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Julius Caesar Essay: Flawed Models of Leadership

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Julius Caesar:  Flawed Models of Leadership     

 

Leadership is a recurrent theme in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The play is centred on a group of men in leadership positions. The political setting and mood of Julius Caesar, lend itself well to Shakespeare's insights into the human condition. As the players' personalities develop through the course of the play, we see that his portrayal of their character-types (which still endure today) is both consistent and accurate.

            Julius Caesar has many fine examples of arrogance in leadership. We see Caesar's pretensions as quite laughable. "But I am constant as the northern star, of whose true-fix'd and resting quality there is no fellow in the firmament", and "the things that threaten'd me ne'er look'd but on my back: when they shall see the face of Caesar, they are vanished" demonstrate his pride. Shakespeare suggests that although being 'sure of yourself' is a necessary characteristic for a good leader (as it enables decisive action and 'courage'); it should also be tempered with humility.

            The confidence of a leader, in turn, instils confidence in his/her followers. The quote,  "And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive; yet in the number I do know but one that unassailable holds on his rank, unshaked of motion: and that I am he", is an example of the comfort and security that his words provided the common people. Caesar's absolute faith in his greatness and right to rule was in the perfect climate, in the midst of a community that was seeking a 'ruler'. The followers were more sheep than thinker...


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...other conspirators as traitors, the crowd is wild. Antony's transparent "sweet friends let me not stir you up to such a sudden flood of mutiny" is just the beginnings of his carefully-orchestrated urgings to them. When he finally sets them loose, it is with a "Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt!"- an exclamation which sounds 'heartstrong', but not very well-thought out. Shakespeare advises that such a leader can be dangerous.

            Through a well-developed cast and a complex play about men, politics and power; Shakespeare has once again demonstrated his mastery of the humanity of the characters he creates. The flawed models of leadership we examine in Julius Caesar aptly lend themselves to the theory that "an imperfect world gives power to imperfect men".

 


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