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REVIEW
Stirling, Brents. "'Or else were this a savage spectacle'."
Unity in Shakespearian Tragedy The Interplay of Theme and Character. New York: Columbia UP, 1956. 40-54.


Thesis: Stirling's topic is the theme of ceremony and ritual, especially as it throws light on the character of Brutus. He discerns quite a few examples of that theme in the first half of Julius Caesar, from the opening scene, in which we see "a Roman populace rebuked by Marullus for ceremonial idolatry of Caesar" (43), to the moment when "Antony reenacts the death of Caesar in a ritual of his own, one intended to show that the original 'lofty scene' presented a base carnage" (51).

As for Brutus, Stirling presents an acute analysis of him as a man who tries to "redeem morally confused ends by morally clarified means" (41), who "having accepted republicanism as an honorable end, .  .  .  sets out to dignify assassination, the means, by lifting it to a level of rite and ceremony" (41). Stirling has this to say about Antony's famous eulogy of Brutus:
What, finally, is to be inferred from Antony's concluding passage on "the noblest Roman of them all"? Commonly found there is a broad vindication of Brutus which would deny an ironical interpretation. When Antony's elegiac speech is read plainly, however, its meaning is quite limited: it declares imply that Brutus was the only conspirator untouched by envy, and that, in intention, he acted "in a general honest thought/ And common good to all." The Elizabethan view of Brutus as tragically misguided is thus consistent with Antony's pronouncement that he was the only disinterested member of the conspiracy. But Brutus is not to be summed up in an epitaph; as the impersonal member of a conspiracy motivated largely by personal ends, he sought in a complex way to resolve his contradiction by depersonalizing, ritualizing, the means.  (54)
Bottom Line: Persuasive analysis of Brutus' character.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 21 June 2005