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Shakespeare Quarterly, Volume 66, Number 3, Fall 2015, pp. 286-307


(Article)
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DOI: 10.1353/shq.2015.0045

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/shq/summary/v066/66.3.styrt.html

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Continuall Factions:
Politics, Friendship, and History in Julius Caesar
P H I L I P G O L D FA R B S T Y R T
I L L I A M S H A K E S P E A R E S J U L I U S C A E S A R is set in Rome at the time
of Julius Caesar. Put so directly, this seems obvious, even tautological.
But I suggest that this basic fact has broad implications. By writing a play about
Julius Caesar set in Caesarean Rome, Shakespeare ensured that his audience
would bring with them certain preconceptions and understandings of the situation surrounding the plays eventspreconceptions and understandings he
used in shaping the drama and its effects.
In particular, I suggest, Shakespeare drew on his audiences understanding of
the political structure of Rome around the time of Caesar. Warped by the
events of the civil wars in the generation before Caesars rise to power, the
Roman political structure had turned away from the individualized politics of
the early Republic that Shakespeare would later dramatize in Coriolanuswith
its emphasis on the individual senator and his opinionstoward a kind of
institutionalized factionalism in which the workings of the state were dependent on developed, well-known political associations. The leaders of these factions controlled access to power and authority, although they themselves might
or might not hold major political office at any given time. Political infighting,
which often took the form of actual military combat, was between factions, not
individuals. The interplay of these factions was a major part of the early modern
English understanding of the Roman civil wars, and, as I will show, Julius Caesar
assumes this political situation as the basis for its exploration of Caesars Rome.
In particular, I argue that the play identifies Caesar and his allies with a specific
faction ultimately derived from Marius that was opposed to another faction
ultimately derived from Sulla.1 Politics in Julius Caesar is not merely a matter of
individual interactions but of the interplay between the factions with which
individuals are associated. These factions are clearly identified in the play by the
word friend. Used primarily in a political sense, friend becomes largely
divorced from its affective meaning, which is displaced onto the word lover.
This distinction between friends and lovers makes plain the difference between

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was often referred to as Sylla or Silla in the early modern period;
I will refer to him as Sulla except where quoting from an early modern source.

CONTINUALL FACTIONS

287

personal connection and political affiliation and provides a clear window into
the factional politics of the play.
These factional politics are best understood in conjunction with early
modern English accounts of Caesars timeboth Shakespeares direct narrative
sources and others circulating in the same literary culture. The consistent
emphasis in these accounts on the importance of factions to the period and on
their specific composition helps us to identify the ways in which Shakespeares
play highlights factionalism for its audience. The primary direct source for Julius
Caesar is Thomas Norths translation of Plutarchs Lives of the Noble Grecians
and Romanes.2 Multiple Lives within Plutarchs text treat the events surrounding Shakespeares play: not only the Life of Caesar, of course, but also those of
Caius Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Marc Antony, Brutus, and Cicero.
Together, they tell a consistent story about the events of the Roman civil wars,
the importance of faction to those wars, and the nature of those factions.3
The chronology of the civil wars themselves is not my focus, so for the sake
of the following discussion I will briefly summarize the sequence of events
assumed by the relevant Lives in Plutarchs work.4 The civil wars began with the
feud between Caius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, whose factions battled
for control of Rome a generation before the events of Julius Caesar. By 80 BCE,
Sulla and his allies, including Crassus and Pompey, were victorious. They killed
Marius, his son, and many others, and drove the Marians underground. Among
those forced out of Rome at this time was Julius Caesar. After Sullas death in 78
BCE, Pompey and Crassus became dominant in Rome, dividing Sullas faction
between them in the 60s. During this period, Caesar returned to Rome and ushered in a resurgence of the Marians. Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar partitioned
Rome between their parties in the first triumvirate in 61 BCE. After Crassuss
death in 53 BCE, this arrangement fell apart, and the allies of Pompey and
Caesar began to quarrel openly. Eventually, Caesar invaded Italy from Gaul with
an army, famously crossing the Rubicon in 49 BCE, and Pompey and the majority of the senators withdrew from Rome. Pompey and Caesar led armies against
2
Vivian Thomas, Shakespeares Roman Worlds (London: Routledge, 1989), 2; and Geoffrey
Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (London: Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1964), 5:4.
3
For the commonalities between these various Lives, see C. B. R. Pelling, Plutarchs Method
of Work in the Roman Lives, The Journal of Hellenic Studies 99 (1979): 7496, esp. 75, 83.
4
Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, trans. Thomas North (London:
Thomas Vatroullier and Iohn VVright, 1579). The references for the various Lives within this
translation are as follows: Caius Marius, 45179; Sylla, 499525; Marcus Crassus, 60022;
Pompey, 678718; Julius Caesar, 76396; Marcus Tullius Cicero, 91237; Marcus Antonius,
9701010; and Marcus Brutus, 105580. Hereafter cited as North with the name of the Life
given parenthetically, when applicable.

288

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each other in the eastern Mediterranean while Pompeys sons and Caesars allies
battled in the western. Pompeys army was defeated in 48 BCE, and he fled to
Egypt, where he was killed and his head was presented to Caesar. His sons
fought on in Spain until Caesar and his army arrived to defeat them, after which
Caesar held a triumph in 45 BCE. This triumph begins Julius Caesar.
Within that narrative, which is told with minimal variations in each of the
above Lives, Norths translation of Plutarch strongly emphasizes the factional
nature of the wars. His emphasis takes two forms: he focuses on the importance
of faction in the period, and he describes the continuity of those factions
throughout the period. North uses the term faction whenever Plutarch steps
back from the details of an individual biography either to examine Rome as a
whole or to set the stage for the next part of a Life.5 In this way, he casts factions
as the basic unit of Roman political life by means of which individual moments
and lives should be understood. These factions are not only important but also
continuous, lasting long after their founders deaths. The best example of this
continuity comes from the Life of Caesar, in which Sulla responds to his advisors recommendation that he spare Julius Caesar by telling them that they did
not consider that there were many Marians in that young boy.6 Because Caesar
was Mariuss nephew, he was a potential leader of the Marians and therefore
contained many Marians; even though Marius himself was already dead, his
faction could live on through Caesar. Sullas faction likewise persisted after his
death. His lieutenants included Pompeius, Crassus, Metellus, and Seruilius, and,
as already noted, Pompey and Crassus remained in power after Sullas death,
later splitting power with Caesars Marians.7 After Crassuss death, the division
was simply between Caesar and Pompey. Although some of Crassuss followers
may have joined Caesar, the continuity remains clear between the SullaPompey and Marius-Caesar factions. In turn, Cassius and Brutus are identified
as members of Pompeys faction pardoned by Caesar after his victory, extending
the factions into the period depicted in Julius Caesar.8
Although these factions proved persistent, they were actually a new feature
of late republican Rome. The Life of Cicero notes the chaunge and alteracion of
gouernment, the which Sylla brought in.9 This chaunge is the institution of
the spoils system, whereby members of the victorious faction were rewarded
with the positions and wealth of the defeated, and the latter were excluded from
5
See North, 501 (Marius), 506, 522 (Sylla), 604 (Crassus), 685 (Pompey), 765 (Caesar), 972
(Antony), 1056 (Brutus).
6
North, 763 (Caesar).
7
North, 519 (Sylla), 604 (Crassus).
8
North, 790 (Caesar).
9
North, 917 (Cicero).

