I have had to read and take an exam on the play Julius Caesar. This had meant that I was forced to read the play and not see it performed. I had always assumed the play Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to be about the death (and life) of Julius Caesar. I got a chance to see the play performed by OSF and it has led me to question some ideas I had about the play.
Cassius was not Brutus's puppeteer
One of the impressions I had about Cassius was he was the villain in the play and he was the puppeter who was controlling Brutus's opinions about Caesar and inciting Brutus against Caesar. However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that Cassius was not a scheming villain and he was perfectly happy to give Brutus the role of the leader of the assassination plot. This is very clear when he wholeheartedly agrees to not bring Cicero into the plot.
But what of Cicero? shall we sound him?
I think he will stand very strong with us.
Let us not leave him out.
No, by no means.
O, name him not: let us not break with him;
For he will never follow any thing
That other men begin.
Then leave him out.
The next time this happens is when Cassius warns Brutus to not let Marc Anthony speak
Brutus, a word with you.
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?
By your pardon;
I will myself into the pulpit first,
And show the reason of our Caesar's death:
What Antony shall speak, I will protest
He speaks by leave and by permission,
And that we are contented Caesar shall
Have all true rites and lawful ceremonies.
It shall advantage more than do us wrong.
I know not what may fall; I like it not.
Another scene when this shines forth is the argument that Cassius and Brutus get into at the battlefield and Cassius offers Brutus his sword to kill Cassius. This way the argument ends shows Cassius
Come, Antony, and young Octavius, come,
Revenge yourselves alone on Cassius,
For Cassius is aweary of the world;
Hated by one he loves; braved by his brother;
Cheque'd like a bondman; all his faults observed,
My spirit from mine eyes! There is my dagger,
And here my naked breast; within, a heart
Sheathe your dagger:
Be angry when you will, it shall have scope;
Do what you will, dishonour shall be humour.Â
Was the play about Caesar or about Brutus?
The other thing that stands out is that it is a little difficult to say Julius Caesar is the protagonist of the play. A lot of the play centers around the internal struggle that Brutus goes through before and after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Â There are monologs where Brutus tries to resolve his doubts about assasinating his friend and a man who trusts Brutus.
One part that stands out is towards the end of the play, when Brutus comments on how good his life has been
My heart doth joy that yet in all my life
I found no man but he was true to me.
I shall have glory by this losing day
More than Octavius and Mark Antony
By this vile conquest shall attain unto.
Even his enemies respected Brutus.
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.
This is in sharp contrast to the life of Julius Caesar who was assasinated by people who were close to him and thought of him as a tyrant.