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Does Julius Caesar confirm the famous saying, "power corrupts, and absolute power...

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dylan14 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 15, 2008 at 1:00 PM via web

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Does Julius Caesar confirm the famous saying, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 15, 2008 at 3:10 PM (Answer #2)

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I would say no, it doesn't confirm Lord Acton's famous saying. First of all, this isn't just an issue of power, and no one in the play ever gets absolute power. In fact, some of the motives for those opposing Caesar are to make sure his power does not become absolute. In a way, the opposite is shown to be true: Brutus tries to prevent absolute power from coming into being and wiping away the republican virtue of the Roman republic that he loves so much. It is fear of unethical power that leads to this betrayal, and much of the death.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 16, 2008 at 2:47 AM (Answer #3)

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This is a good question for the discussion board.

In my opinion, no, you cannot use Julius Caesar as an example to confirm that saying. For one thing, he didn't live long enough. For another, he didn't quite have absolute power yet. He had been declared dictator for life, but that did not give him total control of Rome. In order for that to happen, he'd have to get rid of the senate. That is exactly what Cassius and Brutus and the other assassins were afraid of. The people had already offered to make Caesar king of Rome, and that's what would have given him the absolute power. He was killed before that could happen.

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mshurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 13, 2009 at 1:24 AM (Answer #4)

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The play does indeed support the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," but this theme is not developed through the character of Julius Caesar; it is developed through Antony's character. Following Caesar's brutal murder on the floor of the Roman Senate, Antony burns to avenge his friend's betrayal. He vows to bring down Brutus and the other conspirators, regardless of the cost to the Roman people caught in the crossfire. His motive is honorable: loyalty to one he loved.However, after driving Brutus and the others out of Rome and assuming power himself, Antony's character undergoes definite change. He forms an alliance of equals with Octavius and Lepidus, but makes it clear to Octavius privately that Lepidus will not share in the spoils of war. He will be used and cast aside. Furthermore, Antony leads Octavius in creating a "hit list" of 100 Roman Senators to purge any potential political opposition.

Although Antony's character was admirable and sympathetic at the time of Caesar's death, once Antonygained power himself, his subsequent actions show that his prinicipal concern was to enrich himself and maintain power, honor aside.

Antonygained absolute power, and the complete corruption of his character soon followed. One major irony of the play is that Brutus brings about his own destruction to preserve a political ideal, but his only achievement is to replace one power-hungry Roman ruler with another.

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mshurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 13, 2009 at 1:27 AM (Answer #5)

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The play does indeed support the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," but this theme is not developed through the character of Julius Caesar; it is developed through Antony's character.

Following Caesar's brutal murder on the floor of the Roman Senate, Antony burns to avenge his friend's betrayal. He vows to bring down Brutus and the other conspirators, regardless of the cost to the Roman people caught in the crossfire. His motive is honorable: loyalty to one he loved.

However, after driving Brutus and the others out of Rome and assuming power himself, Antony's character undergoes definite change. He forms an alliance of equals with Octavius and Lepidus, but he makes it clear to Octavius privately that Lepidus will not share in the spoils of war. He will be used and cast aside. Furthermore, Antony leads Octavius in creating a "hit list" of 100 Roman Senators to purge any potential political opposition.

Although Antony's character was admirable and sympathetic at the time of Caesar's death, once Antony gained power himself, his subsequent actions show that his prinicipal concern was to enrich himself and maintain power, honor aside.

Antony gained absolute power, and the complete corruption of his character soon followed. One major irony of the play is that Brutus brings about his own destruction to preserve a political ideal, but his only achievement is to replace one power-hungry Roman ruler with another.

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