Julius Caesar Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is one internal and one external conflict of Julius Caesar in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Julius Caesar's external conflict concerns the conspirators' plot to murder him. Julius Caesar must be aware that there are ambitious, jealous individuals that surround him. In particular, Cassius poses the greatest threat to Julius Caesar because he is the lead conspirator who convinces the other senators to join the plot to kill Caesar. Cassius is one of the antagonists in this man vs. man external conflict.

Julius Caesar's internal conflicts concern his subtle paranoia and self-consciousness. Julius Caesar views Cassius as a threat and wants to surround himself with individuals he can trust. One could argue that Julius Caesar is paranoid as a result of his exalted position. Caesar is also concerned with his self-image. When Caesar's servant informs him that the priests do not want him to leave for the Capitol, Caesar says,

"The gods do this in shame of cowardice. Caesar should be a beast without a heart if he should stay at home today for fear. No, Caesar shall not." (Shakespeare 2.2.41-44)

Caesar does not want to be viewed as a coward or a weak individual and ends up making a fatal mistake when he decides to convene with the senators.

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emilyknight7 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Caesar's external conflict is very straight-forward: man vs. man. Caesar is positioned in direct opposition to the men who are trying to assassinate him for his supposed ambition. This conflict is strongest between Caesar and Cassius, who Caesar says has "a lean and hungry look" (1.2.194). Caesar doesn't trust Cassius' ambition, just as Cassius doesn't trust Caesar's.

Caesar's internal conflict is harder to pinpoint, mainly because his character is so ambiguous. One internal struggle might be his decision to aim for the position of king of Rome. When Mark Antony offers the crown to Caesar and he refuses it despite the crowd's cheers, he could be playing out a public relations scene or genuinely reacting to a natural moment. Either way, it seems that he both wants and avoids crowning himself king of Rome, though the audience never gets to see that conflict play out. 

Another internal conflict that Caesar seems to be experiencing is with his physical limitations. He suffers from epilepsy, he can't hear out of one ear, Cassius recalls him getting very sick and losing a swimming contest in a very embarrassing way. It could certainly be the case that Caesar has been in constant struggle against handicaps and various disabilities his whole life. 

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