Afloat!


Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

Brutus:
“We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

This philosophy seems wise; it contains a certain beauty as well, suggesting that while we do not have total control over our lives, we do have a responsibility to take what few measures we can to live nobly and honorably.

Sometimes if one misses this chance, the “voyage” that one’s life comprises will remain forever confined to the shallows, and one will never experience anything more glorious than the mundane events in this narrow little bay.

And sometimes if we do not “take the current” now, when the time is right, we will lose our “ventures,” or opportunities.

Human beings must be shrewd enough to recognize when fate offers them an opportunity and bold enough to take advantage of it.
The passage elegantly formulates a complex conception of the interplay between fate and free will in human life. Throughout the play, the reader must frequently contemplate the forces of fate versus free will and ponder whether characters might be able to prevent tragedy if they could only understand and heed the many omens that they encounter. This musing brings up further questions, such as whether one can achieve success through virtue, ambition, courage, and commitment or whether one is simply fated to succeed or fail, with no ability to affect this destiny.

 

 

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