I could be well moved if I were as you.
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.
But I am constant as the Northern Star,
Of whose true fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
They are all fire, and every one doth shine;
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place. (III.i.
These lines come from Caesar’s speech in Act III, scene i, just before his assassination. The conspirators have come to Caesar in the Senate under the pretense of pleading for amnesty for Metellus’s banished brother, Publius Cimber. Caesar replies that he will adhere to his word and not change his earlier decision.
Comparing himself to the North Star, Caesar boasts of his constancy, his commitment to the law, and his refusal to waver under any persuasion. This comparison implies more than steadfastness, however: the North Star is the star by which sailors have navigated since ancient times, the star that guides them in their voyages, just as Caesar leads the Roman people. So, too, is the North Star unique in its fixedness; as the only star that never changes its position in the sky, it has “no fellow in the firmament.” Thus, Caesar also implies that he is peerless among Romans. Caesar declares that he alone remains “unassailable” among men, and his strictness in Publius Cimber’s case illustrates this virtue.
As it comes mere moments before the murder, the speech adds much irony to the scene: having just boasted that he is “unassailable,” Caesar is shortly assailed and killed. In announcing his “constancy,” Caesar claims permanency, immortality even. The assassins quickly prove Caesar mortal, however. But as the later events of the play reveal, Caesar’s influence and eternality are undeniable. His ghost seems to live on to avenge the murder: Brutus and Cassius directly attribute much of their misfortune to Caesar’s workings from beyond the grave; so, too, does the name “Caesar” undergo metamorphosis from an individual man’s name to the title of an institution—the empiric rule of Rome—by the end of the play. In these more important ways, Caesar’s lofty estimation of himself proves true.
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