Saturday, January 11, 2014

THREE QUESTIONS

Who made the better speech; 
was it Brutus or Mark Antony? 
Please tell us why.

Do you see how eerily relevant 
this scene is to politics yesterday, today, and always?

What does it tell you about human nature?

[Please READ the SCENE before attempting 
to answer. I assure you, it's electrifying.]

Bust of Julius Caesar 

JULIUS CAESAR
William Shakespeare


Portrait of William Shakespeare in youth

Act III: Scene 2 (excerpted, lightly truncated)

BRUTUS

Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
--Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

All

None, Brutus, none. ...

BRUTUS

Then none have I offended. I have done no more to
Caesar than you shall do to Brutus. The question of
his death is enrolled in the Capitol; his glory not
extenuated, wherein he was worthy, nor his offences
enforced, for which he suffered death.

[Enter ANTONY and others, with CAESAR's body] ...
Here comes his body, mourned by Mark Antony: who,
though he had no hand in his death, shall receive
the benefit of his dying, a place in the
commonwealth; as which of you shall not? With this
I depart,--that, as I slew my best lover for the
good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself,
when it shall please my country to need my death.

All

Live, Brutus! live, live! ...

BRUTUS

Good countrymen, let me depart alone,
And, for my sake, stay here with Antony:
Do grace to Caesar's corpse, and grace his speech
Tending to Caesar's glories; which Mark Antony,
By our permission, is allow'd to make.
I do entreat you, not a man depart,
Save I alone, till Antony have spoke.

[Exeunt Brutus]

MARK ANTONY

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest ––
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men ––
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

First Citizen

Methinks there is much reason in his sayings.

Second Citizen

If thou consider rightly of the matter,
Caesar has had great wrong.

Third Citizen

Has he, masters?
I fear there will a worse come in his place.

Fourth Citizen

Mark'd ye his words? He would not take the crown;
Therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious.

First Citizen

If it be found so, some will dear abide it.

Second Citizen

Poor soul! his eyes are red as fire with weeping.

Third Citizen

There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.

Fourth Citizen

Now mark him, he begins again to speak.

MARK ANTONY

But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there.
And none so poor to do him reverence.
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men.
But here's a parchment with the seal of Caesar;
I found it in his closet, 'tis his will:
Let but the commons hear this testament ––
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read ––
And they would go and kiss dead Caesar's wounds
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood,
Yea, beg a hair of him for memory,
And, dying, mention it within their wills,
Bequeathing it as a rich legacy
Unto their issue.

Fourth Citizen

We'll hear the will: read it, Mark Antony.

All

The will, the will! we will hear Caesar's will.


MARK ANTONY

Have patience, gentle friends, I must not read it;
It is not meet you know how Caesar loved you.
You are not wood, you are not stones, but men;
And, being men, bearing the will of Caesar,
It will inflame you, it will make you mad:
'Tis good you know not that you are his heirs;
For, if you should, O, what would come of it!

Fourth Citizen

Read the will; we'll hear it, Antony;
You shall read us the will, Caesar's will.

MARK ANTONY

Will you be patient? will you stay awhile?
I have o'ershot myself to tell you of it:
I fear I wrong the honourable men
Whose daggers have stabb'd Caesar; I do fear it.

Fourth Citizen

They were traitors: honourable men!

All

The will! the testament!

Second Citizen

They were villains, murderers: the will! read the will.

MARK ANTONY

You will compel me, then, to read the will?
Then make a ring about the corpse of Caesar,
And let me show you him that made the will.
Shall I descend? and will you give me leave?

Several Citizens

Come down.

Third Citizen

You shall have leave. ...

[ANTONY comes down and begins to speak again]

MARK ANTONY

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
'Twas on a summer's evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii:
Look, in this place ran Cassius' dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;
And as he pluck'd his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow'd it,
As rushing out of doors, to be resolved
If Brutus so unkindly knock'd, or no;
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel:
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms,
Quite vanquish'd him: then burst his mighty heart;
And, in his mantle muffling up his face,
Even at the base of Pompey's statua,
Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
Whilst bloody treason flourish'd over us.
O, now you weep; and, I perceive, you feel
The dint of pity: these are gracious drops.
Kind souls, what, weep you when you but behold
Our Caesar's vesture wounded? Look you here,
Here is himself, marr'd, as you see, with traitors.

