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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: December ::
Re: Great Caesar's Ghost
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2867  Thursday, 20 December 2001

[1]     From:   John D. Cox <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 11:00:13 -0500
        Subj:   Caesar's ghost

[2]     From:   Markus Marti <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 23:59:57 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 20:28:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus

[4]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Dec 2001 08:18:16 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John D. Cox <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 11:00:13 -0500
Subject:        Caesar's ghost

Jim Slager asks why Caesar's ghost identifies it(him?)self as "Thy evil
spirit, Brutus."  For a recent provocative answer, see Stephen
Greenblatt's new book, *Hamlet in Purgatory*, pp. 180-85, where these
lines are specifically addressed.  Actually, the whole book is relevant.

John Cox
Hope College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Markus Marti <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 23:59:57 +0100
Subject: 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus

> When the Ghost of Caesar enters Brutus' tent Brutus asks: "Speak to me
> what thou art."  Can anyone tell me why the ghost answers: "Thy evil
> spirit, Brutus."

I fear (but I am not sure, and who cares) that in an Elizabethan reading
it would have meant:

- Brutus killed Caesar, so why should he (Brutus) not be haunted by his
victim? Killing people (especially one's betters or one's highers) is
not nice, it needs some punishment by a higher authority, another world,
God or whatever her name may be.

- Ghosts need to frighten as many people as possible when they appear on
a stage.

In more modern readings, Freudian or democratic or whatever (maybe not
intended by Shakespeare, but who cares):

- Brutus and Caesar are two sides of the same coin, Caesar representing
the "evil" side, Brutus the "good" one. Killing his alter ego, Caesar,
has not helped: Caesar's "ghost", his "spirit" remains in Brutus'
unconsciousness and haunts his conscious mind...

- Tyrannicide is often something to be wished, but it involves killing
somebody, which is morally not justified (even if the victim was
Hitler). It is not justified for revenge, and it is even less justified
if the killer profits from his deed, e.g. if one could assume that the
deed had been done only to get into the control of whatever the
victim/tyrant had been in control of. Killing one's king, or sovereign,
or one's Caesar, or one's Bin Laden, is murder. By (symbolically) making
one's hands bloody one may publicly show one's own responsibility, but
one cannot be acquitted from this deed. One quits one's own moral
principles and accepts the ones of one's enemy, those very principles
one does not approve of. If the tyrant's killer does not disappear from
the stage after his deed, he will loose his moral integrity.

Markus Marti

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001 20:28:05 -0500
Subject: 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus

Jim Slager writes,

>When the Ghost of Caesar enters Brutus' tent Brutus asks: "Speak to me
>what thou art."  Can anyone tell me why the ghost answers: "Thy evil
>spirit, Brutus."

There are various possibilities. I'll venture two:  (1) by "evil spirit"
the ghost means "spirit antithetical to Brutus"; (2) Caesar's ghost
represents (or symbolizes) the evil part of Brutus himself.  The "evil"
part of Brutus is much like the "evil" part of Caesar.  In this scene
Brutus comes face to face with his own "evil."

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Dec 2001 08:18:16 +1100
Subject: 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2866 Thy evil spirit, Brutus

Thy evil spirit as in thy bad conscience, I think.

Sophie Masson
Author site: http://www.northnet.com.au/~smasson

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