I. Popular and powerful leaders have been assassinated in the past as well as in recent times. Can you name some of them?
Ans. Abraham Lincoln
Martin Luther King
II. Consult a dictionary and find out the difference between :
(a) killing: depriving of life
(b) murder: unlawful premeditated killing of human being.
(c) assassination: One who kills a prominent person by treacherous violence
The tragedy Julius Caesar, written by the famous playwright William Shakespeare, depicts Julius Caesar as a powerful general and conqueror. Caesar returns to Rome with a victory over the sons of Pompey. His popularity rises when the people of Rome welcome him with great spirit and enthusiasm. Mark Antony offers him a crown which Caesar refuses to accept. Caesar’s growing popularity and victorious return make Cassius jealous. He conspires to murder Caesar. Cassius is afraid that Caesar will become a dictator one day. He sets a plan to win over Brutus, the noble man in Rome, who is most venerable and respectable in the arena of the Roman people’s trust and faith. Brutus join in the conspiracy and a plan is worked out. Alas! Caesar’s citadel of power and victory is crushed by the cold hand of death — he is murdered at the foot of Pompey’s statue.
On a stormy night of thunder and lightning, Caesar’s wife Calpurnia dreamt of Caesar’s murder and cried out thrice for help. Then she narrated to Caesar her most unnatural fears and decided not to allow Caesar to go outside. Though she did not heed omens and forecasts, the fierce dream shook her own self-confidence. Caesar, being a strong and powerful general, did not believe in omens and replied that if any enemy would confront him, he would lose his feet. Calpurnia was trembling with fear and tried to justify her dreams to which Caesar replied, "Cowards die many times before their deaths." But Calpurnia was not satisfied with his reply and she tried to persudae her husband to stay at home. But Caesar acclaims that death is inevitable in one’s life and one cannot avoid it. Calpurnia finally persuaded Caesar not to attend the senate. Caesar decided to inform Mark Antony to pass on a message that he is ill and would not be coming. That would help Caesar to stay at home.
In the meantime, Brutus appeared at Caesar’s door and listened carefully to the couple’s conversation. Then he showed his reluctance to tell a lie in front of the senate-house. He then very cleverly asks for the reason behind Caesar’s incapacity to attend the senate-house. Caesar described the dream that Calpurnia saw. Brutus laughed at Calpurnia’s decision not to allow Caesar to attend the senate. Brutus very cleverly sildelined the significance of Calpurnia’s dream and instigated Caesar to go ahead with his decision. Brutus explained how the senators were interested in crowning Caesar. Caesar thus prepared himself to go to the senate with Brutus and other conspirators - Publius, Ligarius, Metellus, Casca, Trebonius and Cinna who came later on to Caesar’s house.
The conspirators along with Caesar arrive at the senate-house. Caesar also takes his seat. Then Metellus kneels down before Caesar and urges him to allow his banished brother to return to Rome. Caesar does not agree with that petition and refuses. But the plea for his brother by Brutus and Cassius surprised Caesar. Still he did not change his sentence even as all the conspirators gathered around him. When Casca commented, "Speak hands for me," they came forward to attack Caesar and stabed him to death. Before his death Caesar could not believe that Brutus too was among the conspirators, saying, "Et tu, Brute."
The death of Caesar cheered the conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius. They dipped their hands in Caesar’s blood and prepared to run in the street shouting `peace, freedom and liberty’. In the meantime, Antony arrived there and urged them to allow him to take the body and give Caesar a public eulogy. Though Cassius was not willing to Antony speak, Brutus allowed him to speak. They came down to the streets of Rome and Cassius and Brutus delivered their speeches to the plebeians.
Brutus tried to justify his support for the murder of Caesar. He argued that the freedom of the Romans was under threat. He asked the crowd whether the right thing was done, otherwise he was ready to commit suicide for what he has done. But they reply, "Live, Brutus, live, live!" He then allowed Antony to deliver his speech alone and returned home.
