The Leadership of Caius Cassius
Ruling over the Roman Empire from 60 B.C. to the time of his death in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar is one of the most widely recognized historical figures of all time. His legacy was immortalized through the writing of William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, which centers around the group that organized to assassinate him. Leadership is a heavy theme, especially revolving around Brutus and Cassius, who conspire and eventually kill Caesar, and Marc Antony, who remains loyal to Caesar by making enemies of the conspirators. Cassius is shown to be more fit to lead Rome than Brutus and Antony because he remains strength in his beliefs while convincing others of them, yet he is not a power-hungry dictator.
Cassius’ leadership skills are shown throughout the play in his obligation to kill Caesar for the people of Rome and his ability to persuade Brutus to join the conspiracy. Cassius’ goal throughout the play is to assassinate Caesar, in hopes that his death will protect Rome from harmful tyranny. He will stop at no point to save the Romans, no matter the risk his actions suggest. Cassius says, “Why, men, he doth bestride the narrow world / Like a Colossus, and we petty men / Walk under his huge legs and peep about / To find ourselves dishonorable graves” (i.ii.142-145). Cassius’ words demonstrate that he does not believe in tyrannical ruling, and that as a citizen under Caesar’s rule he understands what it is like to feel like a powerless sheep. His decision to kill Caesar shows not only that he will not be a tyrannical leader, but that he is willing to take action when needed. When Cassius acts, it is always for the well-being of Rome. In order to achieve his ultimate goal, Cassius realizes that he must recruit Brutus to his group. Brutus is very close to Caesar, but is loyal to him, so Cassius devises a special plan to convince him. He sends anonymous letters to Brutus’ home, one of which reading, “Shall Rome stand under one man’s awe? What, Rome? / My ancestors did from the streets of Rome / The Tarquin drive, when he was call’d a king” (ii.i.54-57). Cassius, as leader of the conspiracy, knows what is best for the group in his acquisition of Brutus. Though his crafty, manipulative way of doing so may make him seem antagonistic, it also demonstrates his excellent way with words and his maintaining of his beliefs. The strength he shows in this plan proves that he is more than fit to rule Rome. Through his strong beliefs and abilities, Cassius is represented as a strong leadership type.
Brutus shows to be a weaker leader than Cassius as he is easily persuaded to kill his good friend and to allow Antony, an enemy, to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Brutus is personally very close to Caesar, as his friend rather than his ruler. He is fairly loyal to Caesar until Cassius first attempts to convince him to conspire against him. Despite his friendship, he believes everything Cassius says and agrees to kill him. Antony says, speaking of Brutus, “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” (iii.ii.193-185). Brutus, near the beginning, thinks nothing negatively of Caesar whatsoever. But as soon as Cassius suggests that Caesar is dangerous, Brutus begins to believe him. Since he is convinced so easily to believe negatively about Caesar, it proves that Brutus as a character is disloyal and weak, as he does not possess the strength to defend his friend Caesar. After Caesar’s death, his loyal friend Antony is outraged at the conspirators and wishes to share his anger in a speech at Caesar’s funeral. Despite Cassius’ warnings that this will only end in disaster, Brutus single handedly allows Antony to speak. Brutus says, “You shall speak / In the same pulpit whereto I am going, / After my speech is ended” (iii.i.274-276). Cassius has carefully thought through what would occur if Antony were to speak, and strongly advises Brutus against it. Despite this, Brutus acts upon his own accord and allows him to give a short speech. He lets Antony convince him of something that directly contradicts what he believes, and in doing so shows another example of weakness in his character. Brutus’ leadership skills are severely lacking in that he does not stand up for his own beliefs whatsoever, showing his weakness as a character
Antony as well does not possess leadership qualities like Cassius’ because he idolizes Caesar and his power. Antony is Caesar’s most loyal friend throughout the play, showing this by obeying his every word and showing a manner of respect that almost suggests that he believes Caesar to be a god and have similar authority. He says, “I shall remember: / When Caesar says ‘do this’, it is perform’d” (i.ii.12-13). The conspirators formed in order to prevent Caesar from being an all-powerful dictator, as they believed this would lead to a downfall in Rome. However, Antony does not share this view, as he says that Caesar’s commands should always be followed. He idolizes Caesar’s power, suggesting that if he were leader, he would follow a similar philosophy. In the last two acts of the play, Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus rule Rome as a triumvirate. However, Antony mentions to Octavius that he wishes to have Lepidus out of the picture so that he and Octavius may become more powerful. Antony says, “Listen great things: – Brutus and Cassius / Are levying powers; we must straight make head: / Therefore let our alliance be combined / Our best friends made our means stretch’d / And let us presently go sit in council” (iv.i.45-49). Antony is a part of Rome’s triumvirate, at the time possibly the highest level of power acquirable. Yet, he is not satisfied with it. He is willing to destroy Lepidus in order for him and Octavius to gain even more power. Through this desire, Antony shows he is no less than a power hungry dictator. Because of Antony’s wishes for strong power over the people of Rome, he does not possess the qualities necessary to rule.
Shakespeare’s theme of leadership throughout Julius Caesar is one that still applies nearly 500 years later. Shakespeare gives audiences three examples of leadership – Cassius, a strong, good-willed leader, Brutus, a weak and inconsistent leader, and Antony, a dangerous, dictatorial leader. He shows that leaders should possess qualities much like that of Cassius – maintain strength in their beliefs, but act for the well being of their people. Julius Caesar is a prime example of the idea that literary if themes are applied to modern life, the world may be a better place.
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