Revenge in Julius Caesar
Revenge. Revenge causes one to act blindly without reason. It is based on the principle of an eye for an eye, however this principle is not always a justified one to follow. In Julius Caesar, Antony seeks to avenge the death of Caesar. Antony acts on emotion which leads to the demise of Brutus, who is a noble man that does not deserve to be killed. Revenge is a central theme within Julius Caesar. This is demonstrated through Antonys desire to avenge Caesars death, and also the return of Julius Caesars ghost. Revenge is again exemplified through the violent course of action, which is taken by the Plebeians in an attempt to seek justice for the assassination of their Roman superior.
The theme of revenge is evident when Antony demonstrates a desire to avenge Caesars death. After Caesars death, Antony swears to take revenge on those who murdered Caesar,
And Caesars spirit, ranging for revenge,
With ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarchs voice
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial. (Act 3, SC.1, 270-275)
This speech is very graphic in nature. Antony describes the upcoming battle as “the dogs of war”. Dogs are often depicted in a violent way, which shows that Antony would like to take revenge in a similar violent manner as well. He uses words such as “havoc and “hell”. This causes the speech to be dramatic and harsh which demonstrates his rage for revenge. Due to the theme of revenge, he desires to avenge Caesar’s death, and this leads to the murder of the conspirators.
Revenge is also apparent when Antony organizes an army to defeat the conspirators and brings them to justice. Since revenge is a central theme, Antony uses much effort into organizing the army which will defeat Brutus. He must not only act in front of Brutus so that Brutus will let him make his oration at Caesars funeral, but he also has to use much effort into composing his oration. When discussing which one of the conspirators should die, Antony suggests that his own brother Publius should also die,
These many then shall die; their names are porickd.
Your brother too much die;
He shall not live… (Act 4, SC.1, 1-6)
Due to Antonys agreement upon his brothers punishment, it is again evident that revenge is a central theme within the play. His rage for Caesars death is so great that he takes no mercy on the conspirators, even if one of them happens to be his brother. However, not only does Antony desire to avenge Caesars death, but Caesar himself is also desperate for revenge.
The return of Caesars ghost is yet another event in the play that demonstrates revenge. Caesars desire to take revenge upon Brutus is shown when his ghost describes Brutus as “Thy evil spirit, Brutus.” (Act 4, Sc.3, 281). His sense of revenge is the reason for his ghosts return and its encounter with Brutus,
How ill this taper burns! Ha! Who comes here?
I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
That shapes this monstrous apparition.
It comes upon me. Art thou any thing?
Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil,
That makst my blood cold, and my hair to stare?
Speak to me what thou art. (Act 4, SC.3, 274-280)
As a result of revenge, he returns in the form of a ghost and foreshadows the inevitable price Brutus must pay for his actions, which is death. It is Caesars deep motive for revenge that keeps his own ghost from rest, and Caesars ghost will not do so until his death is avenged.
Caesars ghost symbolizes Brutus inner belief that his end is near; meaning vengeance will take its course. Hence, Caesars ghost acts as a symbol of revenge. Brutus is so filled with guilt that the mere site of Caesars ghost overwhelms him with a sense of foreshadowing and death. This fear is revenge by itself. This is clearly shown when Brutus admits to Volumnius that he predicts his death is coming because of the encounter he has with Caesars ghost,
Why, this, Volumnius:
The ghost of Caesar hath appeard to me
Two several times by night: at Sardis once,
And this last night, here in Philippi fields.
I know my hour is come. (Act 5, SC.5, 17-20)
By virtue of revenge, Brutus believes that he is going to end up dying. The theme of revenge is thoroughly evident in many characters within the play such as Brutus, Caesar and Antony, and the Plebeians.
The theme of revenge is once again apparent when the Plebeians attempt to seek justice for Caesars death. After Antonys oration, the Plebeians feel that Brutus and his followers are dishonorable traitors who must be put to death,
Methinks there is much reason in his saying.
If thus consider rightly of the matter,
Caesar has had great wrong.
Maked ye his words? He would not take the crown;
Therefore tis certain he was not ambitious.
We will be revenged. (Act3, SC.2, 106-201)
The Plebeians learn from Antonys oration that Caesar is a noble man. They acquire a greater amount of respect towards Julius Caesar after Antonys oration causing them to immediately thirst for vengeance. On account of their desire for revenge, the Plebeians would like to resolve the problem violently,
Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
Let not a single traitor live. (Act 3, Sc.2, 202-203)
Violence is the means the Plebeians use to seek vengeance for the death of Julius Cesar. Since the revenge for Caesar is such an important event, the Plebeians have to take it violently.
As a result of the Plebeians desire for revenge, they elect Antony as the new king instead of Brutus. Electing Antony instead of Brutus is a form of revenge on him because he desperately wants to be king. Furthermore, Antony is a better choice to the Plebeians because he best represents Caesar. They choose Antony because of his visible loyalty to Caesar. This loyalty is so strong that others are able to see it,
And for Mark Antony, think not of him;
For he can do no more than Caesars arm
When Caesars head is off.
Yet I fear him;
For the ingrafted love he bears to Caesar (Act 2, Sc. 1, 181-184)
The Plebeians would like to take revenge on Brutus by not giving him what he wants and as a result they choose Antony. In order to kill Brutus and the conspirators, they must elect Antony so that he may organize an army to destroy them. Electing Antony is indeed a choice that is made by the Plebeians because of revenge.
Revenge is a central theme that exists in many of the Shakespearean plays, and indeed it plays an important role in Julius Caesar as well. Revenge causes Antony to act on emotion, which results in the tragic death of Brutus. The theme of revenge is exemplified in many of the events in the play; Antonys desire to avenge Caesar death, the return of Caesars ghost, and the battle between the Plebeians and the conspirators. The sense of revenge exists in every human being. It not only can cause one to act blindly without reason, but can also bring endless tragedies similar to William Shakespeares Julius Caesar.