Cassius is possibly the most interesting character in the play. He stands in sharp contrast to his partner Brutus, who is noble and public-spirited. Cassius is typical of men who are still to be met in modern life. He is solely interested in his own welfare and really cannot understand why anyone should be any other way. An example of his character is to be found in his soliloquy right after Brutus leaves him at the end of Act 1, Scene 2.
Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet I see
They honorable mettle may be wrought
From that it is disposed. Therefore it is meet
That noble minds keep ever with their likes;
For who so firm that cannot be seduced?
Caesar doth bear me hard, but he loves Brutus.
If I were Brutus now, and he were Cassius,
He should not humor me.
If Cassius were in good standing with Caesar he wouldn’t be plotting to assassinate him. Cassius doesn’t care about the good of Rome, but always solely about the good of Cassius.
Another example of his character is to be seen in his conversation with Casca in that same scene. This one is extremely subtle.
Will you sup with me tonight, Casca?
No. I am promised forth.
Will you dine with me tomorrow?
Ay, if I be alive, and your mind hold, and your dinner worth the eating.
Cassius obviously wants to be able to speak to Casca in private and see if he can draw him into the assassination plot. Being the miser that he is, Cassius invites Casca to supper. Evidently the big meal of the day was eaten in the afternoon, and the supper at night would be light, consisting of something like bread, cheese and wine. Casca may seem very rude, but he doesn’t like Cassius and doesn’t want to eat with him at all. Cassius may assume that Casca can be enticed by a bigger and more expensive meal, so he asks him to come to dinner tomorrow. Casca’s blunt reply shows that he is being pressured to come and resents it. When he says, “…and your dinner worth the eating,” he shows that he has been entertained by Cassius in the past and knows what to expect. There will be cheap wine and tough meat. The servants will all look frightened and half-starved. There is an appropriate passage in the Old Testament:
6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
8 The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
Proverbs 23, King James Version
There are many other examples of Cassius’ selfish, miserly character, but only enough space for one more. After the violent quarrel in the tent in Act 4, Scene 2, Brutus orders a bowl of wine and says, “In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius.”
My heart is thirsty for that noble pledge.
Fill, Lucius, till the wine o’erswell the cup.
I cannot drink too much of Brutus’ love.
The truth is that he cannot drink too much wine as long as somebody else is paying for it. And Brutus' wine is undoubtedly of much better quality than Cassius buys even for his own consumption. We can still meet plenty of cunning, miserly, twofaced freeloaders in modern society, and we should remember what Caesar said of Cassius earlier in the play:
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.