I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
I read this play for the first time earlier this year. I found it moving in the way typical of all Shakespeare’s tragedies; it presents very human characters to identify with, shows them making fatal errors out of pride (which is conventionally referred to by the Greek word hubris), and ends with sorrow bolstered by the sense that all conflict has ended, justice has been dealt, and those left behind have a clear and rectified path ahead of them.
This historical play focuses on the characters of Brutus and Cassius, following them from the beginning of their plot to kill Caesar, to his murder, to the resulting battle of armies with Antony and Octavius, and finally—spoiler alert!—to their tragic individual suicides on the battlefield. Throughout the play, Brutus and Cassius’ strong friendship is emphasized, along with their (and all the characters’) firm sense of honor and virtue—typical values of the ancient Romans.
Here are two short passages I especially liked.
This passage is spoken by Brutus, towards the beginning of the play, about Caesar’s (and, by extension, any ambitious person’s) growing abuse of power:
“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power…
Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.”
And these lines are spoken by Antony in the middle of the play, reflecting on Caesar’s death (and death in general), for which he genuinely grieved.
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”
I hope Antony’s grief-stricken words are reversed at my death—I hope any evil I have done is “interred with my bones” while any good I have done lives after me.