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Oxymoronic Ethos: The Rhetoric of Honor and Its Performance in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

IN ACT 1, SCENE 2 OF SHAKESPEARE'S JULIUS CAESAR, Cassiustries to recruit Brutus to join the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. Having sensed Brutus's "passions of some difference" regarding Caesar as a potential tyrant, Cassius proposes, like an honest mirror, to reveal Brutus's "hidden worthiness" to him (1.2.57). Uncertain of Cassius's agenda, Brutus heroically declares:
What is it that you would impart to me?
If it be aught toward the general good,
Set honor in one eye and death i'th'other
And I will look on both indifferently;
For let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honor more than I fear death.
                        (1.2.84-89) (1)

He is willing to die to bring Rome any general good, Brutus claims, for the appeal of an honorable name outweighs his fear for death. Ambiguity lurks in this grandiose claim: does he crave public recognition ("name") or the general good per se? (2) Does yearning for public good necessarily motivate people to take moral action, or is honor easily adopted as a cover-up for one's selfish ambition? Brutus's possibly unwitting recognition of honor as a verbal construct ("name") contingent on circumstances and opinions, moreover, further disrupts the alignment of honor and public good, especially in times of political turmoil when both are variously contested by vying political factions.

As if to address this moral ambiguity embedded in Brutus's statement, Cassius in his response takes up the same diction, but scripts "honor" from a mere "name" into a preexisting "thing":
I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,
As well as I do know your outward favor.
Well, honor is the subject of my story.

Cassius reassures Brutus that he recognizes his virtuous albeit invisible core shining through his "outward favor." In limning his subsequent story, Cassius rhetorically transforms the otherwise intangible and fluid "name" of honor into a palpable thing that Brutus possesses. He concretizes the names of Caesar and Brutus as capable of being weighed and compared (1.2.142-47); among other things, Brutus's honor encompasses his well-known familial lineage considered as a historical fact (1.2.159-61).

Cassius's story of honor constitutes a way of tackling the typical Renaissance anxiety over the epistemological gap between one's exterior and interior: one's observable public behavior was visible but usually performative and potentially fraudulent, whereas the "true" inner self remained invisible and often inexpressible. (3) This perceived incongruity generated concern over whether one's true inner self could ever be unambiguously expressed or communicated. In Cassius's appreciative gaze and articulation, however, Brutus's outward favor accurately mirrors his inner self, making it visible and self-evident. Honor then becomes simultaneously Brutus's observable, performative exterior, and his inexpressible, substantive core. Intriguingly, Cassius's story itself is laden with paradoxes: although portrayed as grounded in facts, i.e., someone's public service and familial glory, one's character nevertheless remains a "story," and as a story can be told differently, characters in the play are often rescripted discursively. To lure Brutus into the conspiracy, Cassius adeptly reduces great Caesar to a petty, weak, and ordinary mortal. Honor, as the noble Romans in the play grapple to define for themselves, remains a malleable verbal construct tied to the shifting variables of time and circumstances. This early interaction between Brutus and Cassius foreshadows the inherently oxymoronic nature of honor that the play explores.

Honor as an oxymoron is symptomatic of a more general anxiety about rhetoric, which Shakespeare's Julius Caesar as an experimental space rehearses and evaluates. The play dramatizes an arena where people use rhetorical performance to vie for dominance over their peers and the mob, which involves (dis)simulation, deception, and sometimes even self-deception. If we follow Aristotle's three pisteis (ethos, pathos, and logos) as sources of rhetorical prowess, (4) Brutus, deriving much persuasive power from his impeccable honor, relies heavily on ethos as his primary means of persuasion. Throughout the play, Brutus recruits conspirators with his undisputed name as the honorable descendent of the Republic's founder; as a noble Stoic sage displaying constantia, he single-handedly guides and controls the course of the conspiracy; in the forum, his honor works as the a priori assumption that needs to be acknowledged for the rest of his argument to work; ironically, Antony sabotages his rival orator precisely by undercutting Brutus's immaculate honor with the sarcastic repetition of "Brutus is an honorable man."

In this study, I show how Brutus's obsession with his honor is called into question by the action of the play. Following a brief first section on rhetorical theories, I demonstrate in part two that it is Cassius who first "seduces" Brutus with his enchanting verbiage into believing in his natural ethos. In part three, I show how Brutus justifies his performance and dissimulation with his allegedly impeccable ethos. In so doing, he makes an argument strikingly similar to those made by classical and Renaissance writers who redeemed rhetoric from charges against its sometimes-deceptive practices. Part four reads Brutus's orchard soliloquy and peculiar "double revelation" of Portia's death to reveal how his avowed Stoic constantia is undercut by ardent, unacknowledged passion, and that Brutus's "natural" Stoic character involves "unnatural" role playing. I close with a reading of the famous forum scene to show how Antony, with his ingenious irony, wrecks not only Brutus's honor but also the very idea of one's ethos as factual, natural, and unchanging, an idea Brutus tenaciously adheres to throughout the play.

While traditional rhetorical readings seem content with analyses of figures and tropes in the play's explicitly oratorical scenes, (5) I am more concerned with exploring why characters adopt certain rhetorical modes, and why Brutus, so remarkably persuasive with his fellow conspirators, fails to persuade the plebeians. Brutus's failure and Antony's success, as I will show, do not result only from their different oratorical modes, but embody two drastically different notions of selfhood, a disputed and consequential issue both in Shakespeare's refraction of Rome and in the playwright's own Renaissance Europe.


There is a long tradition of using one's moral character (coined by Aristotle as ethos) in oratory. As James May points out, "every verbal undertaking aimed at producing conviction involves, implicitly or explicitly, the presentation of character." (6) The portrayal of personality remains a dominant factor in all kinds of oratory and at all periods of Greek literature. (7) Ethos, the presentation of the speaker's trustworthy character, is elevated to be the first one among Aristotle's tripartite proofs. (8) To render oneself worthy of confidence, Aristotle's orator should appear to possess three important qualities:phronesis (good sense), arete (virtue), and eunoia (goodwill). (9) One needs to understand the character of his audience, and make sure ethos of the opposing party is not cast in a favorable light. Notably, the Aristotelian ethos is, by definition, a verbal presentation achieved through "the speech itself," not "any preconceived idea of the speakers character." (10)

In Roman oratory, the Aristotelian formulation of ethos as a verbal construct went through some modifications. Roman rhetorical theorists and practitioners fused into ethos the Stoic notion of human character as permanent and unchanging, and reworked it into a form of natural selfhood. For the Romans, a virtuous man behaves virtuously if he follows his rational nature and previously established ethos. (11) Merits are passed on from generation to generation, therefore people can defend themselves and their clients by referencing their previous deeds and ancestral honor. In Cicero's De Oratore, Antonius the interlocutor stresses that "a potent factor in [oratorical] success" is the presentation of the orator and his client's character--to have one's audience approve their "characters, principles, conduct, and course of life." One can win over the audience's favor by enumerating, as if quoting historical data, one's merits (dignitate hominis), achievements (rebus gestis), and reputation (existimatione vitae). (12) Permanent and natural, ethos as a prominent means of persuasion in Roman oratory started to be contrasted to pathos, the transient and changeable. As we shall see, the very notion Shakespeare's Brutus has of himself is based on such Roman reworking of ethos, a paramount embodiment of the Stoic constantia purged of passion, and firmly rooted in one's unchanging familial inheritance.

