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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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LINES 215-294

Caesar leaves with his followers, and Casca describes the events of the day-how Caesar three times refused the crown.

Was this a cynical gesture to manipulate the feelings of the public? It was Caesar's loyal follower Antony who offered the crown-perhaps the two politicians worked out their "act" beforehand. Casca thinks so, but Casca is one of the conspirators and would interpret events in a way that was unflattering to Caesar.

Casca is as cynical about the crowds as he is about Caesar, and describes how

the rabblement hooted, and clapped their chopt hands, and threw up their sweaty nightcaps, and uttered such a deal of stinking breath... that it had, almost, choked Caesar.

Act I, Scene ii, lines 243-247

If Caesar "had stabbed their mothers," says Casca, they still would have loved him (lines 274-275).

NOTE: ON THE COMMON PEOPLE
If we can believe Casca, the common people behaved collectively like a blind beast, incapable of ruling itself or of knowing what is in its own best interests.

Power in a republic comes ultimately from the people, who are supposed to have the wisdom to select responsible leaders. The people of Rome seem to lack this wisdom. Are they the true villains in Julius Caesar? Is Shakespeare pointing out what happens to a country when the people ignore their responsibilities? Perhaps he is not passing judgment, but merely exploring the historical reasons why Rome was transformed from a republic into a monarchy.

Though Shakespeare may lack a democratic faith in the common man, and be skeptical of the rabble's right to self-rule, he is not necessarily as uncharitable as Casca. Casca's harsh words remind us that most of the conspirators are really fighting to retain their privileges, not to defend the rights of the people. On several occasions Caesar acts and speaks on behalf of his public-something that cannot be said of his assassins.



Observe (line 233) that Brutus calls Casca "gentle." Throughout the play characters greet each other with similar terms of endearment which are either inappropriate or unfelt.

Observe, too, (lines 284-286) that Marullus and Flavius have been exiled or put to death. This is the only time in the play that Caesar deprives anyone of his civil liberties. Is this the act of a tyrant? Or is it the just verdict of a strong leader who refuses to tolerate treason?

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