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    Cry havoc!  And let slip the dogs of war!

Julius Caesar is a transitional work, marking the point where Shakespeare finished with the English history plays (ending with Henry V that same year) and predating the great tragedies like Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1603-04), King Lear (1605-06) & MacBeth (1605-06).  It has historically been subject to great dispute by critics over who the hero of the play is: Caesar after all is killed fairly early, while Brutus manages to be both a murderer and somewhat passive and Marc Antony, despite his magnificent funeral orations, is not truly important to much of the action of the play.  My own personal belief is that where, as here, no one character is pivotal, then the action of the story is probably meant to bear the central position.  In this context, the play lends itself to a starkly political reading; as a warning against too blithely replacing the ruler of a State, lest men exchange a mild or imagined tyranny for a genuine and harsher one or, even worse, replace a stable despotism with murderous chaos.  This is a message which would have had special relevance in Shakespeare's time, with an aging Elizabeth on the throne and the looming possibility that England would return to open warfare over the line of succession should one party or the other be dissatisfied with the next King.

As the play opens, Julius Caesar is on the verge of becoming Emperor of Rome.  His ascendancy provokes both petty jealousy and honest fear among his peers, as we see when two tribunes try to calm the excited citizens:

     MARULLUS

    Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?
    What tributaries follow him to Rome,
    To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?
    You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
    O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
    Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
    Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,
    To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops,
    Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
    The livelong day, with patient expectation,
    To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome:
    And when you saw his chariot but appear,
    Have you not made an universal shout,
    That Tiber trembled underneath her banks,
    To hear the replication of your sounds
    Made in her concave shores?
    And do you now put on your best attire?
    And do you now cull out a holiday?
    And do you now strew flowers in his way
    That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood? Be gone!
    Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
    Pray to the gods to intermit the plague
    That needs must light on this ingratitude.

    FLAVIUS

    Go, go, good countrymen, and, for this fault,
    Assemble all the poor men of your sort;
    Draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears
    Into the channel, till the lowest stream
    Do kiss the most exalted shores of all.

    (Exeunt all the Commoners)

    See whether their basest metal be not moved;
    They vanish tongue-tied in their guiltiness.
    Go you down that way towards the Capitol;
    This way will I disrobe the images,
    If you do find them deck'd with ceremonies.

    MARULLUS

    May we do so?
    You know it is the feast of Lupercal.

    FLAVIUS

    It is no matter; let no images
    Be hung with Caesar's trophies. I'll about,
    And drive away the vulgar from the streets:
    So do you too, where you perceive them thick.
    These growing feathers pluck'd 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.
 

Meanwhile, rivals like Cassius have more personal quarrels with his sudden ascension:

    CASSIUS

    I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,
    As well as I do know your outward favour.
    Well, honour 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.
    I was born free as Caesar; so were you:
    We both have fed as well, and we can both
    Endure the winter's cold as well as he:
    For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
    The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
    Caesar said to me 'Darest thou, Cassius, now
    Leap in with me into this angry flood,
    And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
    Accoutred as I was, I plunged in
    And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
    The torrent roar'd, 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.
    He had a fever when he was in Spain,
    And when the fit was on him, I did mark
    How he did shake: 'tis true, this god did shake;
    His coward lips did from their colour fly,
    And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world
    Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan:
    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. 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.
 

And Cassius preys upon the genuine "democratic" concerns of Brutus:

    Shout. Flourish

    BRUTUS

    Another general shout!
    I do believe that these applauses are
    For some new honours that are heap'd on Caesar.

    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 dishonourable graves.
    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.
    Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
    Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
    That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed!
    Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!
    When went there by an age, since the great flood,
    But it was famed with more than with one man?
    When could they say till now, that talk'd of Rome,
    That her wide walls encompass'd but one man?
    Now is it Rome indeed and room enough,
    When there is in it but one only man.
    O, you and I have heard our fathers say,
    There was a Brutus once that would have brook'd
    The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
    As easily as a king.

    BRUTUS

    That you do love me, I am nothing jealous;
    What you would work me to, I have some aim:
    How I have thought of this and of these times,
    I shall recount hereafter; for this present,
    I would not, so with love I might entreat you,
    Be any further moved. What you have said
    I will consider; what you have to say
    I will with patience hear, and find a time
    Both meet to hear and answer such high things.
    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.
 

Caesar recognizes that all men are not pleased with his rise to power (in addition he has famously been warned to "Beware the Ides of March"):

    CAESAR

    Let me have men about me that are fat;
    Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
    He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

    ANTONY

    Fear him not, Caesar; he's not dangerous;
    He is a noble Roman and well given.

