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How are conflicting attitudes towards Caesar shown in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's...

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hajegirl123 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:56 PM via iOS

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How are conflicting attitudes towards Caesar shown in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 24, 2013 at 10:32 PM (Answer #1)

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In the opening scene of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar the two tribunes, Flavius and Murellus, encounter a group of strolling Commoners and a conflict immediately ensues. Flavius says:

Hence, home, you idle creatures, get you home!
Is this a holiday?

This is an excellent way to capture the attention of the audience, as well as to establish the class struggle which Caesar is exploiting in order to become dictator. The Commoners are taking the day off to participate in the festivities connected with the Feast of Lupercal on February 15th and to honor Caesar by adorning his statues with decorative scarves. The tribunes, who represent the upper class, are afraid of Caesar and dismayed by his growing popularity with the masses. They manage to break up this small gathering and agree to tear the decorations off Caesar's statues. The scene ends with Flavius using a striking metaphor:

These growing feathers plucked from Caesar's wing
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,
Who else would soar above the view of men
And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

The basic conflict has been dramtically established. Caesar is popular with the masses but unpopular with the aristocracy. He is a lot like Huey Long (1893-1935), the Louisiana demagogue, who was also assassinated by a member of the upper classes for posing a threat to their privileges and autonomy.

In the very next scene of Act I, the audience will learn from Casca:

I could tell you more news, too. Murellus and Flavius, for pulling scarves off Caesar's images, are put to silence.

 

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