Regarding Julius Caesar, what makes someone a great leader? What makes someone a popular leader? Can a leader be one, but not the other?
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This question is a subjective one. This is what I think.
In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I believe that different kinds of men (in this play) could be great leaders for different reasons. Others have admirable characteristics, but would make poor leaders.
Caesar is a great leader. He is well-loved by many. He has proven himself in battle on many occasions, and his soldiers were said to follow him without question. He was known to put his men before himself. If his men had not eaten, he would not eat. Inspiring the confidence of many of Rome's citizens, he was an admirable leader. He may have been the best of all the men in the play.
Brutus is completely dedicated to the good of Rome over anything or anyone else, including himself. He is also described by some as unrealistic, perhaps even overzealous, getting so caught up in his perceptions that he fails to see situations, and people (e.g., Cassius) accurately. Brutus is a noble man, and has a sense of honor, but poor choices not only cause him distress (as one who loved Caesar), but bring civil war to Rome.
Cassius can read men very well. This would be a great skill to have when choosing to surround oneself with strong, committed and wise constituents. However, Cassius is not a great man. He is childish and a "score-keeper." He saved Caesar's life once, and instead of being proud that he could be of service, he resents Caesar and believes he does not deserve to rule Rome simply because Cassius is not happy with him. He is a man without a moral center: he is selfish and immature.
Antony has the potential to be a great leader. He is an excellent speaker—having excellent "rhetorical skill," proven when he turns supporters of Brutus against Brutus because of his involvement in Caesar's death. He also greatly loved Caesar and vows to avenge Caesar's death by killing the conspirators. However, he is also seen as something of a partier and playboy. We also see a dark side of Antony when he, Octavius and Lepidus form the second Triumvirate in Rome. In order to be successful, the three men make up lists of who must be killed to make their transition to leadership easier. Antony agrees to allow his nephew to be killed as long as Lepidus will allow his brother to be killed. After all is said and done, Lepidus is forced out by Antony and Octavius because he is old and they have little regard for his experience. These details make Antony less than desirable to be one of the most powerful men in Rome. On the other hand, he is wise: when Brutus dies, he changes his mind—whereas he had formerly thought Brutus dishonorable, his doubts disappear, and he praises Brutus: "This was a man!" (V.v.75)
Popularity does not mean much in choosing a leader because pubic opinion can change, and popularity can be based on subjective things rather than leadership skills. However, a good leader can be popular leader, and it would seem that Caesar had the gift—to elicit respect and life-long dedication among his people. In terms of those who wanted him dead, in any political group, there will be people who will disagree with their leader.
Caesar was a hero and one who loved his people. When he dies, it is discovered that in his will he left all he had to the Roman people. Yes, one can be a great leader and be popular as well. Caesar had all that was desirable in a strong leader and a great man.
A leader can be great and popular, but it is not easy. It takes a very special individual. Leaders have to make difficult choices. They are not always going to be popular choices. Caesar is the exception, not the rule!
Great leader must always look out for the best interest of the people and the country. They need to make difficult decisions even if they know they will face scrutiny for it. They can't be swayed by the popular opinion because it isn't necessarily what's right for the country. Often times, great leaders aren't popular at the time, but they come to be appreciated much later. Abraham Lincoln is a leader who most consider great. He, however, lost many elections during his political career and was fiecely hated by some. It was only in his absense, during the reconstruction era debacle, did we truly learn the great void Lincoln's assassination left in our country.
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