    CAESAR

    Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
    Yet if my name were liable to fear,
    I do not know the man I should avoid
    So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
    He is a great observer and he looks
    Quite through the deeds of men: 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 any thing.
    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 fear'd
    Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.
    Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,
    And tell me truly what thou think'st of him.

Despite all the concern over his vaulting ambition, at least outwardly Caesar does not appear anxious to grab at power:

    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
    chapped hands and threw up their sweaty night-caps
    and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because
    Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked
    Caesar; for he swounded 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.
 

Nevertheless, Cassius and Brutus form a cabal and plan to assassinate Caesar.  On the night before the execution, the plotters meet amidst storms and strange portents:

    CASCA

    Who ever knew the heavens menace so?

    CASSIUS

    Those that have known the earth so full of faults.
    For my part, I have walk'd about the streets,
    Submitting me unto the perilous night,
    And, thus unbraced, Casca, as you see,
    Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone;
    And when the cross blue lightning seem'd to open
    The breast of heaven, I did present myself
    Even in the aim and very flash of it.

    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.

    CASSIUS

    You are dull, Casca, and those sparks of life
    That should be in a Roman you do want,
    Or else you use not. You look pale and gaze
    And put on fear and cast yourself in wonder,
    To see the strange impatience of the heavens:
    But if you would consider the true cause
    Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts,
    Why birds and beasts from quality and kind,
    Why old men fool and children calculate,
    Why all these things change from their ordinance
    Their natures and preformed faculties
    To monstrous quality,--why, you shall find
    That heaven hath infused them with these spirits,
    To make them instruments of fear and warning
    Unto some monstrous state.
    Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man
    Most like this dreadful night,
    That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars
    As doth the lion in the Capitol,
    A man no mightier than thyself or me
    In personal action, yet prodigious grown
    And fearful, as these strange eruptions are.

    CASCA

    'Tis Caesar that you mean; is it not, 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 govern'd with our mothers' spirits;
    Our yoke and sufferance show us womanish.

Cassius recognizes that these omens well suit the temper of the times:

    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! But, O grief,
    Where hast thou led me? I perhaps speak this
    Before a willing bondman; then I know
    My answer must be made. But I am arm'd,
    And dangers are to me indifferent.

    CASCA

    You speak to Casca, and to such a man
    That is no fleering tell-tale. Hold, my hand:
    Be factious for redress of all these griefs,
    And I will set this foot of mine as far
    As who goes farthest.

    CASSIUS

    There's a bargain made.
    Now know you, Casca, I have moved already
    Some certain of the noblest-minded Romans
    To undergo with me an enterprise
    Of honourable-dangerous consequence;
    And I do know, by this, they stay for me
    In Pompey's porch: for now, this fearful night,
    There is no stir or walking in the streets;
    And the complexion of the element
    In favour's like the work we have in hand,
    Most bloody, fiery, and most terrible.

Meanwhile, Brutus steels himself to act, even in the face of Caesar's seeming reticence:

    BRUTUS

    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 crown'd:
    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.
    The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
    Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
    I have not known when his affections sway'd
    More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,
    That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
    Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
    But when he once attains the upmost round.
    He then unto the ladder turns his back,
    Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
    By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.
    Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
    Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
    Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,
    Would run to these and these extremities:
    And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
    Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
    And kill him in the shell.

But his own moral qualms require that he face the contemplated deed honestly:

    CASSIUS

    And let us swear our resolution.

    BRUTUS

    No, not an oath: if not the face of men,
    The sufferance of our souls, the time's abuse,--
    If these be motives weak, break off betimes,
    And every man hence to his idle bed;
    So let high-sighted tyranny range on,
    Till each man drop by lottery. But if these,
    As I am sure they do, bear fire enough
    To kindle cowards and to steel with valour
    The melting spirits of women, then, countrymen,
    What need we any spur but our own cause,
    To prick us to redress? what other bond
    Than secret Romans, that have spoke the word,
    And will not palter? and what other oath
    Than honesty to honesty engaged,
    That this shall be, or we will fall for it?
    Swear priests and cowards and men cautelous,
    Old feeble carrions and such suffering souls
    That welcome wrongs; unto bad causes swear
    Such creatures as men doubt; but do not stain
    The even virtue of our enterprise,
    Nor the insuppressive mettle of our spirits,
    To think that or our cause or our performance
    Did need an oath; when every drop of blood
    That every Roman bears, and nobly bears,
    Is guilty of a several bastardy,
    If he do break the smallest particle
    Of any promise that hath pass'd from him.