The Roman orator's natural selfhood, however, entails an inherent oxymoron. In Cicero's words, one's favorable moral character is a picture the rhetorician ought to paint for the audience: "it is helpful to display the signs (signa)" of "good-nature, kindness, calmness, loyalty," and that "by means of particular types of thought and diction... the speakers are made to appear (esse videantur) upright, well-bred and virtuous men." (13) He even recommends dissimulation: the speaker should possess "the faculty of seeming to be dealing reluctantly and under compulsion with something you are really anxious to prove." (14) In his own career as a homo novus, Cicero struggled to establish, maintain, and reestablish his auctoritas by rhetorically performing his character and manipulating that of his clients and opponents. The rhetor's performed ethos, found in the Aristotelian original and retained in the Ciceronian reworking, found its way in rhetorical manuals in early modern Europe. In Thomas Wilson's The Art of Rhetoric, a tremendously popular rhetorical manual that went through eight editions between 1553 and 1585, the verbal and theatrical presentation of one's ethos is deemed important in winning hearers over. (15)

The oxymoron of the orator's ethos is interwoven with the ethics of rhetoric more generally. As early as Plato, the art of rhetorical persuasion was already notorious for its moral ambiguity and its lack of truth-value. The rhetorician, concerned only with probability rather than truth or goodness, is adept at lying or fabricating "truth." He aims to gratify his audience instead of morally improving them. (16) Such deep distrust of the performative power of language became even more pronounced in Renaissance Europe, which saw an unprecedented rise in the study and practice of the art of eloquence as a means for self-advancement. (17) Defenders and attackers of rhetoric disputed whether this inherently performative art that seemed to value opinion and spectacle over knowledge and truth can bring about the good. As Scott F. Crider points out, educated in the classical and Renaissance rhetorical traditions, Shakespeare was fascinated by the debate about the ethics of rhetoric. (18) This fascination, in my reading, is foregrounded in Julius Caesar, a play that centers on the complicated nature of the orator's ethos manifested in the tense interplay between performativity and truth claims.


There is, as introduced above, a deep ambiguity in Brutus's statement about "the name of honor" (1.2.89). For noble Romans, especially those of the senatorial class, the pursuit of honor was the ultimate motivation for one's public conduct, but it is the name of honor rather than the general good per se that Brutus craves. Cassius picks up on the inherent paradox encapsulated in Brutus's possibly unwitting reference to "the name of honor," and ingrains it into the story he tells. In the story, while honor is depicted as Brutus's tangible, factual core, Cassius is uncannily skillful at scripting people's characters and deconstructing their names while ingeniously concealing the role language plays in constructing ethos. By so doing, Cassius instills in Brutus an unshakable faith in his own substantial, impeccable, noble character, a problematic obsession that haunts the entire play.

In Cassius's "story" of "honor" in act 1, scene 2, to establish the intense rivalry between Brutus and Caesar, Cassius reifies names as concrete things:
"Brutus" and "Caesar." What should be in that "Caesar"?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with era,
"Brutus" will start a spirit as soon as "Caesar."

In this hypothetical name-weighing competition, Cassius transforms the otherwise abstract and volatile name constituted by language into a palpable object that can be possessed and measured. Once reified, a name can be utilized for control: sounded, written down, weighed, and even used to conjure things up like a spell. Brutus's name in particular, as demonstrated in Cassius's climactic peroration, can be traced to his great ancestor Lucius Junius Brutus, the Roman Republic's glorious founder: "There was a Brutus once that would have brooked / Th'eternal devil to keep his state in Rome / As easily as a king" (1.2.159-61). Cassius concretizes Brutus's honor by grounding it in irrefutable historical facts as if following principles in Roman oratory prescribed by Cicero--one is to build a favorable image of himself by enumerating his merit (dignitate hominis), achievements (rebus gestis), and reputation (existimatione vitae), and one derives considerable oratorical authority through recounting one's familial glory. (19) By building such an unassailable ethos for Brutus, Cassius provokes him to defend his historically founded honor by taking forceful action against Caesar. In the picture he paints, Cassius artfully contrasts Brutus's established familial nobility against the appalling humiliation of his "state" under Caesar's reign: noble Romans like Brutus become, in Caesar's Rome, wretched "petty men," who "walk under his huge legs and peep about / To find ourselves dishonorable graves" (1.2.137-38). Cassius limns Brutus's otherwise fluid "state" as a solid, tangible, and concrete thing under siege, and portrays Brutus's honorable "name" trodden under Caesar's tyranny. At the end of the day, what is at stake in Cassius's story of honor is not so much "the general good" (that Brutus ostensibly claims) as the "state" of Brutus himself.

Quite ironically, Cassius's very story about Brutus's substantial ethos illustrates precisely how ethos is always a verbal construct. In what follows, with consummate rhetorical skills, Cassius rescripts the ethos of his enemy and his friend to serve his own ends. Recalling his youthful "I dare you" swimming contest with Caesar in the choppy Tiber, Cassius denigrates the deified Caesar as bombastic and presumptuous, sickly and effeminate, who would have drowned had Cassius not come to his rescue. Cassius rhetorically dramatizes his telling with an epic simile and a syntactic expansion, postponing the verb till the end: "Ay, 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" (1.2.112-15). This controlled epic tone reveals Cassius's preoccupation with honor and heroism. Foregrounding his own heroic manliness, he reduces Caesar to a helpless, sniveling juvenile. Marking the glaring discrepancy between Caesar s "true" unheroic ethos and his current god-like status in Rome, Cassius attempts to incite Brutus's indignation. And indeed it works. Cassius's "elitist rhetoric," appealing directly to Brutus's hidden desire to emulate Caesar, works concurrently with the public acclamation Caesar and Antony's "crown-granting" drama plays out offstage. Both intensify Brutus's anxiety over Caesar's apparent triumph. (20) In his interaction with Cassius, Brutus starts out declaring his commitment to the general good: "set honor in one eye and death i'th'other / And I will look on both indifferently" (1.2.86-87). And it ends with him thoroughly disturbed and ready to take action against Caesar: "That you [i.e., Cassius] do love me, I am nothing jealous. /... / What you have said, /1 will consider" (1.2.162, 167-68). Brutus affirms his belief in Cassius's good intention--he insists that he is "nothing jealous," alluding with much irony to the rivalry Cassius has set up between Brutus and Caesar. After Brutus's departure, Cassius gloats over his triumph: "Well, Brutus, thou art noble. Yet I see / Thy honorable mettle may be wrought / From that it is disposed" (1.2.304-6). (21) This powerful metaphor describes the effect of Cassius's sophisticated rhetorical strategy in reconfiguring Brutus's self-understanding and motivation for action. Like Daedalus, the archetypal master craftsman, Cassius recasts Brutus's honorable "mettle" (with a pun on "metal") into whatever concrete shape that serves his own purpose.

