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In Act III Scene i, of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, what does Popilius mean by: "I wish...

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queenie97 | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted April 12, 2012 at 11:04 AM via web

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In Act III Scene i, of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, what does Popilius mean by: "I wish your enterprise today may thrive"? Please include who Popilius was adressing as well as the quote's meaning.

 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM (Answer #1)

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In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act III Scene 1, Popilius Lena says to Cassius: "I wish your enterprise today may thrive". When Cassius nervously enquires what enterprise is meant, Popilius merely says 'Farewell' and departs. At first, Cassius interprets this to mean that their plot to assassinate Julius Caesar has been discovered, but Caesar's demeanour does not change after Popilius speaks with him and Brutus suggests that this means Popilius has not discovered the plot. Contextually, it appears that Popilius assumed that Cassius, as many others, was approaching Caesar with a petition or request and was simply being polite and wishing him good luck.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 13, 2012 at 4:13 AM (Answer #2)

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in Act III, scene i, Popilius says to Cassius that he hopes his "enterprise" or his ambitions will thrive. Cassius is paranoid because of the plans he and co-conspirators have to assassinate Caesar. It may at first seem that Popilius is privy to their secret plans. This also provides the audience with a breathless moment, wondering if the plot is to be denounced and stopped. However, Popilius is not speaking of treachery. It seems he is simply wishing Cassius success in his business that day—whatever it is; as innocent as our parting words, "Have a nice day."

If we search through the scene, we will note that there is a great deal going on! The soothsayer is repeating (to Caesar's annoyance) his "it's-getting-old" warning regarding "the Ides of March." Artemidorus is pushing Caesar to read his letter, which does carry a warning.

There is irony here in several ways. The two men who might save Caesar are the two men he dismisses. It is also noted that it is ironic that Caesar sends Artemidorus away, noting that Caesar will deal with any personal affairs last. Seemingly a noble gesture, he goes on to show he is not at all noble, but really quite full of himself.

Caesar believes that he is a god, not a mere mortal. He also sees himself as the heart and soul of Rome. Consider his response as Metellus Cimber humbles himself before Caesar, asking that he reconsider the emperor's banishment of Cimber's brother.

CAESAR:

I must prevent thee, Cimber.

These couchings and these lowly courtesies

Might fire the blood of ordinary men

And turn preordinance and first decree

Into the law of children. Be not fond

To think that Caesar bears such rebel blood

That will be thaw'd from the true quality

With that which melteth fools, I mean sweet words,

Low-crooked court'sies, and base spaniel-fawning. (40-48)

Caesar responds that this kind of humble behavior from Metellus might work on "ordinary men," and might lead them change the laws to those dealing with children. However, it will not sway Caesar's purpose as it would the purpose of fools (which Caesar believes he is not)—showing irony once again in that Caesar is a fool by virtue of his inflated ego—and his failure to recognize that his "friends" are really enemies.

He also says:

Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause

Will he be satisfied. (52-53)

Caesar says he's never wrong! And again he alienates those around him by comparing himself to the Northern Star, a heavenly body that directs travelers and sailors at night—guiding each to safety...nearly impossible to survive without. He notes that like the star fixed in the heavens, he cannot be moved:

But I am constant as the northern star,

Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality

There is no fellow in the firmament. (66-68)

In this bedlam—as many people seek the attention of Caesar, as well as perhaps an almost palpable feeling of tension from the conspirators—it is easy to imagine that Popilius (who is opposed to Caesar) speaks with knowledge of Cassius' intent; but he never shows this. We can assume that he is simply a part of the melee, delivering solicitous greeting to Cassius as he might any other man present—perhaps vaguely aware of Cassius' discontent—but not suspecting any action based on his unhappiness.

Amid the confusion and rising suspense of the plot development, it is simply Cassius' unique situation which causes him (and the audience) to pause and wonder at Popilius' comment.

 

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