And, unwisely, stop him from accepting the need to slay Caesar's allies and acolytes:

    DECIUS BRUTUS

    Shall no man else be touch'd but only Caesar?

    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.

    BRUTUS

    Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
    To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
    Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
    For Antony is but a limb of Caesar:
    Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
    We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar;
    And in the spirit of men there is no blood:
    O, that we then could come by Caesar's spirit,
    And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
    Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends,
    Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
    Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
    Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds:
    And let our hearts, as subtle masters do,
    Stir up their servants to an act of rage,
    And after seem to chide 'em. This shall make
    Our purpose necessary and not envious:
    Which so appearing to the common eyes,
    We shall be call'd purgers, not murderers.
    And for Mark Antony, think not of him;
    For he can do no more than Caesar's arm
    When Caesar's head is off.

    CASSIUS

    Yet I fear him;
    For in the ingrafted love he bears to Caesar--

    BRUTUS

    Alas, good Cassius, do not think of him:
    If he love Caesar, all that he can do
    Is to himself, take thought and die for Caesar:
    And that were much he should; for he is given
    To sports, to wildness and much company.

    TREBONIUS

    There is no fear in him; let him not die;
    For he will live, and laugh at this hereafter.

The plotters do indeed assassinate Caesar, then put the best spin they can on their actions:

    BRUTUS

    Be patient till the last.
    Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
    cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
    for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
    you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
    awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
    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. Had you rather Caesar were living and
    die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
    all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
    as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
    valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
    slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
    fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
    ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
    bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
    Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
    any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
    vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
    for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

    All

    None, Brutus, none.

But, just when it appears that the citizenry will accept the justice of their actions, Marc Antony turns the tide against them:

    First Citizen

    This Caesar was a tyrant.

    Third Citizen

    Nay, that's certain:
    We are blest that Rome is rid of him.

    Second Citizen

    Peace! let us hear what Antony can say.

    ANTONY

    You gentle Romans,--

    Citizens

    Peace, ho! let us hear him.

    ANTONY

    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
    And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
    For Brutus is an honourable man;
    So are they all, all honourable men--
    Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    He hath brought many captives home to Rome
    Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
    Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And, sure, he is an honourable 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 judgment! 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.

    First Citizen

    Methinks there is much reason in his sayings.

    Second Citizen

    If thou consider rightly of the matter,
    Caesar has had great wrong.

    Third Citizen

    Has he, masters?
    I fear there will a worse come in his place.

    Fourth Citizen

    Mark'd ye his words? He would not take the crown;
    Therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious.

    First Citizen

    If it be found so, some will dear abide it.

    Second Citizen

    Poor soul! his eyes are red as fire with weeping.

    Third Citizen

    There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.

    Fourth Citizen

    Now mark him, he begins again to speak.

    ANTONY

    But yesterday the word of Caesar might
    Have stood against the world; now lies he there.
    And none so poor to do him reverence.
    O masters, if I were disposed to stir
    Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
    I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
    Who, you all know, are honourable men:
    I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
    To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
    Than I will wrong such honourable men.
    But here's a parchment with the seal of Caesar;
    I found it in his closet, 'tis his will:
    Let but the commons hear this testament--
    Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read--
    And they would go and kiss dead Caesar's wounds
    And dip their napkins in his sacred blood,
    Yea, beg a hair of him for memory,
    And, dying, mention it within their wills,
    Bequeathing it as a rich legacy
    Unto their issue.

    Fourth Citizen

    We'll hear the will: read it, Mark Antony.

    All

    The will, the will! we will hear Caesar's will.

    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, bearing 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!

    Fourth Citizen

    Read the will; we'll hear it, Antony;
    You shall read us the will, Caesar's will.

    ANTONY

    Will you be patient? will you stay awhile?
    I have o'ershot myself to tell you of it:
    I fear I wrong the honourable men
    Whose daggers have stabb'd Caesar; I do fear it.

    Fourth Citizen

    They were traitors: honourable men!

    All

    The will! the testament!

    Second Citizen

    They were villains, murderers: the will! read the will.

    ANTONY

    You will compel me, then, to read the will?
    Then make a ring about the corpse of Caesar,
    And let me show you him that made the will.
    Shall I descend? and will you give me leave?

    Several Citizens

    Come down.

    Second Citizen

    Descend.

    Third Citizen

    You shall have leave.

