In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar,  Act 2, Scene 1, Brutus is at war with himself about the assassination of Caesar. What literary devices does Shakespeare use in this soliloquy?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'It must be by his death"--

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene i, Brutus ruminates about the killing of Caesar.  Brutus earlier agrees to meet with Cassius to discuss the conspiracy and to tell him if Brutus will agree to be one of the assassins.Brutus deceives himself with his arguments in his famous soliloquy.

To summarize his speech, Brutus believes that Caesar must die for the good of Rome; however, he has no personal problem with Caesar. If Caesar were crowned, how would that change him? 

Crown him? that;(15)
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with

On a bright day, the deadly, black snake comes out.  We must watch out for him.  If we crown Caesar, we provide him the poison which might enable him to gain too much power. The abuse of power comes when it separates itself from regret or grief. However, I have not seen this quality in Caesar. He is always more logical than emotional. How ironic that Brutus knows that Caesar is not likely to let emotions overrule his logical mind.

It has been proven that when a person climbs the ladder of success he asks for people to help him.  When he gets to the top of the ladder, the climber turns his back on those who helped him rejecting and scorning them. Caesar might does this.

Since he might do these things, we must prevent it. The story must be enhanced by saying that he has the ability to go to these extremes  if Caesar is crowned:  

Caesar is like a snake's egg. Knowing that contained within the egg is a poisonous snake, smash it before it has the chance to bite anyone and spread its venom.

And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.

This remarkable simile is used by Shakespeare to give Brutus an analogy which he uses to convince himself that Caesar should be assassinated.  It is the metaphor of the snake. 

  • The sunny day--the day of Caesar's crowning
  • The snake--Caesar himself
  • The poison--Caesar's proposed abuse of power
  • Wary walking--The avoidance of this potential sting
  • The snake's egg--The possibilities
  • The potential bite--The sting of too much power over Rome
  • The smashing of the egg--Killing of Caesar before he can become too powerful

His analogy attempts a logical train of thought.  Unfortunately, what might be is not a good reason to kill someone.   If Caesar had become too powerful, there were better and more humane ways to handle the situation.

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Julius Caesar

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