Cassius shows an amazing dual consciousness of what the "name of honor" means. On one hand, concretizing Brutus's honor as a self-sufficient thing (an extension of his established familial glory) speaks to Brutus's need to command an impeccable moral upper hand, and helps Cassius to quickly win Brutus's trust; on the other hand, scripting Julius Caesar's undeserving ethos with language, Cassius appeals to Brutus's unacknowledged craving for fame and recognition, which is undeniably a desire to outdo Caesar. Cassius lures Brutus over to the conspirators' camp by turning into flesh and bone Brutus's otherwise mysteriously amorphous "passion of some difference" (1.2.40).

Brutus, now convinced that honor constitutes his core identity and his love for the Republic is his sole motive for action--ironically, though, the very idea was scripted by Cassius's words in the first place--he embraces newfound confidence in the "naked" power of his ethos. Having agreed to recruit more people to their plan to assassinate Caesar, Brutus sends for old Caius Ligarius. Upon meeting Brutus, Ligarius declares: "I am not sick, if Brutus have in hand / Any exploit worthy the name of honor" (2.1.317-18). "Such an exploit have I in hand, Ligarius," answers Brutus, alluding to the conspirators' cause, "Had you a healthful ear to hear of it" (2.1.319-20). Still ignorant of what the "exploit" entails, Ligarius is predisposed to do as noble Brutus orders:
By all the gods that Romans bow before,
I here discard my sickness! Soul of Rome!
Brave son, derived from honorable loins!
Thou like an exorcist hast conjured up
My mortified spirit. Now bid me run,
And I will strive with things impossible,
Yea, get the better of them. What's to do?

In this interaction, miraculous transformation takes place outside the realm of language. Ligarius is swayed by the supposedly extra-verbal power of Brutus's honorable name even before the conversation starts. Brutus's ethos (as the "soul of Rome") premised upon his familial lineage ("derived from honorable loins") is potent enough to turn the sick old man into a resolute fighter. This persuasion stands in stark contrast to Decius's persuasion of Caesar to go to the Capitol, which hinges on a deliberate (mis)interpretation of Calpurnia's dream. While Decius uses the power of language to generate an alternative reality, Brutus only has to use the authority of his honor, without employing words, to conjure up a brand new Ligarius. For Brutus, this successful "persuasion" confirms what Cassius has said: his ancestral nobility, recognized by the conspirators a priori, is a thing that operates even beyond rhetoric and needs no scripting in words. Indeed, the conspirators need Brutus on their side precisely because his unquestionable nobility lends legitimacy to their cause. Their consistent recognition and almost unconditional subjugation to Brutus's honor reinforce Brutus's confidence in his reified ethos, keeping him blind to the fact that his "honorable mettle" has initially been "wrought" by Cassius.


Once joined in the conspiracy, Brutus becomes acutely aware of the importance of active dissimulation, which he never finds irreconcilable with his perfect ethos. For Brutus, his unassailable ethos and the good Republican cause justify whatever means it takes to maintain and defend it. He performs on whatever occasions he sees fit, undisturbed by its apparent incongruity with his allegedly perfect virtue. He encourages the conspirators to feign "smiles and affability" in order to hide their murderous intent (2.1.82); he pretends to go to the Capitol with Caesar "like friends" (2.2.128) while brooding on Caesar's murder. Brutus is always self-referencing his inviolate, natural, innate, and self-sufficient ethos to justify his deceptions, performances, and even the brutality of Caesar's murder.

Perhaps Brutus's most stunning and politically significant performance is his dramatic transformation of what appears to be a bloody butchery of Julius Caesar into a sacred sacrificial ritual. (22) After the killing, Brutus commands the conspirators to bathe their hands in Caesar's blood: "Stoop, Romans, stoop, / And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood / Up to the elbows and besmear our swords. /... / Let's all cry 'Peace, freedom, and liberty!'" (3.1.106-8, 111). Although it plays more like a parody of purification ritual, Brutus attempts to frame the murder as the symbolic eradication of tyranny in defense of liberty. For Brutus, portraying the gore of the murder as sacrificial blood brings the misleading appearance closer to what he believes to be the "truth"--not to paint over his "bad strokes" with "good words" (5.1.30), as Antony sneers. Brutus explains this to Antony: "Though now we must appear bloody and cruel, / As by our hands and this our present act / You see we do, yet see you but our hands / And this the bleeding business they have done. / Our hearts you see not. They are pitiful" (3.1.167-71). By once again appealing to the power of his allegedly impeccable ethos, Brutus tries to turn the appearance-reality relationship inside out: the unseen interior becomes the truth, while the blood on their hands is merely symbolic. Brutus is eager to demonstrate that the apparent brutality of the conspirators' deed could be justified and erased by their moral purpose. The conspirators' honor (as their collective ethos) governs, alleviates, and legitimizes what appears to be, in Brutus's own words, a "savage spectacle" (3.1.225). (23) Antony, however, reads the ritualization as self-serving hypocrisy. He sees through its falsity while Brutus remains selfconsciously blind to it. (24)

From antiquity to the Renaissance, there was a long-standing tradition that condemned orators as actors who use their rhetoric to gratify the audience and induce them to act to the orator's advantage. (25) This tradition relegated the orator to a lower-class trickster and questioned the morality of rhetorical performance. This anxiety over the ethics of rhetoric became more pronounced in Renaissance Europe, when the study of rhetoric became a common means for social advancement. Pico della Mirandola in a letter written in 1485 expressed perhaps the most acerbic criticism of the orator: "what is the office of the rhetor other than to lie, deceive, circumvent, practice sleight-of-hand tricks...? It is your business to turn black into white and white into black as you will." (26) The potential incongruity between one's "outward favor" and "true" "inner self" produced considerable anxiety over the performativity, hypocrisy, and deception involved in the fashioning of one's self. (27) The fashioning of ethos, when fused with contagious pathos, could indeed enable the rhetors to manipulate the audience as they wish, as Guillaume du Vair wrote in his 1594 treatise De I'Eloquence Francoise: "Those people [who use rhetoric for morally unjust purposes] do not merely paint their characters on the tablets of our hearts, but imprint there, indeed, with burning fire, the liveliest and most violent emotions..." (28) A similar concern is found in John Rainolds's Oxford Lectures on Aristotle's Rhetoric, our only known complete text of Elizabethan university lecture on rhetoric and the first major treatment of Aristotle's Rhetoric in the sixteenth century. The author critiqued Aristotelian rhetoric's lack of "honestum," and found it difficult to reconcile Aristotle's preoccupation with "worldly appearance" with Christianity's "heavenly truth." (29) People in the Renaissance simultaneously became fascinated by the power of rhetoric and dreaded its misuse.

