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11. Critics have argued this point for hundreds of years, so you can defend either point of view as long as you support your case with evidence from the text.
If you think Caesar deserves to die, you'll need to prove that he's unfit to rule. That's not hard to do. Physically, he's partially deaf and suffers from epilepsy-the marks of an aging man seriously past his prime. As for his mental shortcomings, he's superstitious and (though he hides the truth from himself) he's afraid and easily flattered. His ambition threatens to undermine hundreds of years of Republican rule. His speech comparing himself to the North Star is the height of blasphemy and arrogance. His refusal to pardon Publius Cimber is the mark of a tyrant incapable of justice or pity. Even Caesar's close friend Brutus thinks Caesar must die-and Brutus, despite his shortcomings, is an honorable man who thinks only of his country's best interests.
If you believe the murder is wrong, you can find an equal amount of evidence to support your position. Caesar may have physical ailments, but so what? Hasn't he just returned triumphantly from battle? He may suffer from fears and superstitions, but so do all men: what he should be judged for are his accomplishments, not his private life. He may be ambitious, but what's wrong with ambition? No one has gotten anywhere without it. In our democratic age we're suspicious of politicians who seek unlimited power. But the Elizabethans lived under a strong monarch who brought them peace and prosperity; they would have had no such prejudice against Caesar. Nowhere in the play do we see Caesar suppressing the rights of the people. (He does put the Roman officers Flavius and Marullus to death, but they are traitors who deserve to die.) He is vain, but deserves to be vain. In his personal life he is considerate to his wife, courteous to the conspirators, and generous (in his will) to the Roman people. He can be inflexible, as when he refuses to pardon Publius Cimber, but the times demanded such behavior. Julius Caesar was written near the end of Elizabeth's reign, when Shakespeare and his contemporaries were deeply troubled by the threats to her life and by the need for an orderly succession. Shakespeare's play can be seen, therefore, as a defense of order, and a warning to his fellow-Elizabethans of the dangers of tyranny and revolution.
12. There is no right or wrong answer to the question. But like a good defense attorney you can gather your evidence from the facts (as presented in the text, Act III, Scene ii) and make a strong case for either point of view.
If you favor Brutus' speech, you can argue that: (1) it is spoken by a man who respects his audience and believes that truth is on his side; (2) Brutus reasons with people, he does not talk down to them or cater to their base emotions; (3) he is extremely effective in his use of rhetorical questions, questions that involve the people and encourage them to make up their own minds; (4) he is brief and to the point; (5) he convinces his audience (when Brutus finishes, the citizens exclaim, "This Caesar was a tyrant," and "We are blest that Rome is rid of him"); or (6) the only reason the crowds turn against Brutus is that Antony has the last word; the crowds would probably have turned against Antony if Brutus had been the last to speak.
If you think Antony made the most effective speech-and this is what most critics have argued over the years-you can point out that: (1) yes, Antony appeals to the emotions of his audience, but people are led by their emotions, not by their Intellects; (2) Antony's speech seems more spontaneous and therefore more genuinely felt; he forms his words as he goes along, in response to the shifting moods of his audience; (3) Brutus seems to talk down to the people; Antony identifies with them; or (4) Brutus seems to be reading a memorized speech; Antony seems to speak from the heart.
When you defend Antony's speech, point out how he breaks down and cries and how he shows the crowds Caesar's bloody cloak. Point out that he speaks in verse (Brutus speaks in prose), and that he avoids fine distinctions, which the public cannot understand, and reduces everyone to heroes or villains. Mention that though he does appeal to the so-called baser instincts of his audience, he does so for what he considers a noble end.
For further help, turn to "The Play," Act III, Scene ii.