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Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is based on actual events which occurred during the assassination of Caesar. The two primary conspirators were Cassius and Brutus. Each man had different reasons for wanting Caesar not to become the Emperor of Rome.
On February 15, 44 B.C., Cassius confronts Brutus with his reasons for despising Caesar. He knows that he needs Brutus to join the conspiracy because of his popularity with the other senators and the people.
Cassius outlines the times that he has seen Caesar show weakness in his actions. He also knows that something is bothering Brutus. When Brutus hears the cheers of the crowd, Cassius notes that Brutus is afraid that Caesar is being offered the crown. This inspires Cassius to share his feelings about Caesar.
Cassius lists three instances that he believes indicate Caesar’s weaknesses.
Caesar challenges Cassius to a swimming contest. He dares Cassius to swim across the Tiber in rough waters to a point across the river. Both of them jump in with their full armor on. Half across the water, Caesar cries out for help: “Help me, Cassius, or I sink!” Cassius pulled Caesar from the rough water. Caesar was exhausted. Cassius cannot imagine that now this man is going to become a deity?
Caesar has a fever when he was in Spain. Later, he has a fit [seizure], and Cassius noticed how Caesar shook.. He lost the color in his lips, and his eyes became dull. The tongue that will rule the world cried and groaned.
When Caesar was sick, he cried out as though he were a child. He begged for water as though he were a girl. It is shameful that this weak man is going to be the supreme ruler of Rome.
Brutus tells Cassius that he must think about what Cassius has said and come to his own conclusions.
Brutus decides that Caesar must die not for personal reasons but for the good of the Republic.
When Brutus is seen again, it is on March 14, 44 B.C. Brutus has spent many sleepless nights determining what he should do. Brutus has no personal problems with Caesar. He is concerned how power would change Caesar. Brutus decides that Caesar must die, not for personal reasons but for the good of Rome. He provides three analogies comparing the possibilities of Caesar and his rule.
If Caesar were a snake and it was out in the daytime, it would make sense to avoid the poisonous snake to keep from being stung.
How would the crown change Caesar? Would he become like the snake?
Brutus has never known Caesar to misuse his power. On the other hand if he were to climb the ladder of success, people would support him on the way up toward his goal. The climber looks toward the tops trying to ascend the ladder. When he gets to the top, the person often forgets those who have helped him along the way. Caesar might do this.
What if Caesar were like the snake that is still in the egg? When the snake hatches, it becomes dangerous. Rather than allow the danger to occur, kill the snake while it is in the shell. Then, it will cause no problems. This is what must happen to Caesar.
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell
Brutus bases his decision on the potential changes that Caesar might make. It is the possibilities not the realities that scare Brutus into joining the conspiracy.
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