Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s Play
William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a world-renowned play gains tremendous analysis at various perspectives, such as characters of Caesar, plot of this play, etc.; however, the fake democracy in this play and Shakespeare’s satire of it seem to be a vacancy of demonstration. Julius Caesar is a key figure in the transition from Roman Republic to the imperial period of Roma, and in this transition the form of democracy transfers from by lot and election to totally by election. In this sense, this thesis will illustrate the fake democracy in this play and then elucidate Shakespeare’s artistic touch of the satire of this fake democracy by, first of all, introducing the most distinguished difference of real democracy and Roman fake democracy, namely, by lot and by election, and secondly, quoting original texts to shed light on the invisible details that make the satire possible.
Democracy represented by total election is fake democracy. Currently people regard election as the true embodiment of democracy: to cast a sacred vote on limited number of candidates based on their free will every couple of years. Each voting day witnesses the ecstatic crowds dashing into the street, sharing the enthusiasm with people of same side and expecting their chosen one could really be the chosen one. Francis Fukuyama, a famous mouthpiece of this democracy, defines that a country is democratic if it grants its people the right to choose their own government through periodic, secret-ballot, multi-party elections, on the basis of universal and equal adult suffrage (43). This becomes a holy sculpture, and every country which plagiarizes this creed will get financial support from wealthy exporting country, such as the USA. Further, when there is an election coming around, the priority of those candidates is to publicize themselves and promote their attraction like colonization as extravagant as they can.
In order to maintain their power, the politicians spend less time on the issue really helpful to the public during election period. In this circumstance, the election becomes an amusement show, candidates gathering up and showing off their strong rhetoric to promise the voters a world that can never be fully achieve. Practice is beaten up by rhetoric. In this play, the extravagant massive fraud character of election is perfectly displayed by Caesar’s reaction to the multitudes’ action of electing him as the king. Casca describes the scene, there was a crown offered him; and being offered him, he put it by with the back of his hand, thus, and then the people fell a-shouting (Shakespeare 14), Ay, marry, was’t, and he put it by thrice, every time gentler than other; and at every putting-by, mine honest neighbours shouted and I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it: it was mere foolery, I did not mark it.
I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown yet ’twas not a crown neither, ’twas one of these coronets and as I told you, he put it by once: but for all that, to my thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he offered it to him again, then he put it by again: but to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his fingers off it. And then he offered it the third time; he put it the third time by, and still as he refused it, the rabblement hooted, and clapped their chopped hands, and threw up their sweaty nightcaps, and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked Caesar, for he swooned and fell down at it (15). Election becomes a complete foolery. Moreover, this foolery is partly contributed by the multitudes. They should never play the game of crowning, for it only tell everyone the truth that there truly exists something of fake democracy, regardless whether they do want to give Caesar a crown or not.
This disguises the true meaning of democracy, as Lenin unravels the deception by saying that The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in Parliament (65). What a tragedy that people elect candidates represent them the most but finally oppresses them the most. We see this drawback clear that once the election, aka the crazy parade is gone, all enthusiasm vanishes absolutely, and what remains is the weasel words. Actually election automatically divides people into two different sections: the men with ability to rule and the men without, namely, the upper class and the lower class. The upper class people push the lower side people aside and ridicule them with the words such as you are going to fail or can you really successfully arrange everything if you win. They forget the truth that they cannot arrange everything well either. As a result, people give out their right and the right forges a power monster constituted by those politicians.
And yet, these politicians are largely aristocrats, or men with huge fame, money and knowing many distinguished people. Election degenerated to the game designed for and played by the aristocrats. People never recognize that they are represented by the politicians not on their own will, but by politicians’ will, so the politicians decide what should be represented or not based on the collision of different wills or simply on their intentions of corruption. The Roman Empire is deluged by corruption, and it is hard to announce that election contributes nothing to providing a continuous cesspit of corruption. Hence, the question becomes what is true democracy. True democracy must contain choosing officers by lot; more precisely, choosing officers by lot is of paramount importance in the country of true democracy. First of all, it does not spark to choose an oppressor of the oppressed. It is established on the true belief that everyone has the reasoning ability to arrange things well for the massive. There is no division of the elites and the crowds, concerning everyone has the ability to make reasonable decision, so the true sense of equality is created. Nobody could become a slave any more, and everyone has the chance to be the leader. Some people would ask whether it really works or whether the ordinary people with no practical political experience and expertise could shoulder the burden of politics. Well, they does not fight alone.
