The historical figure of Gaius Caligula is one that has been mythologized, vilified, and misconstrued over the course of time. At this point in time, thousands of years after his historical reign over Rome, it is hard to tell what is fact and what is fiction regarding his life and his actions. Albert Camus' presentation of the young ruler in the 1938 play Caligula brings up many questions that must be answered before it is able to truly understand the historical character of Caligula. Unfortunately, little is known of his true character, and much of the information we do know balances on the thin line between fact and fiction.
[...] Caligula then goes on to explain, in detail, the logic behind his assumptions, condemns Mereia for the second crime, that of “thwart[ing his] and hands the old man a phial of poison, for him to nobly, a rebel's death” (32). Upon Mereia's death, and an inspection of the flask that he had been drinking from at the beginning of the argument, Caligula finds that it was only an asthma remedy. His response, matter. It all comes to the same thing in the (33). [...]
[...] In the end, his feelings are entirely correct, as all of the men who claim to stand by his side develop and carry through a plot to take his life. Granted, it is arguably his own actions that brought about that plot. When you look at the four years of Caligula's reign, it is hard to distinguish between logic and insanity because, often, the line blurs beyond distinction. His main idealism centers around the idea that most, if not all, of humanity is based on fallacy. [...]
[...] v-vi) His actions in the play, although undoubtedly unorthodox and unyielding, stay true to these ideas that Camus describes until the end of his life. Ultimately, Caligula becomes the impersonation of the very real fear that, despite pleasant and willing exteriors, everyone in the world around us has become subject to false idols, figures of speech, and general apathy. At the end of the play, however, he realizes the of his ways, just as his court assassinates him. While Caligula's methods are seemingly ridiculous, the ideas and motives behind them test human nature itself. [...]
[...] During a discussion of the emperor's plan to award a “Badge of Civic Merit” to those who patronize his brothel the most, Mereia begins to drink from a flask. The scene ensues as follows: CALIGULA: What's that you're drinking, Mereia? MEREIA: It's for my asthma, Caius. CALIGULA: No, it's an antidote You're afraid I'll poison you You suspect me. You're keeping an eye on me. MEREIA: Good heavens, no! CALIGULA: If you take an antidote, it follows that you credit me with the intention of poisoning you. [...]
[...] And I've got the power to make them do Due to this logic, he takes the lives (at least in the play) of his servicemen, friends, and his favorite wife, Caesonia. The question then arises, if niceness arises from superficiality, is inhumanity the only way to be genuine? It is a question that can never truly be answered, because, in the way of human nature, our logic will say yes, while our conscience says no. It can be argued that, in choosing to respect only his logic, Caligula has become inhuman in Camus' play. [...]
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