Julius Caesar: Conflicting Perspectives
An inescapable vice of humanity is egocentric bias, as according to Ripley, ‘no one sees themselves in a bad light. This bias is conveyed to perfection through William Shakespeare, George Orwell and Pablo Picasso in Julius Caesar, Animal Farm and Guernica respectively where each protagonist presented is shown to act on behalf of their own agenda espousing the belief that their perspective is indeed the most desirable.
Due to the complex nature of perspective, it is impossible to encapsulate the entire truth at once. Caesar perceives his role in public to be the “northern star” of Rome. Juxtaposed against this highhanded nature is the irony that Caesar has not fathered a child “Shake off their sterile curse,” showing a private frailty. Brutus emotively declares, “I love him well”, however his compassion is juxtaposed with the malicious metaphor “to put a sting in him” suggesting a wickedness in him.
Both men however, are shown to have an overinflated sense of duty especially evidenced through the intra-conflict Brutus faces as “he is with himself at war” with the idea of murdering his long serving ally. Brutus reveals that individual’s perspectives of situations are manipulated by their own personal ideals through his justification “not that I loved Caesar less but that I loved Rome more”. Shakespeare manipulates the intrinsic virtue of duty into a vice that inspires arrogance in Caesar and malice in Brutus, clouding their judgement with personal bias.
Perhaps the most prominent example of personal bias is displayed in the funeral orations, where Brutus seeks self justification in light of his participation in the slaughter of Caesar. Through his patriotic objectives “I honour him, but as he was ambitious, I slew him”, Brutus denounces Caesar’s leadership thus presenting his actions positively as he strives for personal integrity. These perspectives are refuted by Mark Antony whose views, shaped by a close relation to Caesar, are of anger as shown through the emotive metaphor “wounds, poor, poor dumb mouths, and bid them speak to me”.
Whilst elevating Caesars status, Antony’s repetition of “honourable man” intricately highlights Brutus’s ironic actions with the juxtaposition of his loyalty to this brutality expounding Descartes’ concept that “great minds are capable of great vices” Shakespeare effectively shapes Brutus’s perspective to reflect that his viewpoint is correct. In contrast, Orwell’s Animal Farm shows less ambiguity of perspective as it is a satirical novel. The pigs are perhaps the greatest example of egotistical bias in any literature through their constant pursuit for their own ideals of a utopian society.
Characters such as Boxer, who represents the honesty of the working class through the hyperbole “he seemed more like three horses” are admired for their selflessness. However we condemn the “fierce-looking Berkshire boar” Napoleon, contrasting Julius Caesar, where Shakespeare’s opinion is ambivalent and the lines between patriotism and egotism are blurred. In Animal Farm Snowball, is a loyal supporter of Old Major, “make it a point of honour” and undoubtedly has like Brutus the greater good of Animal Farm at heart.
It may be too strong to equate Napoleon to Cassius, however there are parallels as they are both manipulate through “canvassing support. ” Ironically, the conflicting perspectives in Julius Caesar that lead to the assassination, prepare the ground for the triumph of Octavius Caesar in Shakespeare’s next play as the all-powerful emperor, precisely what the conspirators feared with Julius. Similarly in Animal Farm through the erosion of Old Majors dream of a “golden future” the animals get what they feared most with the return of Jones in the guise of the fat pig Napoleon “It was a pig walking on his hind legs.
” The irony in the return of human reign is displayed through Napoleon’s overwhelming conviction that his viewpoint is the only and most desirable for the farm. Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, 1937 unlike the literature of Shakespeare and Orwell portrays the composer, Picasso’s perspectives as that of the protagonist. Composed of a chaotic black, white and grey pallet, the piece depicts the conflict and drama that espoused from the bombing of Spain and shows how such emotions can be translated trough mediums.
Similarly to the betrayal felt by Mark Antony, Picasso employs the national symbols of the bull and the horse, marred by anguish and pain to highlight betrayal. Social comments on society are made just as they are in Julius Caesar. Picasso seeks to portray the destructive nature of technology through the light bulb which causes an ‘explosion’ of light and a complimentary pun in the translation of light bulb being ‘bombilla’ in Spanish. Much the same as Mark Antony, Picasso is outraged at the loss of something dear to him. Picasso is effectively able to become the protagonist and adopts a very strong stance on his perspective.
The fatal flaw of Mankind today is self-interest. However the people who unequivocally place their trust in the hands of others like Caesar and Boxer reflect a shard of hope. That not all humanity is consumed in self-interest and that the empathy that is instinctively human, is not lost. May we learn from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Orwell’s Animal Farm and Picasso’s Guernica that shaping our perspective around self-gratification will only lead to superficial pleasures. So fight and be remembered for your honour and trust, for in the words of Caesar “what touches us our self shall be last served…”