Showing posts from August, 2010

Not to Praise Him

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
Thus begins the famous speech of Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  It is a speech often used as an example of fiery and perfectly-constructed political rhetoric – but today I would like to push that to one side and instead focus on just the second sentence of the speech, and what it can tell us about the nature of eulogising and the curiously inflexible nature of history.
“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”, says Antony, as if the two not only can but in fact should be kept separate.  After death, it is suggested, we can safely put aside our biases, stop blindly praising and consider every aspect of a person’s life, come to a full understanding of the person in question.
This is as far from the truth as it is possible to fathom.  In the course of his speech Antony repeatedly calls Caesar “great”; he describes “his sacred blood”.  He concludes: “Here was a Caesar! When comes such …