Now it was a great opportunity for Antony. He took full advantage of the speech he delivered. He narrated to the listening crowd that Caesar was a great patriot who served his country selflessly. He looked after the betterment of Rome and loved Rome above all. He read Caesar’s will, elaborating that Caesar has given every Roman a part of his inheritance. He justified the conspirators’ deed as wrong. He urged the Romans to think about the wrongdoers. Antony also reminded them of the magnanimity of Caesar. He took the example of his refusal to accept the crown thrice on the Lupercal. Here Caesar’s refusal proved that he was not ambitious at all. Antony proved wrong the fears of the conspirators that Caesar would turn dictator. Antony’s speech put the emotions of the Romans in fire. He again described vividly how the noble Brutus has deceived Caesar. The speech agitated the mob and they came forward to seek revenge against the traitors. They shouted, "Revenge! Burn! Fire! Seek! Kill! Slay!" Then the plebeians carried away the body of Caesar and the situation turned to anarchy. Antony now suggested that he had done whatever he was supposed to do. Now it was up to the people.
On the basis of your reading of the play answer the following questions.
How do the heaven’s `blaze forth’ the death of Julius Caesar? Answer: The night was full of thunder and lightning. Heaven and the earth are not at peace.
Of what does Calpurnia try to convince Caesar? Answer: Calpurnia in her sleep dreams about the murder of Caesar. She does not allow Caesar to step out of the house. She convinces Caesar about her dream and her fears that the dream may come true.
Why does Calpurnia say Caesar’s `wisdom is consumed in confidence’? What does she mean? Answer: Calpurnia’s persuation does not have an impact on Caesar. He is deadly sure that one’s death is inevitable. No one can stop death. He is also confident of
defending himself against any attack. His arguments could not console Calpurnia. Then she says, "Your wisdom is consumed in confidence."
What did Calipurnia dream about Caesar? How did Decius Brutus interpret the dream? Answer: Calpurnia dreamt that Caesar was being murdered. Brutus interpreted the dream as the greatness of Caesar in the eyes of the citizens. They would gain spirit and influence from him and become noble men themselves.
What are the arguments put forward by Decius Brutus to convince Caesar to go the Capitol? Answer: Brutus argues that the mighty Caesar should not lie and must go to the senate because the senators have decided to offer him the crown.
Why is Decius more successful than Calpurnia in persuading Caesar? Answer: Decius praises mighty Caesar in very symbolic language and this stimulated Caesar to go to the senate-house.
What is the petition put before Caesar by the conspirators? How does Caesar respond to it? Answer: The conspirators argue to allow Publius Caesar to return to Rome. Earlier a law was passed to banish him from the State. Caesar is shocked to hear the petition.
Who says "Et tu Brute"? When are these words spoken? Why? Answer: Caesar says, "Et tu Brute." Caesar uttered these words when Brutus stabed him. Brutus was a very good friend of Caesar and he was most trusted. Caesar could not believe that he too was a traitor.
In the moments following Caesar’s death what do the conspirators proclaim to
justify Caesar’s death? Answer: The conspirators shout `Liberty, freedom, and enfranchisement!’ They declare that Caesar had to die because he had become too ambitious and that his death was necessary to ensure the freedom of the people.
Seeing the body of Caesar, Antony is overcome by grief. What does he say about Caesar? Answer: Antony regrets that Caesar who was so glorious and mighty had now fallen to the ground.
Whom does Antony call `the choice and master spirits of this age? Why? Answer: Antony calls Brutus and his fellow-conspirators `the choice and master spirits of this age’. He calls them so because they were `powerful’ enough to cause the death of Caesar.
How do Brutus and Cassius respond to his speech? Answer: Brutus and Cassius refuse to kill him and welcome him into their league. They assure him that he will be treated with full respect and courtesy.
Why does Cassius object to allowing Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral? How does Brutus overcome this objection? Answer: Casssius fears that Antony may speak against them in the funeral session. Brutus convinces him that he will speak first at the pulpit and explain the reasons for Caesar’s death. He would annouce then that he permits Antony to speak.
What are the conditions imposed by the conspirators before allowing Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral? Answer: The conspirators tell Antony not to accuse them in his speech but to speak all the good that he can think of Caesar.
When he is left alone with the body of Caesar what does Antony call Brutus and the others? Answer: When he is left alone with the body of Caesar, Antony calls Brutus and the others butchers.