First Citizen

O piteous spectacle!

Second Citizen

O noble Caesar! ...

Fourth Citizen

O traitors, villains!

Second Citizen

We will be revenged.

All

Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
Let not a traitor live!

MARK ANTONY

Stay, countrymen.

First Citizen
Peace there! hear the noble Antony.

Second Citizen
We'll hear him, we'll follow him, we'll die with him.

MARK ANTONY

Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honourable:
What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:
I am no orator, as Brutus is;
But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man,
That love my friend; and that they know full well
That gave me public leave to speak of him:
For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men's blood: I only speak right on;
I tell you that which you yourselves do know;
Show you sweet Caesar's wounds, poor poor dumb mouths,
And bid them speak for me: but were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

All

We'll mutiny.

First Citizen

We'll burn the house of Brutus. ...


ANTONY

Yet hear me, countrymen; yet hear me speak. ...

Why, friends, you go to do you know not what:
Wherein hath Caesar thus deserved your loves?
Alas, you know not: I must tell you then:
You have forgot the will I told you of.

All

Most true. The will! Let's stay and hear the will.

MARK ANTONY

Here is the will, and under Caesar's seal.
To every Roman citizen he gives,
To every several man, seventy-five drachmas. ...

Moreover, he hath left you all his walks,
His private arbours and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber; he hath left them you,
And to your heirs for ever, common pleasures,
To walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.
Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

First Citizen

Never, never. Come, away, away!
We'll burn his body in the holy place,
And with the brands fire the traitors' houses.
Take up the body.

Second Citizen

Go fetch fire.

Third Citizen

Pluck down benches.

Fourth Citizen

Pluck down forms, windows, any thing.

[Exeunt Citizens with the body]

MARK ANTONY

Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt!

[Enter a Servant]
How now, fellow!

Servant

Sir, Octavius is already come to Rome.

MARK ANTONY

Where is he?

Servant

He and Lepidus are at Caesar's house.

MARK ANTONY

And thither will I straight to visit him:
He comes upon a wish. Fortune is merry,
And in this mood will give us any thing.

Servant

I heard him say, Brutus and Cassius
Are rid like madmen through the gates of Rome.

MARK ANTONY

Belike they had some notice of the people,
How I had moved them. Bring me to Octavius.

[Exeunt]

28 comments:

  1. If by "better" you mean more "truthful", then Brutus. If by more "effective", then, Antony.

    Poor Brutus. For all his "truth", why didn't he realize that his "Rome" and its "Senate" were already dead?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can always depend on you, Thersites, to "get it," can't I?

    By "better," I meant more honest, forthright, and moral, but it certainly can work both ways, if one considers the two definitions.

    And then, perhaps, we ought to consider whether prevarication used effectively in promoting and implementing worthy objectives, is not in fact a positive virtue? This was certainly not the case in Shakespeare's tragedy.

    It will be interesting to see what "others" have to say, won't it?

    I'm hoping for observations on the relative values one might find studying the the art of public persuasion

    More and more I believe Horace Walpole, who said, "Life is a tragedy to him who fells and comedy to him who thinks."

    Bearing this in mind life gets funnier and more amusing by the minute -- until the axe falls on my neck at least.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Another question:

    Is it "BETTER" to be TRUTHFUL or EFFiCACIOUS?

    Is it possible to give a straight yes or no answer, and maintain credibility?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Damn. I see that Thersites said the very thing that I was going to say:

    If by "better" you mean more "truthful", then Brutus. If by more "effective", then, Antony.

    Brutus was a nobler man than Antony. However, he also was hesitant to make decisions -- much like Hamlet (although for different reasons).

    FT asked: Is it "BETTER" to be TRUTHFUL or EFFiCACIOUS?

    The latter is one is trying to consolidate his political power.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Um, that last sentence should read as follows

    The latter (efficiacious) IF one is trying to consolidate his political power.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Consider the last lines of the play (Brutus is dead by this point):

    ANTONY:
    This was the noblest Roman of them all:
    All the conspirators save only he
    Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
    He only, in a general honest thought
    And common good to all, made one of them.
    His life was gentle, and the elements
    So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
    And say to all the world 'This was a man!'

