Caius Cassius

The instigator of the plot against Caesar in spite of the consul's favour and honours. Plutarch gives many accounts of Cassius - 'a hot, chollerick, and cruell man, that would oftentimes be carried away from justice for gayne.' Shakespeare gave Cassius the second largest part in Julius Caesar, one which, at least for the part of the play leading up to the assassination in III.1, Cassius is cast as the scheming villain, to some extent in the mould of the 'Machiavel' type of the English Renaissance. His motivation against Caesar is envy.

Notably, although not absolute throughout the play, Shakespeare's Cassius shows the characteristic of using the most modern vocabulary. Cassius' modern speech is most marked in his dialogues with Brutus, particularly when he is attempting to manipulate him towards the conspiracy. Repeatedly Cassius' words are very recent or first-recorded in the 1590s. In contrast Brutus' chooses established old words. But what is the significance of this? The relationship of Brutus and Cassius is at the centre of the play. It is what marks Caesar's fate and underpins the political machinations of Rome. However Shakespeare does not impose something he deployed in other plays of the late 1590s, a shared quatrain (i.e. a stanza of four lines) and sonnet form, to signify growing mutuality of thought.

As Caesar observed of Cassius, 'Such men as he be never at heart's ease / While they behold a greater than themselves' (I.2.207-8). In contrast stands the harmonious dialogue of Marcellus and Flavius at the beginning of the play. From this opening comes expectation of a similar mannered structure throughout the play; however, Shakespeare allows no room for this in a play in which he strives to emphasise adversary and confrontation (note that Flavius and Marcellus are 'put to silence' in I.2).

Cassius knows that such is the authority that Brutus' name carries in Rome, that by joining the conspiracy he will effectively create it.

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