In a sense, as an attempt to alleviate such anxiety, having faith in the impeccability of orator's ethos worked quite well. Ever since the Greeks started the ancient quarrel between philosophy and rhetoric, some defenders of rhetoric had been trying to redeem its value by assuming as a given the orator's good ethos. Cicero created the orator-civilizer myth in which the man of eloquence was imagined as a morally superior person employing rhetoric to educate the otherwise savage mass, leading them from the darkness of ignorance onto the light of truth. (30) This myth became popular in the Renaissance. (31) Quintilian further developed Cicero's idea into his model orator, "vir bonus dicendi peritus," defined ontologically as a good man skilled in speaking. (32) The orator's ethical uprightness was thus used to justify rhetorical performances and, more to the point, to assuage apprehension over the potential discrepancy between one's observable "outward favor" and invisible "inward self." In these terms, Brutus could be viewed, based on his unyielding faith in his natural and factual ethos, as aspiring to become an ideal orator whose occasional dissimulation is excused because of his allegedly ethical ends. By adhering to an ethos rooted in his familial lineage and natural Stoic constancy, Brutus finds a ground to legitimize his use (and abuse) of rhetoric.

There is, however, a latent oxymoron in ethos that brings unresolved tension to the debate, and potentially undermines the defense of rhetoric. As a verbal artifice ever since Aristotle coined the term, ethos has everything to do with what the orator is able to perform before an audience and for oneself. A similar oxymoron manifests itself in Julius Caesar, as we come to see that Brutus's pure and impeccable honor is often but a performed act: his apathetic Stoic constantia is in fact tainted by his most ardent emotion--jealousy. Because of this, Brutus's tenaciously blind faith in his ossified ethos often amounts to covert self-deception. In the play's crucial scenes, Shakespeare reveals how Brutus's probably unwitting performance of his constantia works quietly to unsettle his resolve and undercut his steadfast character.


Before Caesar's assassination, Brutus urges the conspirators congregated at his house to hide their cause with constant performance: "Good gentlemen, look fresh and merrily; / Let not our looks put on our purposes, / But bear it as our Roman actors do, / With untired spirits and formal constancy" (2.1.224-27). Pushing for his fellow Romans' consistent behavior, Brutus's use of "formal constancy" reveals the potentially performative element in constantia, a virtue in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that entails the ability to maintain an emotional equilibrium (apatheia) in all circumstances. It is a crucial Stoic virtue invoked as an ideal by many characters as a key virtue, providing them a sense of security and moral superiority amidst political uncertainty. (33)

For characters in the play, maintaining constancy is equivalent to living up to their innate nature. Caesar, the "northern star" (3.1.61), envisions himself as a paragon of constancy. Portia, with a self-inflicted wound on her thigh, plays the constant Stoic saint who endures pain with an unchanging countenance. Brutus, too, struggles to maintain his constantia sapientis. With Stoic self-discipline, he strives to eliminate external distractions and purge himself of pathos as he attempts to control the psychomachia ("passions of some difference") raging within him between his love and hatred for Julius Caesar. After his conversation with Cassius, we come upon Brutus alone in the orchard debating with himself whether to join the conspirators (act 2, scene 1). In this soliloquy, we observe Brutus as he struggles to purge his psyche of all emotion and to eradicate all the irrational elements that might distort his decision making. This allegedly rational process, however, is in fact charged with unacknowledged passion. (34) Through Brutus's psychologically convoluted rationalization, we get a glimpse of how this seemingly noble Stoic sage is really tormented by a most fervid and deep-seated jealousy.

"It must be by his death" (2.1.10): Brutus utters this resolute conclusion right at the beginning of the scene. Taking the form of an inverted syllogism, this apparently rational soliloquy in fact makes a mockery of logic. By placing its conclusion before the rational arguments leading to it, Brutus employs hysteron proteron, the rhetorical figure of putting the latter part before the former, indicating that Brutus's passion has overtaken his reason. (35) "Under the sway of passion, effects will precede causes, and ends precede means," as Joel Altman observes in his analysis of Othello. (36) Brutus's abnormal soliloquy reveals his emotional turbulence after hearing Cassius's story about honor. He settles on a murderous conclusion before he comes up with any solid reason to support it. Indeed, Brutus is convinced that Caesar must die even before he reads Cassius's forged letters allegedly written by various Romans urging him to act against Caesar. Not debating over whether to act, Brutus in the soliloquy is primarily concerned with how to rationalize his contemplated act for himself. (37)

Struggling in his search for grounds to justify the murder of Caesar, Brutus employs in this soliloquy two strategies--hypothetical and metaphors. The metaphorical images turn the vague potentiality of hypothetical situations into vivid actuality. The entire soliloquy is essentially an effort to ascertain how Caesar's nature might change after his crowning: "He would be crowned. / How that might change his nature, there's the question" (2.1.12-13). Caesar's crowning, in its hypothetical state, is not yet "real" enough to justify forceful actions against it. Brutus then resorts in his jealousy to a vivid metaphor: "It is the bright day that brings forth the adder, /And that craves wary walking" (2.1.14-15). This comparison of ambitious Caesar to a vicious snake comes already saturated with Brutus's deep-seated fear and repulsion, signaling that he is predisposed to believe in the danger posed by Caesar's still imagined crowning.

Brutus's use of metaphor to prove a hypothesis is itself logically invalid. Metaphors are a circuitous form of argumentation, for they assume an arbitrary correlation between the tenor and the vehicle, and often employ the conclusion to prove its own premise. As the Renaissance rhetorical theorist Juan Luis Vives wrote, metaphor making is usually driven by an "internal ardor, suggesting... the sensual appetite impelled by will, which seeks union with desirable images." (38) In other words, a metaphoric image reveals more about the speaker's will and inclination than the "true" nature of the issue in question. Indeed, emotion is actively at play in Brutus's rationalization: he is under the complete sway of self-induced and passionate jealousy, fear, and repulsion while he deludes himself into thinking he is being rational. His resort to metaphors only generates more pathos. In this circular self-reinforcing process, Brutus works himself into a murderous rage disguised as a rational decision--a process that undercuts his Stoic apatheia.

In his coupling of subjunctives and metaphors, Brutus continues to "perform" for himself the necessity for killing Caesar: "Crown him--that--/ And then / grant we put a sting in him / That at his will he may do danger with" (2.1.15-17). Built upon a hypothetical crowning coupled with subjective speculation and performative utterance ("I grant"), Brutus's assertion of the danger Caesar poses becomes less and less probable, as he has to admit: "to speak truth of Caesar, / I have not known when his affections swayed / More than his reason" (2.1.19-21). Stuck at this impasse, Brutus again fumbles for a metaphor. He compares Caesar to an ungrateful and ambitious climber who turns his back and looks down on those climbing up below him (2.1.21-27). Despite its lack of sound reasoning, the vivid enargeia of this image is powerful enough to disperse Brutus's initial doubts and lead directly to his resolute decision to act: "So Caesar may / Then lest he may, prevent" (2.1.27-28). Thus, the hypothetical ("may") is turned into a solid ground for Brutus's self-hortatory command (the imperative "prevent").

