The Discourses and Julius Caesar Book Reviews

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, a Nobel laureate named Cuassius plots to assassinate Caesar. However, he realizes he cannot do it alone, so he persuades one of Caesar’s good friends, Brutus, to join him. Brutus is initially hesitant since Ceasar was a classmate of his. Cuassius dupes Brutus into believing that it is for a greater reason, including forging letters purportedly sent to Brutus by unknown Roman men. Convinced, Brutus and Cuassius scheme to send Caesar to the Senate, where he is stabbed to death by both of them. One of the things that Brutus and Cuassius do is ensure that there plan is a secret. They know very well that they cannot defeat Ceasar by waging an all-out war or even by inciting people against him. The people love him. Therefore they secretly plan and kill him. This is aligned with one of Machiavelli’s discourses. In the book, Machiavelli states that cunning and deceit will serve a man better than force to raise from base condition to great fortune (Adams, 112). The conspirators, though not common men but nobles, use deceit and tricks to get Machiavelli to the Senate without him suspecting a thing and kill him.

When Cuassius first starts thinking of assassinating Ceasar, Ceasar is returning from battle which he won. The people sing his praises and Cuassius is concerned that once he gets sworn in as King, he will become too powerful. From this instant it is clear that while the people appreciate Ceasar and what he has done for Rome, some noble men do not. The people’s loyalty also come into question when they jubilate after Brutus explains why Ceasar had to die. They all of a sudden forget all his contributions for a while until Antony reminds them. This is what Machiavelli was talking about in his writings. In ‘why Rome had less ungrateful to its citizens that Athens” Machiavelli states that when one reads the history of republics, we find out that every republic is ungrateful to its citizens to a certain degree (Adams, 28). According to the example given above, it is clear that the noble/conspirators were ungrateful to Ceasar.

In the discourses, Machiavelli states that the reason great leaders, and by extension the republics they rule, fall is because they do not change their character and plans to take advantage of and ride the wave of change (Adams, 119). Machiavelli states that to avoid ruin, it is a must that leaders read the time and change their tactics according to the times. This is exactly what Brutus says to Cassius in the fourth act. Brutus says that instead of waiting for Antony’s armies to come to them, they should go and meet them. This is because according to him, the tide of success seems to be going their way. He argues that their armies are well fed and rested and they should march to the Philippi when they are still at an advantage. On the other hand, if the let Antony’s army get to Philippi before them, the people there will give them food because they do not support Brutus and his men. Therefore, Antony’s men will come to battle well fed, strong and rejuvenated. Therefore, Brutus argues that they better strike when the enemy is weakened than wait for him to regain his strength. This is what Brutus refers to when he says that the tide of success is favoring them. Reading the times, realizing when you have an upper hand is in accordance with the teachings of Machiavelli. Brutus reads the times, understands them and makes plan according to the times.

According to the play, the Roman civic virtue is well portrayed through Brutus. Brutus agrees to participate in the murder of Julius Caesar because he believes that Caesar is going to turn the empire into a tyranny. All he is interested in is for Rome to remain a republic. This can be taken to represent the virtues of the ideal common roman citizen. Brutus is also an honest man, he does not take bribes and openly rebukes Cuassius for doing so. However, not everyone in the play is an ideal citizen. Most of them are corrupt and power hungry. Out of all the characters in the play, only Brutus has no evil ambitions. Ceasar, although he pretends not to be interested in power, he is hungry for it. Antony takes advantage of Caesar’s death to bring civil war in Rome just so he can ascend to power. Cuassius is also power hungry. Therefore, we can conclude that majority of Romans did not care about their civic duties. Those in leadership were corrupt and power hungry while the peasants did not care much for their country. They did not care to find out what their leaders were made up off, all they cared for was wealth. Greed, hunger for power and corruption can be said to be the main characteristics of a Roman during the times of Julius Ceasar.

There are a few differences between Julius Caesar the play and Julius Caesar the movie. For example, in the play, Portia is overly concerned and worried about her husband’s plans. She sends Lucius to the capital and even meets up with Artemidorus who she learns knows what is going on and is planning to warn Ceasar the next day. This scene was intentionally omitted during the making of the movie. Moreover, in the book, the two opposing sides parley before the beginning of the war but this is not shown in the movie. The makers of the movie modified this part so that Antony and his partner attack and find Brutus and Cuassius unawares which was not the case. The movie also insinuates that Cuassius and Brutus died on the same day while in the book there is a difference of one day.

In the book, Lucilius pretends to be Brutus during the battle to give him an opportunity to escape. However, this scene is also omitted in the movie. There is also no mention whatsoever that Octavius takes Messela and Lucilius as his prisoners although it happens in the book. The major difference perhaps occurs in the scene where Cuassius commits suicide. In the book, Cuassius states that the death of Caesar has been avenged with the same sword that killed him. However, this too was omitted in the movie. The reason this difference is significant is because it shows the power Caesar holds even in his death.

The biggest mistake Brutus made in the play was to live Antony with the masses and Caesar’s body. This was despite a warning from Cuassius. Brutus does not seem to realize that masses are easily swayed can change their opinions in a split second. If I was his adviser, I would have read him a passage from Machiavelli’s discourses called ‘the people are more constant and wiser then the princes”. In the passage, Machiavelli begins by saying that throughout history, the masses have shown to be inconstant and uncertain. At one point, they will condemn a man to death and in an instant regret their decision and wish him back (Adams, 107). This is exactly what happens in the poem, at some point the people applaud Brutus killing Ceasar and even want to crown him king but when Antony reminds them of the good deeds of Ceasar, they view Brutus as an enemy. If Brutus could have stopped Antony from addressing the masses he would have been crowned king.

The second passage I would read to him the passage “cunning and deceit will serve a man better than force in rising from a base condition to great fortune.” (Adams, 112). This is because Brutus seems naïve to me. He does not question other people’s motives. For example, he does not question what is in it for Cuassius when he proposes that they kill Caesar. He does not also question the originality of the letters he finds in his house. He innocently believes that they are from the common citizens. Despite warnings from Cuassius, he still allows Antony to speak to the crowd. He does not realize that men harbor ill motives disguised in good will. This passage perhaps would have helped him open his eyes and be more cautious.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar”. Retrieved from

Adams, M Robert. “Nicolo Machiavelli: The Prince.” New York: Orton and Company. Retrieved from

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