Shakespeare's Julius Caesar's Theme

By Alysa Matsunaga

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The theme of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is that mere words and actions can cause bigger, more impactful events to happen; which can be seen throughout the play by showing conflict and presenting varying point of views.

The theme of small actions and words causing major events to happen is shown with all of conflict, whether the conflicts be internal or external. Brutus, a major character in Julius Caesar exemplifies how small actions and words can create conflict (And thus leading to crucial events happening), as Cassius was able to persuade Brutus to consider murdering Caesar in fear of corruption, even though Brutus is one of Caesar’s closest friends. Cassius’ mere words of suggesting corruption and hatred, go to war in Brutus’ internal thoughts of seeing Caesar as a decent person, with Brutus’ thoughts conflicting itself by thinking, “I know no personal cause to spurn at him. But for the general. He would be crown’d: How that might change his nature, there’s the question.” (Act II, sc i, 11-13). The lines of Brutus’ thoughts shows that Cassius’ words about hatred toward Caesar could have easily been dominated by Brutus’ personal opinion on Caesar based on the relationship they (Caesar and Brutus) have together, but it was Cassius’ strong words and his many details on why Caesar should be assassinated made Brutus want to join in the pact of murdering Caesar in the name of protecting Rome from corruption. It was, essentially, just words that caused the death of Caesar and the upheaval in politics.

Small actions can also cause major events, and Shakespeare shows this aspect of the theme through point of view, as seen in Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s burial. At Caesar’s burial, Brutus was meant to make the people at the burial to dislike Caesar and see Caesar as a tyrant; which through Brutus’ words, the people actually dissed Caesar and hated him during the duration of the speech. Mark Antony was supposed to keep the Romans to continue to dislike Caesar and to follow the plight of the people who assassinated Caesar with another speech, but instead used his (Mark Antony’s) own point of view of Caesar to change the people’s minds about Caesar and the group that assassinated Caesar. Mark Antony uses little events when Caesar was alive to win the Romans over to support Antony’s plight against Brutus and the other conspirators, with one event Antony recalled being, “I thrice presented him a kingly crown/ Which he thrice refuse. Was this ambition?/ Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,” (Act III, sc ii, 95-97). Antony recalling the event of Caesar refusing to wear the crown three times was meant to change the people’s minds about Caesar being a hungry politician, but instead a humble ruler. Antony mentioning Brutus after recalling the event, also changes the people’s view about the conspirators, from seeing them as justified liberators to power-hungry, lying politicians; as Brutus’ word about Caesar being ambitious contradicts the event of Caesar refusing the crown to rule over Rome. Shakespeare’s use of point of view to show the theme by showing that because of the change of point of view for the people of Rome towards the conspirators and Caesar, revolution happened in Rome with the civilians willing to go to violence to get a ruler like Caesar back and get revenge to the conspirators.