Twolius Caesar

Julius Caesar. Possibly the first Shakespearean play (after Romeo and Juliet of course…) that I have ever known about. Shown to me as a film back in Grade Eight, it was the first play that made me actually appreciate the storytelling power that a Shakespeare piece had.  I instantly took a liking to Caesar himself. A proud and powerful man, leader of an empire, loved by all his followers. Back in Grade Eight, I could not fathom as to why anyone would want to kill him, apart from the sheer force of greed.

I kept this question in mind when I went to see The Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar – and the answer came to me. Any single person can not safely make a claim or a decision on their own in this play. This struck me during Act III.

Possibly one of the most crucial decisions made within Julius Caesar is Caesar’s decision to attend the Senate meeting on the Ides of March. Caesar is used to being in power, where his word is final and it is difficult to convince him otherwise. And this is what gave me my first thought as to why Roman society wanted Caesar out.

Historically, the Romans, before claiming independence (and by that, I mean slaughtering their superiors) were once ruled by a rather savage society, the Etruscans. The Etruscans had total political control of southern Italy, and had a strict aristocratic and monarchical elite class, leaving the plebian Romans neglected and left to fend for themselves. After over two hundred years of abuse, the Romans overthrew the government, and swore an oath that they would never be ruled by a king. The term ‘king’ became taboo within Roman culture – they established a republic, always being under the power of a Cabinet, or a series of annually elected magistrates – anything but a dreaded king. This deep rooted fear of a single person being in control of something leeched into every aspect of a Roman’s life.

The obvious exception to that rule in this play is that of the Soothsayer, the woman who speaks for herself and only herself. You never see her conversing with other characters in the play – in fact she seems to shut down and refuse to speak when someone addresses her. And, to further prove how terrified Romans are of a lone person, her voice is silenced during the civil war (literally, seeing as her tongue is cut out from her).

When Cassius first has his idea to slay Caesar, he does not take time to ponder about it on his own. No, he goes straight to other Council members and discusses the issue. The conversation that he then has with Brutus isn’t much about him asking Brutus to agree with his actions – it is to get Brutus to act with him. Cassius is terrified of doing anything on his own, such has been the status quo for generations.

The idea of this civilization working in pairs goes farther than simply people needing others’ approval to act. This characters in this play even have a tendency to change their minds – never once, but twice. Take Caesar himself. He wakes up on the Ides of March with full intention to go to the Senate meeting. Calpurnia, his wife, convinces him to stay home, after a horrifying dream she has. (Note that she is just one person who had this dream, which automatically sets her up for failure). Caesar obliges and changed his mind about attending the Senate meeting. Then Decius Brutus, on the behalf of the Senate, convinces him to come anyways. As always, whoever is acting on the behalf of multiple people sways the ultimate decision. Caesar departs, scorning Calpurnia for her interference.

How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!

I am ashamed I did yield to them.

After his death, the crowd is also swayed in favor of the death of Caesar, but then back again, calling the conspirators ‘traitors’ and ‘villains’. Finally, the entire relationship between Brutus and Cassius is a massive battle of changing minds. At first, they are friends, but have a massive dispute which almost tips them into hating one another. By the end of the play, they are brothers in death once more.

Mob mentality is the driving factor for almost every action in Julius Caesar, stemming from the raw terror of the rule of one man. Quite literally too, given that the Roman Empire began ruled by a Triumvirate, (directly translatable to ‘The rule of 3 men’). Future leaders would give themselves any title, be it Emperor, Princheps (First Citizen), or any other. This is a very interesting lifestyle, given that out society today encourages competition and separation of people, where we are comfortable being lead by one person, and are able to make decisions on our own, for the most part.

This idea of two, or multiple actions can be seen in countless examples from the Roman Empire, and straying from the course is asking for punishment in that society, something Julius Caesar experiences firsthand.

If only he had actually been Twolius Caesar.

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3 thoughts on “Twolius Caesar

  1. Dear Areeb,

    I remember you telling me about this blog – I had not realized the fact that everything was done in pairs, and upon reading this piece, have just now realized how much this happens everywhere (though obviously not to the extent it does in “Julius Caesar”). The idea of pairs and of threes, like in “Macbeth,” in different Shakespeare plays has always been an interesting topic to me, and I found your blog to be very insightful in that regard. I also really like how you tied in the history of the play as well.

    In terms of improvement, I don’t really have anything to offer, except for your opinion on how this idea is paralleled in modern society/politics. I think that that would have been an interesting addition to the blog (just out of my own curiosity), and would love to hear what you thought of this.

    Thank you for putting this on the blog, I can’t wait to read more.

    – Shyla

    P.S. I also think the title is really clever 🙂

  2. Dear Areeb,

    First of all, I loved reading this piece. You have a really distinct style that is very much focused on logos, which is completely different from the voice I’m used to writing in. I think I can learn a lot from the way you analyze.

    The biggest concept I appreciated from this post was definitely the idea of every character in the play being interconnected and very much reliant on one another, leaving them with a lack of identity and voice, for everything they are is simply a byproduct of the people around them. This is where the mob mentality comes in – which is very evident throughout the play. For example, at the funeral, two leaders are both attempting to influence the minds of their people. The question is, whose rhetoric, argumentation and charm is enough to win?

    If I were to offer anything for improvement, I would say that it would be nice to connect the piece to either direct quotes or examples from the play we saw, just to make the piece more interesting and relatable. In particular, it would have been nice to read something about the portrayal of the Soothsayer, which stood out to me immensely after watching the actual play.

    Love Always,

  3. Deer Areeb

    Very well done my friend. I liked this quite a bit. I think that beyond being a very good analysis of a very particular part of Roman politics, it was a genuinely enjoyable piece to read. It is an interesting thing to think about, the idea that in Rome, no one is anyone without someone else. You’ve painted a sort of duality that’s ever present in Rome; everyone is a half, and they need a whole .Something that stood out especially to me is your part addressing Calpurnia’s dream, and how there was no one else who shared this dream with her, it met no cause, and doomed her to failure, as you put it. That’s a very meticulous detail that I certainly would never have thought of had I been doing this same analysis, and though that was a rather minor part of your

    I especially appreciated the historical context you gave to your argument. It’s certainly shows that you put a lot of thought into this piece. I enjoyed reading about it, and it’s clear that every line of historical background serves a purpose to your argument. I found it interesting how you highlighted the fact that the word “king” was considered taboo during the time, which is ironic, given Caesar fulfilled that role pretty wholesomely.

    As far as improvement goes, I can’t really give you any. I don’t want to pontificate to you about things that I myself don’t have answers for. I guess I could say, as good and as argumentatively effective as this piece was, it could have used some reinforcement with a few more quotes from the actual play as well.

    Thanks for this piece Areeb! Very good work!


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