OF THE BABY NAME JULIUS
Portia is the wife of the assassin, Brutus, in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Julius Caesar, believed to have been written in 1599. She is a lovely noblewoman, the daughter of Cato, devoted to her husband and used to being his partner and confidante. Brutus is in the midst of a maelstrom of emotions as he ponders the effect upon the state of Caesar’s seeming ambition to be a dictator. Brutus is a close and true friend to Caesar, but he is also a patriotic protector of the rights of the republic against a sovereign ruler, and he is sorely tried by this predicament. Portia urges him to confide in her, to unburden himself and allow her to alleviate his troubles. She is also not a little insulted that her husband would keep something secret from her, and accuses him of treating her more like a harlot than a wife. This lady means business – she proclaims herself to be, yes, just a woman, but “a woman well-reputed”; she is no little wallflower – she stabs herself in the thigh to prove her strength to him. His reply is commendable: “Render me worthy of this noble wife!” This noble wife goes on to an even more ghastly suicide, by eating burning coals, in her grief over the ascension of Octavius and Antony. A woman well-reputed, indeed.
Julius Caesar is the title character in Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name, probably written around 1599. Julius is the military leader of Rome who is assassinated by his erstwhile friends and members of the Senate, who fear that he will make himself emperor and erode the democratic ideals of the Roman republic. Once a conquering hero, Julius Caesar has begun to believe his own press, and is now quite fond of power and flattery. The plebian population does well perhaps to fear his ambitions of rising to tyrannical heights. And so he is assassinated on the Ides of March, the victim of a conspiracy that includes even his dearest friend – “Et tu, Brute?”. Shakespearean scholarship aside, it is our belief that the real tragedy here is the inability of men, even men who are friends, to discourse and communicate, for one man to face up to another and discuss the possible consequences of their ill-considered actions before taking such actions. As the ghost of Julius says to Brutus: “…thou shalt see me at Philippi” (the battlefield where Brutus meets his own death).
As immortalized in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius is a Roman general and trusted friend of Julius Caesar who steps in to maintain the stability of the empire upon Caesar’s assassination, in his famous “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears...” speech. He goes on to form a triumvirate with Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, and another general, Marcus Lepidus, dividing the control of the Roman Empire among them. To Marcus Antonius falls Egypt – where is the beauteous Cleopatra. It may be argued that Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra gives us the more intriguing side of Marcus, a more mature man, Cleopatra’s lover, co-ruler of Egypt, and eventual fellow suicide. As is so often the case, love aces politics, and Anthony crosses Octavian for love of a woman, with disastrous results.
Marcus Brutus is the real protagonist of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a study of the psychological journey of a man from betrayal to redemption. Once a close friend of Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus is convinced by Cassius that Caesar means to make himself monarch, and joins the assassination conspiracy. He does so not out of power hunger but out of patriotism, and is appalled when he learns of the naked ambitions and bribe taking of the other conspirators. Reconciled with Cassius on the eve of battle against Octavian and Anthony, Marcus Brutus commits suicide after losing the battle. It is Marcus Antonius who extols Brutus in the final moments of the play as ”The noblest Roman of them all…”