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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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LINES 164-223

You can see the basic difference between Brutus and Cassius in the way they respond to Antony.

Brutus appeals to Antony's intellect with the argument that "pity to the general wrong of / Rome... Hath done this deed on Caesar" (lines 170, 172). Is this any way to win the heart of Caesar's most devoted friend? Brutus' problem is not so much that he ignores human nature, as that he assumes others have natures like his own. Whether his words to Antony reveal a man who is cold and unfeeling, or simply too pure and noble for this world, is something you'll have to decide for yourself. Either way, he's the direct opposite of Antony.

As Brutus appeals to Antony's "higher" instincts, so Cassius appeals to his "lower"- offering him a share of political power. This is the sort of appeal that would work on Cassius himself.

When Brutus promises to justify the assassination, Antony responds, "I doubt not of your wisdom" (line 184). What he is saying to himself is, yes, you are wise and have your reasons, but none of them can make the deed less terrible.

LINES 225-226

Brutus believes his reasons are so strong

That were you, Antony, the son of Caesar, You should be satisfied.

Act III, Scene i, lines 225-226

Could reason or logic ever be strong enough to make a person applaud the murder of his father? Brutus thinks so, and in that belief lies his weakness-and his strength.

LINES 227-253

Brutus decides over Cassius' objections to let Antony speak at Caesar's funeral. The decision is admirable, but politically disastrous.

Brutus plans to speak first, "And show the reason of our Caesar's death" (line 237). What he fails to understand is that most people are not convinced by reasons. What motivates them are appeals to their emotions. (Brutus would never admit it, but he himself was led by his feelings when he joined the conspiracy to live up to his family name.)

LINES 254-275

Left alone, Antony reveals his true intentions. What we discover is a man of genuine passion, overcome by feelings he can neither completely understand nor control. As Brutus responds with his head, so Antony reacts with his heart. He has no concern about the future or about the best interests of Rome. Values, ideals, principles-these mean nothing to him. He cannot see beyond the murder of a friend and his desire for revenge.

Antony becomes the servant of Caesar's vengeful spirit-serving him in death as he served him in life. His devotion is total and blinds him to everything else-even the "blood and destruction" he is about to unleash on guilty and innocent alike. Whether he is an instrument of good or evil depends, of course, on how you view the man he serves.

One thing that can't be doubted is the sincerity of Antony's feelings. In a world of men too circumspect to speak their minds, it comes as a relief to find one who can express himself with tears.

LINES 276-297

The scene ends with the convenient arrival of Octavius' servant, who announces that Octavius and his men are camped about 21 miles from Rome. Caesar, apparently sensing danger, had written Octavius for his support. Let him stay there, says Antony, until I have made my speech and determined whether the time is ripe for his return.

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

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