Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels? You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, O you hard hearts, you cruèl men of Rome, Knew you not Pompey? (1.1.32-47)
In the first scene of this play, Murellus questions the Cobbler and Carpenter about celebrating Caesar’s victory. He asks them how they can rejoice at Caesar’s crown after they were loyal to Pompey only a short time ago. Murellus goes as far as to call these men “blocks” and “stones” with “cruel hearts” for celebrating Caesar. Murellus’s words highlight the power struggle in Rome at the time. While many Romans move on from Pompey to celebrate Caesar’s victory, this quote reveals that there are people in Rome who are unhappy about this change in government.
He had a fever when he was in Spain, And when the fit was on him, I did mark How he did shake. 'Tis true, this god did shake! . . . Ye gods, it doth amaze me A man of such a feeble temper should So get the start of the majestic world And bear the palm alone. (1.2.121-133)
Here in Act I, Cassius shares with Brutus his displeasure at Caesar’s rise to power. He tells Brutus various stories that show Caesar as weak or unfit to rule, such as when Caesar almost drowned and became ill. These stories reveal that Cassius believes they both are stronger and more equipped to rule than Caesar. Cassius’s points display his own ambitions and identify the power struggle that is beginning in Rome. Ultimately, Cassius is questioning Caesar’s strength and power, intending to plant seeds of doubt in Brutus.
Would he were fatter! But I fear him not. Yet if my name were liable to fear, I do not know the man I should avoid So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much. He is a great observer, and he looks Quite through the deeds of men. . . . Seldom he smiles . . . Such men as he be never at heart’s ease Whiles they behold a greater than themselves, And therefore are they very dangerous. I rather tell thee what is to be feared Than what I fear, for always I am Caesar. (1.2.198-212)
Caesar’s words reveal that he recognizes the danger in Cassius early in the play. He describes Cassius as “a great observer” who sees the hidden motives in what men do and who “rarely smiles.” He continues to describe Cassius as a man who will never be happy with others outranking him, making him “very dangerous” to Caesar’s power. Caesar tells Antony that he is not afraid of Cassius, but his descriptions of Cassius lead the audience to think otherwise. Most likely, Caesar does not want to look weak in order to protect his position of power.