Discuss Shakespeare’s presentation of Brutus in ‘Julius Caesar’
Marcus Brutus is a central character within the play; playing an essential role in the assassination of Julius Caesar. He is immediately portrayed as a loyal servant and close friend to Caesar creating a sense of irony in his role as conspirator. Brutus is complex, because he does not kill Caesar for greed, envy nor to preserve his social position like so many of the other conspirators against Caesar. This Brutus reinforces within his speech in Act III, Scene II, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live ll free men? ” thus, explaining his actions as being for the good of Rome. Due to this, the character of Brutus has caused a lot of controversy as to whether he was a hero or villain, Does assassinating a leader for the good of the people constitute bravery worthy of a tragic hero or can the end never justify the means? This early demonstration of Brutus’ relationship to Caesar, his involvement in the conspiracy and his importance to the plot immediately engages the audience in the action and with his powerful soliloquies, the audience gains insight into the complexities of his motives.
He is a powerful public figure, but he appears also as a husband, a master to his servants, a dignified military leader, and a loving friend. Brutus is first introduced during Act I, Scene II, He appears to be a man at war with himself, torn between his love for Caesar and his honorable concern for Rome. This is reflected within the lines, “What means this shouting? I do fear the people choose Caesar as their king… yet I love him well” (lines 85-89).
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He worries that it is not in Rome’s best interest for Caesar to become king, yet he hates to oppose his friend. His relationship with Cassius is first introduced as he prominently steps into Brutus’ personal crisis and begins his campaign in an attempt to recruit Brutus to the conspiracy. It is apparent however that Brutus’ astute character is aware and not led by his friends persuasive techniques, revealing his previous apprehensions of Caesar’s growing power; “he will climber upward… he unto the ladder turns his back… suggesting that Brutus feels Caesar will turn his back on the people of Rome. Ironically though it can be argued that Brutus assassinated his friend to prevent one man ruling the Roman Empire, history was later to make this a reality.
This is suggested in his funeral oration over Caesar’s body, “Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious I slew him. The harsh balanced opposition of the first two lines is extremely clever and maximizes effect, also proving useful in portraying Brutus’ personality through his speech proving not only his skills as an orator, but also his rigid ideas. Brutus’ oration skills were made apparent after the speech at the market place over Caesars’ body (act III scene II). The symmetrical structure of the speech, the balanced sentences, its ordered procedure and rhetorical schemes is typical of the style of roman orators.
Each phase of the speech cleverly uses its own rhetorical pattern, the line, “As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious; I slew him” he uses four statements in the same form repeated in reverse order with equivalent nouns in place of verbs or adjectives, relaying the rhetorical style, again purposely typical of a roman orator. Brutus also flatters the crowd by inviting them to judge him, to approve his honor, to rank him as a dear friend to Caesar and to accept that his love for Rome was the motive.
Also due to rhetorical questions within the speech he ingeniously forestalls any objections from his audience. Shakespeare’s language used within Brutus’ speech allows the reader to gain insight into the characters personality, reflected by a powerful noble prose. The relationship between Cassius and Brutus is also extremely complex with Cassius attempting to flatter Brutus’s pride by offering to be his mirror and thus relaying to him the ostensible high regard in which the citizens hold him. Why should Caesar’s name be more celebrated than Brutus’s when, spoken together, the names sound equally pleasing and thus suggest that the men should hold equal power? ” a clever technique used by Cassius in a further attempt to recruit Brutus towards the conspiracy. Throughout their relationship as companions and later brothers in arms Cassius has continually acted as a foil to Brutus. Shakespeare’s demonstration of Brutus shows determination and strength excelled by Cassius; however it also reveals he lacks practicality by failing to assess consequences.
He is an idealistic man, motivated by nobility and principles with his rigid idealism being both his greatest virtue and his most deadly flaw. His commitment to principle leads him to make miscalculations; wanting to avoid violence he ignores Cassius’ suggestion that the conspirators kill Anthony as well as Caesar. “For Antony is but a limb of Caesar: Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers. ” His ignorance being an attempt to curtail violence, proving however to be a huge mistake.
