How does Cassius persuade Brutus to join the conspiracy in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cassius believes that Caesar does not deserve the glory that he receives from the Roman citizens. As the leader of the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar, Cassius tries to draw Brutus into the plot.   Brutus would bring several important aspects to the conspiracy—he is popular with the people and the other senators; his father was a well-respected senator as well; and most importantly, Brutus is a stoic, sensitive man who does not do anything without much contemplation.

On the day of the feast of the Lupercal, Caesar walks among the people, receiving the glory from recent triumphs in battle.  He lusts for power and has recently indicated his desire to be the emperor of Rome.  There are many factions that do not want this kind of ruler.

Cassius encounters Brutus outside of the arena where the celebration is happening.  Brutus appears troubled which seems the perfect time for Cassius to lay his plan before Brutus. He tells Brutus that he has been worried about him.  Brutus answers that he is “at war with himself.”

When Brutus hears the crowd cheering, he states that he is afraid that they are offering Caesar the crown.  This inspires Cassius to share his feelings with Brutus. 

Cassius begins by flattering Brutus.  He tells Brutus that he is as good as Caesar and a most honorable man. He then proceeds to explain what has happened to create in Cassius this hatred for Caesar. 

Serving with Caesar in battles, Cassius believes that Caesar is weak and womanish.

1st event

When they were dressed in war regalia, Caesar challenge Cassius to jump into the river and swim to a certain point on the other side.  Both of them jumped into the water with full armor.  About half way across the river, Caesar cried out to Cassius to save him.  He was unable to go any further.  Cassius swam to him and brought him back to the shore.

…so I from the waves of Tiber

Did I the tired Caesar. And this man

Is not become a god, and Cassius is

A wretched creature, and must bend his body

If Caesar carelessly but not at him.

The resentment is obvious.  Cassius believes that he is a better man than Caesar, and that he deserves an equal footing with him.

2nd event

When Caesar and Cassius were fighting Pompey’s sons in Spain, Caesar became ill with a fever.  This great hero shook and his lips lost their color. 

 3rd event

Caesar was an epileptic.  When he had a seizure in front of Cassius, Caesar groaned and cried out for water.  He was like a sick girl.  And now, this weak man rules the world and men must succumb to his rule.

Then, Cassius gives his best argument. 

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

If people do not like what is happening around them, they must speak up and do what is necessary to change things.

This is the basis for his argument for Brutus. Cassius establishes that he would rather die than be under the rule of Caesar. 

Caesar asserts himself as a powerful man who people must kowtow to if they want to survive.  Cassius will not do this.  He asks  is this what Brutus wants. 

Brutus has to think about what Cassius has said.  As a friend of Caesar, it will not be easy for him to be involved in such treachery.  If Brutus believes that it is for the good of Rome, he may be willing to be involved in the assassination that changed the course of the world at the time.

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Julius Caesar

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