Ethan C Mrs. B 10th Grade Honors Literature 07 November 2012 Two of the main characters in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus, could both arguably be the tragic hero of the play. Julius Caesar is a powerful leader, but his love of power overcomes him and ultimately turns him into something far from a hero. Marcus Brutus, on the other hand, has a naive passion for his people, which is much stronger than his love of his friend. In the end, his love of his people causes him to make choices he would not otherwise make.
Although Caesar is a strong leader, Marcus Brutus’s deep yet naive love for Rome over that of his friend, makes him the true tragic hero. Julius Caesar is arguably the most significant ruler in ancient history, having acquired rule over the entire continent of Europe minus Germany. His leadership abilities and elite armies make him stronger than all of the neighboring leaders in the Western world. However, his overzealous confidence and greed for power make him a dangerous and reckless leader for his people. “The abuse of greatness,” according to Brutus in Act II, “is when it disjoins / Remorse from power” (Shakespeare 715).
The likeliness of Caesar might soon claim the throne poses and imminent threat to the people of Rome. Fearing that Caesar could likely become king, the Senate turns against him, and a plot to assassinate Caesar soon forms. Marcus Brutus has a deep love for Caesar, as they are the closest of companions. However, Brutus has an even deeper love for his countrymen. “—not that I loved Caesar less, but that I / loved Rome more” (Shakespeare 747). The fact that his love for the latter is stronger than his love for his friend helps him realize the consequences of Caesar being crowned king.
As Brutus says in Act II, “And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg / Which hatched would as his kind grow mischievous, / And kill him in the shell” (Shakespeare 715). Caesar’s love for power surpasses his love for his countrymen, which Brutus knows can only cause harm. Upon this realization and a persuasive discussion with Cassius, Brutus becomes part of an elaborate assassination conspiracy. Even though he feels extreme guilt because of his betrayal, Brutus’s reasons are more honorable than those of the other conspirators.
According to The Language of Literature, Aristotle claimed that a tragic hero must “possess a defect, or tragic flaw, that brings about or contributes to his or her downfall” (Language of Literature 1226). Upon assassinating Caesar, Brutus naively believes that Mark Antony would not be angry at their betrayal. Much to Brutus’s dismay, Antony takes advantage of the situation when speaking to the public at Caesar’s funeral. Antony uses his persuasive skills to convince the citizens to turn against Brutus and Cassius. Through all of Brutus’s battles with enemies and himself, he honors what he feels is best for his people.
Brutus takes to heart what Caesar takes for granted, and goes beyond the limit of his own personal feelings to save it. After Rome rebukes him, Brutus is still determined to save that of which he was once a part. When his city turns against him and all of his closest friends die, Brutus loses everything he holds dear. Brutus gives everything including his life for his country. He genuinely wants the best for his people, to the point that he does not comprehend the possibility that those around him do not want the same.
Even though Julius Caesar is a strong leader, he is not the main tragic hero of the play. Marcus Brutus loves his countrymen to a fault. He loves his countrymen more than his closest friends. This naive passion is what makes him the true tragic hero of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Works Cited The Language of Literature. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2004. Print. Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. ” The Language of Literature. Ed. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2004. 690-793. Print.