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Bolognaking
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please] Brutus's Soliloquy


ConnieK wrote:

What do you make of Brutus's "snake" soliloquy in Act II, Scene I?

 

The B&N edition makes this comment in its side note:

 

"This is a key speech in the play, showing Brutus thinking through the reasons for assassinating Caesar, but the soliloquy betrays a circular reasoning.  What should be an act of reasoning has become a rationalization that begins with its conclusion and then tries to justify it:  the imperative (must) is followed by a series of conditionals (would, might, may).  There is in fact, no evidence in Brutus's speech--nor in the play--that Caesar will necessarily become a tyrant.  But if Caesar may not himself be the tyrant that Brutus fears, anyone who read Roman history would know that the death of the Republic led to the rise of vicious tyrants--Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero--whose role Brutus, ironically enough, has helped to bring about" (90).

 

Do you agree with this editor's analysis of Brutus's soliloquy?  Why or why not?

 

~ConnieK


Brutus' argument is not circular reasoning; it is perfectly logical.  If Caesar lives, either Caesar will become a tyrant or not.  If he dies, he will not become a tyrant.  If I kill him, therefore, he will not become a tyrant.  Coldblooded, but perfectly logical.  It's the argument offered for every preemptive strike in history, right up to the present day.

 

If I read this right, the editor is suggesting that Brutus helped bring about the death of the Republic, giving rise to some nasty Julio-Claudian emperors.  That means that if only Brutus had left him alone, Caesar would have given up being dictator for life, and power would not have passed from him to some other dictator-for-life, but would have reverted to consuls with one-year terms elected by the aristocracy.  If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

"We're actors - we're the opposite of people" - Tom Stoppard
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Benedict
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please] Brutus's Soliloquy

Antony:  “The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

Antony is telling the people what he is doing.  Ambition by the people is what is aroused by Antonies speech, the very thing that Caesar was killed for.  But, the good qualities that were aroused through Brutus’s speech die as soon as Antony finish’s his speech.  Caesar had all of the good and bad qualities, but once he was killed, it was the bad quality of self ambition that took control of the state.

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friery
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]


Everyman wrote:

Brutus's soliloquy at the start of Act2 scene 1 reminded me powerfully of Hamlet's famous soliloquy (you know, the one about being a beekeeper? :smileyhappy:

 

"How that might change his nature, there's the question."  2.1.13

 

He is in the same state of indecision, debating the plusses and minuses, almost dithering.  While JC was probably written before Hamlet, if so it was not long before it, so S may have remembered this soliloquy from JC and emulated it (but IMO considerably better) in Hamlet.  


There's another passage later in that scene that struck me as really Hamletesque.  It's at 2.1.63-69.  Brutus says:

 

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream;
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council, and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

 

 Someone I read said that Hamlet exists in that interim little kingdom.

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Everyman
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]

Nice comment.  Yes, there are echoes of JC in Hamlet -- there are even loose parallels between the major themes. 


friery wrote:

Everyman wrote:

Brutus's soliloquy at the start of Act2 scene 1 reminded me powerfully of Hamlet's famous soliloquy (you know, the one about being a beekeeper? :smileyhappy:

 

"How that might change his nature, there's the question."  2.1.13

 

He is in the same state of indecision, debating the plusses and minuses, almost dithering.  While JC was probably written before Hamlet, if so it was not long before it, so S may have remembered this soliloquy from JC and emulated it (but IMO considerably better) in Hamlet.  


There's another passage later in that scene that struck me as really Hamletesque.  It's at 2.1.63-69.  Brutus says:

 

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream;
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council, and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

 

 Someone I read said that Hamlet exists in that interim little kingdom.


 

 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]


Everyman wrote:

Nice comment.  Yes, there are echoes of JC in Hamlet -- there are even loose parallels between the major themes. 

 


Could you expand on those "loose parallels," Everyman?  I'd be curious to know what you think they are.  And such a reading might inspire an interesting conversation.

RTA
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]

I'm responding to Benedict's comments from the ActIV/V thread.  Our discussion, at some point, wandered into discussing predominantly Act II, so I thought it best to move my response to that thread.  I hope that is appropriate.

 

Well, Benedict, we’ve certainly extended beyond whatever could be considered my comfort zone, but I’m going to give it a whirl nonetheless.

 

Benedict wrote (In the Act IV/V thread): Shakespeare shows how our emotions are as real as our flesh and blood.  Whereas, our deductions formulated from our intellect is more akin to a dream.  Therefore, when our intellect receives information from our feelings, and then thinks about how the body should act, then, from the perspective of another individual the acting body is portraying something that stems from the intellect which is not real and does not stem from the real flesh and blood and emotions.  In this way, each time that we deduce how we ‘should’ act, we are essentially lying to those around us.

 

Just to be certain, before I respond, are you saying here that Shakespeare writes to demonstrate that the intellect is not real, in contrast to our emotions, or is that a larger inference that you’re drawing from the work?  And do you mean real as in existent?  Or are you speaking of real as in true?  I would assume the latter from the last line, but when you contrast intellect with emotions that are “as real as our flesh and blood,” I’m also inferring the former.  Is that accurate?

 

Benedict wrote: To follow Portia’s metaphor,

 

“O constancy, be strong upon my side;/Set a huge mountain ‘tween my heart and tongue/ I have a man’s mind, but a woman’s might.”

 

We can think of three different entities.  The words within () are what are being described within the metaphor.
1. The flesh and blood and emotions that are real within us, or Muses (my heart)
2. The intellect, which could be as unshakeable as the north star, or Apollo (huge mountain)
3. Our presentation to the world around us (tongue)

 

Very nice outline of the various imagery.  Where would you place constancy?  I’m assuming that goes with the mountain, meaning intellect.  At the same time, Brutus is all constancy, and he, as you have indicated, is wholly ruled by the intellect.