CONTINUALL FACTIONS

289

office. As North puts it, Sylla had by his ordinaunces deposed [the Marians]
from their dignities and offices in Rome.10 Shakespeares Cassius makes a reference to this sort of system when he tries to bribe Antony by giving him a voice
In the disposing of new dignities (3.1.178), which appears to have been a recognized part of the system of faction.11 In the Life of Cicero, we can see the way
that the civil wars are viewed in Norths Plutarch as a whole: as a time when factions arose and began to be entrenched in the Roman political structure.
Of course, Norths Plutarch was far from the only early modern English text
to treat the theme of factionalism during the Roman civil wars. I could, for
instance, have written this entire section by drawing on the work of just one
author, Lodowick Lloyd, who between 1590 and 1607 published five books
that touched on the Roman civil wars and the significance of faction.12 Lloyd
was an avid reader of Roman history, including Plutarch, Suetonius, and
Eutropius, as his numerous marginal and in-line citations witness.13 His perspective on the period is perhaps best summarized in The Practice of Policy:
. . . in the time of Sylla and Marius, factions began so to multiply in Rome,
as it did in Greece, that likewise it brake out into ciuill warres, which continued from Sillaes time, vnto the last ouerthrow of Mar. Antonius, welnigh
fourty yeeres, to the destruction of the whole Empire, some following the fury
of Marius, as Sertorius, Cynna, Carbo: and others followers of Sylla, as Metellus,
Pompey, and others, that none might dwell in Rome, but those that eyther
should bee on Marius side, or on Syllaes.
Thus was the Empire deuided by factions, from Sylla to Caesar, from Caesar
to Augustus, sometime running from Caesar to Pompey, and from Pompey to
Caesar, vntill they and their factions were slayn by the sword, and their countrey welnigh destroyed.14

This view is precisely what we would expect from a careful reader of Plutarch
and other ancient historians. It is also worth noting that although Lloyd names
the factions by their leaders, he does not see the existence of the factions as
dependent on the eponymous leaders. In The Stratagems of Jerusalem, he refers
10

North, 918 (Cicero).


Unless otherwise noted, all citations from the play are from Julius Caesar, ed. David
Daniell, Arden3 Series (Walton-on-Thames, UK: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998), cited
parenthetically.
12
They are Lodovvik Lloid, The consent of time (London, 1590); Lodowick Lloid, The First
part of the Diall of Daies (London, 1590); Lodowick Lloyd, The stratagems of Ierusalem
(London, 1602); Lodowike Lloyd, The practice of policy (London, 1604); and Lodowik Lloid,
The tragicocomedie of Serpents (London, 1607).
13
See among many others, Lloid, The tragicocomedie of Serpents, 16; Lloid, The consent of
time, 528; and Lloid, The First part of the Diall of Daies, 84.
14
Lloyd, The practice of policy, 35.
11

290

SHAKESPEARE QUARTERLY

to Carbo, the head and chiefe of all Marius faction, the onely enemie of Sylla,
making it clear that the Marian faction survived Mariuss death.15
Lloyd was merely the most prolific early modern English interpreter and
recapitulator of the Roman civil wars and the Caesar story. Other writers similarly engaged with these topics in translations, histories, commentaries, essays,
and advice books.16 These books cited (or failed to cite) a variety of sources,
used the Roman stories for a variety of purposes, and couched their commentary in a variety of terms. Yet two common themes run through them all, as they
do through Norths translation and Lloyds various works: the importance of
faccious dealyng in the period and the continuity of the wars from Marius and
Silla to Pompeius and Caesar and on through the Triumvirate of Octavius,
Antonius, and Lepidus, against Cassius and Brutus.17
The political world of Julius Caesar is grounded in this view of the factional
divisions of late republican Rome. In order to properly appreciate the play and
its events, we must explore the nature of the factional politics of the play and
the characters various understandings of this factionalism. In doing so, we
must see Rome as the early modern English typically understood it: not merely
without Caesar . . . a city divided, but a city divided during his life, the scene

15

Lloyd, The stratagems of Ierusalem, 263.


For translations, see T. Livivs [Livy], The Romane historie, trans. Philemon Holland
(London: Adam Islip, 1600), 124859; Suetonius, The historie of tvvelve Caesars, trans.
Philemon Holland (London: H. Lownes and G. Snowdon for Matthew Lownes, 1606), STC
23422, sigs. G4v, 15; Cornelivs Tacitvs, The annales, trans. Richard Grenewey (London: Arn.
Hatfield for Bonham and Iohn Norton, 1598), 1; Appian, An Auncient Historie and exquisite
Chronicle of the Romanes warres, trans. W. B. (London: Henrie Bynniman, 1578), STC 712.5,
158; Eutropius, A briefe chronicle, trans. Nicolas Havvard (London: Thomas Marshe, 1564),
fols. 53, 68; and [Lucan], Lvcans first booke, trans. Chr[istopher] Marlovv[e] (London: P. Short
and Walter Burre, 1600), STC 16883.5, sig. E1r. For histories see, William Fulbecke, An historicall collection of the continvall factions, tvmults, and Massacres of the Romans and Italians
(London: VVilliam Ponsonby, 1601); Richard Reynoldes, A Chronicle of all the noble Emperours
of the Romaines (London: Thomas Marshe, 1571), sig. A1v; Thomas Churchyard, A generall
rehearsall of warres, called Churchyardes choise (London: Edward White, 1579), sig. O2v; and E.
L., Romes Monarchie (London: The Widdow Orwin for Matthew Lawe, 1596), sig. G1v. For
commentaries, see Clement Edmvnds, Observations vpon the five first bookes of Caesars commentaries (London: Peter Short, 1600), 123; and Avgvstine, Of the citie of God, trans. I. H. (London:
George Eld, 1610), 36. For essays, see William Corne-waleys [Cornwallis], Essayes (London:
Edmund Mattes, 1600), sig. Cc3rv; and Thomas Digges, Foure Paradoxes (London: H.
Lownes for Clement Knight, 1604), 71. For advice books, see VV. Auerell, A Dyall for dainty
Darlings (London: Thomas Hackette, 1584), sig. B4v; Peter de la Primavdaye, The French
Academie, trans. T. B. (London: Edmund Bollisant for G. Bishop and Ralph Newbery, 1586),
217, 342, 709; and Innocent Gentillet, A discovrse vpon the meanes of vvel governing and maintaining in good peace, a kingdome, or other principalitie, trans. Simon Patericke (London: Adam
Islip, 1602), 154.
17
Churchyard, Churchyards Choise, sig. O2v; and Gentillet, Discovrse, 154.
16