Brutus oscillates back and forth between the hypothetical and the metaphorical until they finally converge in the last image: "And therefore think him as a serpent's egg / Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous; / And kill him in the shell" (2.1.32-34). In what sounds like a logical conclusion ("therefore"), Brutus commands himself ("think" is an imperative) to forge yet another eerie metaphor ("a serpents egg"), which, under a hypothetical condition ("hatched"), turns mere plausibility into actuality. By such circuitous means, Brutus convinces himself that he has found the rational premises to support the conclusion he had already uttered at the beginning--that Caesar must die. Through what John Drakakis calls a theatrical representation of Caesars "fabricated identity"--just as Cassius has done earlier--Brutus has worked himself into a state of righteous indignation, furnishing him with grounds for further action. (39)

Brutus's successful self-persuasion hinges on the masterful handling of his own contagious fear, jealousy, and wrath. According to Cicero's De Oratore, to inflame the arbitrator, a good orator should himself be inflamed by the very same emotion. (40) Brutus's soliloquy fuels his pathos, and steels him for the forum speech. Once transmitted to the plebeians, these emotions would be contagious. Unfortunately, Brutus does not recognize that his pathos has fundamentally shaped his murderous intent. He flounders in his soliloquy to reconcile the resolve to murder Caesar with his ideal Stoic self-image, an effort that amounts to self-deception. The performativity of Brutus's increasingly distant and inhuman Stoic ideal is epitomized in his "double revelation" of Portia's death. (41)

In the civil war provoked by Caesar's assassination, Messala comes to Brutus with news of the tragic death of his wife, Portia. Brutus already knows and has told Cassius about it earlier in the scene. Nevertheless, he commands Messala to announce the news. After this second report of Portia's death, Brutus remains stoically undisturbed, and urges his coconspirators to attend to military affairs. His constant apatheia makes a stark contrast to Cassius's sentimental lamentation. The grief-stricken Cassius, having witnessed the entire double revelation, acknowledges that Brutus's heroic apatheia lends him a moment of moral superiority over his own fretful nature: "I have as much of this art as you, / But yet my nature could not bear it so" (4.3.193-94). In Cassius's eyes, Brutus's courage to hear twice of the death of his beloved wife without showing any emotion is an "art," a craft, a nurtured ability that exceeds the limit of an ordinary man's nature. What is implied in Cassius's reflection, although not clearly articulated (perhaps not even understood by Cassius himself), is that such a superhuman virtue--indeed a performance of it--has amounted to an unnatural self-suppression aimed at certain political ends. (42) Indeed, whenever conflicts arise among the conspirators, Brutus uses his noble ethos, of which his Stoic constantia is the most important component, to make sure his view is adopted. (43)

It is ironic that Cassius, the master craftsman of Brutus's reified ethos now becomes the victim of its persuasive force. Cowering in the shadow of Brutus's impeccable ethos, Cassius allows Brutus first to overshadow and then to dominate him, and even to "use" him as the butt of his "mirth" and "laughter" (4.3.50). The conspirators, complicit in fabricating Brutus's ethos, unanimously bolster and maintain his confidence in that "natural ethos" by acclaiming him and endorsing his views, keeping Brutus blind to its "formal" theatricality. (44) Just as Caesar's unwavering performance of himself as the unchanging northern star eventually results in his death, Brutus's rigid adherence to his natural selfhood, once undermined by Antony's irony, sets the scene for his defeat both in the forum and on the battlefield. In a sense, instead of transmitting his passionate, private emotions to the audience in his public speeches, he unconsciously sublimates them into a sincere public concern for the Republic. In the process Brutus deprives himself of the very emotion needed to provoke his audience to act.


In the famous climactic forum scene after Caesar's death, Brutus and Antony's contrasting approaches to rhetoric clash in the two men's direct competition for the hearts and minds of Rome's stunned and confused plebeians. Brutus speaks first. Totally in character with what we have seen, Brutus's prose speech repeatedly invokes the impeccable moral authority of his honor to justify his version of how and why Caesar has been assassinated. Brutus makes twenty-eight references to himself in his short speech. (45) Deviating from the rhetorical teachings since Aristotle, his repeated allusions involve only minimal rhetorical presentation. He refuses to show his audience with emotionally provoking details how his unblemished honor can really stand as the immaculate basis of his trustworthiness. On the contrary, by carefully purging his speech of pathos, Brutus invokes his honor in an imperative mode to command the mob on how they should act. Brutus feels secure that his honor, already unanimously endorsed by the conspirators, can work as the unarguable means of proof that legitimizes whatever he says and does. Thus he opens his speech:
Romans, countrymen, and lovers, hear me for my cause, and be silent
that you may hear. Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine
honor, that you may believe. (3.2.13-15)

This opening statement is "not a forward-moving argument," but "like a syllogism, circling back upon itself." (46) Brutus commands his audience (with characteristic imperatives) to accept his honor as the warranty and the a priori premise, which his hearers must confirm as valid for his argument to work. To be sure, the audience does acknowledge and duly respect Brutus's noble character. Even before he steps onto the podium, Rome's assembled mob recognizes him as a trustworthy leader: "the noble Brutus is ascended. Silence!" (3.2.11). Using ethos alone to legitimize Caesar's murder, however, proves a precarious move given the highly boisterous and easily gullible nature of the plebeians.

Brutus's speech is, to a fault, cold and logical, like a thoroughly Stoic performance, devoid of appeal to the audience's pathos. After admitting that his love for Caesar is no less than that of any "dear friend of Caesar's" (3.2.18), Brutus tersely explains why he rose against Caesar: "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?" (3.2.20-22). Brutus does not explain how Caesar has constituted a threat to Rome and its citizens, which may work well to fuel the audience with ardent wrath, often the wellspring of people's action. Instead, with a logical presentation of the case, he appeals to the audience's intellect, demanding that they make a rational choice between two hypothetical scenarios. Interestingly, it is a choice Brutus has already made for them; he is just asking, after the fact, for their concurrence. Caesar is dead already at the time of the speech, but Brutus renders the statement counterfactual ("that Caesar were dead"). With this rhetorical tweaking, Brutus seeks the unanimous approval of the plebes after the sacrificial act has been performed. (47) He assumes that his rationalization (logos) combined with his moral character (ethos) is sufficient to convince the mob of the righteousness of his actions. In a patronizing tone, the honorable Brutus commands that the plebeians' proper reaction should align with what he himself feels about Caesar's ambition:
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. There is tears for his love; joy for his fortune; honor for his
valor; and death for his ambition. (3.2.23-26)

He states Caesar's ambition as a fact unsupported by concrete evidence, expecting the sheer power of his "naked" ethos to validate its veracity. Speaking to the listeners' heads instead of their gut feelings, Brutus lays out in terse parallels an array of logically complex and intellectually dense arguments, mistakenly assuming that the mob can process them. With such succinct statements bereft of passion, Brutus presents his murder of Caesar as devoid of any personal grievance, as if plain speaking alone testifies to his utterly upright character. It is hard not to discern the irony in such blatant self-deception when one reads the scene in juxtaposition with his earlier orchard soliloquy. Blind to the oxymoron inherent in ethos, Brutus fails miserably not only to read the character of his audience, but also to understand the nature of his own motive.

