Julius Caesar

by: William Shakespeare

Act I, scene ii

The question of Caesar’s own ambition is raised in Casca’s account of the triumphal procession. In describing how Antony offered Caesar a crown three times, Casca makes sure to point out Caesar’s reluctance in refusing the crown. Since the incident is related from Casca’s anti-Caesar perspective, it is difficult to ascertain Caesar’s true motivations: did Caesar act out of genuine humility or did he merely put on a show to please the crowd? Nevertheless, Casca’s mention of Caesar’s hesitation suggests that, no matter how noble his motivations, Caesar is capable of being seduced by power and thereby capable of becoming a dictator, as Brutus fears.

At the close of the scene, when Cassius plots to turn Brutus against Caesar by planting forged letters in Brutus’s house, Cassius has shrewdly perceived that Brutus’s internal conflict is more likely to be influenced by what he believes the populace to think than by his own personal misgivings. Cassius recognizes that if Brutus believes that the people distrust Caesar, then he will be convinced that Caesar must be thwarted. Cassius aims to take advantage of Brutus’s weakest point, namely, Brutus’s honorable concerns for Rome; Brutus’s inflexible ideals leave him open for manipulation by Cassius. Cassius, in contrast, has made himself adaptable for political survival by wholly abandoning his sense of honor.

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