Motivation And Manipulation In Julius Caesar

1839 words - 7 pages

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare illuminates the themes of human motivation and manipulation. He examines the relationship between actions and motivations, cause and effect, and word and deed, using the symbols of hands and hearts. Throughout the play, the characters Brutus and Marc Antony express their different understandings of this relationship rhetorically. In his 1953 film interpretation, Joseph L. Mankiewicz demonstrates these characters’ understanding through both the play’s original dialogue and his own interpolated action. It is interesting to see the different effects of spoken rhetoric, as we experience it in the play, and the visual rhetoric of the film. The play itself complicates matters of motivation and therefore does not answer the question of blame. When reading one character, the audience feels connected with their point of view, and when reading the other, they are made to feel unsure about their initial opinion. In the end, it is nearly impossible to discover the characters’ inner motives, and it is therefore difficult to place blame on one or the other. However, Mankiewicz visually presents the complex relationship between these two symbols and in doing so, he creates a more sympathetic persona for Brutus than the one in the play. He focuses on the hands as a symbol of unity, love, and friendship, and where characters use hands for evil acts, he is quick to juxtapose the actions of hands from the motivations of the heart. While Shakespeare uses this juxtaposition to merely complicate the matter without solving it, Mankiewicz uses it to simplify the question. For Mankiewicz, Brutus’ involvement in the murder of Caesar, does not wholly reflect his character, and the audience is made to see a more human, vulnerable side to him in the film.
Even from the first scenes, Mankiewicz emphasizes hands and the element of touch in the film. In his interpretation of Act 1, Scene 2 when Caesar asks Antony to touch Calphurnia as he runs by her, he places his hand firmly on Antony’s shoulder. This action demonstrates their close relationship, and by the time Antony agrees to Caesar’s request and leaves the scene, the viewers are in no doubt of their bond. In Act 2, Scene 1, Brutus takes the hands of the conspirators as they leave his house. Here, the film adheres to the play’s direction as it is written and represents it visually. Brutus says, “Give me your hands all over, one by one,” and he clasps hands with them in the bond of a common cause (2.1.112). In the same scene, touch also signifies the bond between lovers. Portia questions her husband Brutus about what troubles him, and he refuses to tell her. She states then that she is no better than his harlot, and he instantly embraces her as he continues with the scripted dialogue. This small act adds an emotional, tender side to Brutus’ nature that is not revealed as explicitly in the play by his words.
In the film interpretation of Act 3, Scene 1, Caesar goes to the Capitol, and...

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