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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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LINES 162-192.

Brutus tries to elevate the murder into a religious sacrifice. "Let's be sacrificers, but not butchers," he says. "We shall be called purgers [healers], not murderers." He wants to carve Caesar

as a dish fit for the gods, Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds.

Act II, Scene i, lines 173-174

Brutus is trying so hard not to compromise his principles! But is it possible? Isn't murder murder, whatever you call it? When a person lies dead, does it matter how the deed was done?

Of course, if the conspiracy is just and Caesar deserves to die, then the assassination is in fact a sacrifice of an individual for the sake of Rome. Brutus is to be admired for limiting the bloodshed, and for putting aside his own feelings for Caesar in order to do what he thinks is best for his country.

Brutus wishes he could kill the spirit of Caesar, but not the man. This is impossible, not just because the two are inseparable, but because the spirit, as we shall see, cannot be destroyed. The man can be killed, but what he represents is destined to live on.



LINES 193-233

Cassius and Decius portray Caesar as a man who is superstitious and easy to flatter. They see the man behind the mask, and question his ability to rule. What we must decide for ourselves is whether human frailty-which the general public never sees-is sufficient cause for insurrection.

The conspirators leave Brutus alone with the sleeping boy Lucius. Lucius seems to represent a world of childhood innocence to which Brutus wishes he could return.

The noble Brutus is by nature unfit for a political world of duplicity and intrigue. He would like to regain the inner harmony he has lost, but, for better or for worse, he has committed himself to political action, and there is no going back for him.

Brutus may be noble or foolish, but he has courageously decided to descend from his safe and privileged world of ideas and take a stand in a world of practical affairs.

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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