Theme in Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar

By: Ashley Galanti


Power corrupts the minds of the population, blinding them of their humanity with a blanket of fear, leaving them stranded on an island of isolation. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Julius Caesar, Power acts as the MVP in the game of themes expressed throughout the play, illuminated through several different cases of literary and rhetorical devices. Power is so vital to the plot of the play due to the influence it has in the minds of individuals, specifically the authoritative figures. The city of Rome was governed by a select group of senators, with the absolute power held by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar; this position of absolute power was the concerning factor clouding the minds of the senators, who possessed of much less authority. These entities, especially Caesar’s “truest” friend, Brutus, believed that this absolute control would, as aforementioned, corrupt the mind of Caesar and engender brutal leadership decisions, eventually leading to the collapse of Rome and its citizens. Due to these specified reasons, drastic precautions were taken to eliminate the slightest chance of total destruction by abolishing the source of the possible corruptive leadership all together; they killed Caesar. The reasoning behind their actions was portrayed through the use of parallel structure, “…not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” (Act III, Sc II). This statement is composed of the perfect contrasting structure to fully allow the reader to analyze the reasoning behind the death of Caesar. Brutus explains that he took away Caesar’s power in order to save Rome, even though the actual harm brought to Rome by Caesar was of very low percentage; Caesar showing no signs of abuse of power. Rhetorical techniques are also involved in the scenario outlined by power; Brutus also states, “Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?” (Act III, Sc II). Brutus questions Caesar’s authority to further promote the authority of himself, demonstrating his selfish aspiration for power. He uses rhetoric in a targeting, hyperbolic manner, tricking the citizens into believing his actions were righteous, thus further promoting himself. The fear of corruption of power along with the thirst for power lead to dire measures, specifically murder of a friend, exemplifying the illuminate theme of the concept of power.