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Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene i, by William Shakespeare, conveys the problem in Rome in 44 B.C. The commoners love Caesar for his triumphant return to Rome after many victorious battles. The people equate Caesar with gods. The crowd, who are primarily working men, have dared to take the day off to celebrate Caesar being offered the crown as Emperor of Rome.
In opposition to the commoners are two tribunes: Marullus and Flavius. They were supporters of Pompey, a great Roman leader. He was murdered by the Egyptians with Caesar's approval. The tribunes shame the crowd for being so fickle. Once they yelled for Pompey, but now they celebrate his killer.
Marullus tells them to go home and beg forgiveness from the gods. After the people leave, the tribunes are left alone to talk.
Flavius suggests that the two of them separate and go through the streets talking off any decorations from the statues of Caesar. As they do this, the tribunes should send the other people in the streets home as well.
Certainly, this would have been a serious offense since it was government officials who were derobing the statues. Shakespeare uses this incident to prepare the audience for what will happen in the next scene when Cassius shares his ill-will toward Caesar with Brutus. The tribunes and their animosity for Caesar hint at what is to come.
Later, in Act I, Scene ii, Casca informs the other conspirators that Marullus and Flavius have been caught taking the scarves/decorations from Caesar's statues. They have been silenced for their crime. Casca informs Brutus and Cassius about the tribunes:
I could tell you more news too:
Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar's
images, are put to silence.
It is unclear about what this means. It may mean that the tribunes have been killed. Another interpretation is that the word silenced means that they have been jailed and stripped of their roles as tribunes. Whatever actually happens to them, this incident foreshadows the killing of the conspirators after Caesar's assassination.
Now the stage is set for Cassius and the conspirators to carry through with their plans. Shakespeare has prepared the audience for the "Ides of March."
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