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291

of the struggle between two warring noble factions.18 We must also understand the degree to which this factional division was believed to be intimately
tied to the destruction of the Roman Republic. It was no accident that the title
of William Fulbeckes history of the period yoked together continuall factions,
tumults, and massacres, or that Lloyd spoke of the civil wars continuing until
their factions were slayn by the sword, and their countrey welnigh
destroyed.19 Faction was not a positive, or even a neutral, term in early
modern England.20 It was something to be avoided, something that at its best
represented uncivil dissension and at its worst would tear a country apart. Yet
at the same time, it was also the dominant form of political organization
under Elizabeth I.21 This tension between philosophical distrust of faction and
practical experience of it would have primed Elizabethan audiences to look for
factional elements in Julius Caesar, particularly as the Roman Republic was
seen as the classic example of the dangers of faction. Factionalism was known
to be a fact of political life in the late Republic, but it was also believed to be
the root of the Republics destruction. What had been a rugged, individualistic government in the early Republic had decayed into factional decadence and
then destroyed itself.
Julius Caesar exists in this fallen, factional world. Even in the first scene, the
tribunes who break up the plebeians celebrations for Caesar remind them, and
us, of the civil wars, asking the crowd, Knew you not Pompey? (1.1.38).
Although addressed to the plebeians, the question might equally apply to the
audience, for whom a knowledge of Pompey would indeed be useful. The tribunes then reject the plebeians celebrations as inappropriate because they come
as a result not of a foreign victory but of a domestic, factional one: you now
strew flowers in his way, / That comes in triumph over Pompeys blood (ll.
5152). By extolling the memory of Pompey to the plebeians and rejecting, in
Pompeys name, Caesars celebrations, the tribunes immediately recall for us the
factional history of Rome and its relevance to the play.

18
Robert S. Miola, Shakespeares Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983), 101; and
Timothy Hampton, Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990), 211.
19
Fulbecke, An historicall collection (see n. 16 above); and Lloid, The practice of policy, 35 (see
n. 12 above).
20
For more on Shakespeares contemporaries and the use of faction, see Simon Adams,
Faction, Clientage and Party English Politics, 15501603, History Today 32.12 (1982):
3339.
21
Robert Shephard, Court Factions in Early Modern England, The Journal of Modern
History 64.4 (1992): 72145, esp. 721. For more on the tensions between the policy and practice of factionalism, see Eric S. Mallin, Emulous Factions and the Collapse of Chivalry: Troilus
and Cressida, Representations 29 (1990): 14579, esp. 14647.

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SHAKESPEARE QUARTERLY

Having brought up this factional history, Julius Caesar does not allow us to
forget it. Caesars entrance brings the appearance of harmony and triumph, but
his exit leaves Cassius and Brutus onstage. They immediately rehearse the
disharmony underlying the state, through both the content of their conversation and their refusal (like that of the tribunes) to join in the general festivities.
It is quickly clear that Cassius is already working against Caesar and awaits
Brutuss participation to continue that work in earnest. Nor does he wait
patiently, testing the waters repeatedly. By the end of the long scene, Cassius has
told the audience that he plans to push Brutus even further by delivering letters
that continue to direct Brutus toward Cassiuss opinion:
I will this night
In several hands in at his windows throw,
As if they came from several citizens,
Writings all tending to the great opinion
That Rome holds of his namewherein obscurely
Caesars ambition shall be glanced at.
(1.2.31419)

The picture we are left with is one of Cassius urging forcefully to create a conspiracy against Caesar.
Brutus is not the only target of Cassiuss intrigues. We see him bring Caska
into the fold, who begs him to Be factious for redress of all these griefs
(1.3.118)that is, to form a faction. In response, Cassius informs him that the
faction already exists:
I have moved already
Some certain of the noblest-minded Romans
To undergo with me an enterprise
Of honourable dangerous consequence.
(ll. 12124)

This is news to Caska; it is also news to the audience who has previously seen
Cassius individually recruit only Brutus and Caska. Cinnas entrance confirms
Cassiuss statement, as we suddenly discover in a few lines the other members
of the faction: Cinna, Metellus Cimber, and Decius Brutus and Trebonius
(ll. 133, 134, 148). We realize that we are not witnessing the beginning of a
conspiracy but the last stages of its formation. These previously unknown men
are the faction (2.1.77), as Brutus says, and they are joined together before we
even know it.
The opposing faction is equally predetermined. Shortly after Caesars death
in Act 3, scene 1, we see Mark Antony speak to Octavius Caesars servant;
Octavius himself arrives in Rome in the next scene. After only one intervening
scene, Antony, Octavius, and the previously unmentioned Lepidus are already

CONTINUALL FACTIONS

293

selecting who in Rome shall die (4.1.1) by proscription. Some of this sequencing is Shakespeares usual compression of time, but some of it also reflects that
these three men are clearly all members of Caesars party, a group whose existence precedes and shapes their association.22 Antony is not the leader of a new
rebellion, as Robert Miola suggests, but the leader of an already preexisting faction that has sprung into action.23 The triumvirs can move so swiftly because
they are already allies, and they step smoothly into power after Caesars death.
Brutus spared Antony because he believed him but a limb of Caesar (2.1.164).
However, it would be closer to the truth to say they were both limbs of something larger that did not die with Caesar, but lived on through Antony and his
fellow triumvirs. This is the faction of Caesar, and of Marius before him, just as
Cassiuss faction is that of Pompey and Sulla. It is no accident that Antony goes
to meet his fellow triumvirs at Caesars house (3.2.254) any more than that the
conspirators await Cassius In Pompeys Porch (1.3.126). Contrary to what
some critics have held, in this play there can be no state of uncertainty about
the precise nature of the constitutional position in Rome, no political vacuum,
except in a purely academic sense; it is clear that the fundamental political units
of Rome are the two contesting factions.24 It is from them that the fierce civil
strife (3.1.263) that Antony predicts will emerge. Their presence is palpable
throughout the play.
This division is felt in the plays language as well as in its action. Consistently,
those who share a faction are referred to as friends, while those who are linked
only by ties of affection, personal attachment, or what we would traditionally
call friendship are referred to as lovers. Two men can be both lovers and
friends, as Cassius and Brutus or Caesar and Antony are. However, the two
words represent distinct relationships. This distinction is made by all of the
characters in the play except Caesara point to which I will later return.
Shakespeares treatment of the words friend and lover corresponds to the
difference between two uses of the term friend prevalent in both early modern
England and the classical past. The first is the standard meaning that friend
still has in the modern world: a person to whom someone feels tied by bonds of
love and loyalty. This meaning was not only current in early modern England
but also common. As a generation of recent scholarship has shown, affective
friendship, especially among males, was an almost ubiquitous presence in early
22

Hugh Grady, Moral Agency and Its Problems in Julius Caesar: Political Power, Choice,
and History, in Shakespeare and Moral Agency, ed. Michael D. Bristol (London: Continuum,
2010), 1528, esp. 21.
23
Miola, Shakespeares Rome, 102.
24
Thomas, Shakespeares Roman Worlds, 69; and Alexander Leggatt, Shakespeares Political
Drama: The History Plays and the Roman Plays (London: Routledge, 1988), 140.