A further example of his commitment to principle and a moment of nai??ve idealism illustrates Brutus again ignoring the advice of Cassius and allowing Antony to speak a funeral oration over Caesar’s body. “You know not what you do: do not consent That Antony speak in his funeral: Know you how much the people may be moved by that which he will utter? ” advice demonstrating Cassius’ practicality as a leader, in comparison to Brutus’ nai??ve and idealistic views.
As a result of this action however, Brutus forfeits the authority of having the last word on the murder, thus allowing Antony to incite the Roman populace unto rioting against him and his fellow conspirators. This decision is based highly on philosophical principles rather than practical, political or military necessity; a dangerous mistake in view of the later coming to power of Antony. Brutus’ final lack of judgement and greatest mistake however, comes about in act IV, scene II, where he foolishly tries to convince Cassius that it is time to begin the battle against Octavius and Mark Antony; “We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. ” He speaks figuratively of a ‘tide’ in the lives of humans: if one takes advantage of the high tide, one may float out to sea and travel far. Brutus reproaches Cassius that if they do not ‘take the current’ now, when the time is right, they will lose their opportunities.
Brutus’ repeated failures to interpret signs correctly and to adapt to unfolding events form the basis for the tragedy that occurs as a result of his actions. Relationships play a major role in the character of Brutus. He demonstrates loyalty and nobility to both his companion Cassius, his beloved wife and his servants. At first Brutus seems wary of Cassius and may not sufficiently trust him; their relationship however does not seem static. As their relationship grows closer due to heading the conspiratory group they seem almost like that of a married couple, pointlessly bickering; “I denied you not. ” “I do not like your faults. “A friendly eye would not see such faults. ”
This unusual form of language portrayed by Shakespeare shows their advance in friendship but also their intimacy as leaders. Brutus later endangers his good relationship with Cassius, however by self – righteously condemning what he sees as dishonorable fund-raising tactics on Cassius’s part. Also the fact that he doesn’t tell Cassius about the death of his wife Portia straight away however, suggests that their relationship may not be as close as displayed, symptomatic of a stoical man; he is deeply upset about the loss of his wife but is highly forbearing and impassive.
Brutus proves also to be a loving husband feeling guilt for having to tell his wife of the plot to kill Caesar. It is apparent that Portia and Brutus are close as he decides to open up his heart to her and make her aware of the plot, again displaying his honesty and naivety; “by and by thy bosom shall partake the secrets of my heart. All my engagements I will construe to thee. ” Portia proves to be an extremely noble wife, committing suicide due to the conspiracy. The fact that Brutus doesn’t say anything about his tragic loss until act four scene III suggests that he is indeed highly stoical; “O Cassius I am sick of many grief’s… o man bears sorrow better. Portia is dead. ” Another trademark of his strong character. Brutus also proves to be a good master to his servants; a highly unusual trait of a powerful Roman. He is generous and caring, overall proving himself to be an honest and noble citizen. His honesty as a character is portrayed in act 4 scene III whereby he refuses to take bribes; “I can raise no money by vile means. ” This suggests that he does not want to resort to corrupt means in order to acquire money, again proving his nobleness and rigid idealism.
This however is highly ironic and hypocritical as he is willing to take money from Cassius that has been raised due to vile means. Again proving his philosophical values are not always completely long lived. The character of Brutus Is extremely noble and dignified, this is proven when Brutus dies by suicide, a hugely noble deed in the roman era, Mark Antony describes his bitter enemy by saying, ” this was the noblest roman of them all…. this was a man. ” Mark Antony recognizes with these words that Brutus acted from a sense of civic duty, not malice nor greed nor envy, unlike the other conspirators.
He realizes Brutus is not a thoughtless butcher and shows immense respect for him. In conclusion I feel that the Shakespeare portrays the character of Brutus as a powerful public figure, appearing as both a loving husband, master to his servants, dignified military leader, and a loving friend. He is extremely noble and although sometimes lacks the ability to correctly assess situations; following principle rather than military strategics, he is proven to be a very respectful and dignified Roman, dedicated to his country.