It is precisely Brutus's honor, his most important credential, that Antony in his speech undercuts with an ingenious use of irony. In a manner uncannily similar to that of Cassius earlier in the play, Antony picks up on Brutus's obsession with honor and works it to his own advantage. (48) Going up to the podium right after the mob has been swayed by Brutus, Antony commences his speech by pretending to endorse Brutus's honor: "For Brutus' sake I am beholding to you" (3.2.63). This dissimulated affirmation, however, only works as a prelude to his massive deconstruction of Brutus's ethos. (49) As an accomplished ironist, Antony performs what Kenneth Burke calls a "divided" and "impure" character to its utmost degree. (50) In what follows, Antony tells his own version of the "story" about "honor," one that reconstructs Caesar's character and dismantles that of Brutus and his fellow conspirators.

With aurally and visually provocative stimuli, Antony re-presents Caesar as a loving, sincere, capable leader who had the public interest in mind. He highlights his own emotional connection with Caesar: "He was my friend, faithful and just to me." He reminds the plebs of how Caesar has benefited them: "He hath brought many captives home to Rome, / Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill," and "when that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept." He also refutes claims on Caesar's ambition with what the audience had seen with their own eyes: "You all did see that on the Lupercal / I thrice presented him a kingly crown, / Which he did thrice refuse" (3.2.84, 87-88, 90, 94-96). Unlike Brutus's vague and colorless image of the "ambitious" Caesar, Antony's portrait is rich with concrete details and vividly narrated anecdotes. He even brandishes Caesar's will in hand as a prop for his performance. Seemingly indulging in his grief, Antony draws the audience into his rhetorical "theater" by having them circle about Caesar's dead body, arousing and inflaming their sorrow and wrath as he points to the stabbed holes in Caesar's bloody mantle. He pauses in the middle of his speech, (seemingly) choked up with uncontrollable woe and anguish over Caesar's death. As a consummate actor, Antony performs his own character as a sincere and honest man of feeling. Unlike Brutus, who aspires to be an apathetic Stoic sage, Antony sees no need to suppress his (seemingly) keenly felt emotion. And unlike Brutus, Antony is aware that his love for Caesar and anger over his death are simultaneously sincere and performative. He fully acts these feelings out, giving them a concrete form and expression, and transmits them to the audience through the overwhelming power of rhetoric.

"Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, / And Brutus is an honorable man" (3.2.85-86, 92-93, 97-98 with variation). With consummate irony, by repeatedly endorsing Brutus's view, Antony seemingly renounces the rhetorical picture he paints, one that has clearly trumped Brutus's bland and unsupported claim. As we approach the climax of his performance, the latent doubt cast on Brutus's honor gets more and more overt, as Antony punctuates his depiction of a loving Caesar with a repetition of the poignant rhetorical question, "was this ambition?" With a growing sarcastic undertone, Antony dismantles Brutus's honorable ethos, and by so doing, unravels his entire argument. In his own version of the "story" about "honor," Antony unleashes a masterful deconstruction of the very idea of the orator's ethos as stable and unchanging, the view Brutus subscribes to. As an ironist, Antony crafts for himself a fluid and malleable ethos, not at all rigid like that of Brutus, as he dissimulates at the end of his extraordinary rhetorical performance:
I am no orator, as Brutus is,
But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man
For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech
To stir men's blood. I only speak right on.
                           (3.2.215-17, 219-21)

With feigned innocence, Antony rescripts his own ethos as what is obviously a far cry from his "real" self (if there is one). Interestingly, Brutus may well say the same--he, too, is eager to come off as "a plain blunt man" whose "naked" nobility justifies his action. Yet there is a vital difference between them: Brutus embraces such plain blunt ethos as his only "true" moral character, whereas Antony understands that this is only one of the many versions of his self he rhetorically paints for his audience.

After the plebeians are thoroughly provoked to act against the conspirators, Antony finally removes his partially dissimulated dramatic mask as he gloats in triumph at the end: "Now let it work! Mischief, thou art a-foot: / Take thou what course thou wilt" (3.2.257-58). A chameleon figure in the play, Antony's flexible conception of his rhetorical selfhood enables him to emerge from this agon victorious. As the play's action suggests, since ethos can always be rhetorically constructed, and since the audience is by nature or by custom prone to be swayed by contagious emotions, then embracing ethos's performative nature, fusing it with the emotional appeal of pathos will certainly triumph over an abstract presentation of one's self-evident honor.

What Antony sabotages, ultimately, is an ideal many characters in the play yearn to emulate--becoming Julius Caesar, the play's "northern star." Caesar, as a consummate imperator, acts as if he can command obeisance from everyone with the sway of his name alone. (51) Such permanent "ethos," epitomizing an "ideal excellence," works in stark contrast to transient pathos. It secures people a foothold in the political tumult, and redeems the art of rhetoric from the contamination of the transience and performativity of language. Brutus, among many others in the play, comes closest to "becoming Caesar." Yet he is finally brought down by his tenacious adherence to such an ideal and his blindness to the inherent oxymoron, that the human character is always a linguistic construct.

Although Antony exults in triumph at the end of his rhetorical competition with Brutus, he is not the play's ideal orator. (52) Cassius belittles him as a "masker and reveler" (5.1.63), and his oratorical success is overshadowed by the action-oriented Octavius, who prefers swords to words. The young, impetuous Octavius shows little interest in rhetoric, but has strong faith in decisive, pragmatic action. On Brutus's death, rather than eulogizing Brutus's honor as Antony does, Octavius treats it with the ritual it deserves: "according to his virtue let us use him, / With all respect and rites of burial. / Within my tent his bones tonight shall lie, / Most like a soldier, ordered honorably" (5.5.76-79). Brutus's honor that swayed so many of the play's characters, winds up becoming Octavius's means to ennoble himself as the new Triumvirate's supreme leader. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar presents us with a pessimistic picture of rhetoric. Most of the play's characters abuse rhetoric for their own selfish purposes even when they think or pretend to be serving a higher ideal. Perhaps Shakespeare means to say that if the ideal orator (vir bonus dicendi peritus) is impossible to find, only a military man of action like Octavius can restore order after a political crisis.


I would like to thank the following readers who offered me invaluable suggestions at various stages of the project: Wayne Rebhorn, Roger Olesen, Heather Houser, Megan Snell, Zack Sharp, Ruijie Peng, and Monica Mohseni. I am also grateful to the two anonymous readers at PQ whose reports helped improve the paper.