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modern England, where it was raised to doctrinal status and considered the
most important thing in the world.25 This emphasis was largely derived from
early modern readings of Ciceros De Amicitia (Of Friendship), a key plank in
the intellectual culture of sixteenth-century Europe, that extolled the importance of close personal friendship.26 In centering friendship on personal affective connections, then, the early modern English saw themselves as imitating the
Romans of Ciceros time, the time depicted in Julius Caesar.
But there was always another side to friendship, even for the early modern
English. This is what Tom MacFaul calls the specialized meaning in a political context of the word friend in which, stripped of its affective component,
the term simply refers to allies and supporters.27 From this denotation of
friend comes the long-standing, though now generally rejected, view that
classical friendship meant only political alliance: that the old Roman substitute for party is amicitia, friendship and that amicitia was a weapon of politics, not a sentiment based on congeniality.28 While this politically totalizing
interpretation of classical friendship is now largely discredited, it retains a
kernel of truth; even in Cicero, purely political connections have their place in
the understanding of friend.29 Shakespeare himself employs this meaning in
his earlier Roman play Titus Andronicus, especially in the first scene in which
both Bassianus and Marcus Andronicus signify political followers through
friends as well as faction.30

25

Stella Achilleos, Friendship and Good Counsel: The Discourses of Friendship and
Parrhesia in Francis Bacons The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, in Friendship in the
Middle Ages and Early Modern Age: Explorations of a Fundamental Ethical Discourse, ed.
Albrecht Classen and Marilyn Sandidge (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010), 64374, esp. 648; Laurie
Shannon, Sovereign Amity: Figures of Friendship in Shakespearean Contexts (Chicago: U of
Chicago P, 2002), 5; and Tom MacFaul, Male Friendship in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
(Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007), 1.
26
Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005),
170.
27
MacFaul, Male Friendship, 116.
28
Lily Ross Taylor, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar (Berkeley: U of California P, 1949), 7;
and Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1939), 12. Shakespeare does
not, of course, derive his definition of friendship from these much later sources, but rather
reacts in a similar manner to certain strains in the classical sources.
29
P. A. Brunt, The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1988), 381. For analysis of why amicitia must have a broader meaning, see Brunt, Roman
Republic, 35181, 443502; and David Konstan, Friendship in the Classical World (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1997), 12248.
30
Titus Andronicus, ed. Katharine Eisaman Maus, in The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the
Oxford Edition, gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 1.1.9, 18, 53,
214. Unlike Julius Caesar, however, Titus Andronicus also uses friend in its more affective
meaning.

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295

I believe it is precisely because the exclusively political resonance of friend


is so important to Julius Caesarand so rare in the periodthat the play
makes such liberal use of love and lover. The root of amicitia is, after all,
amor: love. Shakespeare displaces the affective content of friend onto lover in
order to free friend for the other, narrower use and to distinguish between the
two types of relationship. Ciceronianand early modernfriendship is not
absent from the play; it is simply called by another name. A brief examination
of the language of association in the play reveals these overlapping but distinct
uses of love or lover and friend or friendship. The conspirators are all
friends: Cassius tells Caska that Cinna is a friend (1.3.133) in order to identify him as a member of their faction, and during their meeting they are all
gentle friends (2.1.170). Even their departure is couched in friendship:
friends, disperse yourselves (l. 221). When they seek to woo Antony to their
side after the assassination, Brutus confidently claims, I know that we shall
have him well to friend (3.1.143), and Cassius plainly asks Antony, Will you
be pricked in number of our friends (l. 216). Antony appropriates this theme
and convinces the conspirators to let him speak at the funeral first by pretending that Friends am I with you all (l. 220) and then by asking to speak as
becomes a friend (l. 229)purposely leaving it ambiguous as to whether he
would do so as their friend or as Caesars.
Antonys quick adoption of this terminology may be related to his own factions use of it. When he, Octavius, and Lepidus join to attack the conspirators
after Caesars death, they agree to let our alliance be combined, / Our best
friends made (4.1.4344). Friendship and alliance are synonymous; by making
friends, the triumvirs mean rallying their faction to the cause. This manner of
speaking extends down to the foot soldiers in their army. When one of his
troops presents Antony with Lucilius, thinking him to be Brutus, Antony
assures the man that This is not Brutus, friend (5.4.26). This soldier, who has
never appeared before in the play, does not even have a name. Antony calls him
friend not because they are close but because they share a side in the factional
civil war.
The bond of affection signified by love and its attendant terms also appears
frequently in the play, occurring both between and within factions. Cassius
knows that Caesar loves Brutus (1.2.312) and that Antony has an ingrafted
love (2.1.183) for Caesar. Brutus, although he would not have Caesar become
king, insists yet I love him well (1.2.82). When trying to warn Caesar about
the conspirators, Artemidorus writes to him as Thy lover (2.3.9). In signing his
letter Thy lover rather than Thy friend, Artemidorus signals that his action
derives from admiration of Caesars virtue (l. 12). He will not benefit politically from Caesars survival, for he is not of Caesars faction. Indeed, this makes

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Artemidoruss failed effort to save Caesars life all the more tragic. In all of these
cases, it is the affective relationship that Shakespeare emphasizes, not the political. The lover bears the beloved in his heart but does not express a political
position by admitting love.
In the immediate wake of Caesars death, soon after Artemidoruss
attempted intervention, Shakespeare underscores the significance of the distinction between friendship and love in the contrasting speeches that Brutus
and Antony deliver at the funeral. Both Brutus and Antony deploy the languages of love and friendship to work the crowd, but Antony co-opts the crowd
more effectively, turning it into a mob that aligns with his faction and goes out
to destroy his political opponents. The key differences between the two
speeches occur in their respective first lines. Brutus begins Romans, countrymen and lovers (3.2.13), while Antony instead opens with Friends, Romans,
countrymen (l. 74). These lines differ in two ways: the change from lovers to
Friends and the reordering of the terms. These changes produce speeches that
point to drastically different ends.
Brutuss speech is intended to calm the crowd and to explain the conspirators actions by claiming that they acted in order to preserve and restore Rome.
Thus, he identifies his audience as Romans first, then calls them his countrymen (identifying himself as Roman too), and finally expresses his desired relation to them as a lover. When Brutus first entered the square, he called the
people friends (l. 2) because he believed that they were on his side. But when
it comes time to address them formally, he no longer speaks to their political
leanings. Instead, he wishes them to be his lovers, that is to think well of him
and to wish him well. His introduction could be said to summarize his speech;
he wants the people to excuse Caesars murder and love him (and the rest of the
conspirators) because of their identity as Romans and their belief that he too is
a Roman, acting in the best interests of Rome. He has no future plans to mobilize the people politically as friends.
Antonys speech, by contrast, is intended to convince the crowd to act on his
side against Brutus and the conspirators. He cunningly begins by assuming success, calling the people his friends before he has convinced them to be so. At this
point, the crowd has already taken Brutuss side; only Brutuss request that he be
allowed to depart alone (l. 56) and that they listen to Antony has stopped the
crowd from bring[ing] him to his house with shouts and clamours (l. 53). It is
therefore a risk for Antony to open by terming the people friends. But it is a calculated risk. He will sway them to his side in large part by treating them as if they
were already there. Only after he has claimed them as Friends does Antony go
on to Romans, countrymen, situating himself and the crowd relative to Rome
just as Brutus has. This secondary move empowers the irony of his later praise

