Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brutus, Denver, and the D.N.C.

Shakespeare is in the air, it seems. Other people are enjoying the Bard's King Lear and that play's relevance to current Democratic politics. I have Julius Caesar on my mind. Specifically, my favorite speech in the entire play.

It is not the more famous funeral speech made by the character of Marc Anthony. Instead it is the speech given by Brutus, the figure in the play whose deeds and emotions reflect the major theme animating the play: the conflicting demands of patriotism and friendship, and the strain this puts on a person trying to act honorably. Although people tend to forget this, Brutus is the hero of the play. And, as often happens with Shakespeare, people remember a line or two, taken out of its original context, and this makes it easier for people to forget the nature of the play or a particular character.

In Act 3. Scene II: Brutus goes to the Forum to address the people of Rome, after Brutus and several other Roman senators have together killed Caesar. Brutus speaks at the Forum to give publicly his reasons for participating in the killing of his friend:
Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
--Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.
(emphasis added)
Brutus's point: Caesar overreached, by seeking the servility of Romans, their mass dedication to him and him alone, rather than to the best traditions of Rome. And Brutus, as a true lover of of the best in Rome could not stand by and permit even a loved friend do this. Democrats face a similar conundrum with regard to the D.N.C.: we must object to its methods this primary season, not because we do not care about the Democratic Party, but because we care so much about the best traditions of the Democratic Party. We can insist that the D.N.C. clean house and correct for the inequities that have brought us to the juncture we are at today; we can demand that the convention return the Democratic Party to its best nature.

NOTE: Julius Caesar is a play based on historical facts about Ancient Rome. My admiration for Shakespeare's Brutus and the speech quoted here in no way condones any sort of physical violence in politics in the United States today.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Brutus, as a true lover of of the best in Rome could not stand by and permit even a loved friend do this. Democrats face a similar conundrum with regard to the D.N.C.: we must object to its methods this primary season, not because we do not care about the Democratic Party, but because we care so much about the best traditions of the Democratic Party. We can insist that the D.N.C. clean house and correct for the inequities that have brought us to the juncture we are at today; we can demand that the convention return the Democratic Party to its best nature

I love this post! Very well done! You show what the protest is about very well. Added bonus is I understand the play better too!

June 25, 2008 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous diana said...

This is by far my favorite blogspot. Thank you for bringing civility into this conversation. It is precisely because we do care about "the inequities that have brought us to this juncture" that we care to raise our voices at all. Thanks, Heidi. Hope your meeting is successful.
diana

June 26, 2008 at 3:54 PM  

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