William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar explores the social and political underpinnings of perhaps one of the most famous assassinations of all time, the assassination of Julius Caesar by his friends. Currently we live in a time of major upheaval in the world, the combination of war and economic hardships have made this first decade of the new millennium a turbulent one. These two timeframes can be connected through their respective leaders. Shakespeare's Caesar bears a great deal of resemblance to our current leader, George W. Bush. The following paper will attempt to make a comparison between these two figures, the Shakespearean Caesar and the real life President of the United States.
At the top of Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar is returning to Rome in a parade, triumphant in his victory over the Roman general, Pompey. This particular man is painted as Caesar's archrival, his nemesis on the battlefield, and Rome is proud that he has come home victorious in his battle with Pompey.
George W. Bush has recently returned home after making an appearance in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier. The President emerged from his plane and made a speech about the war that the United States recently participated in. During this war, Bush was faced with an enemy whom his father faced before him. The enemy, personified by Saddam Hussein, and the nation's interest in the adversarial relationship between Bush and Hussein is quite similar to Rome's interest in Caesar's nemesis. This coupled with the President's televised appearance on the flight deck was in many ways similar to the appearance of Caesar in the streets of Rome after his victory.
Both nations put their leaders on a pedestal for their victories. In both nations the leaders arrogantly and ignorantly accepted the pedestal and the dangers which lurk beneath this type of showboating.
Julius Caesar is a flawed man. He was not a particularly skilled politician, indeed there are characters in the play whom blame fate for the rising popularity of Caesar. As Cassius slowly attempts to convince Brutus that the best way to deal with the problem of their leader is assassination, he talks of Caesar's weakness. In particular, he relates a story wherein he saves his leader's life from drowning.
Caesar cried, "Help me Cassius, or I sink!"
I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
Did I the tired Caesar. And this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is wretched creature, and must bend his body.
Act I, Scene 2, 111-117)
Illustrations of the leaders weaknesses continue throughout the play. A short time after the preceding proclamation by Cassius, Casca - another politician - details a story about Caesar's physical frailty. He claims that, "he fell down in the market-place, and foamed at mouth, and was speechless." (Act I, Scene 3, 253-254) This particular image was supposed to evoke the idea that Caesar was in the midst of a grand mal seizure or that he was perhaps an epileptic. Both of these physical frailties in a leader would be looked down upon in Roman times as well as today.
For George W. Bush, flaws are incredibly commonplace. Indeed, the President's spin-doctors have had to work overtime in order to keep some of our leader's most pressing issues out of the spotlight. Semi-hidden flaws include everything from Bush's Grandfather's banking investments in the Third Reich, to multiple arrests for public drunkenness, to a felony cover-up wherein Bush was charged with the possession of cocaine. (Hatfield, Pg 165-166 & 317)
George W. was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1972, but due to his father's connections, the entire record was expunged by a state judge whom the elder Bush helped get elected," he explained. "It was one of those 'behind closed doors in the judges chambers' kind of thing between the old man and one of his Texas cronies who owed him a favor. In exchange for successfully completing community service at Project P.U.L.L., where Bush senior was a heavy contributor and honorary chairman, the judge purged George W.'s record."
Hatfield, Pg 313)
The concept that an American president could be weak and perhaps incapable of leading the nation because of his addictions is not acceptable to the public. As a result, Bush spin-doctors have continually worked to make sure that Bush doesn't admit to anything but having a wild youth that apparently lasted well into his thirties. Cesar's epileptic fit and his inability to rescue himself from a rushing river work together to paint a picture of the leader as being weak or incapable. Certainly, the President's flaws work against him in the same way. The biggest difference is that Bush has a stronger concept of image than Caesar and as a result, constantly works on this.
In act one, scene three, Mark Antony offered Caesar the crown three times before an audience and each time, Caesar refused. This particular refusal by Caesar was a ruse. He saw that the crowd enjoyed the game of refusal. He saw that the crowd was moved by his words. And he saw that the crowd would do anything for him.
Three or four wenches, where I stood, cried, "Alas, good soul!" And forgave him with all their hearts. But there's no heed to be taken of them; if Caesar had stabb'd their mothers they would have done no less.
Act I, Scene 3, 271-275)
These events and others lead Brutus to believe that Caesar might be seeking dictatorship. He is afraid that in the republic of Rome, the people will lose their voices. It is these events that slowly begin to build in Brutus's mind and it is these events and beliefs which ultimately lead Brutus to be involved in the assassination of Caesar.
There is a large contingent of people in the United States that see George W. Bush as an aspirant dictator. Since September 11th, 2001 the world has changed dramatically. Due to the fact that Bush was in power during this event and due to his actions after the event, there is the perception that many of the rights and liberties promised in the United States Constitution are being circumvented and ignored by policies which are currently under development. These policies purportedly have been placed to protect the American public, but really provide the government - especially the White House - with more power and less red tape to cut through when they want to have something done. Following is an excerpt from a web page entitled the Bush Occupation which alleges that the President's actions since September 11th have been unconstitutional.
Bush is leading the most aggressive assault against the Constitution in American History. Bush ordered limits on freedom imposing "Amendment Zones," herding protestors into zones
Bush's Orwellian "Patriot Act" guts the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, arrogating power to the White House. "Patriot" criminalized by broadening the definition of terrorism to merely questioning Bush.
Bush Occupation, Pg 1)
Fear of dictatorship is currently a major contributing factor in some of the protests revolving around Bush. Though this fear is unlikely to lead to the President's assassination by his advisors, it may ultimately lead to his loss in the 2004 election. However, the reality is that if Bush does eventually lose an election, only a small portion of the voters will be working to get him out because of his unconstitutional policies. Instead, the public which tends to be fickle about issues within the United States will probably be less worried about Constitutional issues than they will be about financial issues.
In both the case of Bush and Caesar, ideas about the loss of the Republic are based on perception. The reality of the perception in both cases doesn't matter as much as the perception itself. Brutus's perception that Caesar wants to be a dictator is mirrored by some peoples perception that Bush would like to be a dictator. Ultimately, in both cases the populace is in favor of their leaders policies regardless of whether or not they are indeed seeking some sort of anti-Republic form of leadership. The perceptions of the public in politics is far more important to a leader's political life than the truth.
Caesar is repeatedly warned by omens and dreams. He is told that he will not survive and even given a letter which tells of the conspirators, which he refuses to read. At the Senate, the conspirators bow down at Caesar's feet, then stab him. When Caesar sees Brutus - his dear friend - among the conspirators, he dies.
Though George W. Bush has been careful about his language and his demeanor since taking the office of President, there is a precedent which indicates that were Bush to misspeak or make a mistake that would have a long-term detrimental impact on his party, that his friends would play a part in his political death.…