What meaning did Shakespeare intend in the lines that suggest that the conspirators' deed will be "acted over" or repeated "many ages hence"?
Lines 111–118 of Scene 1 suggest that the conspirators’ deed will be “acted over,” or repeated, “many ages hence.” What meaning do you think Shakespeare intended in these lines?
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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Though the conspirators are likely thinking of how tyrants will be overthrown around the world in years to follow, this scene also demonstrates the importance of ritual. The senators have not merely killed Caesar, they have ritualistically bathed their “hands in Caesar’s blood” as part of a calculated presentation of their act. Brutus suggests they wave their swords in the air and declare “Peace, freedom and liberty!” They need to make a powerful impression on the people, and this scene of literal blood will symbolize the metaphorical blood of dictatorship. They are performing a scene for the benefit of Roman citizens.
Ceremonies are very important to Rome, as we see at the beginning of the play. Mark Antony runs the Lupercal and touches the barren Calpurnia in an attempt to give her fertility. Reenacting the scene of Caesar’s death would help Rome remember its past and reinforce the Republic, guarding against another dictatorship.
These statements also reveal a narcissism in the senators, particularly Cassius. He refers to this as a “lofty scene” and to the assassins as “The men that gave their country liberty.” It is a chance for eternal and universal fame. This quote is also significant because it is a self-aware moment in the text: the scene is literatlly being acted “In states unborn and accents yet unknown” because Shakespeare has written the event in an English play. This scene is still performed today, in even more languages and countries than in Shakespeare’s day.
Cassius is in agreement with Brutus. They wash their hands in Caesar's blood. They walk through the market-place waving swords with Caesar's red blood. This shall go down in history and be retold, reenacted to prove liberty from a tyrant has occured.
Cassius insists that this scene shall be acted over in the world of states yet unborn and in accents or languages that are unknown to the conspirators.
The conspirators are so certain that the world will thank them for killing a dictator and in the centuries to follow, other dictators shall face similar death.
"Many ages hence" heroes shall bathe in the blood of a dictator.
"Peace, freedom, liberty" is too precious to allow a tyrant to take it away from people for "many ages hence."
Surely the conspirators were right because we are still reading of their bloody actions to liberate Rome.
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