What prediction does Antony make regarding the future events in Rome? Answer: Antony predicts that Rome shall witness a scene of revenge and destruction. There will be turmoil in civil life. Scenes of violence would become a part of daily life.
What reason does Brutus give for murdering Caesar? Answer: Brutus says Caesar was ambitious which was not good for Rome. Brutus reasons that Caesar would have enslaved all the citizens and become a dictator.
Who says, "Let him be Caesar"? What light does this throw on the speaker? Answer: A citizen urges that Brutus must take Caesar’s mighty place. It shows that Brutus’ speech has indeed had an impact on the listeners.
Why is Antony’s speech more effective? Answer: Antony delivered the speech with his foresightedness. He knew that if he empathised with the people in the death of Caesar, he will be able to incite them easily. He very cleverly impressed upon the people that Caesar had been greatly wronged, while he seemed not to accuse anyone in particular. The people were more enraged when they heard about Caesar’s refusal of the crown and about his will.
At the end of the scene what is the fate of Brutus and Cassius? Answer: Brutus and Cassius are defeated by the armies of Octavius Caesar and Antony. Then they both commit suicide.
V. Julius Caesar and Antony reveal something about their character in their words and actions. We also learn about them from what other people say. Can you pick out the words that describe them from the box given below. Also, pick out lines from the play to illustrate your choice.
Extract from play
What it tells us about the character
The things that threaten’d me
Ne’er look’d but on my back; when they shall see the face of Caesar, they are vanished.
Extract from play
What it tells us about the character
the things that threaten’d me
Ne’er look’d but on my back; when they shall see
The face of Caesar, they are vanished.
And this way have you well expounded it
When they shall see
The face of Caesar, they are vanquished.
The valiant never taste of death but once
Have I in conquest stretch’d mine arm so far, to be afraid to tell graybeards the truth
How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia I am ashamed I did Yield to them
No place will please me so, no mean of death.
As here by Caesar
Yet Brutus says the was ambitious and Brutus is an honorable man
Alas you know not; I must tell you then. You have forgot the will I told you of
‘Tis good you know not that you are his heirs; For if you should, O, what would come of it!
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now
Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt!.
VI. In the play ‘Julius Caesar’, we meet the Roman mob. We find that as Brutus and Antony speak, the mob displays certain qualities and characteristics, Given below are some characteristics of the mob. Complete the table by quoting the lines wherein these are revealed.
Does not understand the ideals of democracy
Words/actions of the mob
Caesar’s best parts shall be crown’d in Brutus.
This Caesar was a tyrant
We are blest that Rome is rid of him
Never, never. Come away, away!
The will, the will! We will hear Caesar’s will !
Most noble Caesar ! We will revenge his death.
Seek! Burn! Fire ! Kill ! Slay!
Does not understand the ideals of democracy
VIII. Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow:
Caesar Cowards die many times before their death;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of al the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
(a) Whom is Caesar speaking to? Why does he say these words?
(b) What fears has the listener expressed?
(c) What is the basis for the fears expressed?
But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar;
I found it in his closet, ’tis his will:
Let but the commons hear this testament
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read
And they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds
(a) Who speaks these words? Where is the speaker at this moment?
(b) What are the contents of Caesar’s will that he is referring to?
(c) Why does the speaker read Caesar’s will to the citizens?
(d) What is the reaction of the listeners to the reading of the will?
(a) Caesar is speaking to Calipurnia. He says that one should not be afraid of death because death is inevitable.
(b) Calpurnia has expressed fears that Caesar may be murdered that day.
(c) The basis for Calpurnia’s fears are the strange and frightening omens she has seen coupled with her dream of Caesar’s murder.
(a) Antony speaks these words. He is addressing the citizens of Rome from the pulpit.
(b) The contents of Caesar’s will are the rich legacy that he has left for the citizens of Rome - seventy five drachmas for every citizen, and all his property to be used for public good.
(c) Antony reads Caesar’s will to the citizens to stir the citizens to rise and destroy the vile murderers of Caesar.
(d) The citizens needed no further proof of Caesar’s greatness. They rushed to burn down the houses of the traitors.
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