In Act II of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, how does Brutus convince the conspirators that they should not swear an oath in killing Caesar?
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Brutus convinces the conspirators by merely explaining why no oath is necessary or fitting. He reminds them that in killing Caesar their motives are strong and honorable. Brutus speaks of "the sufferance of our souls" under Caesar's tyranny. He alludes to the "fire" in the conspirators, strong enough to rally their countrymen to the cause of freedom. Brutus explains that those men who swear oaths are contemptible, cowardly and deceitful. Oaths are necessary only for bad men with bad causes. Brutus implores them not to "stain" the goodness of what they are about to do.
The conspirators, especially Cassius whose idea it was to take an oath, defer to Brutus out of their respect for him--and their need for him to participate in the conspiracy because he is so highly regarded by the Roman people. Before the issue of the oath arises, Cassius has pointed out to Brutus that "[there is] no man here but honors you."
There is irony in Brutus's words to the conspirators. What they are about to do could well be considered contemptible and cowardly. They are certainly acting in a deceitful manner, slinking about in the dark and plotting in secret. By refusing to swear an oath, Brutus is attempting to make their assassination of Caesar seem like a noble deed so that he can live with himself for being a part of it.
Brutus first presents himself superior; he dismisses Cassius' question about being troubled, raising himself above it: "I have been up all night." Then, he ignores the conspirators, asking Cassius, "Do I know these men that follow you"--making them not even important enough to consider himself, for they are not leaders but followers and in fact, followers of Cassius, who follows Brutus. Next, as Cassius introduces the men by name, Brutus does not repeat any name, thus again, minimizing any of them as individually significant: "They are all welcome." Next he deserts them to whisper with Cassius--they aren't in one the whole plan. So the first stage is to dimish them. Then he builds them up again by taking them to him: "Give me your hands." By this physical action, he turns their meeting from one of words to one of action. He physically impresses them with his power, dismissing the "oath" as "lazy" and feminine, which he will contrast to Roman strength in terms of a bloodbond made of real blood imagery--rather than abstract blood-ties. Brutus needs them to be assassins, not thinkers, so he aligns words with weakness, separation and sleep; actions with power, unity and blood--he scoffs at names, plans, and oaths; their cause demands action--murder. He turns a discussion group into an action plan and individuals into a single identity--a gang of murderers.
Even if they take an oath is there any guarantee that they shall not deceit each other?
jol. Back then there was honor. If you swore, you swore
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