Where in the play does the reader/audience perceive that Caesar has ambition?William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Historically, Julius Caesar played a critical role in the transformation of Rome from a republic to an empire after he and Crassus and Pompey formed a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for many years.  Now, as Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar opens, the Roman crowd cheers as Caesar traverses the streets while the people "make holiday to see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph" (1.1.33) after he has defeated and killed Pompey. However, the tribune Marullus, counters their rejoicing with his suspicions,

Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?
What tributaries follow him to Rome,
To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?
You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The live-long day with patient expectation
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome.
And when you saw his chariot but appear,
Have you not made an universal shout,
That Tiber trembled underneath her banks
To hear the replication of your sounds
Made in her concave shores?
And do you now put on your best attire?
And do you now cull out a holiday?
And do you now strew flowers in his way
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood?
Be gone! (1.1.34-54)

That Caesar would kill his once political ally raises great suspicion of his desire for solitary power.  Then, when Mark Antony, his great friend, places a coronet upon Caesar's head--although Caesar seems to refuse it--this action signifies the designs of Caesar and his friends that he be made emperor.  As Casca relates these actions to Brutus, he remarks,

I saw Mark Antony offer
him a crown, yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one of
these coronets and, as I told you, he put it by once. But for
all that, to my thinking, he would fain have had it. (1.2.241-245)

Certainly, in Act II when Caesar's wife Calpurnia tells him of her dream and begs that he remain home and he agrees, but later changes his mind when informed by Decius Brutus, "To give this day a crown to mighty Caesar" (2.1.98), and Caesar decides to go instead he indicates his cupidity:

How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
I am ashamed I did yield to them.
Give me my robe, for I will go. (2.2.109-111)

Despite the warnings of the soothsayer and his wife, Caesar's lust for power drives him to the Senate on the Ides of March in hopes of receiving a crown and having sole rule of Rome.



johnroy | Student

Caesar had no ambition. A person with ambition would never refuse the Crown of the largest empire THRICE.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question