Julius Caesar


Marcus Brutus

More than any other character in Julius Caesar, Brutus struggles with the moral complexities of his role as a political leader and the consequences of his decisions. Throughout the play, Brutus experiences an inner turmoil that makes him a sympathetic character, and cements his role as the protagonist and tragic hero of the play. As a tragic hero, Brutus has a clearly identifiable tragic flaw: his rigid idealism. Brutus’s idealism is a double-edged sword. On one hand, his reputation for being honorable and noble in his actions means that the Roman citizens are likely to support him. The respect that the Romans have for him is the reason why Cassius must win him over if they are to gain the support of the citizens after Caesar’s assassination, and even Antony describes Brutus as “the noblest Roman of them all”—just after he has defeated Brutus in battle. However, because of his commitment to always do what he thinks is the most honorable thing, his plans lack nuance. He fails to grasp the more subtle political machinations which would make him a successful politician.

Brutus often makes poor decisions out of a naïve trust in the people around him. He never questions the validity of the forged letters which constitute his final reason for joining the conspiracy. He blindly trusts that Antony will understand the necessity of the assassination, and does nothing to prepare for the opposite. Similarly, he assumes that the citizens will accept his explanation for what has happened, and is so trusting that he doesn’t even stay to hear what Antony says to them. Allowing Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral is a huge mistake, and leads to Brutus’s ultimate downfall. Perhaps even more tragically, Brutus’s rigid sense of honor is responsible for his decision to stab Caesar—his own friend, whom he does not hate—in the back. It is a painful and heartbreaking sort of idealism, and one that lends greatly to the tragedy of the play.

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Essays About Julius Caesar