The Power of Rhetoric: Cassius’ Manipulation of Brutus
“For who so firm that cannot be seduced?” (1.2.312). Cassius’ muttered soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar immediately calls attention to his goal of manipulating people. A man well versed in rhetoric, he puts to good use his knowledge of persuading and convincing other men. Nowhere in this play is his ability more apparent than when he lures Brutus into joining his plot to assassinate Caesar. While presenting himself as a concerned friend, Cassius secretly manipulates Brutus using a firm knowledge of his desires and fears. Along with the juxtaposition of Brutus and Caesar and impelling word choice, Cassius successfully seduces Brutus to join his scheme to slay Caesar.
Cassius first establishes himself as a dependable, trustworthy ally of Brutus. After telling Brutus that he will be his mirror, Cassius asks Brutus to “hold [him] dangerous” if he were but a “common laughter” or if he did “fawn on men” and later “scandal them” (1.2.72, 75-78). This declaration is an open invitation for Brutus to challenge Cassius’ moral character. As John Dove remarks, “Clearly no man issues such a challenge unless securely confident that it cannot be taken up” (Dove). Brutus first judges if Cassius has performed any of...
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