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In the second scene of the first act of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, the word “fear” appears a number of times, often in connection with Brutus. By raising the issue of fear so often in this scene, Shakespeare suggests the tense political atmosphere of the play. Some Romans are fearful of Caesar, and Caesar in turn fears some of his fellow Romans. The emphasis on fear in this scene is most famously indicated when a soothsayer warns Caesar, early in the scene, to “beware the ideas of March” (23). Other examples of the theme of fear in this scene include the following:
- Brutus observes Cassius’s fear that Brutus has distanced himself from Cassius (1.2.32-36).
- Brutus seems to fear that Cassius is about to lead him into some “dangers” (1.2.63).
- Before Cassius has much chance to speak to him, Brutus comments,
. . . I do fear the people
Choose Caesar for their king. (1.2.79-80)
- Cassius immediately seizes on Brutus’ word “fear” (1.2.80), allowing Brutus to explain that although Brutus loves Caesar, he fears the prospect of Caesar being made a monarch (1.2.82).
- Brutus then soon explains that he loves “the name of honor more” than he “fear[s] death” (1.2.89).
- Brutus seems to fear once more when it seems once more that Caesar may have been given more power by the people (1.2.132-34).
- Caesar, when he appears, seems to fear Cassius, perceiving him as “dangerous” (1.2.195). In response, Antony declares, “Fear him not, Caesar, he’s not dangerous” (1.2.196). To this, Caesar replies,
. . . I fear him not,
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. (1.2.198-201)
- Once again, Caesar later calls such persons as Cassius “very dangerous” (1.2.210), although he continues by immediately saying,
I rather tell thee what is to be fear’d
Than what I fear; for I am always Caesar. (1.2.211-12)
- Later, Casca, in telling how the crown was offered to Caesar three times and how Caesar refused it three times, talks as if seems he (Casca) found the whole spectacle ridiculous, although he notes that the stink of the crowd was so bad that
I durst not laugh, for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air. (1.2.249-50)
- At the very end of the scene, Cassius implies that Caesar himself has much to fear. At the same time, however, he implies his own fear of Caesar’s power: “For we will shake him, or worse days endure” (2.1.322).
This scene, therefore, presents the theme of fear from many different angles, showing the presence of fear in many of the lead characters at this point in the play. Brutus and Cassius both seem to fear Caesar, and Caesar himself seems especially fearful of Cassius, despite his overt denials.
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