The Corruption of Ambition
The Corruption of Ambition The desire for some sort of vigorous achievement: the longing for power, wealth, honor, and fame push many people to do great deeds but can urge others to do murderous acts. Those who strive to do the unthinkable just to satisfy their ambition often create devastating disasters.
William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar illustrates how ambition urges people to do atrocious deeds. The ambition Caesar carries lead the conspirators to question whether he is an absolute ruler; they fear that Caesar can potentially become a tyrant, so they plot to overthrow him.During the Lepercal festivities a soothsayer came to Caesar saying, “‘Beware the ides of March,’ [Caesar replies to all] ‘He is a dreamer, let us leave him. Pass’” (829). Caesar’s ambition to become the most powerful man he can be leads to him thinking nothing can happen to him because of his high status; making him ignorant.
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Ignoring this warning is an example of how his ambition causes ignorance; his ignorance leads to his death. Later on, when Caesar sees Cassius, he says to Mark Anthony, “‘Let me have men about me that are fat, sleek headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much; such men are dangerous’” (835). Caesar prefers sluggardly, healthy men that do not think much over those who are lean, hungry men that think too much; in other words Caesar prefers dumb men over smart men Saying that lean people who think too much are dangerous men is an example of how Caesar’s ambition can be tyrannical. After Caesar was offered the crown, Brutus asks Casca “‘Was the crown offered him thrice? ’ [Casca replies] ‘Ay, marry, was’t, and he put it by thrice, every time gentler than the other; and at every putting by mine honest neighbors shouted’” (836).This could be interpreted as being an act of humility. However, the truth is that Caesar’s malicious ambition continues to be demonstrated each and every time he meditates on whether or not to put the crown down. If Caesar would have been offered the crown once more surely he would have accepted; this would have resulted in a tyrant ruler. Ambition is the primary motivating factor for the conspirators to rise up and plot Caesar’s murder.
Brutus has great ambition to do what he believes is just for the people of Rome; realizing Caesar can be a potential threat to this justice, Brutus joined the conspirators in their plot to kill Caesar.Alone, Brutus explains to himself why Caesar must die: “‘It must be by his death; and for my part I know no personal cause to spurn at him, but for the general good’” (Act 2 Scene 1 Lines 10-12). Brutus will do what he believes is right for the people; even putting Caesar to death. The death of Caesar will bring an end to a possible tyrant and an end to any possible danger to the people. After Caesar’s murder, Brutus tells the people that the reason that he rose against Caesar was, “‘Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more’“(Act 3 Scene 2 Line 22).This exemplifies how Brutus’ ambition makes him an untrustworthy man by betraying Caesar. His great love for the people creates ambition in Brutus; urging himself to do anything for the good of the people of Rome.
Continuing his speech, Brutus says, “‘As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. ’” (Act 3 Scene 2 lines 23-25) Brutus slays Caesar because he is ambitious without ever realizing he himself is ambitious. He dies believing he did what was right for the people.Although Brutus killed Caesar for the good of the common people, Cassius killed him because of his hatred and jealousy toward Caesar. The hatred and jealousy Cassius has for Caesar grows into ambition for his death. After a talk with Brutus, Cassius explains to himself how he will persuade Brutus to become part of the Conspirators, “‘I will this night, In several hands, in at his window throw, As if they came from several citizens, Writings, all tending to the great opinion That Rome holds of his name; wherein obscurely Caesar’s ambition shall be glanced at’” (Act 1 Scene 2 lines 11-16).By persuading Brutus to become part of the conspirators, Cassius would have a very honorable man supporting them.
The people of Rome would see that Brutus is on the conspirator’s side and they also would be in favor of Caesar’s death. Speaking on the injustice of what is Caesar, Cassius tells Brutus, “‘Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus, and we petty men Walk under his huge legs and peep about To find ourselves dishonorable graves’” (833). The jealousy that possesses Cassius exemplifies his ambition to be equal to Caesar.The ambition within Cassius drives him to expose to Brutus the unrighteous side of Caesar; Cassius does this because he wants Brutus to join the conspirators in their plot to kill Caesar. Cassius continues a speech he hopes will push Brutus in the conspiracy: “‘Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars But in ourselves, that we are underlings’” (833). Brutus was ultimately swayed into pursuing the murder of Caesar; it was all in the apparent name of justice.
However, the truth again, lay in the evil and self serving ambition exemplified throughout Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Truly the many atrocious deeds demonstrated in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar are caused by the corruption of ambition. As ambition grows, the earnest desire for an achievement, honor, wealth, and power becomes a highly motivating factor in oneself. As Rebecca Miller once said “Ambition can be a disease, and it feeds on itself. ”