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Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare centers on the assassination of the great Roman leader in the first three acts. In Act 4, the conspirators and the leaders of the new government quarrel among themselves. The final act is the battle scene which ends in the deaths of both Cassius and Brutus.
The pivotal Act III brings several of the ideas that Shakespeare implemented in many of his plays. Among the motifs that are brought to fruition are power, logic versus emotions, and friends versus enemies.
Power can mesmerize a man. Caesar is to be offered the crown in the senate on this day. Cassius is jealous of Caesar’s power. He believes that he is just as worthy of being the leader of Rome as is Caesar. Brutus fears that Caesar may gain too much power. Of course, Octavius will gain authority by the death of Caesar. Although seemingly high minded in this act, Antony desires to have control over the government as much as anyone else.
“Power corrupts.” This is proven by Cassius leading the conspirators to kill Caesar for the wrong reasons. Cassius is jealous of Caesar. He protests too much. Cassius wants to rule Rome probably alongside Brutus. Brutus does not want to control the government because he is satisfied with the parliamentary style of governing that seems to be successful.
LOGOS VERSUS PATHOS
Logos is Greek for logic and reasoning. Aristotle believed that if a man has a logical argument along with proof that he could prove anything. In Brutus’s speech, he follows the thinking of Aristotle. He asks the crowd to control their emotions until he was finished with his oratory. He asks them to believe that he is an honorable man who only wanted the best for Rome. He sets before them his reasons for the murder and tells the crowd that there is documentation to support his claim. The crowd is convinced that Brutus has done the right thing even mentioning that he might be made the king.
Pathos is Greek for emotions. Marc Antony uses both logical reasoning and emotions. He uses several types of rhetorical devices to prove his points.
- Proves that Caesar was not ambitious
- Begins the running commentary about Brutus and the other assassins are honorable men
- Uses the will of Caesar
- Antony’s humility
- Antony’s grief
- The body of Caesar and the stab wounds
- Tells the crowd what to do about killing the murderers
Antony manipulates the crowd into an unruly mob calling for the blood of the Brutus and the rest.
THE LOYALTY OF FRIENDS
Brutus was a friend of Caesar. However, he was willing to be a part of the assassination based on the possibility that Caesar might misuse his power.
Antony was also a friend of Caesar. He promises the corpse of Caesar that he will gain revenge for him.
And Caesar’s spirit ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war…
Antony’s soliloquy foreshadows the revenge that he will seek for Caesar. Realizing the Caesar was betrayed by his false friends, Antony’s rage is enlarged.
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