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of Brutus and the conspirators. By initially positioning himself like Brutus,


Antony occupies ground from which he can later pass judgment on Brutus. As
with Brutuss speech, Antonys first lines are a microcosm of the whole. Yet unlike
Brutus, Antony has crammed two distinct messages into a single line.
The speeches that follow these first lines make heavy use of the distinction
between friendship and love. Brutus speaks of his love to Caesar (l. 19),
including the famous line not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome
more (ll. 2122). He promises tears, for his love [ . . .] and death, for his ambition (ll. 2728). But his only reference to friendship emphasizes that he is not
Caesars friend: If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesars, to
him I say, that Brutus love to Caesar was no less than his (ll. 1719). Here
Brutus envisions someone who is connected to Caesar in multiple sensesa
dear friend, introducing an affective term alongside the political friend. He
speaks to that man of his love for Caesar and imagines him sharing his experience of that love. But only that man, and not Brutus, can call Caesar friend.
Brutuss love cannot participate in the political sense of friendship, or else he
would not have murdered Caesar.
Martha Nussbaum claims that in this speech Brutus is suspicious of any
particularistic attachment and speaks only of a rather abstract love of country
and hatred of oppression.31 But as we have seen, Brutus speaks freely of, and
claims to participate in, both love of Caesar and love of country. Indeed, it is
crucial for him that they are not different feelings, one particular and one
abstract, but the same feeling. They are both love. Brutuss love of Rome is not
an abstract emotion, unless all love is. 32 He certainly feels it concretely, since
he kills Caesar for it. Love, as distinguished from friendship in this play, is a
question of affect, of Brutuss own emotional state, and by this measure the
force of Brutuss love for Rome cannot be denied.
In conveying this love of Rome, Brutus emphasizes an aspect of love that
makes it fundamentally distinct from friendship: its comparability. Political
friendship is binary; one man is or is not anothers friend. Love, however, exists in
degrees. Brutus tells his hypothetical dear friend of Caesars that Brutus love to
Caesar was no less than his and justifies himself by explaining not that I loved
Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. In this moment, the ability to compare
loves turns into the necessity of ranking them because loves inevitably come into
conflict. By contrast, friendship, representing factional affiliation, not only cannot
31
Martha C. Nussbaum, Romans, Countrymen, and Lovers: Political Love and the Rule of
Law in Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare and the Law: A Conversation among Disciplines and
Professions, ed. Bradin Cormack, Martha C. Nussbaum, and Richard Strier (Chicago: U of
Chicago P, 2013), 25681, esp. 256, 262.
32
Nussbaum, Romans, Countrymen, and Lovers, 257.

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be compared because it is either present or absent, but also need not be compared
because ones friends are also friends with each other due to the nature of faction.
Brutuss love for Caesar, while no less than that of the dearest of friends, is an
insufficient guard for Caesars life because it must compete with Brutuss love for
Rome. Friendship would have brought Caesar safety from Brutus; love brings
only tearsand death. Antony will echo this thought when he shows the
people the hole that the well-beloved Brutus (l. 174) made in Caesars breast.
Like Brutus, Antony underscores his love of Caesar, but unlike Brutus he
combines that love with an emphasis on political friendship that quickly
becomes his primary focus. He says that Caesar was my friend, faithful and just
to me (l. 86) and calls himself one That love[s] my friend (l. 212), in both
cases joining his affective connection to Caesar with his political one. He repeatedly invokes love, but only love for Caesar, reminding the people that You all
did love him once (l. 103) and telling them that Caesar thus deserved your
loves (l. 229). He structures his own relation to the people around friendship,
not love; the people loved Caesar, but they will be Antonys gentle friends,
Good friends, sweet friends, and friends (ll. 141, 203, 228). The repeated
word stresses the relation between Caesar, Antony, and the crowd that Antony
wants them to have in mind: that their love for Caesar should motivate them to
be Antonys friends. They are brought into his faction, made not bondsmen to
Antonys political tyranny33 but partners in his political future.
Antony refers to the plebeians as friends four times in his speech. We have
already examined the first line in which he employs friends proleptically, conditioning his audience to think of themselves in that way. The other three occasions are equally meaningful and work together to bring the plebeians to the
fever pitch of riot they reach at the end of Antonys speech. The second use
appears in the context of Caesars will when Antony refuses to read it and calls
the people gentle friends. The third instance occurs after he shows them
Caesars wounds, and, like his first use of friends, the word is yoked with a reference to the people as countrymen. He asks them to Stay, countrymen (l.
200) before calling them Good friends, sweet friends. The fourth example
combines both of these approaches. He bids the audience to hear me, countrymen (l. 226) before switching to friends and proceeding to read the will.
Through this process, Antony connects his friendship with the plebeians to two
powerful emotional triggers: their Roman identities and their love of Caesar.
The will itself brings these two triggers together, as Caesar has deserved your
loves by making every Roman citizen (l. 234) his heir. By carefully connecting
33

Thomas Betteridge, Shakespearean Fantasy and Politics (Hatfield, UK: U of Hertfordshire


P, 2005), 119.

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299

their friendship with him to both their Roman identity and their love of Caesar,
Antony is able to ensure that when the plebeians finally erupt into violence they
do so not only as Caesars avengers but also as Antonys partisans.
Before we turn to the civil war that follows Antonys speech, we must consider further the nature of the Rome in which that speech is made. Antonys faction is Caesars faction, but Caesar himself threatens the factional order in two
different but related ways. Caesar believes that he has transcended factions and
brought peace to the civil wars, that there is no distinction between those who
are his friends and those who love him. This is the Ciceronian ideal, but it is a
miscalculation within the far from ideal political world of the play. The conspirators, on the other hand, fear that his victory has broken the factional order
that had existed previously, and seek by killing him to restore Romethough
they do not all agree on exactly how the assassination will restore Rome, or
what Rome it will restore.
Caesar is the only character in the play who refers to his lovers as his friends,
confusing the two categories and opening himself up to the conspiracy. Decius
Brutus, in luring Caesar to the Senate, speaks of his dear, dear love (2.2.102)
for Caesar and tells him in his explanation of Calphurnias dream that reason
to my love is liable (l. 104). He is careful not to speak of friendship. Trebonius
does invoke friendship in the same scene, but only in an aside admitting that
Caesars best friends shall wish I had been further (l. 125) from Caesars side.
Caesar, however, includes them all in his vision of friendship: Good friends, go
in, and taste some wine with me, / And we, like friends, will straightway go
together (ll. 12627).
There is strong dramatic irony in these lines no matter how we take the word
friend. But it is crucial, I think, that this is the only time when friend is
applied to someone clearly of the other party without irony or falsehood on the
speakers part.34 In Caesars misapplication of the term, I suggest, we see him
claiming to be beyond the merely factional use of the term by his fellows. He
can call all men friends, and make them friends, despite the fact that they were
not his friends but those of Pompey and Cassius. He, and he alone, can remake
mens allegiances linguistically, because he has transcended faction. This side of
Caesar, the side that considers himself as beyond his fellow men, is much commented on. For Ernest Schanzer, Caesar is strenuously engaged in the creation
of the legendary figure that he wishes to be, while Michael Platt reads him as
34
We have already seen Antonys self-preserving lies to the conspirators. Brutus jokes that
the conspirators have become Caesars friends by having abridged / His time of fearing death
(3.1.1045) after the murder. I take this latter use to be saying (with intentional irony) that,
having done Caesar a good turn by shortening His time of fearing death, the conspirators must
naturally be his allies, not his enemies.

