Brutus, Cassius, Caesar, and the other Senators held the power to do things others could not. With this authority came their ability to use poor judgement. In William Shakespeares tragic play Julius Caesar the theme Power Corrupts is arrayed thoroughly. Murder, treason, and ethical/moral corruption were three prevalent themes that proved the overall topic of Power Corrupts.
In Julius Caesar corruption led to dangerous outcomes, such as death. “Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!” (Shakespeare 3.1.77). The last words of noble Caesar could be heard, as Brutus, the last of the conspirators, took a plunge at Caesar with his knife. Caesar laying there on the senate floor, illustrated the murderous intentions of the senators. “Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!/Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets” (Shakespeare 3.1. 78-79). The sounds of the pompous conspirators could be heard about the streets. Caesar was dead and they were proud of it. Would this have taken place if the conspirators were not of high rank, such as senators? Probably not. Simple townspeople did not have the power, and could not even bare to think of murdering someone as noble as Caesar. Cassius and the other Senators had the power to, and did commit murder. Brutus though, did not think of it as murder. “People and senators, be affrighted./ Fly not; standstill ambitions debt has been paid” (Shakespeare 3.1.82-83). Brutus announces this so he could convince the people as well as himself that what he had done was not murder, but justice for Rome. Brutus had pure intentions and whether the other senators did or not does not make a difference. Power was abused, murder was committed, and corruption had taken place.Order now
There were many forms of corruption caused by power in this play, one of which was treason. If even a single whisper of assassinating someone with a high rank was heard, you were thrown in jail. An example of this would be when Cassius and the other conspirators discussed their plan to kill Caesar and Mark Antony:
Decius, well urged. I think it is not meet,
Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,
Should outlive Caesar: we shall find of him
A shrewd contriver; and you know, his means,
If he improve them, may well stretch so far
As to annoy us all; which to prevent,
Let Antony and Caesar fall together. (Shakespeare 2.1.155-161)
In this situation Cassius had a conversation about killing Mark Antony as well as Caesar. This was a form of Treason. Cassius would never have said such things if he did not have the power to. Being a senator he felt he had the right to decide what was good for Rome. He not only said this for Rome, but for himself as well. If Caesar had become King, he would have been able to get ride of Cassius. This thought did not please Cassius. “Casca, you are the first to that rears your hand” (Shakespeare 3.1.30). This was another point in the story where treason was committed. It took place in the Senate House, as Caesar approached. Cassius and the other senators discussed how Casca would attack Caesar first.
Ethical/moral corruption was a trait mainly held by Brutus. In the play Julius Caesar, an example of this would be:
Thats all I seek;
And am moreover suit or that I may
Produce his body to the market-place,
And in the pulpit, as becomes a friend,
Speak in the order of his funeral. (Shakespeare 3.1. 22 -229)
In this quote Brutus allowed Mark Antony to speak to the people at Caesars funeral. Cassius objected to this proposal. Brutus ignored his warnings and demanded that Antony was allowed to speak. Brutus does this because he had the power to make decisions. The other senators did not disagree with him. He was the most respected and honourable senator. They needed Brutus support, so they didnt want to agitate him. Another instance of Brutus having poor judgement was, “You say you are a better solider:/Let it appear so; make your vaunting true,/And it shall please me well. For mine own part,/I shall be glad to learn of noble men” (Shakespeare 4.3.51-54). In this quote Brutus argued with Cassius about sending their troops to Philippi. Brutus felt they should send the troops because they had the larger army. Cassius felt this was a bad idea. Even though Cassius had the better judgement, and more experience as a soldier, Brutus seemed to ignore him. Cassius felt that Brutus had made a bad decision, but said no more about it and agreed with him. In the end Brutus did lead the troops to Phillippi. He held the power to make final decisions, because the senators needed his honourable reputation. Brutus poor judgement led the army to their death. Poor judgement may have seemed as a harmless form of corruption, but the consequences were not so.
Power and corruption seemed to go hand in hand in the play Julius Caesar. When authority was held, poor judgement wasnt far to follow. The murder of Caesar was very tragic, and held its outcome to treason. Poor decisions by people was corruption as well, when it abused power. Ethical/moral corruption had disastrous outcomes also. The result of any type of corruption was anything but pretty. Whether it be murder, treason, or ethical/moral corruption, power truly does corrupt.
Works CitedShakepare, William. Julius Ceasar. Great Britian: Stanely Thornes (Publishers) Ltd. 1990