Questions for study with ideas for answers:
Q:Shakespeare likens characters and their behavior to animals, which enables
the audience to quickly get an insight into the person. Give examples.
Ideas: Caesar – Lion In a vision Casca tells of a lion walking in the
Capitol, which symbolizes Caesar.
The lion acts in a surly manner, being ill tempered and rude. This suggests that if Caesar becomes the center of the Roman Empire, he will become a dangerous beast, and consume those that oppose him. Later, Calphurnia dreams of a whelping lioness. Again this symbolizes Caesar, but this time as a helpless, vulnerable animal.
Caesar – Serpent (Adder) Brutus describes Caesar as being an adder,
and if he is crowned then this process will provide the adder with a sting. Before this happens, it would be wise to kill the serpent in its egg.
Lepidus – Ass
Antony proposes to use Lepidus who is wealthy, and likens him to an ass, being a beast of burden, who will carry gold for Antony and Octavius, and when they require money, they will unload Lepidus, and once they have obtained power, he will be discarded.
Cassius – Horse
Brutus says of Cassius that he is “but a hollow man like horses hot at hand”. He means a particular type of horse, one that is jaded, which means within spirit or stamina.
Antony – Honey bees
Cassius likens Antony’s words as being sweet like honey. He remembers how Antony beguiled the populous with his oratory at Caesar’s funeral.
Cassius & Brutus – Apes and Hounds Antony describes Cassius and
Brutus’ behavior during the assassination of Caesar thus, “You showed your teeth like apes and fawned like hounds”.
There are others to be discovered.
Q: Imagine you are a citizen of Rome in 44 B.C.
What are the arguments for and against giving Caesar the crown?
Ideas: The status quo is the Rome left by Pompey who was a democrat and
believed the Senate should run the Empire because a one-person rule system would be dangerous.
There is always someone wishing to obtain power by assassination, and therefore the ruler requires the support of the legions. In order to secure his position, he needs to oppress all those who oppose him. Pompey’s view was that in most cases, the one ruler would become a tyrant.
Caesar’s point of view, and later that of Mark Antony, was that in order for
the poor of Rome to be protected, they needed a just, central figure to oversee the Empire. Only rich people were able to become members of the Senate, and therefore they did not truly represent the poor
people. Many citizens admired Caesar for his military conquests, and they regarded him as their hero.
Jot down other ideas for and against this argument.
Q: This play hinges on Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral.
Why is it so good?
Ideas: Firstly, the speech is compared with that just given by Brutus, and
Shakespeare helps Mark Antony’s cause by having the first speech in prose, and the second in a poetic and dramatic style.
Next, Antony obtains everyone’s attention by using Caesar’s body as a focal
point, and he also uses Caesar’s bloodstained mantle as a prop, towards the end of the speech.
Next, Brutus only had one main reason for the assassination and that was
Caesar’s apparent ambition. Antony immediately undermines this in several ways, but the main thrust is that he offered Caesar the crown three times, and he refused it. How could this be ambition?
Next, He tells his audience that they will benefit under Caesar’s Will
because he loved them and in this way he appealed to their hearts and purses. Thus, Antony tells them what they want to hear.
Lastly, He makes his point by using repetition, and in particular by
referring to Brutus and the conspirators as honorable men.
There are other elements in this speech, can you discover more?
Q: Shakespeare uses symbolic and supernatural elements throughout this
play. Give some examples. (A clue – these are in the form of thunder and lightning, fire, blood, and apparitions)
Ideas: Act I-Scene.iii and Act.II-Scene.ii open with thunder and
lightning, which cues the audience to expect supernatural goings-on.
Act.I-Scene.iii Casca gives a commentary on a succession of
strange sights – a slave with a flaming hand that does not burn; men all in fire walking up and down in the streets; an owl hooting and shrieking in the middle of the day.
Calphurnia’s dream makes reference to fierce, fiery warriors fighting upon the clouds, which drizzled blood upon the Capitol; ghosts shrieking and squealing about the streets; and Caesar’s statue was like a fountain with spouts giving forth blood in which the Romans bathed their hands.
is all about the letting of Caesar’s blood, and Shakespeare describes vividly the assassination and how the conspirators reveled in the butcher’s scene afterwards.
Act.III-Scene.ii in many ways repeats the previous scene when Antony
graphically describes Caesar’s assassination, which incites the people to burn the conspirators’ property, and butcher Cinna the poet in the following scene.
Towards the end of the play we hear that Portia committed suicide by
swallowing hot coals, another reference to fire.
No Shakespeare play would be complete without a ghost, and Caesar’s visits
Brutus on two occasions. These visitations were favorites with Elizabethan audiences.