Even the professional politicians have something unfamiliar to ask experts in this field and then make the final decision, so why not the ordinary people consult experts to make the decision? Under this procedure, they are not represented by alienated politicians any more, they ultimately represent themselves, which is a huge advancement compared with the election in fake democracy. It must be noted that choosing people by lot is not the only form of democracy. Some positions are not set up for everybody, and they are limited to certain people with certain expertise. For some specific positions, like military officers, people who fit positions the best are needed, so election would be a better choice of choosing people.
The second part will elucidate the description of this fake democracy in text, its bad influence and the satire of it. First of all, fake democracy is the origin of the mob. Murellus, tribunes of the people, criticizes the citizens who celebrate the triumph of Caesar while forget the glory of Pompey. He says, 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 cruel men of Rome, Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft Have you climbed up to walls and battlements, To towers and windows? Yea, to chimney-tops, Your infants in your arms, and there have sat The livelong day, with patient expectation, To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome: And when you saw his chariot but appear, Have you not made an universal shout, That Tiber trembled underneath her banks To hear the replication of your sounds Made in her concave shores? And do you now put on your best attire? And do you now cull out a holiday? And do you now strew flowers in his way That comes in triumph over Pompey’s blood? Be gone! Run to your houses, fall upon your knees, Pray to the gods to intermit the plague That needs must light on this ingratitude (Shakespeare 6) Fake democracy represented by election makes them the oppressed, makes them desire a mighty person to rule them no matter who he is.
If people pick up the head of the state by casting lots, then the mighty, glorious and aristocratic image of the head will be slain, so people would not be so crazy about Caesar, and Flavius would not say, These growing feathers plucked from Caesar’s wing Will make him fly an ordinary pitch, Who else would soar above the view of men, And keep us all in servile fearfulness. (7) The enemies of real democracy is not limited to fake democracy, in addition morality should be counted in. There is an intriguing plot: when Brutus treat the plebeians as free people, they agree with Brutus and act like free people; however, when Antony utters his speech to move and disguise the plebeians wearing the appearance of a leader, plebeians again fall into the state of the oppressed, but they are unnoticed, still thinking that they are free to revenge for Caesar. Brutus says to the public, If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears, for his love: joy, for his fortune: honour, for his valour: and death, for his ambition. Who is here so base, that would be a bondman? If any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so rude, that would not be a Roman? If any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so vile, that will not love his country?
f any, speak, for him have I offended. I pause for a reply. (53) After that speech, no plebeians admit that they are the slaves of Roman, and everyone is in praise of how just Brutus’ deed is. Hereafter, Antony propagandizes, I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am, to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts And men have lost their reason. (56) And then the second plebeians is shaking his fundamental judgment, If thou consider rightly of the matter, Caesar has had great wrong. Then Antony successfully seizes the opportunity to disguise the plebeians completely, for he breathes the atmosphere of plebeians apt to be slaves, Moreover, he hath left you all his walks, His private arbours and new-planted orchards, On this side Tiber. He hath left them you And to your heirs for ever: common pleasures To walk abroad and recreate yourselves. Here was a Caesar: when comes such another? (60-1) These plebeians is drown into the consciousness of slave so much that they even forget the fact that the private property and real estate all come from the hands of plebeians. It is themselves who grant those fortunes to the hand of Caesar. Through our disclosure, we find that a true man treats the plebeians as free men, they pretend to be free, while a deceitful man treats the plebeians as slaves and tools, they freely to act like slaves. Antony tells those plebeians to munity, I tell you that which you yourselves do know, Show you sweet Caesar’s wounds, poor poor dumb mouths, And bid them speak for me.
