Tragedy of Julius Caesar Act 1
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Act I Important Lines in the Play:
1.1.37-39: A tribune is speaking to the commoners saying that they are lazy, stupid, and useless because they do not know about what happened to Pompey (Caesar killed Pompey but it was not shown in the play). They also say this because the commoners are not working and instead celebrating Caesar’s rule, making the tribunes angrier because the tribunes favor Pompey’s rule.
1.1.50-54: The tribune is telling everyone to get out of the streets so that when Caesar comes back in the celebration of the Feast of Lupercal, no one would be there to praise Caesar’s rule, lowering his sense of importance in Rome, as so the tribunes think.
1.2.18: A fortuneteller tells Caesar to beware the Ides of March because he knows that something bad will happen on that day in the future, even though he doesn’t specifically tell what the bad thing is. Caesar does not believe him because he thinks it is nonsense.
1.2.88-89: Brutus tells Cassius that even though he does not believe in Caesar’s ambitions and laws, he is still loyal to him and he loves being loyal more than the fear of death, meaning that he is loyal to Caesar more than him not being loyal but is wanted to get killed in society.
1.2.135-41: Cassius is telling Brutus that he protests how Caesar treats his people, saying that the people who do not hold Caesars loyalty die dishonorably like slaves working for Caesar. The he says that it is their own faults that they end up like slaves.
1.2.192-95: Caesar talks to Antony but only so Antony can hear him, saying that the people who are fat and healthy are the honorable and loyal people and points to Cassius as a lean and hungry man, saying that the people who
are like Cassius are dangerous.
1.2.280-83: Casca responds to Cassius’s question by saying that Caesar punished Murellus and Flavius for taking the scarves off the statues of Caesar, which is seen done in Scene I.
1.3.157-60: Casca tells Cassius that all of the people love Brutus and says that when Brutus does something bad that anyone could do, he could get away from the punishment because of the love and references it to an alchemist making tin look like gold.
Act I Study Guide Questions:
1. The tribunes are disgusted with the common people because they believe that Caesar is a good ruler, making the tribunes disgusted because they believe the common people do not know that Caesar killed Pompey, the ruler that the tribunes favored.
2. Shakespeare’s attitude towards the commoners is that they are lazy, stupid, and useless. He develops this idea by showing that they are not working because they are waiting for the arrival of Caesar way earlier than the destined time of arrival, and also showing that the tribunes want the commoners to stop being lazy and show some dignity in their work other than praising a man who killed Pompey, the tribunes beloved leader.
3. Caesar is a very superstitious man, which is shown by talking to Antony saying that he needs to touch his wife because, according to the elders’ tales, she will be able to have children again. Caesar does not believe in fortunetelling because he does not believe in the soothsayer’s cautious remark about the Ides of March, and Caesar thinks it is foolish.
4. Cassius is characterized as a man who believes he is always right and whoever doesn’t believe what he believes is foolish. Cassius want to dispose of Caesar because he thinks that Brutus is a noble, yet even though everyone else agrees with him, Caesar does not. Cassius hints to saying that he thinks a respected Roman like Brutus should lead Rome, meaning that Caesar would have to get out of ruling. Cassius says that Caesar is a gutless wonder while telling a story about how Caesar challenged him to a race, but the race ended when Caesar got so tired that Cassius had to help him through the river, making Cassius look like more of a leader than Caesar.
5. Brutus is noble to Caesar and is very loyal, yet pretty shy and wants to do what his friends do. He was withdrawn recently because he is at war with himself, wanting to stay loyal to Caesar, yet all of his friends want Caesar gone, creating a man versus self-conflict. He may be convinced to join Cassius’ conspiracy when he believes that Caesar has nothing good to do with the Romans, but he still wants Caesar to show that he can be a good leader before he joins Cassius.
6. Cassius uses Caesars weaknesses to show Brutus and Casca that Caesar is a weak leader and should be overthrown, like Cassius wants. He points to the story when he and Caesar were racing and Cassius had to rescue Caesar from drowning, then Caesar called off the race. Brutus and Casca did not believe him at first and did not think that the story didn’t show a weakness of Caesar, but the he told them about the time when Caesar fell ill in Spain, and went into a state of shock where he had many seizures, showing them that their leader is indeed weak and could die, which was enough to be able to manipulate the thoughts of Brutus and Casca.
7. Because all of the Romans love the ideals of Brutus, if Brutus is a member of Cassius’s group of people wanting to overthrow Caesar, Cassius thinks that the people will go with Brutus and move away from Caesar as a ruler and start wanting Brutus as the leader of Rome.
8. At the beginning of the Tragedy of Julius Caesar, which is Act I, Shakespeare starts to build up the characteristics of Brutus, who is composed to be an archetypal Shakespearean tragic hero. His high moral code and his dedication to Rome produce his faults and distort his judgment of Caesar and Rome in general. Brutus has a number of positive attributes that combine to form a poor trait to his identity. Brutus’ character can be categorized with his honor, his loyalty to Roma, and his naïve and idealistic disposition, but still happened to have an ill mind, which is the formula of the Shakespearean archetypal tragic hero.
9. Cassius, known as “the lean and hungry leader” of the conspiracy against Caesar persuades Brutus to join his group to bring down Caesar. He tells him that men must not accept a place in life handed out of them by fate, but must strive to rise. He tells him “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” This shows that Cassius is telling Brutus that you can pick fate to take you to where you want to go, or you can choose the way you want to do things. Cassius thinks that you can choose what you can do. He does not think, according to the quote, that the position of the stars at birth determines a person’s fate, but that anyone who dares can rise as high as Caesar has when they choose their own paths.
10. At the beginning of Scene II, Antony is a runner in a race, and it is said by the elders of Rome that when a runner in the race touches a women who cannot have children anymore, then the women could have children again. Caesar talks to Antony about this, showing that Caesar is superstitious because he believes in the elder tale, which is like a wives tale, and this superstition plays a role because it shows that Caesar believes in wives tales and not reality, which Cassius uses to show that Caesar is a weak leader.
11. The motif of omens and portents is seen throughout this act. Until the end of this act, the omen of “beware the Ides of March”, the audience is reminded of Caesar’s demise shown in the beginning of the book, actually the title, as a tragedy. This motif makes the audience wonder whether this is simply to announce what fate is going to occur or just a warning to Caesar that has nothing to do with his death. Because Caesar ignores this motif, this implies the dangers of failing to perceive and analyze the details of Rome, which is seen with the group compromising to kill Caesar, but Caesar doesn’t know that and believes that the motif is foolish.