(1) Unless otherwise noted, all italics in this article are my emphasis. Quotes from the play are taken from William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, ed. Oliver Arnold, Longman Cultural Edition (New York: Pearson, 2010).

(2) As Gayle Greene argues, "opinion" and "name" are the implicit yet central terms throughout Cassius's "seduction." See "'The Power of Speech / To Stir Men's Blood': The Language of Tragedy in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar" Renaissance Drama 11 (1980): 75.

(3) For a general discussion of such anxiety, see Katherine Eisaman Maus, Inwardness and Theater in English Renaissance (U. of Chicago Press, 1995), 1-12.

(4) Aristotle gives a pithy summary of his tripartite proofs: "the first (ethos) is founded upon the moral character of the speaker, the second (pathos) upon putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind, the third (logos) upon the speech itself, insofar as it proves or seems to prove," in Rhetoric, 1.2.1356a3. All quotes from Aristotle's Rhetoric are taken from "Art" of Rhetoric, ed. and trans. J. H. Freese, Loeb Classical Library 193 (Harvard U. Press, 1926).

(5) For examples of traditional rhetorical readings of the play, see Jean Fuzier, "Rhetoric Versus Rhetoric: A Study of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2," Cahiers Elizabethans 5 (1974): 25-65; John W Velz, "Orator and Imperator in Julius Caesar: Style and the Process of Roman History," Shakespeare Studies 15 (1982): 55-75; Don J. Kraemer Jr., "'Alas, thou hast misconstrued every thing': Amplifying Words and Things in Julius Caesar" Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 9 (1991): 165-78; and Michael E. Mooney, "'Passion, I see, is Catching': The Rhetoric of 'Julius Caesar,'" Journal of English and Germanic Philology 90 (1991): 31-50.

(6) James M. May, Trials of Character: The Eloquence of Ciceronian Ethos (U. of North Carolina Press, 2009), 1.

(7) For analyses of the presentation of ethos in various types of Greek oratory, see D. A. Russell, "Ethos in Oratory and Rhetoric," in Characterization and Individuality in Greek Literature, ed. Christopher Pelling (Oxford U. Press, 1990), 197-212.

(8) James May summarizes Aristotle's discussion of ethos, pathos, and logos in a concise manner: "Ethos is founded on the moral character of the speaker as presented in the speech; pathos is produced when orators place their listeners in a particular state of mind and make them feel emotion; logos, or pragma, the logical explanation or rational presentation of the case, is directed toward the intellect of the auditor." See May, Trials of Character, 2. For Aristotle's original formulation, see Rhetoric, 1.2.1356a.

(9) Aristotle, Rhetoric, 2.1.1377b3-6, 1378a6-7.

(10) Aristotle, ketone, 1.2.1356a4.

(11) See May, Trials of Character, 26.

(12) Cicero, De Oratore, 2.43.182. Quotations of De Oratore are taken from De Oratore, Books 1-2, ed. and trans. E. W. Sutton and H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library 348 (Harvard U. Press, 1942).

(13) Cicero, De Oratore, 2.43.182-84.

(14) Ibid., 2.43.182. For Quintilian, too, the speaker's qualifications should ideally be real, but if not, they could be fabricated and performed: "Aristotle indeed thinks that the most effective proof is based on the speaker, if he is a good man. This indeed is best: next best, but a long way behind, is to seem good." Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 5.12.9, in Quintilian, The Orator's Education, Volume 2: Books 3-5, ed. and trans. Donald A. Russell (Harvard U. Press, 2002). Quintilian also famously argues in Institutio 4 that persuasive statements should employ lies if necessary, and narratio in argument can be indistinguishable from "myth" or "fiction"; see Arthur F. Kinney, Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England (U. of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 18. In his book, Kinney shows how language that has the potential to be manipulated for personal ends made creative fiction writing possible in early modern England.

(15) For example, in the opening of book 2, Wilson says: "We shall get favor for our own sakes, if we shall modestly set forth our bound duties and declare our service done without all suspicion of vaunting, either to the commonweal... or in helping our friends... We shall get favor by speaking of our advisories, if we shall make such report of them that the hearers shall either hate to hear of them, or utterly envy them, or else altogether despise them." See Thomas Wilson, The Art of Rhetoric (1560), ed. Peter E. Medine (Penn State U. Press, 1994), 135-36. For a brief summary of the Renaissance account of the three modes of persuasion, logos, pathos, and ethos, see Sister Miriam Joseph, Rhetoric in Shakespeare's Time: Literary Theory of Renaissance Europe (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962), 386-99.

(16) See Plato, Phaedrus, 272d-73a. Similarly, in his Gorgias Plato criticizes rhetoric for failing to convey true knowledge to its audience (459d-e), and for being used for unjust ends; it is not a techne (art or craft) but an empeiria (experience) that produces gratification, not goodness (464b-65d). See Plato, Lysis, Symposium, Gorgias, ed. and trans. W R. M. Lamb, Loeb Classical Library 166 (Harvard U. Press, 1925), 301, 317-19.

(17) For a discussion of humanist rhetoric as a skeptical response to the scholastic absolute truth, see Victoria Kahn, Rhetoric, Prudence, and Skepticism in the Renaissance (Cornell U. Press, 1985), esp. 29-54. On Renaissance discussions of the orator's ethos as oxymoronic, see Wayne A. Rebhorn, The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric (Cornell U. Press, 1995), 231-32.

(18) See Scott F. Crider, With What Persuasion: An Essay on Shakespeare and the Ethics of Rhetoric (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), n3; and Russ McDonald, Shakespeare and the Arts of Language (Oxford U. Press, 2001), 184-92; for a history of rhetorical readings of Shakespeare, see Heinrich F. Plett, Rhetoric and Renaissance Culture (New York: Walter deGruyter, 2004), 415-33.

(19) See my note 11.

(20) In his Introduction to Julius Caesar, 22, Oliver Arnold argues that Brutus, constantly distracted by the mob's shouting in the "crown-granting" drama offstage, shows concerns for the public good and indifference to Cassius's elitism. In my reading, however, Cassius's elitist rhetoric reveals that Brutus's commitment to the general good is ostensible and probably self-delusionary. For a discussion of the emulousness of Roman aristocrats in the play, including that of Brutus, see Wayne A. Rebhorn, "The Crisis of the Aristocracy in Julius Caesar" Renaissance Quarterly 43 (1990): 75-111.

(21) For a detailed interpretation of this only soliloquy of Cassius's in the play, see Barbara L. Parker, "A Thing Unfirm': Plato's Republic and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar" Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 30-43.

(22) On the ritualization in this scene, see Arnold, Introduction, 40. It is also important, as Cerasano points out, that the ritualization scene is entirely Shakespeare's invention; see S. P. Cerasano, Introduction to Julius Caesar (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), 19.

(23) As Mervyn James points out in Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in Early Modern England (Cambridge U. Press, 1986), 309, the early modern English concept of honor "could both legitimize and provide moral reinforcement for a politics of violence." James also points to the doubleness of the concept of honor: blood and lineage predispose one to honorable behavior, while honor resides in the opinions of others.

