Sunday, August 23, 2009

RE: Julius Caesar - Is Poetry Fatal?

Mike writes:

Rereading Caesar's "I could be well moved, if I were as you" speech now, it sounds a lot like he's "the decider" ― i.e. constancy is held as a virtue in and of itself, even should the metaphor point toward massive narcissism: how many Caesars does it take to screw in a light bulb?

One.

The world revolves around him.

And as it turns out (et tu, Brute?), he was right. He had "no fellow." The end result of egotism is isolation.

Brutus, on the other hand, in his "our cause is ripe" speech, sees the world as a place of interconnected flux, where forces move that are much bigger than us, and we must catch the tide accordingly. He's the liberal, maybe, to Caesar's W. Or at least the Colin Powell. He reflects the world around him, and is perhaps ultimately presented as too reflective in a number of senses. When Cassius offers to be his "glass" and reminds Brutus that "the eye sees not itself/but by some other thing," he is tapping into Brutus as a creature of context. What Brutus perhaps forgets is the paradox embedded in the metaphor: on the one hand, the mirror never lies, while on the other, that's all it can do ― offering a two-dimensional world of complete reversals where left is right, and right is wrong.

I'd be tempted to put the two side-by-side for my students and consider how they intereact in terms of nautical navigation. The constellations and Caesar's Pole star constancy would be necessary to find one's way, yet knowledge of the currents and tides would be equally beneficial, perhaps.

Mike

3 comments:

Scott Newstok said...

Returning to your January, 2009 discussion of American politics and Shakespearean characters -- this week on public radio there will be a 30-minute "What's the Word" program on interpreting "Julius Caesar," "Macbeth," and "Henry V" after September 11, 2001:

http://www.prx.org/pieces/38336-what-s-the-word-shakespeare-after-9-11

If it's not available locally, you can listen to the simulcast on WBGO at 7:30pm(E), September 9, 2009.

Loag Magoge said...

Caesar is a very self-centered and egotistical character in Julius Caesar. He believes that he cannot be harmed nor killed and that he is a god. Caesar's arrogance however will later lead to his downfall because he ignores all the warnings given to him from many different people. However, in a way, Brutus is his foil in this play. Brutus believes that the power should not be in the hands of one man, but divided amongst several people. Brutus commits his murder because Caesar's power becomes overwhelming and it can be dangerous for one man to have all this power and Brutus does what he thinks is for the good of Rome by killing him.
-Logan

jon said...

Hello my name is Jonathan M and I attend King Philip Regional High School in Massachusetts

I read Mike's "Is Poetry Fatal", and I strongly agree with his views on the play.

Often times, I see the isolation of a person due to their egotism. For exapmle, a high school football jock, or even someone that is so smart theat they think they are too good for anyone and everyone. In many ways, this is Julius Ceasar. Likewise, in Mike's post, he voiced his opinion about Ceasar's hubris attitude toward everyone under him. I agree with Mike in that Caesar thought so highly of himself that all of his friends turned on him because they were tired of being bossed around. In Mike's post, he also adds Brutus's take on Casear, and his view on life itself. He describes Brutus as reflecting the world around him, and doing it to an extreme extent. He brings up the point of Brutus's take on life, in that he believes that there is no free will and that you have a planned destiny. I believe that Caesar would heavily contradict with Brutus's thoughts on life. Caesar thought he was so high and mighty that he could brave all that life could throw at him, even the raging waves of the Tiber. As far as my opinion goes, I agreee with Mike's character portrayals and their views about themselves and toward others. However, in real life I believe that every human being is free to pursue anything they want, and that they are not destined to become somthing by fortune, but that they and only they chose who they want to become.