    OCTAVIUS:
    According to his virtue let us use him,
    With all respect and rites of burial.
    Within my tent his bones to-night shall lie,
    Most like a soldier, order'd honourably.
    So call the field to rest; and let's away,
    To part the glories of this happy day.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Note how easily swayed the people are.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Aha! Tragic irony abounds everywhere, does it not?

    It's always been like that, I fear. Must it continue that way forever? I fear so. Even Jesus Christ failed to change human nature, didn't he? The impulse to shoot ourselves in the foot more often than not is very strong.

    --------------> Katharine Heartburn

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just to refute my own previous statement...

    Nietzsche, "Will to Power" (541, March-June 1888)

    ..."The ultimate test of the truth of a proposition is the conceivability of its negation."

    - Herbert Spencer.


    "Caesar" WAS the truth. For every great emperor after him was called "Caesar/Kaisar/Czar".

    The current great deception of America is that we have a "President", and NOT a "Caesar".

    Hegel's Dialectics: Something in its passage into other only joins with itself, it is self-related. In becoming there are two moments: coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be: by sublation, i.e., negation of the negation, being passes over into nothing, it ceases to be, but something new shows up, is coming to be. What is sublated (aufgehoben) on the one hand ceases to be and is put to an end, but on the other hand it is preserved and maintained. In dialectics, a totality transforms itself; it is self-related, then self-forgetful, relieving the original tension.

    Caesar became Czar...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks, AOW, for your very apt contributions to this excerpt from Julius Caesar.

    Yes, what I, personally, got from is not only how easily SWAYED "the people" are by wily, unprincipled, self-serving, silver-tongued purveyors of prevarication, but also how FICKLE they are.

    Is it any wonder we live today in obedience to the assertions made by the loudest, most skillful, most persistent, most unabashed, unrelenting LIARS?

    Shakespeare saw it very clearly. So did Sophocles, so did Alexander Hamilton who referred with apparent derision to "The Vulgar Populace," that the masses of common people in any society long to be LIED to by their leaders. Since on average they loathe being challenged, the Truth, never fails either to bore or irritate them.

    Highly intelligent-but-unscrupulous, overly ambitious with feral cunning seize power by pandering shamelessly to this lust for deception, and "Bob's your uncle!"

    Is there any need to say much more?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, Thersites, but isn't all of that just another way of saying, "Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose?" ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I LOVE Shakepeare's Julius Caesar!

    Yes, the masses are fickle! They love a silver-tongued demagogue.

    This year, I used Julius Caesar to introduce Shakespeare to my middle school class. The film with Marlon Brando was a successful followup so that students could better visualize the play.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That turned out to be the best thing Brando ever did, AOW. When Brando aced as "Brando," he was just plain obnoxious. There was vicious streak in the man. I see te same thing in Jack Nicholson, whom I also despise, but Nicholson never had enough talent to do Shakespeare. Brando did, which makes it all the more reprehensible that he wasted his life on garbage.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why so hard on Brando? IMO, brando wasn't the problem, American "culture" was the problem.

    Brando was an actual "actor", not a type-cast "character".

    ReplyDelete
  15. it takes an "actor" to pull off "Reflections on a Golden Eye"... tackling the homo-erotic elements of military life.

    And again, ithe movie is more a reflection of our cultural degeneration than of his "acting ability".

    ReplyDelete
  16. You and I know and do not believe that life is so
    dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for,
    when did this begin -- just in
    the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under
    the pharaohs? Should Christ have re
    fused the cross? Should the patr
    iots at Concord Bridge have
    thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of
    history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the
    Nazis didn't die in vain. Where,
    then, is the road to peace? Well
    it's a simple answer after all.
    You and I have the courage to say to our enemies,
    "There is a price we will not pay." "There is a
    point beyond which they must not advance." And this -- this is the meaning in the phrase of
    Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength." Winston Churchill said, "The destiny of man is not
    measured by material computations
    . When great forces are on th
    e move in the world, we learn
    we're spirits -- not animals." And he said, "There's something going on in time and space, and
    beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."
    You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We'll preserve for our children this, the last best
    hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into at housand years of darkness

    ReplyDelete
  17. Perhaps, it's more Elia Kazan and the depressing worldview he held I despise than Brando, but nevertheless, his admittedly great talent -- and striking good looks -- were wasted and hideously dissipated by the corrupt leftist forces that took over Hollywood in the mid-fifties. His performance was Stanley Kowalski was so powerfully repugnant and vile I've never been able to forgive him -- or Tennessee Williams -- for it. Great acting, or a revelation of something in Brando's character that wold better have remained hidden?

