Appearance vs. Reality in Julius Caesar

Appearance vs. Reality in Julius Caesar

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Appearance vs. Reality in Julius Caesar

 

 

In life, people and things are not always as they appear. William Shakespeare displays this idea throughout his play, Julius Caesar. The play portrays the historical murder of one of ancient Rome's most precious leaders, Julius Caesar. The play takes its readers through the minds of the conspirators as they plot this massive murder and deal with the responsibilities of its consequences. During the aftermath of Caesar's death, Octavius talks to Antony about how they should bring peace back to Rome. He states, "And some that smile...have in their hearts...millions of mischiefs" (4.1.50-51). Here, Octavius is referring to the false appearance of the conspirators. He says that they might appear harmless, but behind their false smiles is a heart full of dirty tricks. He is also saying that someone's outward appearance doesn't always symbolize how he or she feels inside. This theme of appearance versus reality can be seen various times throughout Julius Caesar. It is developed through the personalities and actions of Antony, Brutus, and Cassius. These characters deceive their friends and add to the intriguing plot of the play.

 

First of all, there is Antony, a raging triumvir after the death of Caesar. Anotony is a dear friend of Caesar and is truly devastated after his beloved friend's death. Antony feels that justice must take its course, for over Caesar's dead body he states, "O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth/ That I am meek and gentle with these butchers" (3.1. ). Antony then decides that he must get back at the conspirators and convince the public that the motives behind killing Caesar were unjust. In funeral speech Antony even makes it a point to refute what Brutus said in speech moments ago. However, the nether neither the public nor the conspirators comprehend his motive at first. Antony appears like he is just presenting another side to the story, but in reality he is refuting Brutus' speech and swaying the public towards his side. During his speech he even states, "I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke" (3.2. ). To the conspirators Antony appears like "one of Caesar's many limbs"( ). In reality he is plotting revenge.

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He even attempts to cut of names in Caesar's will. He says, "and we shall determine...How to cut off some charges in legacies" (4.1.8-9). Evidently Antony isn't the person everyone thinks he is.

 

Another person whose true appearance lies hidden is Cassius. Cassius is one of the sly conspirators out for Caesar. He feels that Caesar will grow too ambitious, so he must be stopped before he's out of control. Therefore, he plans to murder Caesar. In order to make his murder look like a sacrifice for Rome and not a bloody plot, he must get Brutus in on his plan. With Brutus' good reputation the murder would be looked upon as a good deed. In order to appeal to Brutus, Cassius disguises his personality. In guise of a devoted friend, Cassius flatters Brutus to his fullest extent. He says, ."..Thoughts of great value worthy of cogitations/Tell me, good Brutus, Can you see your face?" (1.2. ). By pretending to flatter Brutus, Cassius hopes Brutus will join the conspiracy. Cassius plans ends up working and Brutus fears that Caesar will eventually become power hungry. Cassius is pleased that his false words have had an effect on Brutus, and he states to himself, "I am glad that my weak words/Have struck but thus much show of fire from Brutus" (1.2. ). Cassius' appeared to be considerate of Brutus' feelings, but in reality Cassius was really stabbing him in the back and "forcing" him to join the conspirators.

 

One more person that exhibits a false appearance is Caesar's noblest follower and dear friend, Brutus. Brutus is tricked into the conspiracy by Cassius. Brutus never had any true motives behind killing Caesar. He just did it for fear he "would" become ambitious. After his death Antony even states, "This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators, save only he, /Did that they did in envy of great Caesar..." (5.5.68-70). On the other hand, Brutus hid his true feelings behind a mask. In his heart, Brutus knew that everyone was not out for the same purpose as him. In reality, Brutus didn't want to hurt Caesar, but he felt it was only necessary. He even says, " Let not our looks put on our purposes, But bear it as our Roman actors do" (2.1.224-225). Even in his speech at Caesar's funeral, Brutus continued to appear as if he thought the murder was more of a sacrifice for Rome. When asked whether or not the conspiracy should take an oath of loyalty Brutus says there is no need and remarks with, " O, then by day where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough/ To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none conspiracy;/ Hide it in smiles and affability" (2.1.79-81). He appears to everyone has confident on his decision, but in reality, he longs for a place to hide his true guilt.

 

In conclusion, Antony, Cassius, and Brutus exhibit the theme of appearance versus reality throughout the play Julius Caesar. This idea of deceiving people with one's outward appearance can be directly related to our own lives. For example, nowadays, people are being warned about whom to let in their house because people, who appear to be a technician, plumber, carpenter, etc. might in reality be a criminal planning to rob one's home. People can never base opinions off of one's appearance because too many people hide their true identities. Never the less, no one can trust someone right away. We must get to know someone in order to decipher between one's public and private face.

 
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