But were I Brutus, And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue In every wound of Caesar that should move The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny. (60) Morality and emotion that make these people overwhelm their character of freedom and democracy. The plebeians are not free at all, and their change implies that they are controlled by morality of treating someone well if he brings benefit to them. Furthermore, Cassius’ satire of Caesar shows a model between the oppressors and the oppressed. In the beginning of the play, Cassius tells Brutus his experience with Caesar that Caesar is faint and he is nearly drown in the Timber River, I was born free as Caesar, so were you: We both have fed as well, and we can both Endure the winter’s cold as well as he, For once, upon a raw and gusty day, The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores, Caesar said to me, ‘Dar’st thou, Cassius, now Leap in with me into this angry flood And swim to yonder point?’ Upon the word, Accoutred as I was, I plunged in And bade him follow: so indeed he did. The torrent roared, and we did buffet it With lusty sinews, throwing it aside, And stemming it with hearts of controversy.
But ere we could arrive the point proposed, Caesar cried, ‘Help me, Cassius, or I sink!’ I as Aeneas, our great ancestor, Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder The old Anchises bear so from the waves of Tiber Did I the tired Caesar: and this man Is now become a god, and Cassius is A wretched creature, and must bend his body If Caesar carelessly but nod on him. 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, His coward lips did from their colour fly, And that same eye, whose bend doth awe the world, Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan: Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans Mark him, and write his speeches in their books, ‘Alas’, it cried, ‘Give me some drink, Titinius’, As a sick girl. 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. (11-2) It is truly that maybe Caesar is not good at swimming in river, but this has none of the business of Caesar’s splendid achievement of various victories over his enemies. Some subtle flaws of somebody are unbelievably exaggerated by other people. They forget the truth that everyone is not perfect concerning all aspects. Lack of skills or strength of swimming has nothing to do with commanding thousands of soldiers.
It is not a flaw of morality, of expertise or of characteristic. Indeed, Cassius’ satire on Caesar’s weakness alludes to the fact that in his mind exists a human god: he should be all-mighty, powerful and unpretentious. In other words, he need an emperor in his world, even though he kills Caesar for the reason that he has too much ambition and is apt to authoritarianism. Election has the drawback that it obliges people to pretend to be perfect. It is like an advertisement campaign to exaggerate the advantages while criticize other people’s mistakes as best as he can. Therefore the fake democracy represented by election emerges as a sick cancer patient, and these sick tissues need to be cut off. Of course choosing people solely by casting lot is not suitable in every option, for it has its own limits, but the priority dwells in our consciousness that fully reliance on election is never a perfect political institution for human beings. The exploration of democracy should become an ongoing task to fulfill pertaining to the welfare of everyone. In conclusion, this play is a brilliant historical tragedy, which depicts a historic transition where real democracy is conquered by fake democracy.
More tragically, it is the Roman people who themselves kneel down and give up their self-esteem to one person, Caesar. Just as Cassius notes, And why should Caesar be a tyrant then? Poor man, I know he would not be a wolf, But that he sees the Romans are but sheep: He were no lion, were not Romans hinds. Those that with haste will make a mighty fire Begin it with weak straws. What trash is Rome? What rubbish, and what offal, when it serves For the base matter to illuminate So vile a thing as Caesar? (21) Caesar should not be blamed too much, for this result is shaped by people themselves. Even Brutus cannot stop the wheel of fake democracy. It seems that he is against Caesar, but actually he is against fake democracy supported by millions of the mob. He can take the life of Caesar but he cannot take the lives of mob.
At the end of the play, when Brutus decides to kill himself, he says, I killed not thee with half so good a will. When he makes his mind of assassinating Caesar, he is deceived by Cassius’ tricky of sending fake letters about the exaggerated ambition to him, otherwise he would deliberate more on the assassination. Now he fails, the fake democracy becomes insurmountable, and he realizes that all what he has done is in vain, so he determines to end his life. What a tragedy, filled with vanity of vanities! Works Cited: Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: The Free Press, 1992. Lenin, V. I. State and Revolution. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 1917 Shakespeare, Williams. Julius Caesar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.