiant soldier.
    ANTONY
    So is my horse, Octavius, and for that
    I do appoint him store of provender.
    It is a creature that I teach to fight,
    To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
    His corporal motion govern'd by my spirit (4.1.31-37)

    Antony is shamelessly arrogant when speaking about Lepidus.   He displays the same trait Caesar had: he thinks he's naturally above others, giving him freedom to do and say whatever he wants.  Antony can't see his own prideful arrogance.  Perhaps he doesn't see himself as arrogant, but just honest.  Still, whatever bad you can say about Caesar, he's definitely <em>earned</em> some degree of cockiness. Antony, a little party-hearty fellow, arguably has a lot more to prove.

    Act 4, Scene 3
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    I did not think you could have been so angry.
    BRUTUS
    O Cassius, I am sick of many griefs.
    CASSIUS
    Of your philosophy you make no use
    If you give place to accidental evils.
    BRUTUS
    No man bears sorrow better. Portia is dead. (4.3.164-168)

    Brutus exercises another type of humility here: stoicism, or the realization that life is a burden that each man has to bear.  He figures he might as well bear suffering nobly rather than getting worked up over every little thing, like his wife dying or murdering his best friend.

  • Power

    Act 1, Scene 2
    Cassius

    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. (1.2.142-145)

    As Cassius tries to convince Brutus that Caesar needs to be taken down, he conjures up a vivid image of the Roman leader as a "Colossus" – a giant statue, like the Colossus of Rhodes.  The funny thing is, Cassius also likes to go around talking about what a wimp Caesar is.  Just a few lines earlier, Cassius tells Brutus the story of how Caesar almost drowned as a young boy and how he once became so ill that he acted like a "sick girl."  So what's the deal with all of these competing images of Caesar in the play?  Is he really an all-powerful figure, or is he made out to be a bigger threat than he really is?  

    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    What means this shouting? I do fear the people
    Choose Caesar for their king.
    CASSIUS
                                                  Ay, do you fear it?
    Then must I think you would not have it so.
    BRUTUS
    I would not, Cassius, yet I love him well. (1.2.85-89)

    This passage is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, even though Brutus says he "love[s]" Caesar "well," he says he also fears that his friend will be crowned king, which goes against the ideals of the Roman Republic.  Second, even though Brutus, Cassius, and the fellow conspirators want to eliminate Caesar's threat, it's obvious that the commoners, or plebeians, adore Caesar.  When Caesar returns from defeating Pompey's sons in the first act, he's met with a huge celebration and is treated like a rock star.  

    Casca

    CASCA
    If the tag-rag people did not
    clap him and hiss him, according as he pleased and
    displeased them, as they use to do the players in the
    theater, I am no true man.
    [...]
    Marry, before he fell down, when he perceived
    the common herd was glad he refused the crown,
    he plucked me ope his doublet and offered them his
    throat to cut. An I had been a man of any occupation,
    if I would not have taken him at a word, I
    would I might go to hell among the rogues. And so
    he fell. When he came to himself again, he said if he
    had done or said any thing amiss, he desired their
    worships to think it was his infirmity. (1.2.269-272; 274-282)

    Casca knows that Caesar's dramatic refusal of the crown and fainting spell are just cheap tricks used to curry favor with the "hoot[ing]" and "clap[ing]" crowd. Casca also describes Caesar's adoring crowd as though they are an audience watching a performance at an Elizabethan playhouse, which suggests that political leaders like Julius Caesar are like actors on a very public stage. Check out "Themes: Art and Culture" if you want to know more about this.

    We're also interested in Julius Caesar's dramatic fainting spell. We're not sure whether he really swooned or faked the whole thing, but for someone who's supposed to be such a threat to Roman freedom, Caesar sure does have a lot medical problems, don't you think (epilepsy, deafness in one ear, etc.)?

    [...] I could tell you more
    news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarves
    off Caesar's images, are put to silence. Fare you
    well. There was more foolery yet, if I could
    remember it. (1.2.295-299)

    Earlier we suggested that Caesar's problem is that he might <em>become</em> a tyrant if he gains more power.  Here, however, the play suggests that he's already behaving like one.  When Casca says that Murellus and Flavius have been "put to silence" for covering up pictures of Caesar during the Feast of Lupercal, we're left to wonder whether this means that Caesar had them put to death.  

    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    Let me have men about me that are fat,
    Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights.
    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
    He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous. (1.2.202-205)

    Caesar makes light of his desire to be surrounded by fat and complacent yes-men, yet he realizes this is necessary to the safety of his power.  What does this suggest about his leadership style and ideas about how Rome should be governed? 

    Act 1, Scene 3
    Cassius

    CASSIUS
    And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
    Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf
    But that he sees the Romans are but sheep;
    He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.
    Those that with haste will make a mighty fire
    Begin it with weak straws. What trash is Rome,
    What rubbish, and what offal when it serves
    For the base matter to illuminate
    So vile a thing as Caesar! (1.3.107-115)

    Here Cassius doesn't specifically blame Caesar for his would-be tyranny. He believes it's the responsibility of the people to show they won't be subjugated like "sheep."  Cassius reasons that if a political leader behaves like a "wolf" or a "lion," it's only because the people have allowed him to do so.  According to Cassius, it's the people's job to keep their leaders in check.

    Act 2, Scene 1
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    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 therefore think him as a serpent's egg
    Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow
       mischievous,
    And kill him in the shell. (2.1.12-15; 33-36)

    Here Brutus compares Caesar to a "serpent's egg" that should be destroyed before it hatches and becomes dangerous.  This suggests that the conspirators see in Caesar a <em>future</em> threat to Rome.  They're afraid of Caesar not because he <em>is</em> a tyrant, but because he <em>might become</em> one if he is crowned king.  

    Act 3, Scene 1
    Brutus

    BRUTUS
    Stoop, Romans, stoop,
    And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood
    Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords.
    Then walk we forth, even to the marketplace,
    And, waving our red weapons o'er our heads,
    Let's all cry "Peace, freedom, and liberty!" (3.1.117-122)

    After the conspirators stab Caesar to death, they decide it would be a good idea to wash their hands in his blood, then run through the marketplace announcing that they have liberated Rome from bondage.  Good thinking – now everyone will know that Rome is safe from danger...right? 

    Julius Caesar

    CAESAR
    I could be well moved, if I were as you.
    If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.
    But I am constant as the Northern Star,
    Of whose true fixed and resting quality
    There is no fellow in the firmament.
    The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
    They are all fire and every one doth shine.
    But there's but one in all doth hold his place.
    So in the world: 'tis furnished well with men,
    And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive.
    Yet in the number I do know but one
    That unassailable holds on his rank,
    Unshaked of motion; and that I am he
    Let me a little show it, even in this:
    That I was constant Cimber should be banished,
    And constant do remain to keep him so. (3.1.64-79)

    During Caesar's famous "I'm the brightest star" speech, he claims to be the most "constant" (steady) guy in the universe. This is an attempt to elevate himself above all others and make it look like he's the only guy fit to rule Rome.  The irony here is that just as Caesar declares how "unshak[able]" and immovable he is, the conspirators surround him and stab him to death, unseating him from power. 

    Act 3, Scene 2
    Antony

    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. (3.2.82)

    Even though Antony promises he won't bad-mouth Caesar's assassins, his funeral eulogy for Caesar is a carefully crafted speech designed to 1) turn the people against the conspirators, and 2) launch Antony into a position of power.  The success of Antony's speech suggests that effective leadership goes hand in hand with rhetoric (the art of speaking persuasively).