Brutus: Let them enter:
They are the faction. O conspriracy,
Sham’st thou to show thy dangerous brow by night
When evils are most free?
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 1)
Julius Caesar is, in my view, one of the most under rated of Shakespeare’s plays, one which I feel belongs right up there with the four great tragedies Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear. The great tragedies each not only have pathos, but they explore an existentialist dilemma. Hamlet is about the earliest pre-fall dilemma – knowledge and innocence. Macbeth is about guilt and innocence. Othello is about love and hatred. King Lear, the only of Shakespeare’s plays which approaches Greek tragedy in its themes, is about trust and betrayal.
Julius Caesar, at its heart, is about the dilemma of love and duty. Its hero is Brutus, who must choose between his love for his best friend, Caesar, and his duty towards his country. Appalled and horrified by the unlimited power which Caesar has seized as dictator, undermining the Roman Republic’s institutions and rule of law, Brutus is reluctantly persuaded that he must become a tyrannicide, even though the tyrant is his closest friend and benefactor.
And at the heart of the play is one of the four most powerful passages written by Shakespeare, right up there with Juliet’s balcony scene, Macbeth’s lament after his wife has killed herself, and Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. I’m talking, of course, about Marc Antony’s funeral oration, which has captured imaginations for four hundred years and inspired countless other artists in different ways, including Charles Bronson and Ringo Starr.
At the start of Caesar’s funeral, the tyrannicides appear to have won, and in the fall of the tyrant they have restored the Roman Republic. In the surviving consul, Antony, they do not see a threat to their agenda. And his speech starts off fairly mildly:
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar.”
But the mood of the crowd does shift, as with biting sarcasm, Antony gradually turns the crowd from relief at the death of the tyrant to anger at the tyrannicides. His constant use of the term ‘honourable’ in describing Brutus and his co-conspirators, suggests that they are anything but:
“O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men.
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men.”
Politicians who either have held a ministerial position, or who sit in the Victorian Legislative Council, are entitled to use the title ‘The Honourable’ in front of their name. So, many of the members of the Victorian Parliamentary Labor Party are “honourable” men (and women).
Of course, right now as they sit passively in their offices like so many sheep, I use the term ‘honourable” ironically, just like Marc Antony.
There is a tyrant in the state of Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews. With the complicity of his parliamentary party, and three irresponsible cross benchers in the legislative council, (again ‘honourable’ men and women), he has used the excuse of a pandemic (which his own incompetence and lack of accountability caused to run out of control, killing 800 people needlessly) to suspend the Rule of Law in Victoria, to suppress the right to protest and freedom of speech, and to enable the police to operate in a heavy handed and oppressive manner against the citizens of this state.
Given that the right to protest has been suppressed to the point where people get arrested for even suggesting it, is there any surprise when people start vandalising the office of such a tyrant in the dead of night – it is the only form of protest that they feel is left to them?
But I make a call to the “honourable” men and women of the parliamentary Labor party, such as my rather goopy looking local MP, the Honourable Ben Carroll. It is time for you people, like the Roman senators led by Brutus, to turn tyrannicide (metaphorically of course) and sack Daniel Andrews as leader of your party.
Do something decent for a change instead of being complicit in the destruction of the Rule of Law in Victoria whilst you keep your swinish snouts firmly in the feeding trough. Sack Dan. Perhaps then people might not throw you out at the next election.