What does the attack on Cinna the poet show?
a) The crowd kills innocent people throughout Rome.
b) Caesar had planned to have dinner with Cinna.
c) The people of Rome are our of control with rage.
d) A famous Roman poet had tried to kill Caesar.
This happens in Act III, Scene 3.
I would say that the correct answer to this question is C -- the people of Rome are really quite angry because of the assassination of Caesar.
The fact that the people are angry can be shown by their first reason given for wanting to kill Cinnna. Cinna was the name of one of the conspirators. The fact that they want to kill him shows they are angry about Caesar's death.
The fact that they kill him anyway even after they find out he is not the "right" Cinna shows they are out of control.
The killing of Cinna the Poet in Julius Caesar demonstrates the fickleness of the Roman mob. They are eager to kill, even the innocent, and they are out of control with rage. They first seize Cinna because of his name, thinking he is the conspirator by the same name. When he protests that he is not the conspirator, he is Cinna the poet, the Fourth Plebeian yells:
Tear him for his bad verses! Tear him for his
bad verses! (Act III, Scene 3)
Led on by Antony's funeral speech, the mob has, in a matter of minutes, switched its allegiance from Brutus and the other conspirators to Antony and the deceased Caesar. In their frenzy, the members of the mob just want to wreak havoc. They don't care if they have the correct Cinna or not.
The correct answer is:
c) the people of Rome are out of control with rage
The unfortunate Cinna becomes a victim just because he has the same name as one of the conspirators. He is desperate to prove that he is not one of them, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The crowd is driven not by reason, but by rage.
Two aspects are important in this instance. We know, in the first place, that there is a conspirator called Cinna. He converses with Cassius in Act 1, Scene 3, and they are discussing the portentous weather conditions and Cassius's attempt to win Brutus over to their nefarious cause. Cinna says, in part:
Yes, you are.
O Cassius, if you could
But win the noble Brutus to our party—
He is clearly involved in the plot and follows Cassius's instructions to place papers urging Brutus to join the conspiracy in the praetor's chair, on Brutus' statue, and in his chambers where he will surely find at least one of them.
Furthermore, the crowd has already been uneasy after learning about Caesar's death and are incensed and driven to insurrection by Antony's powerful speech at Caesar's funeral. Before Antony's address to the crowd, Brutus tells them about the necessity of having Caesar removed. He appeals to their reason, and they easily accept his explanation that Caesar's assassination is for the good of Rome.
Antony's brilliant speech, however, appeals to the upset throng's emotions. He gradually works the citizens into a frenzy by carefully delaying their desire to rush out and seek vengeance. He deliberately uses sarcasm, irony, innuendo, and rhetorical questions when he refers to Caesar's goodness and contrasts it to the reprehensible abomination that has been committed. The mass starts baying for blood, and he only sets them free once he knows that they are unstoppable and will go out to wreak havoc. At the end of his speech, Antony says:
Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt!
The crowd is so blinded by anger and a lust for retribution that everything and anyone that seems suspect becomes fair game. It is in this situation that the poor Cinna the poet finds himself when he is confronted. The irrational mob criticizes him for his name and his bad poetry and decides to tear him to pieces.
It is no matter, his name's Cinna; pluck but his
name out of his heart, and turn him going.
Tear him, tear him! Come, brands ho! fire-brands:
to Brutus', to Cassius'; burn all: some to Decius'
house, and some to Casca's; some to Ligarius': away, go!