The Pride of Shakespeare's Brutus - The Pride of Shakespeare's Brutus EXPLORING Shakespeare 2003 Lexile Measure 1130L COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Full Text In

The Pride of Shakespeare's Brutus - The Pride of...

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The Pride of Shakespeare's Brutus EXPLORING Shakespeare. 2003. Lexile Measure: 1130L. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Full Text: In the following essay, Rackin discusses the idealistic nature of Brutus's character, showing how this leads him to misconstrue the Roman commonwealth. The pride of Shakespeare's Caesar, rising to a climax just before his assassination, is one of the few undebated features of the play, and most commentators note that the hubris blatantly displayed in Caesar's last few speeches helps the audience to accept the assassination. The pride of Shakespeare's Brutus, no less important to the emotional and ideological structure of the play, is much less obvious, partly because Brutus' pride is much more subtle than Caesar's and partly because it is defined in terms of ethical and political ideas which have lost some of their currency. Contemplating the assassination, Brutus invokes the familiar Elizabethan analogy between the body politic and the body natural. In so doing he invokes the symbolic framework which establishes the relationships among the diverse issues and actions of the play and provides, in this case, an implicit refutation of the position he is about to take. For Brutus' political miscalculations, rather than being the almost inexplicable mistakes of a supremely virtuous character, are the manifestations of a clearly defined moral failing. Brutus, of course, misses the point of his analogy. Sensible of the hideousness of the "Insurrection" within the "little Kingdome" to which he likens himself, he does not go on to deduce, as he might be expected to, that "Rebels [ought] by the Justice of the law to be suppressed, even as the perturbations of the mind must be subdued by reason." Throughout the play, Brutus reiterates his faith that the passions must be subdued by reason, but this is the only point where he even uses the familiar analogy between passions and populace, reason and monarch. And at no point does he draw from it the implications that would have been automatic for Shakespeare's audience. Antony, in his soliloquy over the still-bleeding corpse of Caesar (III, i, 284ff.), invokes the analogy in the familiar terms of Shakespeare's English history plays, and it is the analogy, with its implications, that governs his vision of the state. It is significant, I think, that Antony speaks in terms of Italy and not of Rome and that his prophecy of destruction, like the Bishop of Carlisle's in Richard II (IV, i, 137-150), involves a perception of supernatural truth: in each instance, the envisioned curse does come to pass, and in each instance, the curse is evidence of the supernatural implications of political actions. The analogy, in Antony's version, points upwards as well as downwards: if disorder in the state has a corollary in the perturbation in an individual
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man, it also implies a disruption in the tide of times itself. To Antony, Caesar is a "Monarke" and the "foule deede" of his murder "shall smell above the earth." The cosmic eruptions in I, iii seem to confirm his view.
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