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a man who knows he will be immortal.35 I build on these readings by seeing


this will to immortality manifesting itself not only in Caesars image of himself
as a god but also in his practical relation to the politics of the play. Caesar
wrongly believes he has transcended faction as well as humanity.
Caesars conviction that he is above faction does not mean that he is completely insensible to political danger. He points Cassius out to Antony for special attention as a potential threat. But his reasons for distrusting Cassius are
personal, not factional: Cassiuss lean and hungry look (1.2.193) and the
thought that Such men as he be never at hearts ease / Whiles they behold a
greater than themselves (ll. 2078). Caesar has no thought that Cassius might
be part of a larger faction against him; he is merely an individual, the man I
should avoid (l. 199). It is Cassiuss personal ambition that Caesar distrusts,
not his presence in an opposing faction. Ultimately, he downplays even that
threat because of his belief in his own transcendence: I rather tell thee what is
to be feared / Than what I fear: for always I am Caesar (ll. 21011). This is the
same overconfidence in the strength of his position that we witness in his
refusal to read Artemidoruss letter. Believing himself to be beyond the factional
infighting from which his power emerged, Caesar no longer takes the precautions other, lesser men might need.
Caesar is not the only one who thinks that his rise to power has overturned
the factional order. His opponents believe it too, but unlike him they fear it.
They see in Caesar the end of the political order they are used to inhabiting, and
the beginning of something new and dreadful. They figure this threat in terms
of a change in the political structure of the state: the threat of Caesar as king.
For them, the dissolution of faction becomes the dissolution of the Republic
itself. Until after Caesars death, the only characters who speak of Caesars
potential kingship are conspirators: Brutus, Cassius, Caska, and Decius Brutus.
Cassius and Brutus express dismay at the idea of Caesar as king; Caska reports
that Antony offered Caesar a crown and worries that the Senate means to
appoint him king; and Decius Brutus tells Caesar that the Senate will crown
him. It is only after Caesars death that anyone else mentions kingship. Antony
confirms a version of Caskas story: I thrice presented him a kingly crown, /
Which he did thrice refuse (3.2.9798). All of the other references in the play
to kingship are in the mouths of the conspirators.
Shakespeare creates this effect here by significantly altering his sources. In
Norths Plutarch, the couetous desire he had to be called king is Caesars pri-

35

Ernest Schanzer, The Problem Plays of Shakespeare (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1963), 29; and Michael Platt, Rome and Romans According to Shakespeare (Salzburg, At.:
Institut Fr Englische Sprache und Literatur, 1976), 197.

CONTINUALL FACTIONS

301

mary vice, the reason why the plebeians turn against him.36 Plutarchs Caesar
had a series of events staged to test the waters around his potential kingship. He
was met by emissaries from the city of Alba who called him king, to which he
responded that he was not called king, but Caesar.37 He then had Antony offer
him a Diadeame wreathed about with laurell, which he twice (not thrice)
refused, and then, hauing made this proofe, and found that the people did not
like of it, sent the crown to be placed on the statue of Jupiter in the Capitol.38
Shakespeare retains elements of both these episodes. His Caesar calls himself Caesar incessantly, almost to the point of self-parody: Caesar constantly
insists: he is Caesar, speaks of himself in the third person habitually, and
talks like the statue in Don Giovanni.39 Shakespeare also includes the presentation of the crown, as I have mentioned. But in both cases Shakespeare makes
a crucial change: he obscures any direct connection between Caesar himself
and kingship. He does not incorporate the incident with the greetings from
Alba, merely taking Caesars odd verbal tic from that exchange, and the presentation of the crown takes place entirely offstage. Shakespeare makes his
audience learn of it secondhand and after-the-fact. Only the cheers that
accompany Caesars refusal of the crown are audible in the appropriate scene,
and they are misinterpreted: Brutus fear[s] the people / Choose Caesar for
their king (1.2.7980) and do[es] believe that these applauses are / For some
new honours that are heaped on Caesar (ll. 13233).40 Like Brutus, the audience hears of the events from Caska only afterward. By refusing to show this
moment, and instead placing the story of the crown in Caskas mouth,
Shakespeare sets up a strange situation in which our only knowledge of
Caesars desire for kingship comes from Caska. A natural skepticism about the
accuracy of this account of Caesars motivations sets in when Cassius makes
sure that Brutus will pluck Caska by the sleeve (l. 178), and no one else, to
learn what has happened. Where Plutarch presents an explicit account of
Caesars desire to be king, Shakespeare positions his audience to see that desire
only through the lens of the conspirators ill will. In Julius Caesar, Caesars
desire for kingship is less a reality and more a rhetorical position.
36

North, 791.
North, 791.
38
North, 792.
39
Platt, Rome and Romans, 203; Grady, Moral Agency, 22; and Reuben A. Brower, Hero and
Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition (New York: Oxford UP, 1971), 229.
40
There is some confusion in the text about how many shouts there are. The stage directions
for the shouts occur only twice, after line 78 and in the middle of line 131. However, Cassius
later says, They shouted thrice (l. 225), and Antony later confirms that he offered the crown
thrice (3.2.97). It would seem that there is simply a shout missing from the stage directions,
but Shakespeares Plutarchan source has only two shouts, as in the stage directions.
37

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This does not mean that Shakespeares Caesar does not desire to be king. We
have already seen his own belief that he stands above the factions, and he did
have Antony offer him the crown. But Shakespeares alterations to the circumstances surrounding that desire suggest that Caesars ambition to be king is less
of a publicly acknowledged fact in Julius Caesar than it is in Plutarch, which
implies in turn that concern about Caesars ambition separates the conspirators
from the plebeians they claim to represent, rather than uniting them as it does in
Plutarchs narrative. It seems reasonable, then, to investigate what the conspirators mean when they worry about Caesar becoming, or desiring to become, king.
Significantly, Brutus interprets kingship and its consequences differently
from his allies. For Cassius and the other conspirators, Caesars potential kingship must be destroyed so that the factional system can continue. We can see
this in their treatment of Antony after Caesars murder. Cassius suggests killing
Antony because
We shall find of him
A shrewd contriver. And you know his means
If he improve them may well stretch so far
As to annoy us all.
(2.1.15659)

