Stoicism in Julius Caesar

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In Roman times, suicide was not the shameful, taboo act that it is today, but was once viewed as honorable and praiseworthy. The ultimate sacrifice was being able to take one's own life. Brutus, in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is a man driven by will, virtue, and disillusionment all in the name of the Republic. On the eve of his defeat by Antony, Brutus runs upon his own sword to preserve his honor as a Roman man. Brutus "embraces a Stoic attitude towards suicide, seeing it as the supreme form of self-possession, the achievement of worldly glory."(Rebhorn, 89) Stoicism, a philosophy followed by many Romans, states that "death by one's own hand is always an option and frequently more honorable than a life of protracted misery."(Sacharoff, 116) Stoics believe that "[suicide] springs from a feeble rather than a strong mind." (Sacharoff, 119) Being of week and conflicted mind, Brutus was right in taking his life, according to Stoicism. The will of Brutus, his virtue, and disillusionment were the cause of his feeble mind, and ultimately the cause of his suicide. While Brutus may not be the most intelligent of Shakespeare's characters in Julius Caesar, Brutus' will surpasses that of his peers. Brutus refuses to take orders from others, valuing his opinion above those of his peers. (Schanzer, 4) Gordon Ross Smith states that the "central quality of Brutus is not his virtue. It is his will." (367) Smith also points out that "Brutus… had not been accorded [his] leadership unless he had been ready, willing, and more than willing to exercise it." (Smith, 370) Brutus "wills," or believes himself to will much of what happens around him. Firstly, in the case of the great Caesar, "Brutus feels Caesar must die, and justly, for he would destroy the Republic, the public means of private authorization," and therefore goes about planning his downfall. (O'Dair, 298) In knowing that Brutus' will is strong, one can "surmise that Brutus agreed upon the assassination because he...
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