Using quotations as support, how is Caesar ambitious in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

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In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar doesn't say the word "ambitious" in any form, makes no reference to being ambitious, says nothing that in itself would lead anyone to believe that he's ambitious, and does nothing to demonstrate that he's ambitious.

There's no doubt that Caesar was an ambitious man—his entire life is a testament to his ambitions—but Julius Caesar isn't about Caesar or Caesar's ambitions. The play is about other character's perceptions of and reactions to Caesar and his ambitions and about the aftermath of Caesar's assassination which was based on those perceptions.

Cassius is jealous of Caesar's and envious of his accomplishments:

CASSIUS. 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...
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves. (1.2.121–124, 141–144)

Cassius's jealousy and envy drive him to conspire against Caesar, even to conspiring with others to assassinate him.

A man who has achieved as much in his life as Caesar has is clearly ambitious. Cassius uses this obvious fact to undermine other character's regard for Caesar. It's Cassius's ambitions that drive the play forward, not Caesar's.

Cassius, Brutus, and the other conspirators view Caesar's ambitions not in the present, but in retrospect. Caesar does nothing overtly ambitious in the play. He even turns down a crown when it's offered to him.

This is pure subterfuge, of course, in much the same way that Richard, Duke of Gloucester turns down the request of the Mayor of London to be King of England. Richard eventually takes the crown, and it's likely Caesar would have done so, too, if he had lived long enough.

Cassius's harping on Caesar's ambition is likewise a subterfuge that he uses to justify his jealousy for Caesar and for conspiring with others in Caesar's assassination.

Interestingly, it's Brutus, not Cassius, who is the first person to use the word "ambitious" after the assassination:

BRUTUS. People, and senators, be not affrighted,
Fly not, stand still; ambition's debt is paid. (3.1.90–91)

Cassius has so convinced Brutus of the evil of Caesar's ambitions and the need for his assassination that Cassius can now rely on Brutus to speak for him. This carries over into Brutus's speech to the people of Rome following the assassination:

BRUTUS. If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar's, to him I say that Brutus' love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead to live all freemen? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition. (3.2.19–29)

Brutus honestly believes what he says about Caesar, but Mark Antony sees through Brutus's remarks to Cassius standing behind the scenes, manipulating Brutus to his way of thinking.

Antony mocks Brutus in his "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech and subtly calls Cassius to task for causing a good and loyal man like Brutus to be manipulated to the point of conspiring with Cassius in Caesar's assassination. Antony's repeated juxtaposition of the words "ambitious" and "honorable" emphasize his feelings on the matter:

ANTONY. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!...
The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest—
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men—
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honorable man. (3.2.81–107)

The final use of the word "ambitious" in the play comes from a Roman citizen who just heard Antony's speech:

FOURTH CITIZEN. Mark'd ye his words? He would not take the crown;
Therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious. (3.2.121–122)

The Roman citizenry can be as easily manipulated by Antony to believe Caesar wasn't ambitious, as Cassius's co-conspirators could be manipulated to believe that he was ambitious.

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In act one, scene two, Casca describes the way in which Julius Caesar reluctantly pushed the crown away because of the negative response from the citizens during the parade. However, Casca mentions,

"I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown (yet ’twas not a crown neither, ’twas one of these coronets) and, as I told you, he put it by once—but, for all that, to my thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he offered it to him again, then he put it by again—but, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his fingers off it" (Shakespeare. 1.2.236-45).

Caesar's reluctance to dismiss the crown reveals his ambitious desire to rule as a dictator.

In act two, scene 2, Calpurnia urges her husband not to visit the Senate because she had an ominous dream about him the night before. However, Decius says that she misinterpreted the dream, which actually meant that noble Romans would drink Caesar's reviving, holy blood for sustenance. After hearing this agreeable response, Caesar tells Decius,

"And this way have you well expounded it" (Shakespeare, 2.2.91).

Caesar's self-confidence and ego are inflated after hearing Decius's interpretation. The fact that Caesar values this positive interpretation reveals his ambitious and egotistical nature. Caesar's arrogance could be interpreted as another character trait associated with his ambition.

Before Caesar is assassinated, he again reveals his ambitious nature in an argument concerning Publius Cimber. Caesar tells Cassius,

"I could be well moved if I were as you. If I could pray to move, prayers would move me. But I am constant as the northern star, Of whose true-fixed and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament" (Shakespeare, 3.1.63-67).

Caesar directly reveals his arrogance and inflated confidence throughout his speech. By comparing himself to fixed celestial bodies, he depicts his narcissism. Caesar's perception of himself enables his ambitious nature and motivates him to attain further power.

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There are three specific incidents which demonstrate the "vaulting ambition" and desire for power in the character Julius Caesar:

1.  In the exposition of the play, Caesar returns to Rome after having defeated Pompey's sons, who at one time was Caesar's friend and ally as they had both been part of a powerful triumvir. Caesar's having eliminated Pompey's son is an indication that he wishes to have no competition in his ambitious drive to power. In Act I, Scene 1, Marullus chides the others, asking them if they now

"strew flowers in his [Caesar's] way
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood? (1.51-52)

2. In Act I, Scene 2, Casca tells Brutus that as they parade through the streets of Rome, Marc Antony offers Caesar a crown of ornamental bands, and, although Caesar pushes it away, "he would fain have had it."

Then he [Antony] offered it to him again; then he put it by again; but to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his fingers off it. (1.2.243-245)

3. In Act II, Scene 2, Caesar's wife Calpurnia, who has had a portentous nightmare, begs her husband not to attend the Senate for fear that he be harmed. Although Caesar finally acquiesces to his wife's wishes, Decius, who is one of the conspirators, arrives and appeals to Caesar's vanity by convincing him that Calpurnia's interpretation of the dream is incorrect; it means instead that Caesar is the lifeblood of Rome. Decius also informs Caesar that the Senate wishes to bestow a crown to Caesar this day; however, if he does not appear, they may well whisper, "Lo Caesar is afraid?" (2.2.101). Decius's appeal to Caesar's vanity and ego convinces him that he must attend the Senate. So, Caesar tells Calpurnia that he will attend,

How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
I am ashamed I did yield to them
Give me my robe, for I will go. (2.2.105-107)

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