, Research Paper
One of the basic needs of human nature is to control something in one’s life whether it be money, or a group of people. Throughout the long history of politics people have fought for control of the government using many different means both just and unjust. One of the immoral ways to gain power in a political system is by assassination. This theme is one that is discussed in William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, the story of Rome at a time of political unrest. In the work Caesar, the new autocratic leader of Rome, is assassinated by a group of power hungry senators who believe that he is becoming too powerful. Through the use of the characters of Caesar, Cassius, and Brutus: Shakespeare clearly conveys to the reader that no assassination is or will ever be just.
First, Shakespeare shows that the killing was unjust through Julius Caesar himself. First, the murder is proved to be wrong when Antony reads Caesar’s will to the public. For example, Antony reads the will to the crowd and in it Caesar “gives/, to every several man seventy-five drachmas.” The conspirators killed Caesar on what they believed he might do to the citizens of Rome, when in reality he loved them enough to put them in his will, clearly canceling any good cause for the assassination. The conspirators also slew Caesar because they believed that he was too ambitious. For example, when Caesar “put it[the crown] by thrice / and at every putting-by mine honest neighbors shouted,” he threw the killers into a jealous fit. The moment the conspirators learn of this news their plans to kill Caesar move into overdrive, based only on their interpretation of an act which was meant to be humble, further reinforcing that the murder of Caesar had no just cause. Lastly, Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus with some disturbing news. When the ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus in the middle of the night he tells Brutus “thou shall see me at Philippi.” By having “thy evil sprit” of Caesar rise from the dead and appear to Brutus, Shakespeare clearly shows that the murder of Caesar was not right. Through the actions and words of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare proves that the killing was unjust.
Shakespeare uses the character of Marc Antony to further prove that the killing was unjustified. First, Antony implies that the slaying was unjustified during the course of his soliloquy over Caesar’s lifeless body. In this monologue Antony plots the overthrow of Brutus by “let[ing] slip the dogs of war.” Obviously, only a person who believed that the assassination was wrong would want to cause total civil war over the brutal murder of one person. Furthermore, Antony again reveals his views on the wrongful assassination in his soliloquy. At the beginning of the tirade Antony asks the gods forgiveness “that I am meek and gentle with these butchers.” The only motive for Antony to make this apology it that he really believes that the assassination is unjust. Perhaps the best and most direct example of Antony’s opposition to the assassination is his clever and devastating speech to the crowd of citizens. For example, during the course of the speech Antony tells the plebeians to mutiny and that “In every wound of Caesar that should move/ the stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.” Like the president convincing congress to sign an act of war, Antony fully believes in the cause of the mutiny, that the assassination wrong and the conspirators must be punished. Through all of these speeches and actions, Antony is one of the biggest proponents in proving that Caesar is wrongly assassinated.
Lastly, Shakespeare erases any doubt that the assassination was not unjust by causing many bad events to happen to Brutus. First, Shakespeare shows that the assassination of Caesar was unjustified when Portia dies. This, which Cassius exclaims to be a “insupportable and touching loss,” shows that Brutus wrongly assassinated Caesar, when even Portia (his wife) believes that taking her own life is the only way out such an unjust act that she did not commit. Next, Brutus proves that even he felt that the assassination was unjustified. Shakespeare shows this when Brutus gets into a quarrel with Cassius about, “we now/ contaminate our fingers with base bribes.” Part of Brutus’ reasoning for slaying Caesar was that he was corrupting the government and gaining power in immoral ways. Consequently, the removal of Caesar is proven to be totally fruitless because Caesar’s corrupt ways reappear in Cassius. Lastly, Brutus fully realizes that the assassination was unjust at the end of the play. When the opposing army of Antony is coming to capture him he runs on a sword , saying “Caesar now be still;/ I killed not thee with half so good a will.” This clearly shows that through the last several days after the assassination, Brutus has come to realize that the assassination of Caesar was wrong, so wrong that he believes killing himself is the only option. Actions as well as words of Brutus offer the most credible proof that the assassination of Caesar is wrong.
Through many characters, as well as the many well-placed renderings of the characters’ feelings Shakespeare is able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Caesar’s cold murder was unjust. This is one lesson that has been taught over and over in the course of human history, from the assassination of Lincoln, to the murder of John F. Kennedy. Human history has shown us that the taking of a irreplaceable human life to gain something as short lived as political power is wrong and is never a permanent solution to anything.