William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, introduces Caesar as the main character, but later reveals Brutus as the tragic hero. Throughout the play, Caesar’s death provokes Brutus’s journey of regret and sorrow as he approaches his destiny. Brutus, an honorable, high-ranking nobleman, commits treason against his own friend but later realizes his ignorance and faces his vile punishment, allowing him to be the tragic hero of the play.
As a nobleman and commander of an army, Brutus exemplifies power and authority over the citizens in Rome, greatly influencing their opinions. For instance, when Brutus discusses with Cassius about his self-worth, Cassius informs him, “I have heard / Where many of the best respect in Rome, / … speaking of Brutus / And groaning underneath this age’s yoke, / Have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes.” (I, ii, ln 60-64). Cassius’s statement confirms that even the noblest of Romans recognize his dignity and desire his assistance in improving the government. The mere fact that they elected him emphasizes his impact and influence on the city and proves he has the power to transform the government into a finer system. Furthermore, when Cassius explains how important Brutus is to the conspirator’s to Casca, Casca agrees, “Oh, he sits high in all the people’s hearts,.. / His countenance, like the richest alchemy, / Will change to virtue and to worthiness.” (I, iii, ln 159-162). Not only is he desperately wanted by other noblemen, but he seems to be extremely favored by the public. He is entreated to the point where he could convince them that an evil, cruel decision is just. The conspirators give a descriptive idea of how prestige and influential Brutus is in the eyes of the people in Rome.
With the help of the other conspirators, Brutus persuades himself into committing treason against his friend, Caesar, and uses justice for Rome as an excuse to cover up his ignorance and self-pride. Moreover, when Brutus predicts of Caesar’s ambitious actions once he gains power, Brutus resolves the issue by suggesting, “Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented, / Would run to these and these extremities. / And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg — / Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous — / And kill him in his shell.” (II, i, ln 30-34). Brutus decides to rely on his predictions to guide his actions, leading his mind into thoughts of murder. He convinces himself that he is being completely reasonable and just about his resolution and ignores his conscience. In addition, when Brutus receives the letters forged by Cassius, he reacts, “Am I entreated / To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise, / If the redress will follow, thou receivest / Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus!” (II, i, ln 55-58). Because of the conspirators’ lies, Brutus commits himself to “serving justice” by doing what he thinks is right: kill Caesar. He mistakens the act of murder for honor and justice and continues to set his mind on killing his own friend, Caesar. The fatal error of a false understanding of honor ultimately paves a path of death for Brutus to walk on in the near future.
As a result of Brutus’s unwise decision, he suffers the loss of his innocent wife, for she was too worried about the dangerous situation Brutus put himself into. Furthermore, after Brutus leaves to the Capitol, Portia speaks to herself, “Ay me, how weak a thing / The heart of woman is! O Brutus / The heavens speed thee in thine enterprise!” (II, iv, ln 41-43). Portia, unaware of the situation Brutus is in, worries extensively after noticing his odd behavior. Assuming it is not good news, she sends the servant boy to the Capitol to confirm Brutus’s safety and anxiously awaits for the ultimate truth. Moreover, when Brutus found out that Antony and Octavious were growing stronger, he also discovered, “with this she fell distract / And, her attendants absent, swallowed fire.” (IV, iiim ln 159-160). With no choice but to leave Portia behind, Brutus realizes that Portia, oblivious of Brutus’s faulty actions, must be filled with fear and worry, but it is too late when he hears of her death. She could no longer deal with the overwhelming anxiety and grief that she was experiencing, so she dies very unfortunately. Inducing pity amongst the audience, Portia is taken from Brutus in exchange for his fatal decisions.
Brutus’s realization that Cassius and the conspirators did not kill Caesar for his ambition infuriated him, filling him with regret and sorrow. For instance, when Brutus finds out that Cassius had sold positions to men, he questions, “What villain touched his body, that did stab, / And not for justice? What, shall one of us / That struck the foremost man of all this world / But for supporting robbers.” (IV, iii, ln 20-23). Cassius’s actions differed from the reasons why he claimed Caesar should be killed, angering Brutus. Brutus is now fully aware of the real situation he put himself into and confronts Cassius about how he convinced him into treason not justice. Moreover, after Brutus and Cassius unwillingly made up, Cassius claimed, “I did not think you could have been so angry,” and Brutus replies, “O Cassius, I am sick of many griefs.” (IV, iii, ln 147-148). After Brutus finds out the truth, he realizes he has no choice but to follow through with Cassius because he has already come too far. Brutus still disagrees with the morals Cassius harnesses, but Brutus knows there is no use in arguing now; what’s done is done and he must pay for those deeds. Although Caesar’s murder was proposed as an act of justice, Brutus becomes aware that the conspirators’ true intentions were not for the best of Rome but for the themselves, leaving him with shock and distress.
To place peace into both Brutus and Caesar’s heart, Brutus ultimately ends this war, initiated by his mistaken sense of honor, by killing himself. Furthermore, after Statilius is captured and most likely killed, “Brutus asks of his friends to kill him, explaining, “Why this Volumnius: / The ghost of Caesar hath appeared to me / Two several times by night… / I know my hour is come.” (V, v, ln 16-18, 20). Brutus accepts these signs as a bad omen and assures himself that he must die to resolve the confliction he has created. He does not try to deny or resist the punishment the universe has supposedly given him and requests of this to his friends. In addition, after saying his official goodbyes, Brutus claims, “My bones would rest’ / That have but labored to attain this hour.” (V, v, ln 41-42). His body, which have committed so many crimes up to this point, needs to be relieved of his crimes. He emphasizes his necessity to die in order to release the sins engraved in his body and replace it with peace. Brutus ultimately is happiest when he determines to die, for he cannot live with the guilt and pain he underwent due to his misguided interpretation of honor.
Although he selects the wrong path in the beginning, Brutus reaches a state of clarity, attempts to fix his wrongs, and bring back honor to Caesar’s name, earning the title as a tragic hero. Both Caesar and Brutus end up dying, but it actually brings happiness and peace to their hearts. Even though Julius Caesar is the name of the book, the true figure of a tragic hero is Brutus.
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