One of the ways in which an author directs our sympathies is through his handling of point of view. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar we are kept in the points of view of the conspirators, and most notably of Brutus and Cassius, most of the time up until the assassination of...
One of the ways in which an author directs our sympathies is through his handling of point of view. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar we are kept in the points of view of the conspirators, and most notably of Brutus and Cassius, most of the time up until the assassination of Caesar in Act 3. Therefore most viewers would sympathize with the assassins when they stabbed him to death. Then Shakespeare had the problem of turning the sympathies of his audience around so that they would be rooting for the side that ultimately won--i.e., Antony and Octavius.
The actual assassination of Caesar is anticlimactic after the long buildup to the event. It is Antony's great funeral speech that is emotion-rousing and not only turns the mob's sympathies around but turns those of the audience around as well. The members of the audience are also motivated to switch sides partly because they are intimidated by the mob. Before Antony is finished speaking, the following occurs:
FOURTH PLEBIAN We will be revenged.
ALL THE PLEBIANS
Revenge! About! Seek! Fire! Kill! Slay!
Let not a traitor live.
The word "About!" seems to be a cue for all the mob members to turn and face the audience and even to advance toward the edge of the stage in a threatening manner. Like Cinna the poet, the spectators in the audience might want to protest that they are not co-conspirators but are entirely in sympathy with Antony. Antony calls out, "Stay, countrymen"in order to stop the mob from continuing to advance on the audience and possibly creating pandemonium, but Shakespeare's trick has helped to manipulate the sympathies of the viewers.
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is an unusual play. It has often been pointed out that the play seems to be more about Brutus, since Caesar dies halfway through.