In the play “Julius Caesar”, Shakespeare displays his characters as being manipulative and persuasive. This is illustrated in various parts of the play, such as at the beginning when Brutus was manipulated by Cassius, and then again when Antony manipulated the Roman citizens.
Shakespeare first introduces the technique of manipulation and persuasion at the beginning of the play through the character of Cassius. Cassius had sinful plans in his mind and needed others to join this conspiracy against Julius Caesar.
Cassius knew that Brutus had a low self esteem and by boosting his confidence he knew that he could convince Brutus to side with him. Cassius then brings the good of Rome to Brutus’ attention knowing that Brutus always wanted to do what was best for the people. This allows Cassius to manipulate Brutus into joining the conspiracy because he speaks very poorly of Caesar and tells him that it is for the good of the Roman citizens if Caesar was not the ruler.
This was affective because Cassius was well aware that having someone like Brutus, a friend that Caesar had great respect toward, would have many benefits in his conspiracy against Caesar. Cassius says “For who so firm that cannot be seduced? Caesar doth bear me hard; but he loves Brutus : If I were Brutus now and he were Cassius, he should not humor me.” Shakespeare shows that Cassius wanted to kill Caesar because of personal greed but purposely made Brutus think he was only doing this for the good of the people. If Cassius had not persuaded Brutus to join the conspiracy then Brutus would have never been in the situation of having to kill the noble Julius Caesar.
A form of persuasion that Shakespear uses in this play is with Portia, the wife of Brutus, and Calpurnia, the wife of Caesar. Both women in this play knew how to use their womanly features to their benefit. Portia used her love for her husband and her beauty, towards Brutus to get the information she wanted. She wanted to know what Brutus was doing because she worried. She made Brutus feel guilty by questioning his love for her, this caused him to agree that he would tell her what was he was about to do. Calpurnia also used her love and devotion for her husband to get what she wanted. She feared for Caesar’s life because of the disturbing dreams she had the night before. She persuaded him to stay home from the capitol that day because of these dreams.
Portia and Calpurnia could have changed the whole play if their ways of persuasion had only worked. If Caesar listened to Calpurnia’s superstitions then he would not have been killed in the capitol that day. If Brutus had told Portia what he was about to do then she may have some way talked him out of making this mistake. This helped create suspense.
The reason that the persuasion of Calpurnia did not work is because Decius showed up. Decius manipulated Caesar into going to the capitol and convinced Caesar that the dream that Calpurnia had was a good sign and not to take it as a warning.
After the death of Caesar Brutus tries to manipulate the crowd into believing his reason to why he killed Caesar. Brutus tells the crowd that he did not do it for personal greed but he committed this murder for the good of them. He says; “Not that I loved Caesar less, but I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all freeman?” Brutus appealed to logic and reason, as he tried to get the citizens to understand why he killed Caesar. He wanted to make sure that the people knew he did this for them and it was for the better in the long run.
This was only affective until it was Antony’s turn to speak. he appealed to the emotions of the citizens instead of ‘tricking’ them into believing what he wanted. Antony implied that what the conspirators had done was wrong. He constantly called them honorable men and finally the crowd pick up on his use of sarcasm. He says to the people; “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 honorable men: I will not do them wrong; I rather choose to wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, than I will wrong such honorable men.” Antony let the brighter side of Caesar shine through to the crowd, by visual effects. Antony took out the will and let the roman citizens know what their former ruler had left them.
The final way that Antony manipulated the roman citizens was by showing them Caesar’s robe, he showed the holes from the knives that the conspirators put through. This touched the hearts of the people and completely changed their views of who was right. Antony made sure that the people knew how much the stab from Brutus hurt Caesar not only physically but emotionally where Brutus was a friend to Caesar and it came as a surprise that he would turn his back on him. We knew this because Caesar says “Eu tu Brute, Then fall Caesar.” Antony’s speech was more effective than Brutus’ because he reached the hearts of the people and not just their minds. Shakespeare developed Antony as being a very wise character because Antony knew that the people would side with him in the end and he never had to do anything that Brutus said he couldn’t.
As proved in the previous paragraphs, Julius Caesar is a play full of manipulation and persuasion. Not all characters are motivated by personal greed however many were. If each example of manipulation or persuasion hadn’t occurred the outcome of this play would be changed. If Brutus had not been manipulated into joining the conspiracy against Caesar he would never thought of killing Caesar, if Caesar had listened to his wife’s suspicions then he wouldn’t have been killed in the capitol that day, and finally if Antony had not manipulated the Roman citizens into turning against Brutus then they would have remain satisfied with Caesar being dead. Everything in this play happened for a reason, some to create suspense, others to create foreshadowing, and Shakespeare develops both very well. The manipulation and persuasion of the characters is what makes the play interesting and fun to read.
Courtney from Study Moose
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