Cassius here imagines exactly what does in fact occur after Caesars death:
Antony taking over Caesars faction and destroying the conspirators. This fear
results from both Cassiuss understanding of the factional politics in which he
operates and his awareness that while destroying Caesar may eliminate Caesars
potential kingship, it will not eliminate his faction.
Brutus, however, views kingship as a different matter from factionalism
entirely. Like Cassius, he sees kingship as separating the king from all men
below himhaving climbed the ladder of ambition, He then unto the ladder
turns his back, / Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees / By which he
did ascend (ll. 2527). But unlike Cassius, he does not see this in terms of the
factional system but in general terms relative to Rome as a whole. He thinks of
himself as acting for the general good (1.2.85) and for the general (2.1.12).
He takes the ambiguous paper that Cassius has thrown into his window, which
says Shall Rome, et cetera (l. 47), and reads it as Shall Rome stand under one
mans awe (l. 52). He then apostrophizes Rome in his answer: O Rome, I make
thee promise (l. 56). Brutus imagines himself delivering a single unified Rome
from the threat of Caesar, not a factionally divided one. This difference in imagination feeds Brutuss refusal to kill Antony. It is only because he sees Caesar as
a single man standing above the whole of Rome that he can miss or ignore the
idea that Antony will lead Caesars faction after his death. For Antony to be but
a limb of Caesar, who can do no more than Caesars arm / When Caesars head

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303

is off (ll. 18182), Brutus must imagine him not as a member of a faction but
as a toady to a king. From a factional perspective, Brutus makes the same mistake Sullas advisors made: there are many Caesareans in that Antony.
Brutuss failure to engage properly with the factional structure of Rome is
the Achilles heel of the conspiracy. We have seen how this belief leads him to
veto the murder of Antony, thus allowing a dangerous enemy to survive. We
have also seen how his speech to the people after the assassination fails to
engage effectively with factional difference and is outshone by Antonys more
compelling use of the rhetoric of friendship. It is worth noting too that Antony
has the opportunity to make that speech only because of Brutuss rejection of
factional difference. After the conspirators have attempted to subvert Antony to
their side, Cassius begs Brutus, Do not consent / That Antony speak in his
funeral (3.1.23233). Brutus overrules him, because he believes that giving
Caesar all true rites and lawful ceremonies (l. 241) will advantage more than
do us wrong (l. 242). This belief can be held only by someone, like Brutus, who
imagines a Rome unified against Caesars spirit. Cassius and Antony both
understand that the factional division of the city is too explosive for this course
of action to be safe for the conspirators, but all Cassius can do is grumble that
I know not what may fall. I like it not (l. 243). Brutuss inability to see that the
factional divisions are still present and important blinds him to the danger
Antonys speech poses, and exposes the conspirators to destruction.
That destruction is hastened by the swift action of the other faction. Here
Shakespeare again modifies his sources to heighten the effect. In Plutarchs version of the story, there was a short period after the death of Caesar in which
Octavius and Antony were enemies, even fighting a battle against each other.41
This altercation is eliminated from Shakespeares version of the story. In
Octaviuss first scene, separated from the funeral only by the murder of Cinna
the poet, we observe the triumvirate already proscribing those in Rome they have
condemned to die. In Plutarch, this took three days and substantial negotiation;
in Shakespeare it does not last ten lines (4.1.16).42 That does not mean that the
moment is not important to Shakespeares version of the story. Rather, the swiftness of the proscriptions joins with the elimination of the dissension between
Antony and Octavius to depict a Caesarean faction that has not merely survived
the loss of its leader but emerged fully functional and ready to act. Caesar dies,
is mourned, and is replaced in the space of a single, fast-paced act.
Cassius predicted this outcome earlier in the play. One effect of reading
Julius Caesar in the light of faction is that we come to understand the degree to
41
42

North, 97778, 1067.


North, 978.

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which Cassius truly understands Rome. He knows how the factional politics
will play out; it is Brutus, disregarding Cassiuss warnings, who causes the assassination to fall short of its political goals. In this reading, Cassius is a tragic
figure. Cassius needs Brutus more than Brutus needs Cassius,43 but even as he
cannot live without him, he cannot live with him. Cassiuss correct political
instincts must give way, because of his need, to Brutuss incorrect ones.
This need is personal as well as political. Cassius and Brutus are the prime
examples in the play of characters who are both friends and lovers, both politically aligned and personally close. But their relationship demonstrates the difficulty of keeping both of those bonds tight at once. As early as their first scene
together, Cassius reveals that he is willing to deceive Brutus for political ends,
writing in several hands in order to pretend his messages come from several
citizens. He plays upon Brutuss knowledge that they are both friends and
loversthat he is, as he tells Brutus, your friend, that loves you (1.2.36)to
work upon him, in order that Brutuss honourable mettle may be wrought /
From that it is disposed (ll. 3089). In this moment, we see one of the two
bonds between them come before the other: lovers do not lie to lovers, but
friends may do so for political ends.
After the assassination, the tension between the bonds of friendship and love
develops further. Cassius and Brutus have a falling out, one which seems caused
partially by the expectations of their alliance and partially by the expectations
of their love. Indeed, the terms for the two mix together. Lucilius tells Brutus
that Cassius received him With courtesy and with respect enough (4.2.15),
that is, with the proper political forms of friendship, but nothing more: not
with such familiar instances / Nor with such free and friendly conference / As
he hath used of old (ll. 1618). He mingles the expectations of affection and
faction, attaching an affective meaning to friendly by associating it with familiar and free. Brutuss response combines the two discourses even more explicitly; he calls Cassius A hot friend, cooling (l. 19) and warns Lucilius of what
happens When love begins to sicken and decay (l. 20). Brutus shows the difficulty of keeping two bonds with the same man separate. Cassius was not
merely a friend, but a hot friend, a man tied to Brutus by both the bond of
friendship and the heat of love. The two relationships are still distinct; a hot
friend cooled is still a friend, if not a lover, and Cassius still used Lucilius
respectfully, if not familiarly. But changes in one relationship imply the possibility of changes in the other.
This possibility becomes explicit in the following scene when Cassius and
Brutus confront each other. Their quarrel stems from different expectations of
43

Platt, Rome and Romans, 187.

