Contrasting CharactersIn Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius are contrasting characters. They differ in the way they perceive Antony as a threat to the assassination plot, their dominance in personality, and their moral fiber. In Julius Caesar, Brutus is the more naive, dominant and noble character, while Cassius is the more perceptive, submissive, and manipulative person.
Brutus and Cassius are very different in the way they perceive Antony. Brutus is very trusting and naive when he judges Antony. When the subject of killing Antony comes up among the conspirators, Brutus underestimates how dangerous Antony could be and says, “For Antony is but a limb of Caesar”(2.1.178). This statement means Brutus does not think it is necessary to kill Antony and he thinks that without Caesar, Antony is worthless. Another incident where Brutus misjudges Antony is when he allows Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Brutus trusts that Antony will not say anything bad about the conspirators or him: “What Antony shall speak I will protest/ He speaks by leave and by permission, / And that we are contented Caesar shall/ Have all true rites and lawful ceremonies. / It shall advantage us more than do us wrong”(3.1.263-268). Brutus actually thinks that by letting Antony speak, the conspirators and he will have a better situation for themselves because it will make their plot seem honorable. Cassius, on the other hand, is a very perceptive person; he sees how dangerous Antony can be. He notices that Antony is clever and that he might not be trustworthy. When Brutus suggests that they shouldn’t kill Antony, Cassius says if Antony outlives Caesar, “They shall find of Mark Antony/ a shrewd contriver” (2.1.170-171). When Brutus gives Antony the right to speak at Caesar’s funeral, Cassius pulls Brutus aside and says, “You know not what you do. Do/ not consent/ That Antony speak in Caesar’s funeral. / Know you how much the people may be moved/ by that which Antony will utter”(3.1.255-259)? Cassius sees that Antony is a powerful speaker and that if Antony speaks the people will side with him. This shows that Cassius has a much better idea of how dangerous Antony is.
Although Cassius is correct on how dangerous Antony really is, Brutus’ ideas are used because Brutus is the more dominant character. In the play Cassius is the more passive character and Brutus, the more authoritative. This is exemplified when Brutus and Cassius are arguing about allowing Cicero joining the assassination conspiracy. Cassius thinks that Cicero is a good and honorable man that should be included, but as soon as he nominates Cicero to join the group, Brutus steps in and says, “O, name him not! Let us not break with him, / For he will never follow anything/ That other men begin” (2.1.162-165). Instead of contesting Brutus, Cassius just lets it pass and concedes to not permitting Cicero to join the group. Although this particular argument isn’t pivotal to the plot, it augments how Brutus dominates what decisions are made. Brutus again shows his dominance over Cassius when the two are discussing military strategies. Cassius wants to stay where they are and let Octavius and Antony waste their energy trying to find Brutus and him. ” Tis better that the enemy seek us; / So shall he waste his means, and weary his soldiers”(4.3.228-229). This is a good idea and it should be used, but Brutus shows his precedence over Cassius by instantaneously replying, “Good reasons must by force give place by better”(4.3.233). Brutus then states his reason: if they get to Philipi first, they will have the better position. Cassius, who has a good argument, does not even try to contest Brutus. He backs down and says, “Then with your will, go on” (4.3.256). This decision leads to their armies losing and to the end of both their lives. Cassius has the better plan but he submits to Brutus. Finally, when Brutus and Cassius are arguing with each other about everything from taking bribes to who is the better soldier, Brutus again shows his superiority. When they near the end of the long argument, Cassius gives up and begins to ask Brutus to kill him: “Strike as thou didst at Caesar, for I know/ When thou didst hate him worst, thou lovedst him better/ Than ever thou lovedst Cassius” (4.3.116-119). Cassius wants Brutus to kill him, because he thinks that Brutus loved Caesar more. Cassius sounds much like a child in this statement and in reply, Brutus shows his superiority to Cassius by acting like his father: “Sheathe your dagger. / Be angry when you will, it shall have scope. / Do what you will, dishonor shall be humor” (4.3.120-123). Brutus tells Cassius to calm down for it is not a big deal, just as a father would to a child. This is how Cassius is again portrayed as lower than Brutus.
Another major character difference between Brutus and Cassius is their sense of morality. Brutus is noble and he holds his country in high regard. Even Cassius says how noble and honorable Brutus is: “Well, Brutus, thou art noble” (1.2.320). It is noble when Brutus shows he is willing to die for Rome: “I slew my best lover for the/ good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself/ when it shall please my country to need my death”(3.2.47-49). He is also saying here that he thinks killing Caesar is the honorable thing to do and that he did it for the good of his country. Another character also declares Brutus noble after his death. When Antony sees Brutus’ dead body he says, “This was the noblest Roman of them all. / His life was gentle and the elements / So mixed in him that nature might stand up/ And say to all the world This was a man.'”(5.5.74,79-81). Cassius, conversely, is a conniving character. He is the one who starts the conspiracy to kill Caesar. Unlike Brutus’ noble incentives, Cassius’ motive for killing Caesar is jealousy. Cassius explains how he saved Caesar from the river and then he says, “And this man/ Is now become god? And Cassius is/ A wretched creature”(1.2.123-125). This proves Cassius is jealous and fears that Caesar will get to become king. He initiates an assassination plot and persuades Brutus to help him. After Cassius comments on how noble Brutus is, he talks about seducing Brutus into allying with him. To show that he says, “Therefore it is meet/ That noble minds keep ever with their likes; / For who so firm that cannot be seduced”(1.2.322-324). The word seduced itself means that Cassius is planning to trick Brutus into helping him. Again, Cassius shows his mischievous nature when he says how he is going to write false letters to Brutus and throw them in his window: “In several hands in at his windows throw, / As if they came from several citizens, / Writings, all tending to the great opinion that Rome holds of his name” (1.2.227-230). This shows that Cassius is clever but not trustworthy. These examples prove that Brutus and Cassius differ between being noble and honorable, or conniving and mischievous.
Brutus and Cassius have different ways of perceiving people, different personalities, and different values. They contradict each other in these three important ways, but together they play an important part in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.