(24) Cf. Garry Wills, Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" (Yale U. Press, 2011), 71-77, where he argues that Brutus remains blind to his own complicated motivation for organizing the assassination of Caesar even as he attempts to glorify the bloody murder as a lofty sacrificial ritual.

(25) In Gorgias 500d, for instance, Plato compares rhetoric and tragic poetry to cookery, for they are concerned only with gratifying its audience by feasting them with the pleasant, instead of aiming at morally improving them; in Gorgias 502d-503b, the mob-orators are said to be always ready to sacrifice the commonwealth to their own personal interest.

(26) Excerpted from Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Gian Francesco Pico, Opera omnia (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1969), 351-58. The English translation is cited from Wayne Rebhorn, ed. and trans., Renaissance Debates on Rhetoric (Cornell U. Press, 2000), 59.

(27) As Stephen Greenblatt puts it, self-fashioning in the Renaissance "may suggest hypocrisy or deception, an adherence to mere outward ceremony." See Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago U. Press, 1980), 3.

(28) Selected from Guillaume du Vair, Oeuvres, ed. Rene Radouant (Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1970), 133-67. English translation quoted from Rebhorn, Renaissance Debates, 251.

(29) Peter Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), 52-53.

(30) For the orator-civilizer image, see Cicero, De inventione 1.2, and De oratore 1.33. For a detailed discussion of Cicero's nuanced response to the quarrel between rhetoricians and philosophers, see James M. May and Jakob Wisse, eds., Cicero: On the Ideal Orator (De Oratore) (Oxford U. Press, 2001), 20-26.

(31) For example, Sir Philip Sidney in "The Defense of Poesy" makes reference to the oratorcivilizer myth, and calls Orpheus and Amphion people who "draw with their charming sweetness the wild untamed wits to an admiration of knowledge." For the civic function of rhetoric in the Renaissance, see Brian Vickers, "'The Power of Persuasion': Images of the Orator, Elyot to Shakespeare," in Renaissance Eloquence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Renaissance Rhetoric, ed. James J. Murphy (U. of California Press, 1983), 411-17.

(32) Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 7.1.1.

(33) For a discussion of neostoicism as an important strain of political thought in late-sixteenth-and early-seventeenth-century England, see Adriana McCrae, Constant Minds: Political Virtue and the Lipsian Paradigm in England, 1584-1650 (U. of Toronto Press, 1997).

(34) In light of Renaissance psychological theory, Palmer analyzes the scene as an example of Brutuss passion and imagination overtaking his reason and judgment. See D. J. Palmer, "Tragic Error in Julius Caesar',' Shakespeare Quarterly 21 (1970): 399-409.

(35) For a discussion of hysteron proteron in Renaissance rhetorical manuals, see George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, ed. Frank Whigham and Wayne A. Rebhorn (Cornell U Press, 2007), 253-54.

(36) Joel B. Altman, The Improbability of Othello: Rhetorical Anthropology and Shakespearean Selfhood (U. of Chicago Press, 2010), 184.

(37) My point differs from that of Garry Wills, who argues in Rome and Rhetoric, 62, that Brutus here is concerned "not over whether to act, but how to present the action to others." I argue instead that the soliloquy is primarily a window into how Brutus rationalizes his contemplated action to himself rather than a conscious search for convincing ways to present the murder to others.

(38) See Juan Luis Vives, De anima et vita, 3.372, 374; qtd. in Altman, The Improbability of Othello, 192.

(39) John Drakakis, "'Fashion it thus': Julius Caesar and the Politics of Theatrical Representation," in Shakespeare and Politics, ed. Catherine M. S. Alexander (Cambridge U. Press, 2004), 206-18.

(40) Cicero, De Oratore, 2.45.189.

(41) Scholars have offered various explanations for this bizarre duplicate revelation. Some believe it is a textual error because of Shakespeare's revision; some argue that Brutus pretends to know nothing about Portia's death because Messala's question revives Brutus's hope that Portia might still be alive. For both views, see Warren D. Smith, "The Duplicate Revelation of Portia's Death," Shakespeare Quarterly 4 (1953): 153-61. Some believe that both revelations may be intended--the first an intimate revelation to Cassius, the second a public display of his Stoic reserve for Messala and Titinius; see Arnold, Julius Caesar, n73.

(42) As Geoffrey Miles contends, the Stoic constancy Brutus appeals to in lording over his fellow conspirators amounts to an unnatural suppression of feelings; see Shakespeare and the Constant Romans (Oxford U. Press, 1996), 123-48.

(43) For example, despite Cassius's opposition, Brutus spares Antony's life, enabling him later to undermine the conspiracy; he also willfully decides to command the conspirators to march to Philippi, a decision that eventually leads to their defeat. For a discussion of Brutus's will to domineer over others, see Gordon Ross Smith, "Brutus, Virtue and Will," Shakespeare Quarterly 10 (1959): 367-79.

(44) As Clifford Ronan briefly notes, several Roman plays press the questions about the often inherently performative nature of social behavior manifested in the military and Stoic ideals in Julius Caesar; see "Untike Roman": Power, Symbology and the Roman Play in Early Modern England, 1585-1635 (U. of Georgia Press, 1995), 3.

(45) In Rome and Rhetoric, 55-56, Wills calls it "a monotonous dwelling on Brutus, his honor, his unquestionable standing."

(46) Wills, Rome and Rhetoric, 57.

(47) Arnold, Introduction to Julius Caesar, 30-31.

(48) For a reading of Cassius and Antony as parallel figures who "seduce" Brutus and the mob respectively to their advantage, see Barbara L. Parker, "'This Monstrous Apparition': The Role of Perception in Julius Caesar," Ball State University Forum 16.3 (1975): 70-77.

(49) Skinner contends that Antony in his speech turns from concessio to accusatio, and develops what he calls a rival constitutio iuridicalis. See Quentin Skinner, Forensic Shakespeare (Oxford U. Press, 2015), 55.

(50) Kenneth Burke, Counter-Argument (U. of California Press, 1968), 102: "the standpoint of the ironist is shifting.... He belittles the things he lives for, and with melancholy praises what he abandons. ... The ironist is essentially impure... since he is divided."

(51) For Caesar as the imperator in the play, see John W Velz, "Orator and Imperator in Julius Caesar: Style and the Process of Roman History," Shakespeare Studies 15 (1982): 55-75.

(52) Similarly, Crider argues that none of the orators in the play (Brutus, Cassius, and Antony) can be called a "complete orator," and many of the play's oratorical persuasions are "tragic." Crider defines the ideal orator as someone with good and legitimate (republican) ends who employs effective means. See With What Persuasion, 45-65. Different from my pessimistic reading of Shakespeare's possible take on rhetoric, Crider proposes in brief remarks that Cicero (the historical figure more so than the character in the play) could have been the ideal orator to rouse the emotion of the mass and save the republican cause from its tragic ending.

Xinyao Xiao

University of Texas at Austin
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