The Reasoning and Justification of the King’s Death by Cassius

The character Cassius in the tragedy of Julius Caesar by Shakespeare constantly reflects palpable jealousy. In Act I Scene II, Cassius claims “I was born free as Caesar; so were you:/We both have fed as well, and we both/Endure the winter’s cold as well as he…”(Shakespeare, lines 5-7); and feels king Caesar does not deserve superiority over him. In this scene, Cassius is pointing out to Brutus that he and Cassius deserve the power to lead Rome more than Caesar.

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In order to prove these points, Cassius shares three stories with Brutus in his speech: one of when he and Caesar had a swimming contest; another when he saw Caesar sickly and frail after a fever; and lastly one where Caesar again is portrayed as a weak and sickly man. In the monologue by Cassius directed at Brutus, Cassius uses paradox, self-heroic word choice and similes throughout three separate stories to give examples of Caesar’s weaknesses. Cassius’ main goal becomes to portray Caesar as any other man; and to rationalize killing the king to gain power for (what he believes) the better of Rome, reflecting his Aristotle character.

In one of Cassius’ examples of a weak Caesar, he uses a paradox to emphasize the contrast between his views of the king and the people of Rome’s view. The people of Rome idolize Caesar because he appeals more to the townspeople; Cassius being a nobleman does not approve of Caesar reaching out to the poor. Cassius does not like how Caesar is treated superior and claims he is just a good a man as the king. He shows his disdain and jealousy toward Caesar by saying “And this man/Is now become a god, and Cassius is/A wretched creature, and must bend his body/if Caesar carelessly but nod to him” (23-26).

By describing himself as a “wretched creature,” he highlights the view of the people of Rome and Caesar toward him. Because Cassius feels the people do not approve of him and favor Caesar, Cassius feels jealous and loathes being inferior to anyone. Cassius proves “the god did shake”(29) referring to Caesar when he had a fever. This paradoxical claim of a fragile and sick god comes to play with Cassius; and makes the people think. People know it is not possible for a god to be frail, and by claiming Caesar as feeble makes him mortal. Caesar, who is usually portrayed as immortal, becomes mortal with this paradox.

Another way Cassius tries to stress Caesar’s weaknesses is by portraying himself as heroic in all his stories. When describing a day with Caesar, Cassius explains Caesar proposing a swimming race: “I plunged in/And bade him follow: so indeed he did”(13-14). Here Cassius acts as the leader in the duo, therefore giving him leadership status. To become even more courageous than Caesar he compares himself to Aeneas when helping the struggling Caesar out of the water. (Aeneas was the Roman state founder and hero of Vergil’s Aenid) Here Cassius claims, “Caesar cried “Help me, Cassius, or I sink! I as Aeneas, our great ancestor,/Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder/The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber/Did I the tired Caesar”(20-23). By comparing himself to a well-known Roman hero Cassius puts himself in the limelight by saving the praised Caesar. This comparison also plays as a simile comparing Cassius to a roman victor. In addition to this heroic simile Cassius uses similes to highlight Caesar’s weaknesses. In the last example of a frail Caesar, Cassius claims “His coward lips did from their color fly”(30), which directly translates to “color fled from his lips like a deserter fleeing from his banner in battle. This simile comparing Caesar to a coward in battle serves as a large insult and points out since the color of his lips left him so quickly he was frail and weak. Cassius then goes as far as to compare Caesar to a child: “Alas, it cried, ‘Give me some drink, Titinius,’/As a sick girl” (35-36). To call Caesar a child makes him seem vulnerable, but to call him a “sick” child gives Caesar a much more weak portrayal. Furthermore, to say Caesar was a girl may also have a slight insult because girls are weaker than men.

With all these insulting similes about Caesar in Cassius’ speech (to his good friend) Brutus, Cassius claims “I know that virtue be in you, Brutus,/As well as I do know your outward favor”(1-2). This simile claims Cassius knows Brutus is a good man as well as he knows his “outward favor,” or appearance. Opening with this compliment warms up Brutus for the coming insults Cassius will hurl at Brutus’ friend Caesar. The similes highlighting weakness Cassius uses will lead Brutus to feel dubious if Caesar fits the perfect leadership status as well. Cassius’ speech becomes convincing to Brutus because of its craftily shaped onclusion that Caesar would not make a good king any longer because of his weak nature. Caesar’s weakness is outlined by Cassius through similes, self-praise, and paradox. Cassius smartly appeals to Brutus’ better nature with flattery, while pointing out how he and Brutus would be better leaders than Caesar because they have just as much (if not more) of a better future for Rome (at least, that is what Cassius believes). In the end, Cassius portrays the typical Aristotle character in a tragedy because of his ambition to be on top—and in his mind, for the good of the world.

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