Julius Caesar Essay: Loyalty and Justice in Julius Caesar

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Loyalty and Justice in Julius Caesar



In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, one must read the text closely to track the shifting motivations and loyalties of each character as the play progresses. An important factor that must be kept in mind while reading is the degree of loyalty, in other words, the degree to which characters act out of a motivation to help others. Throughout the play, each character's current degree of loyalty to others is clearly exhibited by words or behavior – this holds true for the characters of Brutus, Cassius, Antony, Portia, and Calpurnia. The focus on loyalty is critical because before the play ends an even-handed justice is meted out to a number of people who fail to live up to an expected standard of
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One must engage in very close reading of the text to determine the cause and the signs of change. Issues for discussion include whether Antony is carried away by personal power, whether he is driven by desire for vengeance to assuage his personal grief, and whether these things constitute a desire to act for his friend or for himself. Antony's final speech is essentially a repeat of Brutus' rhetoric following Caesar's murder, and Antony's transformation is complete.

Cassius' loyalty line goes the other way. In the beginning he is out to set himself up in a position of power, and through Caesar's death he continues to act out of self-interest. By the end of the play, however, he has developed a sense of loyalty to Brutus and to Titinius. Brutus's pattern lies somewhere in between Antony's and Cassius's. In the beginning of the play most students feel that Brutus' loyalty is ambiguous. Although he seems loyal to Caesar, he is swayed by flattery to himself. By 2.1, when he makes the decision to participate in the murder, Brutus seems to be acting out of self-interest, though he disguises it in a rationalization of the good of the country. I find that students often engage in a really interesting discussion of the subtle shifts in Brutus' use of language; he shifts, for instance, to the use of the royal "we." By the end of the play Brutus, like Cassius, develops a sense of loyalty to his new comrades, and his last words, like Cassius's, are a self-condemning recognition of

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