What point does Shakespeare make about the effect of political power on those who hold it?original question: What point does Shakespeare make about the effect of political power on those who hold...

What point does Shakespeare make about the effect of political power on those who hold it?

original question:

What point does Shakespeare make about the effect of political power on those who hold it? To which leaders in recent history might Shakespeare’s point apply and how?

edited to reflect eNotes policy of 1 question per Q&A

Asked on by daphne00

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Since eNotes policy is that one answers only 1 question per Q&A, I'll address the first question.

Shakespeare is borrowing his account of Julius Caesar from Plutarch, and thus we have an account of Caesar filtered through the rhetorical genre of declamation. A classic declamation theme was that of the questionable tyrannicide. It is often figured as a person who kills a tyrant in a manner that is illegal (e.g. a foreigner not allowed to carry a weapon in the polis uses the weapon to kill the tyrant). Thus when we encounter this genre, we need to suspect that the death of the tyrant is somehow problematic, justified on one level and not on the other.

Caesar was in many ways the epitome of the "good" tyrant, and Brutus was "the noblest Roman of them all" (and according to Plutarch perhaps Julius Caesar's illegitimate son). Nonetheless, in Brutus' view, all tyranny is bad, and thus Julius Caesar could not avoid being corrupted by becoming a tyrant no matter how much his character or intentions were fundamentally good, just as Brutus himself becomes an unavoidable outlaw by the justifiable deed of killing Julius Caesar.

The power of a tyrant and the power to kill a tyrant both inevitably corrupt those who wield such powers.

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