Brutus: A Tragic Hero in Shakespeare´s Julius Caesar


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     The definition of a tragic hero is perceived as on who is neither wicked nor purely innocent, one who “is brave and noble but guilty of the tragic flaw of assuming that honorable ends justify dishonorable means”. In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Brutus takes the role of the tragic hero. Brutus’s honor, nobility, and self-righteousness makes him “a tragic figure, if not the hero” (Catherine C. Dominic).

     As the play opens, Brutus is known as a Roman nobleman and a member of one of the most illustrious families in Rome. He is first seen in Act I, scene ii, as one of Caesar’s “close friends” who is part of his entourage. But while alone with Cassius he is persuaded into taking a part in the assassination of Caesar. He is weary at first, and it seems as though it took Cassius some time to talk him into agreeing, yet Brutus looked at Caesar as some type of threat as well.

     As a “speculative man of high motives and refined sensibility”(Catherine C. Dominic) Brutus does have his confusion of motives. Act I, scene ii, is the first we see his weakness, “his concern with reputation and appearance, his subtle vanity and pride”(Gayle Green). Yet the main bases of Brutus’s bewilderment of motives takes place in Act II, scene I, with his famous soliloquy beginning with “It must be by his death”. This speech may be the turning point in which Brutus feels better about the assassination of his once called friend.

     Further in the play, Brutus is found in the orchard (Act II, scene I ) where the rest of the conspirators join in. This is where Cassius announces that Mark Antony should also be killed along with Caesar. At this point, Brutus objects, saying “Our Course will seem to bloody. Let us

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be sacrifices, but not butchers”(The Tragedy of Julius Caesar). Brutus shows forth his self-righteousness as he makes the murder to be a ritual sacrifice. This attitude continues over to Act III, scene I , after they kill Caesar. Brutus is the one to call everyone to bathe their hands in Caesar’s blood. This is a symbol of righteousness.

     At the funeral oration Brutus gives Mark Antony permission to speak, in doing so the crowd turns on Brutus, in favor to what Antony has to say about Caesar. As Mark Antony gives his clever speech, the crowd turns on Brutus and is in favor of Antony.

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After seeing how the crowd turned on the conspirators, Brutus is having second thoughts to what he has done. In Act IV, scene iii , Brutus has a lengthy exchange of words with Cassius about the consequences of the murder. Although thoughts of regret flow through his head, Brutus still believes the assassination to be a honorable act in saving the Republicanism. After the quarrel with Cassius is done, Brutus reveals to the readers that his wife has committed suicide as result of the turn of events that have happened. After this Brutus insists on fighting a battle at Philippi, against Cassius’s will, they go forth with it. Little did Brutus know, it would be resulted in Octavius’s favor. Finally, in Philippi, Brutus cannot sleep because he sees an image of Caesar’s ghost representing Brutus’s evil spirit.

     As the play reached the battle at Philippi, Brutus’s forces are defeated and on man is captured leading to Brutus’s own death. The same sword in which took Caesar’s life was now to be Brutus’s fate. In Act V, scene v, Mark Antony cites a brief eulogy over Brutus’s dead corpse, “the noblest Roman of them all”(pg. 396, Act V, scene iv, line 68). He also says that Brutus was

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the only conspirator not envious of Caesar (www.galenet.com).

     Brutus did not act for himself, but for his country. Trying to save their republican traditions. Because he is a honorable man, Brutus goes against his will to act in the conspiracy. As a tragic hero, he is a “self-righteous reformer whose political and personal delusions invite disaster” ( Oscar James Campell ) . It is not his notion to kill Caesar, it is Cassius. Tragically, he is pulled into the conspiracy, with the thought it would help his country. Brutus is so caught up with doing good for the people that he is prepared to kill his “friend”. It was Cassius who corrupted to honorable Brutus. As Cassius makes him agree Brutus is “with himself at war”
(page 314, Act I, scene ii, line 46 ) debating whether to go through with it or not. As Cassius talks to Brutus, it is as if Brutus is almost forcing himself to see Cassius’s points, for he feels it is what is better for the country.

     As a loyal Roman, Brutus proves himself greatly. Although being one of the conspirators and first to stab Caesar, he pushes to do the right thing to save his country and keep what traditions he feels are right, alive. Throughout the entire friendship of Julius Caesar and Brutus, Brutus has been a loyal friend and had stayed true to him. Up until Caesar’s death. After the assassination occurred, Brutus revealed that he loved Caesar. In his soliloquy Brutus “reveals himself not as a man with a cause but a man desperately trying to convince himself he has a cause” ( Dave John ). The writer to this quote is trying to show the Brutus’s undying loyalty to himself, country and friends.

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     Truly a noble figure, Brutus is of high position and takes care in his decisions. As a noble man, he stays true to his word, going against Caesar to help the country. ‘Having decided to murder Caesar, Brutus attempts to make his decision honorable. He opposes Cassius’s oath.” (Henze, Richard ) ~(found in Act II, scene I, lines 132- 134 ). Rater than be killed in battle, Brutus takes his death while he still had nobility. Instead of being killed by the enemy, Brutus ended his life t he way he wanted it to end.

     Like many tragic heros in other plays and books, Brutus is at his own fault. He makes a mistake which leads to his death. From the moment he agrees to partake in the conspiracy, the reader can feel an uneasiness because of BRUTUS’S uneasiness on the situation. Though Brutus meant good for Rome, the country he tried to defend went against him. Three major mistakes happened through Shakespear’s play...” 1.) He urges the sparing of Antony, 2.) He allows Antony to speak at the funeral, and 3.) He meets the enemy at Philippi.” (Miaola, Roberts ). All of these events lead up to Brutus’s death. If he had not let Antony make a speech at the funeral, the crowd would have not have turned on him and the conspirators. Brutus would not have fled and set a battle against the enemy at Philippi, which resulted in his own death.

     Although such an honorable character such as Brutus, he does have his flaws, tragic flaws. Brutus is seen as the noble and honorable character has an other side in which he himself only saw in his dream. The ghost of Caesar is supposed to portray Brutus’s ‘evil spirit’. Which
has gone against his friend Caesar himself.

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     Through many plays, there has been many tragic heros, but never did they prove the role of nobility and honor such as Marcus Brutus did in Shakespear’s “Tragedy of Julius Caesar”. Brutus’s last words were “In all my life I found no way but he was true to me” ( Barton, Anne ). He was shown to be a loyal friend as well as a protector of Rome. As he meant good, he brought upon himself his death because of the triumph at Philippi. “Brutus shall lead and we will grace his heels with the most boldest and best hearts of Rome. ( page 351, Act III, scene I, lines 120-122 ). His undying friendship to Caesar, love for Portia, and his will to his word created a honorable figure. No matter the situation he was always fighting for the Republicanism of Rome. As he agreed with Cassius to join the conspiracy, he perhaps also agreed to the beginning of the end of his life. Tragically, he took his own life, dying a noble death. WORK CITED

Barton, Anne. Julius Caesar and Coridans: Shakespear’s Roman World of Words”. Http://galenet.gale.com

Dave, John. “Lovers in Peace--Brutus and Cassius: A re-examination”. Http://galenet.gale.com

Dominic, Catherine C. Shakespear’s Characters. Detroit. Galeresearch, 1997

Henze, Richard. “Power and Spirit in Julius Caesar”. Http://galenet.gale.com

Multimedia Gallery. Julius Caesar. Http://galenet.gale.com

Oscar James Campell. The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespear. NY, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1834

Miola, Roberts. Julius Caesar and the Tyrannicide Debute. Http


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