How does Shakespeare present the theme of conspiracy in The Tempest and Julius Caesar?
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[eNotes editors are only permitted to answer one question per posting. This is a broad an topic; I will discuss conspiracy in both plays. Other questions would need to be posted separately.]
In Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest and Julius Caesar, conspiracy is a major element, though the mood of each of these stories varies greatly. In The Tempest, there was conspiracy—Prospero and his daughter were robbed of their home, and Prospero of his title, at the hands of Antonio (Prospero's brother) and Alonso.
My brother and thy uncle, called Antonio—
I pray thee mark me, that a brother should
Be so perfidious—he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved, and to him put
The manage of my state (81-85)...
...The government I cast upon my brother,
And to my state grew stranger (90-91)...
set all hearts i'th’ state
To what tune pleased his ear... (100-101)
After twelve years, Prospero's enemies have arrived on the shore of the island where he and Miranda (his daughter) live.
In Act Three, scene two, Caliban is also plotting. He is a "deformed monster" who Prospero has "enslaved." Caliban hates Prospero and conspires to kill him:
I say, by sorcery [Prospero] got this isle;
From me he got it. If thy greatness will
Revenge it on him—for I know thou dar'st... (51-54)
In Act Three, scene three, on another part of the island, Antonio and Sebastian plan to kill Alonso and Gonzalo while they sleep:
[aside to Sebastian] Let it be tonight;
For now they are oppressed with travel. (18-19)
By the end of the play, Prospero forgives all and he is reinstated as the Duke of Milan.
Julius Caesar is very different. This is a tragedy and from early on in the play, the audience becomes aware that Brutus is worried about Rome—which he loves only more than he loves Caesar. He is fearful that Caesar will destroy Rome. Cassius is jealous of Caesar and plots to destroy him. Determining that Brutus is worried about what Caesar will do, Cassius draws Brutus into his dishonorable plot.
Brutus is an honorable man, but his fear for Rome outweighs everything; so he joins Cassius and others—all to murder Caesar.
Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,
And in the spirit of men there is no blood.
O, that we then could come by Caesar's spirit,
And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends,
Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully (173-179)…
…Which so appearing to the common eyes,
We shall be call'd purgers, not murderers. (186-187)
Brutus believes that what they are doing is for the good of Rome, though he is sorry for it. Then Mark Antony conspires by telling Brutus he supports the murderers, when—in fact—Antony has every intention of letting Brutus and the others die by turning the public's opinion against Brutus. So, in Act Three, scene two, lines 81-115, Antony betrays Brutus and the rest, giving all the reasons why Caesar should not have been murdered.
In Act Four, scene one, Antony conspires to remove Lepidus from the Triumvirate, formed after Caesar's death:
This is a slight unmeritable man,
Meet to be sent on errands. Is it fit,
The three-fold world divided, he should stand
One of the three to share it?
Conspiracy in Julius Caesar is repaid with death and dishonor. In The Tempest, conspiracy is met with Prospero's forgiveness.
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