    To see Brando in Julius Caesar now is enough to make one want to weep.

    "The saddest words from tongue or pen
    Is the wistful phrase, "It might have been."


    ________________________

    Mighty words, fine words, Anonymous, but do you know anyone capable of living up to them today? Our morale and our moral fiber have been so weakened and polluted with Marxian thinking -- and by disgust at the tragic waste of blood and treasure in a long series of useless, un winnable wars fought solely to enrich The Oligarchs once known as The MIC -- our faith is gone, and our guts have rotted out inside of us. we stink of putrefaction.

    We are the hollow men, the stuffed men ... the inhabitants now of a moral, cultural, intellectual and spiritual wasteland.

    It may take hundreds of years to rewaken us to our vast untapped potential -- or as a failed species, we may go the way of the dinosaurs. I cannot say.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "Fortune is merry,
    And in this mood will give us any thing."


    That line properly understood should bring a chill to the heart and raise goosebumps all over the body of of every observer.

    The power of unctuous calumny and the nature of treachery aided and abetted by overweening ambition is nakedly exposed in that one line. It sums up all that transpired in the entire scene with striking simplicity.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Brutus is indeed the more truthful and therefore most honorsble.

    Men who were once men of truth and honor, after acquiring power all to often are corrupted by their power. Hence they become greedy and self-serving.

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Such as been the scourge of humankind since we arose from the apes.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Brando's greatest roles:

    1. Terry Malloy -- On the Waterfront

    2. Vito Corleone -- The Godfather

    3. Ian McKenzie -- A Dry White Season

    ReplyDelete
  21. In Shakespeare's day, the fickleness of the masses as presented in Julius Caesar gave tacit support to the British monarchy.

    Now that the message regarding the fickleness of the people was erroneous. It was not! History has shown us time and again how the masses can be swayed -- perhaps never more than in the 21st Century.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Good morning, AOW, if the folk are more easily swayed today than ever before, it's most probably because of the developments of various technologies that enabled freedom to travel greater distances at ever-increaing speeds and mass communication. First the telegraph, then the automobile, flight, motion pictures, radio, television, the computer and internet, cell phones, "smart" phones, and worse things are coming fast.

    Solitude and the peaceful, twin luxuries of prayer and serene contemplation are becoming increasingly rare, while the once-popular habit of reading books for pleasure and cultural enrichment is fading into oblivion as the relentless incursions of electronic technology continue to play an ever more dominant role in our lives.

    Years ago, some humorist of the day first said, "All I know is what I read in the papers."

    I wonder if he had even so much as an an inkling of the profound implications in what-was-surely-intended-then as light-hearted quip?

    No longer funny, the line became a genuine PROPHECY.
    _________________________

    Ducky, all I can say to your evidence of Brando's "greatness" is "there is no accounting for taste," although I have come to believe we formulate our tastes from the socio-economic conditions and particular adult influences we experience early in life.

    Either we stay with the peculiar "orthodoxy" handed to us by our immediate forbears, school teachers, and what we learn in Sunday School, or we do an about-face, and develop a reaction formation to all that thanks to the influences of the popular culture (never good, but increasingly vile, even deadly, since the advent of TV and Rock 'n Roll).

    Either way we are acted upon by forces more powerful than our little selves. Results vary tremendously according to the content and quality of those early influences.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well, FT, you do have to work for your epiphanies.

    Brutus: He was a friend but a danger to the Republic so I did what I had to.

    Antony: Time to make some political advantage.


    If you know this about opportunists and oligarchs why have you let our political class create boogie men under the bed and lead us by the nose?

    ReplyDelete
  24. FT, you write as if the masses in Saltzberg were all listening to Mozart.

    Or that the folks in the stalls at the Globe weren't there for the naughty bits.

    ReplyDelete
  25. ...or that many poet laureate wannabe's didn't throw nuts and dates into the audience during the parabasis.

    Today they call themselves the Revolutionary Vanguard. :P

    ReplyDelete

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