 

Benedict wrote: Because, there is no huge mountain between her heart and tongue she can be trusted to present what she feels.  Or in other words, she cannot be trusted to keep a secret.

 

But I think it can be argued that Portia does present what she feels, she certainly has Lucius in a dither, unable to comprehend what exactly is going on.  She tells him to run to the Senate House, but gives him no task, thoroughly confusing the servant “Madam, what should I do?/ Run to the Capitol, and nothing else?/ And so return to you, and nothing else?” (2.4.10-12).  But, at the same time, in being absolutely genuine in her mixed-up emotions, Portia is still able to keep her secret; in fact, at one time she hesitates, fearful that the boy might have heard her: “O Brutus,/ the heavens speed thee in thine enterprise!--/ Sure the boy heard me” (2.4.42-44).  And so Portia makes up a story to send Lucius to the Capitol, telling him another lie to pass on to Brutus: “Run, Lucius, and commend me to my lord./ Say I am merry” (2.4.46-47).

 

So can it be argued that, despite being controlled by emotions, Portia is able to keep her tongue at least as far as to not reveal the conspiracy?  (And also she uses her intellect to tell Lucius to lie to Brutus about how she is really feeling.)  Or, alternatively, can it be argued that she is not all emotion, that her will is mightier than she would have us believe, and that despite the emotional welling, she too has constancy (or intellect) on her side?

 

Benedict, just so you know, I will probably not be online over the next few days, I expect to be without my computer for a little bit.  I just didn’t want you to interpret any silence on my part, with regard to however this discussion develops, as disinterest.  I’m very grateful for the exchanges that we’ve had here. 

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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]

RTA:

 

I do believe that Shakespeare describes the intellect as being akin to a dream.  There may be some morning when I am moved to quote and expand (describe) on this concept, but for now I do believe that the intellect must be built on memory, and memory of the past and anticipation of the future are simply dreams.

Portia is a very smart woman… person.  Fully worthy of a man… person such as Brutus.  But I do not think that Brutus ever tells Portia his plans.  She may glean from her total experience, including intuition, Brutus’s gestures, as well as his words what Brutus’s plans are.  But I do not think that Brutus ever dialectically tells her that he plans on killing Caesar.  Although she feels that Brutus is attempting to commit a dreadful act, she does not know from dialectics, only assumptions and feelings; feelings that happen to be correct.

Portia requires Lucius to act according to her feelings and concerns.  She does not intellectually explain these feelings because until a feeling is recognized intellectually, it cannot be explained.  Lucius is confused because, well, its uninformative and confusing… at least to a man.

I do not think that it can be argued that Portia can keep her tongue as far as the conspiracy is concerned, because she had never been dialectically told that killing Caesar was an objective of Brutus.  At the time of her requirements for Lucius, she needed to weigh her concerns about Brutus’s intentions stemming from her feelings, and the consequences of saying that Brutus intended to kill Caesar where she didn’t really know, but only felt.  She could not be clear to Lucius because of the potential consequences, but she was concerned, and she did use Lucius as an appendage to ‘see’ if her concerns were accurate.

RTA wrote: “that her will is mightier than she would have us believe”
Will and drive are often confused and are confusing.  The term Mu is used in Chinese to describe that the answer implies more than the question.  If each Muse has her own Will and Apollo has his own Will, as every living thing does, then we must see and decide on what ‘Will’ we are referring to.  Who is creating the energy, one of the Muses or Apollo?  Strong feelings can create big results in the name of ‘Will’.  I do not doubt that even the Shrew had, has, strong emotion, the question is what is controlling it…  One of the Muses or Apollo?  Or, as in the ending of the play Taming of the shrew is there another person in control of the individuals ‘Will’?

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Bolognaking
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]

I'm inclined to agree, Benedict.  If Portia knows what is going on, her behaviour does not show her to be a strong character, although she is portrayed as being strong in her previous scene.  If, however, she is guessing at what is going on, she does not want to ruin Brutus' plans but she wants to know what is going on, and is being made panicky by her fears.  Good reading.
Benedict wrote in part:

Portia is a very smart woman… person.  Fully worthy of a man… person such as Brutus.  But I do not think that Brutus ever tells Portia his plans.  She may glean from her total experience, including intuition, Brutus’s gestures, as well as his words what Brutus’s plans are.  But I do not think that Brutus ever dialectically tells her that he plans on killing Caesar.  Although she feels that Brutus is attempting to commit a dreadful act, she does not know from dialectics, only assumptions and feelings; feelings that happen to be correct.

Portia requires Lucius to act according to her feelings and concerns.  She does not intellectually explain these feelings because until a feeling is recognized intellectually, it cannot be explained.  Lucius is confused because, well, its uninformative and confusing… at least to a man.


 

"We're actors - we're the opposite of people" - Tom Stoppard
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Re: Julius Caesar: Act II [No Spoilers, please]

Benedict, I know we have moved on to Macbeth at this point, but I didn’t want to leave your post without a response.  I reexamined the scenes last night and I remain fairly convinced that they’re meant to imply that Portia is aware of Brutus’s plans.  I like your reading regarding the distinction you draw between intellect and “feelings,” particularly with regard to Portia.  But, Brutus’s comment that he will show her the matters of his heart, combined with Portia’s three references: keeping counsel (as I’m reading as a secret); her wish to speed Brutus on his enterprise; and her fear that Lucius might have heard, convinces me that she is aware of more of the particulars than what you are reading. 

 

Your reading, therefore, has thoroughly informed my reading of these scenes.  Though, unfortunately, I don’t think my reading can return the favor. 

 

Hope you plan on participating in Macbeth.
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