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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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ACT II, SCENE III

Artemidorus' note gives Caesar another chance to save his life-will he read it? The possibility of a reprieve stretches out the time before Caesar meets his fate, and therefore adds to the suspense.

Artemidorus considers Caesar a friend, and is willing to risk his life for him. How sad it is, he says, that virtuous men like Caesar cannot live beyond the reach of jealous rivals:

My heart laments that virtue cannot live Out of the teeth of emulation.

Act II, Scene iii, lines 12-13

How different a view of Caesar from that of the conspirators! Could both be right? Shakespeare makes us realize that there is no final verdict on a human being-that a friend to one person may be an enemy to another, and that our opinions say as much about ourselves as they say about others.



ACT II, SCENE IV

Shakespeare again delays the assassination attempt, and thereby adds to the suspense.

Brutus, true to his word, has shared his secret with Portia, and she is having trouble keeping it to herself.

The elements in Portia, as in Brutus, are at war: "I have a man's mind," she says, "but a woman's might." In this disordered world there is no harmony anywhere: neither in the heavens, nor in the heart and mind of a noble woman.

Portia is almost mad with fear. She would like to be "Cato's daughter," but she is only "Portia," and must admit:

Ay me, how weak a thing The heart of woman is!

Act II, Scene iv, lines 39-40

Like Brutus and Caesar, Portia tries to live up to her name and brings about her own destruction.

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