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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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CAESAR

Caesar manages to surprise us even after his death. According to Antony, Caesar leaves the people his parks, his gardens, and a sum of money. Would a tyrant be so generous? Caesar may simply have tried to buy himself immortality-to win in death the universal respect and admiration he was unable to attain in life. But whatever his motives he was interested in the well-being of his public. Would Brutus and the other conspirators have been as generous?

THE CROWDS

The crowd's reaction to the two speeches suggests that the common people are incapable of ruling themselves. What they seem to need is a strong, benevolent authority figure-someone to give order and direction to their blind impulses. If Caesar is killed, they will keep his spirit alive in Brutus, Antony, or someone else.



Brutus assumes that all Romans are noble, but Rome is not just an ideal, it is also a community of people. Like Brutus himself, Rome has both a public and a private face. The Rome which Brutus appeals to is peopled with wise and virtuous citizens who zealously guard their freedom. The actual people, however, are greedy, fun-loving and thoughtless-happy to sign over their freedom to anyone who struts about like a hero and promises them a day off from work. They can also be vicious, as we shall see in the following scene.

Shakespeare's portrait of the common people is not very flattering. The reason may simply be that Shakespeare lived in a pre-democratic age. Yet ask yourself: are people today more capable of self-government than they were in Roman times?

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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