    ANTONY comes down

    Fourth Citizen

    A ring; stand round.

    First Citizen

    Stand from the hearse, stand from the body.

    Second Citizen

    Room for Antony, most noble Antony.

    ANTONY

    Nay, press not so upon me; stand far off.

    Several Citizens

    Stand back; room; bear back.

    ANTONY

    If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
    You all do know this mantle: I remember
    The first time ever Caesar put it on;
    'Twas on a summer's evening, in his tent,
    That day he overcame the Nervii:
    Look, in this place ran Cassius' dagger through:
    See what a rent the envious Casca made:
    Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;
    And as he pluck'd his cursed steel away,
    Mark how the blood of Caesar follow'd it,
    As rushing out of doors, to be resolved
    If Brutus so unkindly knock'd, or no;
    For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel:
    Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!
    This was the most unkindest cut of all;
    For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
    Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms,
    Quite vanquish'd him: then burst his mighty heart;
    And, in his mantle muffling up his face,
    Even at the base of Pompey's statua,
    Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
    O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
    Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
    Whilst bloody treason flourish'd over us.
    O, now you weep; and, I perceive, you feel
    The dint of pity: these are gracious drops.
    Kind souls, what, weep you when you but behold
    Our Caesar's vesture wounded? Look you here,
    Here is himself, marr'd, as you see, with traitors.

    First Citizen

    O piteous spectacle!

    Second Citizen

    O noble Caesar!

    Third Citizen

    O woful day!

    Fourth Citizen

    O traitors, villains!

    First Citizen

    O most bloody sight!

    Second Citizen

    We will be revenged.

    All

    Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
    Let not a traitor live!

    ANTONY

    Stay, countrymen.

    First Citizen

    Peace there! hear the noble Antony.

    Second Citizen

    We'll hear him, we'll follow him, we'll die with him.

    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 honourable:
    What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
    That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
    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 poor dumb mouths,
    And bid them speak for me: but were I Brutus,
    And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
    Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue
    In every wound of Caesar that should move
    The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

    All

    We'll mutiny.

    First Citizen

    We'll burn the house of Brutus.

    Third Citizen

    Away, then! come, seek the conspirators.

    ANTONY

    Yet hear me, countrymen; yet hear me speak.

    All

    Peace, ho! Hear Antony. Most noble Antony!

    ANTONY

    Why, friends, you go to do you know not what:
    Wherein hath Caesar thus deserved your loves?
    Alas, you know not: I must tell you then:
    You have forgot the will I told you of.

    All

    Most true. The will! Let's stay and hear the will.

    ANTONY

    Here is the will, and under Caesar's seal.
    To every Roman citizen he gives,
    To every several man, seventy-five drachmas.

    Second Citizen

    Most noble Caesar! We'll revenge his death.

    Third Citizen

    O royal Caesar!

    ANTONY

   ; Hear me with patience.

    All

    Peace, ho!

    ANTONY

    Moreover, he hath left you all his walks,
    His private arbours and new-planted orchards,
    On this side Tiber; he hath left them you,
    And to your heirs for ever, common pleasures,
    To walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.
    Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

    First Citizen

    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.

    Second Citizen

    Go fetch fire.

    Third Citizen

    Pluck down benches.

    Fourth Citizen

    Pluck down forms, windows, any thing.

    Exeunt Citizens with the body

With the mob now firmly behind them, Antony, Octavius (later Augustus) and Lepidus form the First Triumvirate and hunt down the plotters.  Octavius emerges as the natural successor to Caesar, but it is Antony who once again gives the closing funeral oration, this time for Brutus.

    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.
    His life was gentle, and the elements
    So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
    And say to all the world 'This was a man!'

Here we see just how ambivalent Shakespeare was about the heroes and villains in the play, indeed in history.  The only reasonable conclusion seems to be that he is saying that tragedy will follow when even good men like Brutus take it open themselves to violently change the course of state.  Just as the assassins were eventually destroyed by the very violence that they unleashed and Octavius eventually ushered in exactly the type of dictatorship that they opposed, so he seems to be saying, must such actions always end.  Better the devil you know.

At any rate, this is one of my favorites of all his works.  Regardless of the reading you give to the play, he's clearly at the top of his game here.  One of the really startling things about reading Shakespeare is that as you go along you first think that the text is cliche ridden and then realize that its actually a function of the fact that he originated an enormous chunk of our language.  Every other line contains a title of a subsequent book or a now common phrase.  It's nearly impossible to imagine what our language would be like in his absence.

