Throughout the play, Julius Caesar, opinions over important matters clash. Brutus and Cassius, both senators of Rome, have two completely different ways of looking at matters. Brutus, an idealist, has a more nave way of looking at things. He tends to see only the good in a person.
Cassius, on the other hand, is a realist. He sees what is really there. Cassius is the lead conspirator in the play, showing that he is all for self advance. Brutus is the only one who isn’t plotting to kill Caesar for selfish purposes. Brutus has the good of Rome in mind, not himself. Brutus and Cassius’s characters come out vividly in three separate arguments they have in the play.
The first major argument they have is about killing Marc Antony, a close friend of Julius Caesar. Brutus doesn’t and Cassius does. The second major argument the have is after the death of Julius Caesar. Brutus wants Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral but Cassius disagrees. The last argument they have proves to be fatal to both Brutus and Cassius.
They dispute over battle tactics at Sardis, the Plains of Philippi. Shakespeare was wonderful at showing the high and low points of two different people, Brutus and Cassius. The first major argument that occurs in this play happens when the conspirators are deciding whether or not to kill Marc Antony. Antony is a very close friend of Julius Caesar. One could say he was riding his coattails.
Cassius sees Antony as a threat to their purpose, and of course, wants him gone because he is only after his own advancement. Cassius also knows that if Julius Caesar is killed, Antony will avenge his death by any means possible. Antony has Caesar’s army pretty much in his power, and could give the combined troops of Brutus and Cassius a run for their money. He knows that Antony is power hungry.
In Cassius’s mind, Antony will use any leverage he can get to gain power. He has already ridden the coattails of Caesar to get to the stage he is presently at, and that he will use Caesar’s death to overthrow the conspirators and move higher up into power. Since Cassius is a realist, he sees people for what they are, not for what they appear to be. He sees Antony as an opportunist and very intelligent. He knows that Antony covers up his intelligence by being a reveler, or a playboy. Cassius believes Antony should be killed; just to be sure there are no complications after the murder of Julius Caesar.
Brutus completely disagrees with Cassius. Brutus can’t see past the faade Antony puts up. He thinks that Antony is an unintelligent reveler. Brutus thinks Antony won’t do anything about Caesar’s death, that he will accept it, as the whole of Rome would, after being explained. Brutus also doesn’t want the episode to look like a bloodbath. He doesn’t want to unnecessarily kill anyone.
He wants the death of Julius Caesar to be thought of as a ‘purging’ rather than a murder. After all, Brutus thinks he is saving Rome of a dictator. He would kill Antony also if he thought he had any power to rise up against the conspirators. Brutus also thinks that if Antony is so attached to Caesar and is so hurt by his loss, that he will commit suicide to be with him. In my opinion, Brutus is a little too nave.
He is blind to the fact that Antony is hiding being the mask of a playboy. Cassius seems to know and understand Antony better. He sees right through the faade. In a case so sensitive as this, I would side with Cassius to be safe. To side with Brutus would be like diving into a pool, not knowing how deep it is.
Brutus’s judgment is tainted. He can’t seem to find bad in anyone. Cassius would be safer to side with because he won’t take any chances where his life and his power are concerned. Cassius ends up letting Brutus have his way.
He does this because it is vital that Brutus is a part of the conspiracy. The group needs him for his speaking abilities as well as his credibility with the masses. None of the conspirators are well liked in Rome, so they must have someone the commoners can trust. Brutus has a very high standing in Rome. He is known to have the best for Rome foremost in his mind. If Brutus gets in front of all of Rome and says it was a good thing to kill Caesar, than the conspirators have a better chance to get away with cold-blooded murder.
Brutus ends up getting his way in the end. Antony is let to live. The Second major dispute between Brutus and Cassius occurred after Julius Caesar was murdered. Brutus wanted to let Antony speak at Julius Caesar’s funeral, but Cassius disagreed. Brutus thinks that Antony should speak because it will prove to the crowds that Antony isn’t mad that Caesar was killed.
If he gets in front of a crowd and praises Julius’s life, it will show he has no hostility toward the conspirators. Brutus feels that letting Antony speak will validate the conspirators’ intentions to the masses. He believes if he gives Antony guidelines to follow in his speech, he will follow them. Brutus doesn’t even consider the fact Antony would go against an agreement. He just thinks with Antony’s good oratory skills, he would be able to help him persuade the crowds more. Cassius knows that if Antony is let to speak, guidelines or not, he will find a way to discredit the conspirators.
