In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, why did Brutus ask Cassius for money to pay the soldiers?Brutus says that he is too honest to get money to pay his soldiers by dishonest means.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is interesting to note that the whole quarrel between Cassius and Brutus comes down to the question of money. They may talk about honor and about who loves who, but it's really all about money. Not only does Brutus need money, but his soldiers need money or they won't fight. Cassius probably knows this. He is pragmatic and greedy. He has the money but doesn't want to let go of it. Brutus is idealistic and impractical. He doesn't have the money to pay his soldiers because he didn't want to use his soldiers to collect money from the inhabitants of the regions they were passing through. Brutus tells Cassius:

I did send to you
For certain sums of gold, which you denied me;
For I can raise no money by vile means.
By heaven, I had rather coin my heart
And drop my blood for drachmas then to wring
From the hard hands of peasants their vile trash
By any indirection.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. The test of friendship is to ask a friend to lend you some money. In Shakespeare's play Timon of Athens, Timon is so generous with all his friends that he ends up broke. He is not at all concerned about his temporary distress but sends messengers to these fair-weather friends with requests to borrow money. One after another they refuse him. Timon finds himself living out in the open and wearing rags, not unlike King Lear. Brutus believed in Cassius's friendship and had a high opinion of his character until he needed money. Cassius then proves himself to be what he is: a greedy, selfish miser. It is amusing to see how Shakespeare characterizes Cassius after the quarrel, when Brutus asks a servant for a bowl of wine and says

In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius.

Characteristically, Cassius responds:

My heart is thirsty for that noble pledge.
Fill, Lucius, till the wine o'erswell the cup.
I cannot drink too much of Brutus' love.

Cassius, the freeloader, cannot drink too much of Brutus' wine, as long as Brutus is paying for it. Brutus probably provides better wine than Cassius ever drinks, even in the privacy of his own home. Casca has known Cassius all his life. In Act I, Scene 2, when Cassius invites him to dinner, Casca replies:

Ay, if I be alive, and your mind hold, and your dinner worth the eating.

Casca has sampled Cassius' hospitality before and has a pretty good idea of what to expect. The wine will be of the cheapest quality and leave a bitter aftertaste. A miser is a miser. It shows in everything he says and does. Caesar says of him in Act I, Scene 2:

Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep anights.
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.

Cassius has a lean and hungry look because he hates to spend money on food, even for his own consumption. Brutus does not realize what sort of man he is partnering with until this quarrel in his tent. Asking Cassius for money is like asking him for blood. In fact, Cassius unconsciously acknowledges this when he says:

There is my dagger,
And here my naked breast; within, a heart
Dearer than Pluto's mine, richer than gold.
If that thou beest a Roman, take it forth.
I that denied thee gold will give my heart.

Ask him for his heart--but don't ask him for his money!


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