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305

how their love and their political alliance should interact. Cassius hopes
Brutuss love will soften his attitude toward Cassiuss officers; he remonstrates
with Brutus about the case of Lucius Pella: Wherein my letters, praying on his
side / Because I knew the man, was slighted off (4.3.45). But Brutus considers that he has already expressed his love by restraining himself from attacking
Cassius directly for the fault: The name of Cassius honours this corruption, /
And chastisement doth therefore hide his head (ll. 1516). Cassius thinks that
love functions in the interaction between the lovers and will allow him to convince Brutus by his letters; Brutus believes that it functions internally within
himself, as a restraint against his chastisement of Cassius. Because they have
different expectations, they are each disappointed. Brutus is surprised that
Cassius would try to write to change his mind, and Cassius feels that Brutuss
personal restraint is insufficient. Each works from the premise that love and
political alliance interact, but they cannot agree on how.
The quarrel that follows stems directly from this disagreement about the
boundaries between the political and the personal. According to Brutus,
Cassius refused to give Brutus money to pay his soldiers; Brutus treats this not
as a political decision but as a personal one: was that done like Cassius? /
Should I have answered Caius Cassius so? (ll. 7778). Cassius denies the
charge, and in the process breaks down the last barrier between friend and
lover. He says, A friend should bear his friends infirmities, / But Brutus
makes mine greater than they are (ll. 8586). He then accuses him directly and
personally: You love me not (l. 88). Cassius here subsumes the political meaning of friend into the more general, Ciceronian sense. He believes that A
friendly eye could never see such faults (l. 89) and that he himself is Hated by
one he loves [. . .] / [. . .] all his faults observed (ll. 9596). In this moment,
Cassius offers to let Brutus kill him: Strike as thou didst at Caesar: for I know,
/ When thou didst hate him worst, thou lovdst him better / Than ever thou
lovdst Cassius (ll. 1046). Here we see the comparability of love raise its head
again; because Brutus and Cassius are speaking of love and not merely friendship, the issue of degrees of love inevitably arises. Just as inevitably, Caesar is
again the subject. But in making this comparison, Cassius sidesteps the obvious
point that Caesar was not Brutuss friend and that it was this lack of friendship
that brought Brutus to kill him.
Brutus, of course, refuses to kill Cassius and steps back from the brink of the
quarrel. Notably, the resolution of the spat comes with the reassertion of the
separation of the two terms, possibly because of the reminder Cassius has just
provided that both halves of the relationship are necessary. Cassius and Brutus
swear their love (l. 118), but they are not the only parties present to the end of
the argument. Their lieutenants and a Poet break in on them, and the Poet

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admonishes you generals (l. 128) to both Love and be friends (l. 129). Brutus
and Cassius do not directly acknowledge this dual demand, but this interruption takes them from discussing their love alone to directing troop movements:
Lucilius and Titinius, bid the commanders / Prepare to lodge their companies
tonight (ll. 13738). They then proceed to discuss the approach of Octavius
and Antony and their response to it, and in the process use the term friend
once more in a completely political sense: we have tried the utmost of our
friends, / Our legions are brimful, our cause is ripe. / The enemy increaseth
every day (ll. 21214). In the aftermath of their confrontation, they are back to
distinguishing between love and politics.
But the earlier breakdown of that distinction is important. It shows the difficulty of holding separate two distinct bonds with a single person. When they are
both ill-tempered (ll. 114, 115) neither Brutus nor Cassius can refrain from collapsing the distinction between their friendship and their love. Yet for their partnership to function properly, the two relationships must remain distinct; they
cannot afford to take each others political decisions personally. By demonstrating what happens when Brutus and Cassius blur the line between these two
types of bonds, Shakespeare shows us how the two ought to be kept separate if
one wants to function in this political world. Antony and the two Caesars, after
all, have no such problems. The personal and politicalthe lover and the
friendmay overlap, but they cannot be the same, even when they apply to the
same person. It may be attractive to unite them, but it is also dangerous.
Shakespeare gives over the majority of Acts 4 and 5 to the interplay between
Brutus and Cassius in order to emphasize the shadow that the early Republic has
cast upon the conspirators and, by extension, upon Rome. It is clear in the world
of the play that it is dangerous to make politics too personalto confuse ones
friends and ones lovers. But we have already seen that Brutus still yearns for the
earlier world, and I suggest that these scenes confirm that Cassius does too.
Neither one of them believes that the world they now live in is that world. But
each of them is sufficiently attracted to the idea of personal, factionless politics
that they seek to live out something of that fantasy in their own relationship,
even as their attempt results in the disharmony that we witness between them.
While both Brutus and Cassius participate in this fantasy, it is Brutuss more
explicit adherence to that sort of belief that allows Antony to call Brutus the
noblest Roman of them all (5.5.68) after his death. Antony sees that All the
conspirators save only he / Did that they did in envy of great Caesar (ll.
6970)all of the other conspirators wished to bring down the man who had
destroyed their faction. Brutus instead killed Caesar in a general honest thought
/ And common good to all (ll. 7172). Antony, a supreme political actor who is
highly sensitive to faction, admires the opposite political instincts in Brutus. But

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307

it is a wholly personal admiration, an admiration for His life (l. 73), not for his
action. In this, Antony (and Octavius) seem to mirror somewhat Caesars reaction to the dead Pompey, when he took Pompeys head and beholding it, wept.44
Indeed, the end of Julius Caesar has much in common with the aftermath of
Caesars defeat of Pompey. Like Caesar, Antony and Octavius take on the attendants of their enemy. We have seen that Caesar curteously vsed all Pompeys
friends . . . and wanne them all to be at his commaundement, and particularly
preferred Cassius and Brutus.45 In a similar manner, Antony, on finding
Lucilius mistaken for Brutus, tells his soldiers to Keep this man safe; / Give
him all kindness. I had rather have / Such men my friends than enemies
(5.4.2729). Likewise, Messala (himself formerly one of Brutuss men) commends Strato to Octavius: take him to follow thee, / That did the latest service
to my master (5.5.6667). As Caesar did, the victors adopt their enemys followers and attempt to make friends of them. I believe we see Antony not only
taking Lucilius into his service (as will become apparent in their next entrance
together) but also preparing for a future in which there is no Brutus faction and
Lucilius can truly be Antonys friend. Something similar is happening with
Messala, Strato, and Octavius as well.
These changes of allegiance also occur in Plutarchs Lives, but Shakespeare
compresses the action. Plutarch placed the change of allegiance well after the
battle. Yet in Shakespeare, Messala and Lucilius enter with their new masters
before they have even found Brutuss body, and Strato is preferred to Octavius
immediately (l. 51.1 sd).46 This altered timeline integrates the change of allegiance with the events of the play in a way that Plutarchs does not. Plutarchs
Antony and Octavius take time to judge their new companions; Shakespeares,
like Caesar, rush headlong into forgiveness and acceptance. By mirroring Caesars
magnanimity, Antony and Octavius might seem to be attempting to usher in a
new period of calm and peace. But with the factional prehistory of the play in
mind, it is difficult not to see in this an image of the future conflict that will arise.
Shakespeares audience could not help but know that Octavius would become
the emperor Augustus and that his war with Antony would once again tear the
Roman world along factional lines. If we are inclined to draw lessons from this,
as many early modern English writers were, it would be hard not to conclude
that even the most seemingly harmless factional alignments lead to disastrous
consequences. It is on this alarming certainty that Julius Caesar ends, a note that
is only audible when we listen with an ear to the plays factional political world.

44
45
46

North, 786.
North, 786, 790.
North, 107980.