Even if he does follow the guidelines, he will somehow turn the tides against him. The masses are fickle, and Cassius knows it. He can surmise what will happen if Antony speaks after Brutus. The crows will be all for Brutus, but as soon as Antony gets in front of the crowd, he will turn their thoughts against the conspirators. He knows if they let Antony have the body of Caesar and the crowd all at one time, he will use the body and his words against Brutus and Cassius.
If they don’t let Antony speak, the crowd’s loyalty will stay on the side of the conspirators. Personally, I think both Brutus and Cassius have valid points, but Brutus values the ‘contract’ too much. I believe Cassius was right on the button predicting what would happened if Antony spoke at Julius Caesar’s funeral. The characteristics of realists and idealist were represented very well in this argument.
Brutus, the idealist, was completely oblivious to the thought of someone breaking a contract. He is held under the belief of everyone is good. Cassius, the realist, could spot what might, and most likely will, happen. Cassius lets Brutus have his way again because he needs him to help win back the crowds. The people of Rome trust Brutus.
He is the only one of the conspirators who has any validity with the people because they know he has only the good of Rome in mind. When Antony speaks at the funeral, he does, indeed, turn the people against the conspirators. All the conspirators, including Brutus and Cassius, flee the city to their armies. The third major squabble between Brutus and Cassius arises when the armies are at camp with their armies in the mountains above the Plains of Philippi. They quarrel over battle tactics. Brutus thinks it’s best to go down the mountain and attack Antony and Octavius’s armies.
Cassius wants to wait on the mountain until the opposing armies come to them. Cassius believes if they wait on the mountain, Antony’s troops will be worn out and won’t be able to fight well. Brutus counters with the fact that they could pick up fresh troops on the way up, or stop to rest in the many towns between them. Cassius knows if they march down, their troops will be the ones tired and unable to fight at their best. Yet again, Brutus counters with the idea of picking up fresh, rested troops in the towns between the armies.
Cassius knows if they fight on the Plains of Philippi, they will be a disadvantage, for they will be fighting on even ground with Antony’s army in an open field. If they stay on their mountain and let the opposition come to them, Cassius’ troops will have the advantage of higher ground and covered forest. Brutus believes if they go down to the Plains of Philippi, they will have the psychological advantage over Antony and Octavius’s forces. Coming down the mountain will shout to the rivals, “We are not afraid of you! We can make the first move!” Brutus knows Antony’s army gets bigger by the day, and if they get much bigger, the combined forces of Brutus and Cassius won’t be able to stand much of a chance against them.
Cassius, overall, believes if they wait on the mountain for the enemy to come to them, they will still be rested, while the foe is worn out from the hike up the mountain. They will still have the land advantage and the knowledge of the area. Reflecting over the argument, I would side with Cassius again. Even though having a psychological advantage against the opposition is a great thing to have, a well-rested army is needed just as much. If they know the land well, and the forces are healthy, they have a much better chance of coming out victorious than if they march all the way down the mountain to fight in an open battlefield. It seems as if Brutus wasn’t thinking clearly, or he was stuck on the other, minor advantages they would gain going down the mountain.
After Cassius finds out about Brutus’s wife’s death, he doesn’t’ want to fight anymore. He doesn’t want to make matters worse for Brutus by quarreling with him further, so he gave in. Pathetic fallacy also had a role in his surrender to Brutus. His camp had an eagle visiting every day for a couple of weeks. This is a good sign. When the eagle didn’t come back, and scavengers like crows and hawks took its place, Cassius believed something was up.
Much like an owl in the city in the daytime, the presence of scavengers in a camp is a bad omen. Cassius also mentions that it was his birthday, and he just didn’t have a good feeling about anything. At the end of the play, both Cassius and Brutus kill themselves. Cassius feels he has betrayed his friend, and Brutus refuses to be caught by Antony’s army. I have actually caught myself thinking about what might’ve happened if Cassius hadn’t given into Brutus on one or more of the disagreements.
How would things have changed if just one time he hadn’t given in? Would they have had to go through the entire ordeal with the crowds if they would have knocked off Antony at their first disagreement? If they let Antony live, but not speak at the funeral, would they have had to flee the city after their second quarrel? If they waited on the mountain for the opposing forces to come to them, would they have won the war, or at least postponed their defeat? It all comes down to an idealist and a realist. 1/07/04