In Julius Caesar the message of Portia being dead has already reached Messala. So, why does he still ask Brutus about Portia?-Messala: "Had you your letters from your wife, my lord?" While later...

In Julius Caesar the message of Portia being dead has already reached Messala. So, why does he still ask Brutus about Portia?-

Messala: "Had you your letters from your wife, my lord?"

While later he accepts the fact that he knows that Portia is no more-

Messala: "For certain she is dead, and by strange manner."

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 4, Scene 2, Messala already knows that Portia is dead, but at this point he does not know if Brutus has already heard about his wife's death. He is certainly not going to tell Brutus of Portia's death if Brutus already knows. For some strange reason Brutus claims that he knows nothing about his wife's suicide, although he has just told Cassius that he knows all about it.

Impatience of my absence,

And grief that young Octavius with Mark Antony

Have made themselves so strong--for with her death

That tidings came. With this, she fell distraught,

And, her attendants absent, swallowed fire.

It would seem that Brutus wishes to impress Messala and Titinius with the strength of his philosophy. When Messala tells him:

Then like a Roman bear the truth I tell;

For certain she is dead, and by strange manner.

Brutus replies:

Why, farewell, Portia. We must die, Messala.

With meditating that she must die once,

I have the patience to endure it now.

And Messala says with admiration:

Even so great men great losses should endure.

That reaction seems to be exactly what Brutus wants and expects. He knows that Messala and Titinius will both spread the word that Brutus, the great philosopher and great leader, accepted Portia's death with great courage and fortitude. Brutus has many good qualities, but Shakespeare shows that he is something of an egotist, not unlike Julius Caesar himself. Perhaps all great men are also great actors. Brutus's stoicism may be ninety percent sincere and ten percent fake.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act IV of "Julius Caesar," Messala, a friend to Brutus and Cassius, wants to observe Brutus's reactions to the death of his wife Portia perhaps in order to determine if Brutus can lead competently.  Prior to the entry of Messala and Titintius, Brutus speaks with Cassius, his brother-in-law, informing him that Portia "Impatient of my absence" (IV, iii, 152) ate fire out of despair when she also learned that "young Octavius with Mark Antony/Have made themselves so strong" (IV,iii,153).

At this point, Brutus tells Cassius to speak no more about the matter.  When Messala and Titinius enter, Cassius says, "Portia, art thou gone?" (IV,iii,164) and Brutus entreats him, "No more, I pray you." (IV,iii,165).  Knowing that Messala is aware of the dissension between him and Cassius, Brutus may feel that he must appear stoic and strong so as to retain leadership.

imrul23 | Student

I don't know if I'm right but here goes:P

Brutus regarded Caesar as his idol,strived to emulate if not supercede him.Caesar was know for his composure and calmness in the face of disaster.Is Brutus just feebly trying to copy Caesar?For the Brutus we know would have reacted to the news of his wife's death.Shakespeare again amazes.As Coleridge so aptly said: "Shakespeare's characters are often misunderstood,and almost always understood differently by different ppl..." Has his sins changed his attitude?For this is not the Brutus we knew.


And why would Messala,a mere nobody want to test Brutus's leadership qualities in the face of an impending war.Just doesn't sound right,mwestwood :S

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Julius Caesar

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