Give two examples that Cassius uses to show that Caesar has a weak character.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In what is called the "seduction scene" (act 1, scene 2), Cassius tries to persuade Brutus that Caesar is unfit to rule Rome for several reasons, some physical and others pertinent to Caesar's character.

In his effort to convince Brutus that Caesar should not rule Rome, Cassius points to Caesar's arrogance and his "feeble temper"—that is, his weak physical condition. Using examples such as the time that Caesar challenged Cassius to leap into the Tiber river—"this angry flood" (1.2.105)—in the winter, only to cry out for help from Cassius when he began to drown, Cassius seeks to convince Brutus that Caesar is physically unfit to become emperor. In another example, Cassius also intimates that Caesar has had a seizure. He mentions that when Caesar was in Spain,

the fit was on him. I did mark
How he did shake: 'tis true, this god did shake.
His coward lips did from their color fly,
And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world
Did lose its luster: I did hear him groan (1.2.122-126)

When Cassius speaks of Caesar's "coward lips," he implies that Caesar's lips was like cowardly soldiers fleeing from their "colors," or banner, during a battle. While the Romans did not have a flag, they did use banners for military purposes. According to, these banners often had "an almost mystical significance" on the battlefield. When they were lost in military campaigns in which the soldiers were defeated, later attempts would be made to retrieve these "standards," as they were called, in a renewed effort at victory. Thus, Cassius's phrase "coward lips" carries with it a suggestion of weakness of character, as well as the physical debilities in Caesar.

Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cassius’s explanations for why Caesar is weak actually refer to his body. First, he relates a time when he saved Caesar from drowning. Caesar dared Cassius to dive into “The troubled Tiber [River].” The two swam in the dangerous waves, but, before they made it to shore, Caesar cried for Cassius to save him. Cassius suggests that Caesar’s physical tiredness represents a weakness of resolution, especially since Caesar’s status is now nearly superhuman:

. . . And this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature and must bend his body,
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him.

Cassius then describes a fever Caesar had when they were abroad. As expected of a sick man, Caesar shook, groaned, and grew pale: “'tis true, this god did shake,” Cassius says sarcastically. He mocks Caesar for his tone as he called for a drink, comparing him to “a sick girl.” Cassius associates all these physical problems with “a feeble temper.” A weak constitution seems to signify weak character, especially since Caesar asked for help in times of vulnerability rather than remaining stoic and carrying on.

By these arguments, Cassius, driven by jealousy and ambition, attempts to drag Caesar down to the level of his fellow humans, implying to Brutus that Caesar is not fit to rule Rome.

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Julius Caesar

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