This response by Cassius to Brutus’ injunction to ‘bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood/Up to the elbows’ (ll. 106–7) is remarkable in its invitation to the audience to respond not just to the death of Julius Caesar seconds earlier, and to the deliberate glorification of the assassination by the conspirators, but also to the self-conscious theatricality of an actor invoking an image of future actors re-staging the scene for centuries to come to other audiences in other countries and languages. We are invited to respond emotionally, even viscerally, to the bloody moment, but at the same time to admire the intellectual double focus: Shakespeare, through Cassius, is using his own craft of the theatre (the ‘lofty scene’) to point out the momentous reverberations of an action that is as true when re-staged as when first performed. For actors to draw audience attention to the fact that it is only a play requires audacity; to do so in a way that deepens our response to the play is masterful.
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