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Julius Caesar Crown Quotes: Analysis

Instructor: Karen Harker

Karen has taught high school English and has a master's degree in Shakespearean Studies

The crown is an important symbol in William Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' and serves as a window into the minds of the characters. This lesson will analyze and discuss quotes which are concerned with the crown as a symbol of kingship and their place and role in the tragedy.

The Crown as Absolute Power

In many of Shakespeare's plays, the crown is a recurring symbol, often connected to concepts such as power, ambition, obsession, greed, and nobility. In Julius Caesar, we will see the that crown becomes a consistent symbol of absolute power and its corruptible potential.

The crown is first mentioned in Julius Caesar in Act I, Scene II, when we hear Casca describe a public ceremony where Caesar is thrice offered the crown. Casca is speaking to Cassius and Brutus, also senators of Rome, and explains that Caesar refused the crown all three times, presumably as a show of humility. By reading Casca's lines, we can better understand the symbolic power of the crown within the context of the play.

Caesar

CASCA:

... I saw Mark

Antony offer him a crown;--yet 'twas not a crown

neither, 'twas one of these coronets;--and, as I told

you, he put it by once: but, for all that, to my

thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he

offered it to him again; then he put it by again:

but, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his

fingers off it. And then he offered it the third

time; he put it the third time by: and still as he

refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their

chapped hands and threw up their sweaty night-caps

and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because

Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked

Caesar; for he swooned and fell down at it ...

This report tells us that the crown that was offered to Caesar was actually a coronet, or a small crown. The fact that the crown is described as such furthers its position as a mere symbol. The crown itself has no power, but it is an object which the public associates with power. Reportedly, Caesar refuses the crown all three times it is offered; however, Casca seems to think 'he would fain have had it', meaning he actually really wanted it! Casca observes that the second time Caesar refuses the crown 'he was very loath to lay his fingers off it', meaning he didn't want to let go of the crown. After refusing it a third time, the crowd protests and Caesar faints.

We can assume that the public, who see Caesar as a heroic leader of Rome, want to see the symbolic ceremony carried out, while Caesar probably understands that if he accepts the crown, the senators, who share power in Rome, are likely to be upset. Cassius and Brutus look further into Caesar's reaction.

Cassius and Brutus's Response to Casca's Report

CASSIUS:

But, soft, I pray you: what, did Caesar swoon?

CASCA:

He fell down in the market-place, and foamed at

mouth, and was speechless.

BRUTUS:

'Tis very like: he hath the falling sickness.

CASSIUS:

No, Caesar hath it not; but you and I,

And honest Casca, we have the falling sickness.

Brutus states that Caesar has 'the falling sickness', something like epilepsy, which explains his momentary fit. However, it is Cassius's following line which is most important. When he says, 'but you (Brutus) and I, | And honest Casca, we have the falling sickness' he does not mean it literally, but symbolically. Cassius means that he, Brutus, and Casca as senators have the 'falling sickness' because as Caesar gains power, they lose it. They are falling in the ranks of political importance. Cassius in this line shows us that he understands that the crown is just a symbol. Caesar's refusal does not mean that he lacks power in the eyes of the public. In fact, the people may view his refusals as a sign of humility and hold him even higher in respect and regard as an absolute leader of Rome.

The Crown as Corruption

In Brutus's soliloquy in Act II, Scene I, the crown becomes symbolic in a different way. Here, it becomes a symbol of corrupt power. Look at Brutus's speech and try to find what he fears the crown will do to Caesar.

BRUTUS:

... He would be crown'd:

How that might change his nature, there's the question.

It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;

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