Conflicting Perspectives

As Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once suggested “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth”; embodying the notion that conflicting perspectives are held by different people towards both events and individuals. I believe that this common idea is held true in William Shakespeare’s production ‘Julius Caesar’, discussing the conflict between Brutus, Cassius and Antony, Richard Glover’s Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Take a Moment to Mourn the Mainstream’, debating against the depreciation of the respect over radio stations between generations, and Frank Capra’s classic film ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’, which expresses the triumph of American ideals through the conflicting morals of Senator Jefferson Smith and Joseph Paine. In each we see how the respective composers have used main protagonists as well as various literary and cinematic devices to express the theme of conflicting perspectives and influence the audience’s reception.

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During the initial scenes of his play, Shakespeare clearly outlines the distinct conflict of perspectives held by his main protagonists; Antony and Cassius regarding Caesar. Shakespeare’s representation of Antony incorporates that of a humble, loyal and devoted disciple of Caesar; embodied in his vow “When Caesar says, ‘Do this’, it is performed.” Antony’s obedient tone, linked with the concise manner in which he replies to Caesar, captures the utter willingness to serve “Caesar, (his) lord.” In contrast, Shakespeare exhibits Cassius’ bitterness and envy of Caesar as he influences Brutus’ inner confusion to the viewpoint he considers correct. Cassius provides an analogy further encouraging the traitorous desires; “he doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs.” Here Cassius employs a sarcastic tone to aggressively attack Caesar’s authority as a leader, “such a feeble temper should so get the start of the majestic world.”

Following the assassination of Caesar, differing perspectives arise when these two protagonists present speeches to the “plebeians” of Rome in Act 3 Scene 2. Brutus’ natural, humble tone both calms and directs the crowd to
believe Caesar’s death was for The good of Rome; “Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than Caesar were dead, to live all freemen?” With the use of a rhetorical question and repetition in his words, such as “valiant”, “honour” and “Caesar the ambitious”, Brutus is able to influence and manipulate the plebeians to what he considers the correct viewpoint; “let Brutus be Caesar!” In sheer contrast, Antony uses sarcastic, derogatory terms against Brutus to allow the crowd to truly question Brutus’ ‘honour’ and ‘nobility.’ “Caesar was my friend, faithful and just to me, but Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus was an honourable man.” Antony’s repetition of “Brutus was an honourable man” forms into sarcasm, thus influencing the crowd to disregard Brutus’ morality and entrust that Cassius deems the truthful perspective of Caesar.

Relatedly, Richard Glover’s article written November 2nd, 2013 ‘Take a Moment to Mourn the Mainstream’ demonstrates the differing perspectives of audiences appreciating radio broadcasting over time. As stated by Glover, who himself is the protagonist as he is a radio presenter, listeners would tolerate willingly any radio station aired at the time; “Adults would endure a program designed for 12-year-olds.” Now, as a result of the growing social media; “There is a need to instantly inform the broadcaster of their song decision.” Glover’s repetition of “outrage” and “annoyance”, provides us with a strong observation of his view on the matter and what he sees to be the correct opinion, whilst coherently outlining the immense change in perspective of a common audience’s viewpoint on radio stations over the years resulting from social media, which is comparable to Antony’s speech.

The protagonist Brutus and his association with honour stands a key notion in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’. After the assassination of Caesar, conflicting perspectives arise when Brutus suspects that Cassius has been dishonourable by taking bribes, “Cassius, you yourself/ are much condemned to have an itching palm.” In response Cassius retorts “I an itching palm?”, with an exclamatory tone, provoking a fight. Through the use of emotive language and sickness imagery, such as “corruption”, “bleed”, and “contaminate”, Brutus spells out his contempt towards such poor principles and his powerful closing lines “I had rather be a dog and bay the moon/ than such a Roman” cement this stance on the matter, whilst stating that he considers that his view on honour is the truthful viewpoint.

Comparably, the related text of Frank Capra’s 1939 film ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ effectively represents the conflicting values of corruption and honour. Capra’s protagonist; the amateur senator ‘Jefferson Smith’ rises to express his knowledge that the scheme of a Deficiency Bill for a dam is fraudulent and that various corrupt congressmen are attempting to use it for their own profit; “A man who controls a political machine, a Mr. James Taylor, was powerful enough to buy men and put them in this congress to legislate his graft!” Through the use of an honest, pleading tone and low angle shots, Capra successfully provides Smith with a dominant and commanding image, captivating and entertaining his audience whilst showing that his perspective was truly the correct one. Evidently, Senator Joseph Paine attempts to prevent Smith from exposing the truth and abolishing his reputation numerous times. Capra has manipulated the light to give his glasses a white gleam, providing the antagonist with a spiteful frontage. Paine finally embraces an accusative tone and boldly declares that Senator Smith has “told lie upon lie… and now, he is trying to blackmail this Senate as he tried to blackmail me!” before he ultimately storms off in rage.

In Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, Frank Capra’s ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and Richard Glover’s ‘Take a Moment to Mourn the Mainstream’, each composer has uniquely represented the theme of conflicting perspectives by drawing upon devices specific to their textual form. These texts also hold the topic statement true, as protagonists do believe their own viewpoint is correct.

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