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Over the centuries the number of people in this world has been constantly increasing, starting with just two people named Adam and Eve. As intellectual beings people get together in groups to make life easier for themselves. Then they have to choose a leader to guide and direct them. It is the simplest form of government and it is then man gets a taste of power. One of the great thinkers of the nineteenth century, Lord Acton said concerning man and power, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar depicts the demise of Julius Caesar and the corruption of the people surrounding him. The play especially focuses on the negative traits of Cassius, but the corruption of Brutus remains debatable.
The opening scene of Julius Caesar is important, because it contains some of the major themes of the work. It starts as two tribunes Flavius and Murellus, are ordering commoners to stop celebrating Pompey's downfall and head home, "What, know you not, / Being mechanical, you ought not walk / Upon a labouring day without the sign / Of your profession?"(I.i.2-5) Caesar is seen as a hero in the eyes of the commoners, but the tribunes see the foul play in the situation. Romans are supposed to celebrate when they triumph over another country, not when one citizen takes down the other. It should be noted that since Caesar is seen only through the eyes of other people at this point, it is early to make any judgment.
In the second scene the reader is introduced to Brutus and Cassius. The two embody some contrasting character features. Brutus is a man dealing with conflicts inside him: he loves Caesar, but at the same time sees him as a man not suitable to rule Rome. He is reminiscent of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden tempted by Satan. Cassius, of course, is evil in his wisdom like the Satan. He sees the weakness in his friend, which could be manipulated to his own advantage. Coveting for power is very intoxicating, as both Brutus and Cassius are seen blinded by it very much like Satan desired for God's power. This is seen when Cassius says, "I was born as free as Caesar, so were you. / We both have fed as well, and we can both / Endure the winter's cold as well as he" (I.
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I would not, Cassius; yet I love him well,
But wherefore do you hold me here so long?
What is it that you would impart to me?
If it be aught toward the general good,
Set honor in one eye and death I' the other
And I will look on both indifferently;
For the let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honor more than I fear death (I.ii.88-95).
The readers do not get to see Caesar personally up until the second scene of the second act. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, is trying to persuade Caesar not to go to the Capitol, for she had a nightmare about his death. Caesar's arrogance and pride from his high position become obvious in this scene. His acknowledgement of his own powerful position is forcing him to view himself as a leader lacking all weaknesses. His pride and ignorance of his own fear ultimately leads him to his own demise, as Cassius and Brutus are waiting to kill him at the Capitol. He says,
The gods do this in shame of cowardice:
Caesar should be a beast without a heart,
If he should stay at home today for fear.
No, Caesar shall not; danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
We are two lions litter'd in one day,
And I the elder and more terrible;
And Caesar shall go forth (II.ii.43-50).
Long before Caesar decides to go to the Capitol, Cassius has already succeeded in persuading Brutus to assassinate the leader. With all of his desires for Rome and motives to a leader's position mingled, Brutus justifies his murder to be for a noble cause. Covetousness turns a man's heart black and keeps his mind blind to the truth and to self. Brutus's example is not the only one. Covetousness put a seed in Cain's heart to murder his own brother Abel. Of course, both are the extreme examples, but one never knows where it can lead when he covets for something.
Brutus and Cassius are not the only ones fighting for power. After Caesar's death, his close friend Antony and adopted son Octavius join the rat race for the leader's position. Power is very tempting when it can be acquired easily, as Antony makes his own little move when he sees his opportunity to lead the people without a leader. Unfortunately, Octavius prevails over him in the competition. The competition is not very obvious, since Antony tries to capture the hearts of the Roman citizens bearing an identity of Caesar's servant. He manipulates the people with his excellent public speaking abilities, never directly accusing Brutus and Cassius, but saying that Caesar was a noble man. Antony lacks authoritative characteristics of a leader, so Octavius snatches the lead as a legal successor.
One of the surprising moments of the play comes at the end with the death of both Cassius and Brutus. The surprise is not their death, but how they die. The deaths take place during a battle between the troops of Cassius, Brutus and Octavian, Antony. Cassius commits suicide misunderstanding that his friend Titinius is losing, when in reality he was surrounded by his own troops. When Brutus learns of the situation, he impales himself on a sword being held by one of his soldiers.
The confusion among Brutus, Cassius, and all the assassins is a repetition of Caesar's situation. It all starts when Caesar wins a battle against his own citizen Pompey. Then Brutus follows the example of going against his own people and then gets killed by his own people too. It is almost like a cycle, a rat race for a more powerful position. The beginning of the cycle is Caesar himself when he wishes to have power over Rome all by himself. The cycle is apparent in everyone's life today, since Adam and Eve started it for the human race. Satan, of course, is the very first one to start.