Presentation on theme: "Julius Caesar Act I Analysis. Act I analysis Julius Caesar opens with the tribunes of the people chastising the plebeians for being fickle. They refer."— Presentation transcript:
Julius Caesar Act I Analysis
Act I analysis Julius Caesar opens with the tribunes of the people chastising the plebeians for being fickle. They refer to the masses as "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!"(1.1.34). This imagery will continue throughout the play. They are easily swayed by whoever is speaking to them, as evidenced later in the play when Antony turns a hostile crowd into a mob against Brutus and Cassius. The play also holds much contemporary appeal. Calpurnia's means Caesar does not have an heir, something many English worried about as Queen Elizabeth also had no heir. In the play, Caesar's desire for an heir has a darker meaning. He tells Antony, "Forget not your speed, Antonio, / To touch Calpurnia, for our elders say / The barren, touched in this holy chase, / Shake off their sterile curse" ( ). Brutus interprets the importance Caesar places on this issue as evidence Caesar hopes to create a dynasty, thus fueling Brutus' reasons for destroy Caesar.
In these opening scenes, a great deal of interpretation and misinterpretation occurs. Cicero refers to this concept, telling Cassius, "Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time; / But men may construe things after their fashion, / Clean from the purpose of the things themselves" ( ). With this statement, he implies that each man will interpret signs according to what he believes, and will thus ignore the signs' true meanings. Caesar proves Cicero correct by dismissing the soothsayer's warning and later ignoring Calpurnia's dream of his death. Omens abound during these scenes, with the tempestuous weather, an owl screeching during the day, and a lion is loose in the streets.
The mirror, so often invoked in other Shakespearean plays, is also a significant image in Julius Caesar. For example, Cassius asks Brutus, "Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?" (1.2.53). He continues, "That you have no such mirrors as will turn / Your hidden worthiness into your eye / That you might see your shadow...I, your glass" ( , 70). Essentially Cassius tells Brutus that he will be the mirror who reflects back to Brutus his true feelings and nature. At this moment, the reader recognizes Cassius has a private agenda and is providing Brutus with a false mirror. Cassius continues to manipulate Brutus by comparing him to Caesar, asking "Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that 'Caesar'? / Why should that name be sounded more than yours? / Write them together: yours is as fair a name...Conjure with 'em: / 'Brutus' will start a spirit as soon as 'Caesar'" ( ). Cassius hopes to incite jealousy and a desire for power in Brutus, and also believes Caesar is their equal. Furthermore, Cassius invokes Brutus' ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, a man famous for expelling the former kings of Rome, in his attempt to sway Brutus. Brutus accepts this flattery and in fact refers to it later on when deciding whether or not to join the conspirators.
Caesar's description of Cassius is clearly disapproving, and at once shows the reader that he will be a source of conflict: "Let me have men about me that are fat, / Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights. / Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. / He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous" ( ). Caesar continues, "He [Cassius] reads much, / He is a great observer, and he looks / Quite through the deeds of men. He loves no plays, / As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music. ( ). Generally, Shakespearean characters that do not enjoy music or plays are inherently evil. Caesar fears Cassius because he does not enjoy life, whereas he trusts Antony who is almost famous for his ability to have a good time.
Two sides of Caesar exist in the play: Caesar as a concept and as a human being. The human in Caesar is weak, needs Cassius to save him from drowning and has epileptic fits. However, the concept of Caesar, the great general and leader is all powerful and noble. His every word is a command, and the people follow him. Throughout the play, Caesar demonstrates an inability to effectively communicate, a theme reflected in much of the plays action. Brutus and Cassius are constantly interrupted by shouts offstage, breaking their conversion and distracting Brutus. Caesar's particular weakness in communication stems from his being deaf in his left ear. At one point he requests, "Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf, / And tell me truly what thou think'st of him" ( ). Caesar's deafness is in fact symbolic of his unwillingness to see danger in the world around him. As such, he dismisses the soothsayer and his wife Calpurnia's dream rather than accepting their morbid predictions.
In Richard II, the fall of Richard is represented by his constant descent from the throne. Similarly, Shakespeare foreshadows Caesar's fall in Julius Caesar when Caesar has an epileptic fit in the public square. This imagery of falling also coincides with the decline of language comprehension immediately thereafter. For example, Casca describes Cicero's speech saying, "It was Greek to me" ( ), an expression that has since become cliché. The action of the play is mostly focused on Brutus, a man who dominates the plot and speaks the most lines. So why “Julius Caesar?” Traditionally, Shakespeare named his plays after rulers (Henry VIII, Richard III, etc.). However, upon a close read, Julius Caesar does truly revolve around Caesar. Brutus' internal conflict is a struggle between his friendship for Caesar and his loyalty to the Roman Republic. Indeed, Caesar's influence on the plot continues even after his death, specifically when his ghost appears to Brutus, indicating the memory and myth of Caesar will never die.