Cassius and Love
An Unexpected Appeal (4.3)
By the time we get to 4.3 we think we know Cassius fairly well. He seems to be a rather one-dimensional person, a person who is resentful at Caesar for his success and therefore wants to manipulate Brutus into joining the conspiracy to eliminate Caesar. We have seen that his resentment at Caesar borders on the irrational: he objects to Caesar's fitness to rule based on the fact that he caught a cold during the Spanish campaign (1.2.119ff). Yet, he skillfully and patiently broke down Brutus's defenses and got him to join the conspiracy.
Caesar points to Cassius' skill at reading the "deeds of men (1.2.203)," and would consider Cassius dangerous if Caesar had anything, really, to fear (1.2.210-211), but he adds nothing to what we already think we know about Cassius.
Cassius and Love
Thus we are surprised when we hear Cassius use a different vocabulary when talking to Brutus in 4.3. It is the vocabulary of love. And, after hearing Cassius speak about love, we conclude that he is a vulnerable person who needs the approval of a respected colleague, but when this approval is removed, it turns to resentment and a sense of childlike hurt. He employs the language of love in 4.3 both to show the depth of his inner torment brought about by the quarrel with Brutus as well as to effect reconciliation with Brutus. Five times in 55 lines he refers to his love for Brutus or Brutus's love for him (4.3.63-119).
The quarrel with Brutus has "riv'd my heart (4.3.85)," he says. He thus does not want Brutus to presume too much on his love (4.3.63), because one can imagine that Cassius would just as soon "rive" Brutus in two since he has riv'd Cassius.
The quarrel, however, has made Cassius feel that Brutus is magnifying his infirmities (4.3.87). This makes Cassius say, "You love me not (4.3.89)." When Brutus tries to make a distinction between the person and his deeds, (4.3.89), Cassius launches into a beautiful, but forlorn expression of his inner desolation and self-pity, where he calls on Antony and Octavian to kill him because he is "hated by one he loves (4.3.96)." Then, in his melancholy summation, he says plaintively to Brutus, "Strike as thou didst at Caesar; for I know,/ When thou didst hate him worst, thou lovedst him better/ Than ever thou lovedst Cassius (4.3.105-107)."
Finally, when both admit they have been ill-tempered, Cassius says, "Have you not love enough to bear with me (4.3.119)?" So, it is the failure of love that has brought the quarrel upon them, the fear of losing Brutus's love that makes Cassius forlorn, the concern over the sufficiency of Brutus's love that makes Cassius uncertain whether their reconciliation will last. His hopes and fears are all met in the little word "love."
The Results of Love
Seen in this light, Cassius' submissiveness to Brutus throughout the play is not solely as an expression of deference to a person of higher social status or more public recognition. It is also a reaction of great fear, a fear that Cassius may lose the regard and closeness of Brutus that he has lost with Caesar. He and Caesar were boyhood companions, swimming the Tiber, challenging each other to competitive action. But Cassius lost the closeness with Caesar that he had at one time, and his resentment is no doubt the result of that loss. The thought of a quarrel with Brutus that might endanger his relationship with Brutus is almost too much to bear.
In order to try to "conquer" that thought, to fight against it, to see that it doesn't happen, Cassius uses the language of love. He has more references to Brutus's love of him than his of Brutus, and that is appropriate, because Cassius feels vulnerable with Brutus. Brutus is the one who can, like Caesar, end the relationship by withholding love. Cassius' submission to Brutus throughout the play, then, is an expression of his desire not to lose the love of Brutus, the one "he (Cassius) loves (4.3.96)."
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long