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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0383  Wednesday, 26 February 2003

[1]     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Feb 2003 12:36:49 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0370 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 03:45:02 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0370 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Feb 2003 12:36:49 -0500
Subject: 14.0370 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0370 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

Isn't one man's assassin another man's liberator?  If the officers who
plotted against Hitler had succeeded in killing them, would they be
considered assassins?  If, and I think a case can be made for it, Caesar
is a tyrant who would, indeed, "keep us all in servile fearfulness" then
Brutus, Cassius, and the rest are assassins (used pejoratively) because
Antony and Octavius won.

cdf

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 03:45:02 -0500
Subject: 14.0370 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0370 Re: Julius Caesar's Protagonist

>I submit that the most suitable candidate is the
>Roman Republic, whose fatal flaw has been its susceptibility to the
>ambitions of such bastards (in whatever sense) as Caesar, Antony,
>Cassius, and Brutus, the latter, who, if not a parricide, is at least an
>assassin, no more noble than Lee Harvey Oswald, although still possibly
>the noblest of the bastards with whom he is, ironically, being compared.
>
>Roger Schmeeckle

This was just one Brutus bashing too many for me. The proper analogy
would be to the original Brutus (not counting the Trojan founder of
Britain) who slew Tarquin the rapist of Lucrece (a metaphor for the
Italians subjugated by the Etruscan tyrants). It seems to me that
American sympathy ought to be on the side of the republic and against
military dictators out to deify themselves and pass their autocratic
power to whatever Neros and Caligulas happen to spring from their loins.

Hamlet is an assassin, so no more noble than Oswald? Would we condemn
Buckingham for stabbing Richard? The thanes for stringing up the
Macbeths?  No one is perfect. Everyone is ambitious. All are hypocrites.
We can only struggle rationally against our personal weaknesses to
choose the right and noble action. Caesar himself slew Pompey. Unlike
Hamlet, when Brutus set out to kill Caesar in the Capitol, he didn't
futz around. Neither did he poison him (a favorite technique of Caesar's
heirs) and try to deny his deed, but recognizing that the Roman
republic, that had stood (despite the view of some that the Roman rabble
were not up to the task) for centuries, was doomed to succumb to the
inevitable processes of power lust, slew him openly and in public, and
immediately confessed. If we take an attainable assassination to be less
"noble" than killing an enemy tyrant in unattainable open war, surely
this is the most noble assassination of them all.

It was not Brutus' ambition or hypocrisy that turned the revolution to
bloody war, but Octavius' power lust and Antony's demagoguery. Brutus'
mistake is that, after rationally determining the most right and noble
course, he adheres to it and refuses to compromise ideal principles to
hypocritical and coercive political tactics. To call it mere
stubbornness and egotism to insist on allowing Antony to speak to the
people is to sanction censorship, repression and even assassination (as
Cassius suggests). Brutus makes the mistake of the US Democrat party. He
tries to be bipartisan while Antony is busy stacking the courts. Had he
been less noble and more hypocritical, the slaughter of civil war and
the bloody career of post Augustan emperors might have been precluded,
and Europe rather than America would be the oldest democracy. I think
Antony's epitaph is sincere. If there is any irony in it, it is that it
was Brutus' nobility that did him in, and the surviving Romans deserve
the slavery they've asked for.

Sic semper tyrannus

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenixandturtle.net/ESA/conference.html

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