In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, was Caesar ambitious?

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Yes, Caesar is ambitious in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, because he wishes to rule Rome as a monarch. See more Shakespeare quotes about ambition.

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Julius Caesar could be labeled as an ambitious man. He is by far the most celebrated citizen in the empire and wishes to rule Rome as a monarch. There are several telling pieces of evidence that indicate Julius Caesar is an ambitious man. Casca tells Brutus and Cassius that Mark...

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Antony attempted to place a crown on Caesar's head in front of the Roman public three times, and Caesar reluctantly rejected the crown. Casca describes Caesar as bitterly disappointed at the crowd's reaction before he experienced an epileptic seizure in public. Caesar is also portrayed as an arrogant, proud man who relishes authority and power. Caesar refers to himself using the third person several times in the play and believes that he is incapable of experiencing fear. Caesar has an elevated perception of himself and refuses to consider the numerous warnings for him to avoid going to the Senate. While Caesar never explicitly states his plans to rule Rome as a monarch, his arrogance and prestige lead Brutus to believe that he is an ambitious man. Brutus takes into consideration Caesar's elevated self-perception and compares him to a "serpent’s egg." Essentially, Caesar's personality and behavior indicate that he will attempt to rule Rome as a monarch when given a chance, which is why Brutus decides to join the conspirators.

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the title character, Caesar, is indeed ambitious. The play begins after a civil war, the victor of which, Caesar, is the most powerful man in Rome and poised to become the king (or dictator, to be more accurate). The play begins with characters, especially Brutus, worrying about Caesar's ambition, and this worry ultimately drives the conspirators (Brutus among them) to assassinate Caesar. Though Antony throws doubt on Caesar's ambition during his funeral speech in Act 3, Scene 2, he does so to pursue his own political motive. As such, we can view his implied assertion that Caesar was not ambitious as an intentional lie. 

The problem of Caesar's ambition makes more sense when remembered in its historical context (the play is a fictionalized retelling of real events, after all). Prior to Caesar's rise to power, Rome had been a republic for hundreds of years, governing its people through representative government, rather than a monarchy. Thus, Caesar's personal ambition to gain power as king threatens this democratic status quo. As such, Julius Caesar is a play about how personal ambition, when it is paired with political power and motive, has the potential to threaten the sovereignty of self-governance. 

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is Julius Caesar really as ambitious as the conspirators think he is? If yes, why? If not, why not?

In Julius Caesar, as in Roman accounts of Julius Caesar's life, the extent of his ambition is an ever-present question.  In his play on the life of the Roman emperor, Shakespeare makes his answer to the question of Caesar's ambition apparent from the very first scene.  In the first scene, Julius Caesar announces his intention to be crowned as emperor (and dictator - though Shakespeare uses the term "king"), the highest authority.  Becoming emperor, an absolute ruler, is the highest possible ambition. At this point, it is clear that Caesar can talk the talk, but whether he can walk the walk still remains a question.  Based solely on his admission in the opening scene of the play, the conspirators would require more justification for their concerns.

Julius Caesar's assassination occurs before the midpoint of the play, so he does not really offer much tangible evidence of his ambition.  He has not had the time to "walk the walk" by the time he is assassinated.  Since Caesar has not had the time to really fulfill his political ambitions, at least those ambitions the conspirators have built up in their mind as Caesar's true goal, one cannot really estimate the extent of his ambitions.  While Caesar does become emperor, the absolutist aspect of his ambition fails to be realized.

From these two circumstances, it would seem that the extent of Caesar's ambitions are overstated.  It stems more from the ambitions of the conspirators than Caesar's own ambitions.  When Julius Caesar declares his goal of becoming emperor at the Feast of Lupercal at the opening of the play, the conspirators are already plotting his assassination, suggesting the extent of Caesar's ambitions is a mere aid to the conspirators fulfilling their own.  The conspirators talk much more of Caesar's ambition than his ambition actually manifests itself.

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, was Caesar really ambitious or were the conspirators just exaggerating Caesar's ambition?

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cassius uses Caesar's suspected ambitions as a motive to stir and rouse the suspicions of his co-conspirators. He took the time to carefully plot and suggest to Brutus, in particular, that Caesar was waiting to make all Romans submit to his power and control, thus implying that he would be a tyrant.Caesar was compared to a just hatched snake, which if left alone, would be extremely dangerous in the future.  In contrast, Antony, in Caesar's funeral speech, reminded the Roman citizens that Caesar found himself being offered the crown numerous times and and turning it down each time. Antony further uses this point to show what "honorable men" or lack of honor, these conspirators displayed.

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