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By David Elloway (auth.)

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His humane wish to avoid unnecessary bloodshed combines with his idealism: it is the spirit of Caesar (167) that they are opposing, the principle of absolute rule by one man and the Caesar-worship that is sweeping Rome. And since they cannot 'come by Caesar's spirit' without dismembering Caesar he tries to transform the assassination from a murder into a sacrifice - a sacrifice to the republican ideal: Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods, Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds. (173-4) This is not necessarily unrealistic.

He greets each in turn, with a tactful word of condolence for his former enemy, Ligarius (111-13). Once again our sympathies fluctuate. Even here one might still sense the great man, mellowed by the promise of a crown, unbending to his subordinates, with perhaps a touch of condescension in his casual greetings- 'Now, Cinna; now, Metellus; what, Trebonius' -but he shows an ingenuous pleasure at their visit as he thanks them for their 'pains and courtesy', blames himself for being 'thus waited for' and invites his 'Good friends' to drink wine with him.

The effect of what follows is ambiguous. This is the moment of triumph; Cinna proclaims 'Liberty! Freedom! ' -but his words fall hollowly in the rapidly emptying Senate. Amid the general confusion (96-8) the conspirators seem equally confused. They have made no plans and give contradictory advice. Cinna and Cassius urge that they disperse to proclaim the news through Rome, but Metellus advises that they 'Stand fast together' lest they be attacked. They seem not to have considered the possibility, and it is not considered now; Brutus cuts Me tellus off in midsentence (89), although Cassius now seems to agree with him (92-3).

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