The Public and Private Life

In William’’ Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” there is a conflict in the characters public and private lives. The major characters, Julius Caesar, Brutus, Cassius and Antony, all experienced these conflicts. All actions these characters perform represent conflicts between the benefit of Rome and their own sense of honor, emotions and love for each other. Caesar is trying to form a new political system in Rome called dictatorship. Even though he has the ambition to become the emperor of Rome, he understands it is not the right moment to do so. He refuses the crown in front of the public and he cannot hide his big desire of being a king. His ambition has been shown through his actions. Although his refusals have earned him the public’s adoration, Cassius and Casca are disgusted by the spectacle. Casca reports that the “rabblement hooted . . . when Caesar refused the crown” (1, ii, 254-258). The conspirators who decide to stand up against him have caught his personal ambition.

Even though Calpurnia’s dream about the beast providing an omen to warn Caesar, “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes”(2, ii, 30-33) she tries to convince him to stay home by the beliefs in their time that her prediction would come true. He still doesn’t listen to his wife and refuses to stay home. Calpurnia didn’t give up and tried to warn him several times. He was almost getting convinced but when Decius comes and says, ” Senate have concluded to give…crown”(2 ii 93-94). Decius manipulates Caesar in saying that so he decides to go. Caesar’s public self takes priority to push him to go. Also, his decision to take care of public first keeps him from reading Artemidorus’s letter. Because of his act of putting the public interests first that made him deal with real consequences afterwards. At the end, Caesar’s last word is “Et Tu Brute?”(3, i, 84-85). Because he realizes that he has shown his ambition too much. Ignoring his private sentiments to follow public concerns brings Caesar to his death. Brutus shows that his personal life is not as important as Rome by not telling about the conspirators to his wife Portia.

She suffers because of his actions. Portia says, “and could it work so much upon your shape as it hath much prevailed on your condition, I should not know you, Brutus” (2, i, 273-75). She claims that his behavior is strange and he has been acting bizarre. So she begs to know his secret but he decides to keep that secret. He believes that he has to act on the people’s will -“shall Rome stand under one man’s awe”(2, i, 54-55). He goes ahead with the murder of Caesar, despite their close friendship -“Not that I love Caesar less, but I love Rome more”(3, ii, 19-20). Brutus puts aside his personal loyalties and personal thoughts of Caesar. He acts on what he believes to be the public’s wishes and kills Caesar. Brutus puts himself in danger by believing that his public self is important than his private will. After Caesar’s assassination, Brutus believes they are “sacrifice’s, not butchers”(2, i, 171-177), so his self-morals impel him to give up his private self again.

He shows mercy to Antony and allows him to do the funeral oration. Ironically, by killing Caesar, Brutus had a visit from Caesar’s spirit as he takes the lead of conspirators and Cassius. At the end, Brutus chooses to die honorably, sacrificing himself to reconcile his public and private lives. Not only Brutus cannot balance his public and private life but also Cassius cannot. Cassius lacks all sense of personal life and his motivations are based on his envy and jealousy. He allows Brutus the leadership of the group and that is a big mistake. Especially when Brutus decides to not think of Mark Antony with the funeral oration, that he is allowed to make. Brutus let Antony do that he makes the entire city be against the conspirators. Cassius has so much admiration and respect to Brutus that he concedes Brutus to the military strategy in marching along to meet the army Antony and Octavius during the Philippi war. Even if Cassius is smarter and more observant, he has to sacrifice his principles and compromise “with your will, go on”(4, iii, 220) as he is unable to challenge the authority and moral rights of Brutus.

Antony is the only one who can adjust his public and private selves perfectly. However, Mark Antony admires Brutus personally and praises him as “the noblest Roman of them all”(5, V, 73). He fights against Brutus to revenge Caesar’s death. Antony chooses to give up his public life, like his loyalty for Caesar. Antony is the only one who deserves the success because even though he admires Brutus he shows no hesitations on which side he wants to stay. The tragedies that occurred with the characters resulted in disaster because they refused to balance their both private and public feelings in favor of what they believed to be the public good. The apparent experiment of attempting to mix their private and public lives does not bring them any favor because they cannot adjust to a new way of life.

Caesar’s ambition took over him, leaving his wife, Calpurnia, who dreamt about his murder, in distress as she finds the news of his downfall to happen because his public persona lead him to his death. Caesar did not suffer his demise alone as Brutus falls from great heights as well when he refuses to tell the secret to his wife, Portia, when she begs him to tell her. He pushes aside his personal loyalties and decides to kill Caesar. However, Brutus and Caesars’ altering lifestyles seems to be no matter for Cassius as he has no private life but still refuses to admit his own sensibilities. Moreover, Antony didn’t suffer a downfall because he knew how to balance separate both his public and private life.