Fort St Band 6 Julius Caesar + Moore + Plutarch

“Representation of conflicting perspectives is determined by anticipated response.” Discuss this statement in relation to your prescribed text and TWO other texts of your own choosing.

By selecting language forms, features and structures, composers can display two seemingly opposing viewpoints. However, through representation codes, one opinion is diminished to emphasise the composer’s contextual perspective. This is clearly shown in William Shakespeare’s tragic play Julius Caesar (1599), Robert Browning’s poem Lost Leader (1845), and Michael Moore’s documentary Capitalism a Love Story (2009). While the Elizabethan political climate foregrounded Shakespeare’s conflicting perspectives on Caesar’s assassination in relation to political leadership and governmental systems, Browning and Moore also formulated political viewpoints that reflect their political circumstances.

+ Through analysis of how authors have responded to conflicting perspectives in order to elevate their own, we are able to see how representation of texts is determined by anticipated responses.

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare displays contradictory viewpoints on Caesar’s personalities, but the view that Caesar is a tyrant is diminished to heighten the veracity of Caesar as an ideal man of leadership, ensuring its relevance among the Elizabethan audience. Shakespeare exhibits the justification of Caesar’s assassination in a dramatic soliloquy, “[Caesar] as a serpent’s egg | Which, hatched, would as his kind grows mischievous,” the biblical symbol compares Caesar to a contextually relevant satanic creature to a religious audience, underlining his potential abuse of power. In the forum scene, Brutus extols the virtues of Caesar’s demise, “Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, then that Caesar were dead, to live all freemen?” The antithetical erotesis highlights how the assassination was to prevent the loss of freedom in Rome. However, in support of the Queen, Shakespeare undermines Brutus’ opinion who speaks in prose, representing an opinion from the lower class of the Elizabethan society; contrasting with Antony’s poetic verse that is used by nobles. The logical fallacy in Brutus’ perspective is persisted by Antony’s anacoenosis that seeks opinions from the plebeians, “I thrice present [Caesar] a kingly crown, | Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? | Yet Brutus says he was ambitious.” The ironic antistrophe allows Antony to offset Brutus’ claim of Caesar’s ambition, thus challenging his justification of the murder. The stage direction of Antony descending from the pulpit communicates a physical presence in which Antony would have stood with the Plebeians, forming a literal divide between the Monarchists and the Republicans on stage. As such, through presenting a counterpoint to the ethics behind Caesar’s murder, Shakespeare elevates the position of absolutist Monarchy and Elizabeth’s continued legacy.

Similarly, Lost Leader selects personalities of William Wordsworth to deceptively construct opposing viewpoints on his political leadership, but ultimately Browning challenges his surrender to monarchy, thus allowing Victorian audiences to sympathise with the loss of a great man. Browning presents Wordsworth as a champion of liberty by including hyperbolic exclamations, having followers that “Learned his great language, caught his clear accents, | Made him [their] pattern to live and die!” The past tense emphasises how there was once admiration of his revolts against kingship, encompassing Romantic idealisms of freedom and democracy. Much like the conflicting perspectives of Caesar’s leadership, Browning offers another perspective, depicting Wordsworth as a turncoat of republican ideologies for personal interests through the biblical allusion, “Just for a handful of silver he left us.” By employing the dactylic metre that places emphasis on ‘silver’, Browning parallels his surrender to Judas’ betrayal to Jesus, which conveys a sense of injustice and how Wordsworth is no longer a valiant leader. Like Shakespeare, who characterises Caesar as a “serpent’s egg”, Browning too represents Wordsworth’s betrayal in, “just for a ribbon on his shirt”, paralleling Caesar’s ambition with Wordsworth’s defection to the monarchy. Browning continues to create sympathy for Wordsworth’s inadequacy through the oxymoron in “he boasts his quiescence.” This illuminates how Wordsworth has lost the admiration of his peers, and is alienated from the Romantic Idealism of his contextual period.

Additionally, Plutarch’s account of Caesar’s assassination is appropriated into a tragic play to produce a contention between the Republic and the Monarchy, but ultimately the responder is positioned towards an inevitable monarchal outcome.  Shakespeare exemplifies the need to continue to the Roman republican system via Brutus’ hendiatris exclamation, being historically “famed with more than one man,” encompassing values of “Peace, freedom and liberty!” By characterising Brutus as the tragic hero of near-perfection, Shakespeare is able to heighten the viewpoint of the republic as being righteous, thus reflecting Shakespeare’s renaissance humanist context that attempted on reviving vanishing democratic ideals since the middle ages. However, to ensure the play’s relevance to the Elizabethan audience who believed in the Chain of Being, Shakespeare depicts the interplay between Brutus and Cassius as an opposite to what Elizabethans believed in, evident their duologue, “Why should [Caesar’s] name be sounded more than [Brutus]?” The rhetorical questioning accentuates a sense of revolt against the religions of the sixteenth century, the ordained perception of class systems, foreshadowing the demise of Brutus as the tragic hero, thus promoting the responder’s rejection towards republicanism. The fallibility of a republic is reinforced by Shakespeare capitalising on the tragic tradition of hamartia, evident in Cassius’ soliloquy where Brutus is metaphorically paralleled with malleable metal via enjambment, “Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet I see | Thy honourable metal may be wrought.” The narrative irony communicates how Brutus’ misguided honour becomes the catalyst for the fall of the republic. Shakespeare has Brutus dying a noble death so that his play accommodates the democratic idealism that emerged in the late 1500s whilst catering to the absolutist Monarchial expectations of his audience.

Running parallel to Shakespeare’s conflicting political ideologies, Moore’s Capitalism explores how the American democratic system will inevitably foster capitalist dictatorships, thus conveying support for democratic socialism. Moore espouses how capitalism was initially fair, where “society votes on what goods it wants made.” The optimistic voiceover and the mise-en-scene of Moore selecting merchandises shows how capitalism provides a source of nourishment that will foster higher living standards. However, Moore challenges this opinion of capitalism, conveying how Americans are now disconnected from their “professed love of democracy…by accepting dictatorship at work.” Much like Cassius’ disruption of the republican system, the humorous exaggeration and the ironic drum sound satirically illuminates how this free market exclusively benefited the rich at the cost of the working class. Just as Shakespeare’s Renaissance Humanist context supported the republic through the infallible Brutus, Moore’s utilises his Samaritan father’s entrenchment from Ford as an anecdote for capitalism as “a curse to mankind” which led to the GFC. Moore continues this avocation of a democratic socialism through an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, revealing how it considers “the middle income earners rather than just the wealthy.” Which utilises a demonstrative bar graph to advocate the popularity of pro-social democratic movements in the US.

Thus, through analysis of how authors have responded to conflicting perspectives in order to elevate their own, we are able to see how representation of texts is determined by anticipated responses.


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