I particularly recommend listening to an audio version or watching one of the movie versions (say Marlon Brando and John Houseman's).  The majesty of the Bard's words survives the printed page but really comes to life when read aloud.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
SHAKESPEARE:
    -please check the general collection of Shakespeare links above
 

THE PLAY:
    -ETEXT: JULIUS CAESAR
    -Julius Caesar (Tufts University, Collection of texts and scholarly commentaries on the play)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Julius Caesar  by William Shakespeare. (SparkNote by Nathan Hill)
    -ESSAY: Caesar: Hero or Villain?

CAESAR AND ROME:
    -Encyclopaedia Britannica: Your search: "Julius Caesar"
    -ESSAY : Julius Caesar Assassinated : Major General Fuller recounts the Ides of March, 44 B.C. (Compiled by Jack Walsh, National Review)
    -REVIEW:  G.W. Bowersock: Junius Q. Publicus, NY Review of Books
        The World of the Citizen in Republican Rome by Claude Nicolet and translated by P.S. Falla
        The Noblest Roman: Marcus Brutus and His Reputation by M.L. Clarke
    -REVIEW: Jasper Griffin: 'Here was a Caesar!', NY Review of Books
        The Education of Julius Caesar: A Biography, A Reconstruction by Arthur D. Kahn
        Caesar by Christian Meier
    -REVIEW:  M.I. Finely: Bogus Togas, NY Review of Books
        The Civilization of Rome by Pierre Grimal and translated by W.S. Maguiness
        The Revolutions of Ancient Rome by F.R. Cowell
    -REVIEW:  M.I. Finley: Plutarch, Historical Novelist, NY Review of Books
        Plutarch and His Times by R.H. Barrow
        Julius Caesar, A Political Biography by J.P.V.D. Balsdon
    -REVIEW:  M.I. Finley: Et tu, Teddy White, NY Review of Books
        Caesar at the Rubicon by Theodore H. White
        The Authoress of the Odyssey by Samuel Butler
    -REVIEW:  M.I. Finley: A Profitable Empire, NY Review of Books
        Roman Imperialism in the Late Republic by E. Badian
        The Roman Empire and Its Neighbours by Fergus Millar
        The Climax of Rome by Michael Grant
        The Decline of Rome by Joseph Vogt and translated by Janet Sondheimer
    -REVIEW:  Ronald Syme: Bad Trip, NY Review of Books
        Hannibal by Sir Gavin de Beer
        Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by Howard H. Scullard
        Julius Caesar by Michael Grant
    -REVIEW:  G.W. Bowersock: The Emperor of Roman History, NY Review of Books
        Roman Papers by Ronald Syme and edited by E. Badian
        Selected Books by Ronald Syme Currently in Print
        Ammianus and the Historia Augusta by Ronald Syme
        Emperors and Biography: Studies in the Historia Augusta by Ronald Syme
        The Historia Augusta: A Call for Clarity by Ronald Syme
        History in Ovid by Ronald Syme
        The Roman Revolution by Ronald Syme
        Sallust by Ronald Syme
    -REVIEW:  E. Badian: Marx in the Agora, NY Review of Books
        The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests by G.E.M. de Ste. Croix
    -REVIEW: of  WHO WAS WHO IN THE GREEK WORLD 776 BC-30 BC. Edited by Diana Bowder &. WHO WAS WHO IN THE ROMAN WORLD 753 BC-AD 476 (D.J.R. Bruckner, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW:  Hugh Lloyd-Jones: Ancient Biggies, NY Review of Books
        Who Was Who in the Roman World: 753 BC-AD 476 edited by Diana Bowder
        Who Was Who in the Greek World: 776 BC-30 BC edited by Diana Bowder
    -REVIEW: of AT THE DAWN OF TYRANNY: The Origins of Individualism, Political Oppression and the State. By Eli Sagan (Andrew Bard Schmookler , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW:  W.G. Runciman: Are Tyrants Necessary?, NY Review of Books
        At the Dawn of Tyranny: The Origins of Individualism, Political Oppression, and the State by Eli Sagan
    -REVIEW: of POLITICAL MURDER. From Tyrannicide to Terrorism. By Franklin L. Ford (John Gross, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of POLITICAL MURDER From Tyrannicide to Terrorism. By Franklin L. Ford (Eugen Weber, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of A HISTORY OF WARFARE By John Keegan (Michael Howard, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: READING AND WRITING; ON BOOKS ON WAR (D.J.R. Bruckner, NY Times Book Review)

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