Tragic Hero – Julius Ceasar
In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar”, there is much death, much tragedy, and of course, a tragic hero. A tragic hero is a person of noble or influential birth, who has a moral personality. In order to be identified as a tragic hero, a character must have a hamartia, which is a fatal flaw. But as being a tragic hero is not only having a tragic flaw but also entails much more. Throughout the play a few main characters present themselves as possibilities for being the tragic hero, but there really is only one person to fit the mold.
Marcus Brutus is a perfect example of a tragic hero. He possesses all of the characteristics that named to be a tragic hero. Shakespeare demonstrates how Brutus is a strong tragic hero who has a tragic flaw. Brutus’ tragic flaw is that he is nationalistic, very trusting, and is too honest. Brutus also frequently demonstrates many acts of affection toward others. Brutus is a general for the Empire and he is respected and is seen as a noble man and true “Roman” by many. Shakespeare develops Brutus’ tragic flaw over the course of the play, as more people manipulate his trust, his honesty, and his patriotic beliefs. He has a tragic flaw that causes his downfall and at the end he realizes his mistake (a trait none of the other characters can really claim).
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Noble Personality: Trustful and Honest
Grabbing at any opportune moment, Brutus desirably protects the Roman Republic from becoming corrupt and ruled by dictatorship. Cassius and other conspirators felt that Caesar’s ambition and tyrannical ruling reflects upon a dangerous outcome for future Rome. Brutus faces the difficult decision of whether or not to kill his close friend, Caesar. Brutus desperately wanted a way to get Caesar out of his potential tyranny peacefully; this, however, was impossible for Brutus to do. Caesar was becoming corrupted with power. He knew the commoners’ life would be difficult with the ruling of Caesar.
Brutus couldn’t let the people of Rome suffer in this way. Persuaded by Cassius’s hatred of Caesar’s instant gain in power and acknowledgement, Brutus constructs a plan for the assassination of Caesar. However, within Brutus’s wrong decisions lie his honorable thoughts and purposes. He presumes to “This shall make our purpose necessary and not envious” (2.1.177-178). Brutus implies that only murderers act out of jealousy, but honorable ones act out of honesty and justice. Brutus displays no personal intention to ambush Caesar, except to do what was favorable for the well being of Rome. Likewise, Brutus contains no feelings of hatred towards Caesar. Everything that he did was for the benefit of someone else. Most people would say that’s a good quality but in Brutus’ part this is a flaw. A flaw, which eventually leads to his downfall because of all the bad decisions it causes him to make.
The reason that Brutus gets caught up in the conspiracy is because Antony appeals to his pride saying that he respects him as he once did to Caesar. He believed all that people told him and felt no one would lie or deceive him. He allows others, like Cassius and Antony to betray him. The event that occurred because of Brutus’ pride was one of the reasons of his downfall.”Mark Antony, here, take you Caesar’s body. You shall not in your funeral speech blame us, but speak all good you can devise of Caesar, and say you do’t by our permission; Else shall you not have any hang at all about his funeral; and you shall speak in the same pulpit wherto I am going, after my speech is done.” (3.2.244-251).
This was said by Brutus to Antony right after Caesar’s death. Brutus not only allows Antony to live but then allows him to speak at Caesar’s funeral after Brutus speaks, completely unsupervised. This choice of Brutus’ is brought about by his pride (and maybe a little bit of stupidity). Because of his pride he doesn’t believe Antony will oppose him and probably believes he is above anything Antony tries anyway. In the end, this decision ruins him. Antony provokes the crowd into believing that the conspirators are all evil and they must get revenge. In result, a war breaks out.
Righteous, Arrogance, Lover of Rome
The appearance that Brutus presents to the world, and perhaps believes himself, is that of a moral nationalist, but what lurks behind the trustful, prideful, lover of Rome is a lust for his own name to be apotheosized as Rome’s savior. Brutus believes that what he is doing is best for the people of Rome at heart. His hesitation to join the conspiracy is an example of him wondering if it is right or not to kill Caesar at all. In the end, his devotion to the Roman Republic overcomes and was brought out from him by the act of killing his dear friend. In his speech, he confirmed that he killed a man he “loved” for the benefit of Rome. Although Brutus’ exterior motive is that of a moral patriot, lust for recognition as Rome’s savior is the true motive behind his actions.
Again, Brutus shows that he killed someone he truly loved to save Rome. Even though on the exterior, he shows that he’s loyal to Rome without personal gain. His self-righteous attitude drives him to believe that he’s right. He was the only judge of what is morally right for the good of the empire. However, he was driven from his arrogance; self-righteous attitude to not only do what he said was best for the empire, but also for him. His control over the actions and morality of the conspiracy led him to become the one and only orator of his cause.
In modern plays, tragic heroes are identified with almost superhuman qualities with one fatal flaw. In the end, this flaw leads to the downfall of the hero, and for a few, they do indeed realize their mistake and attempt to correct it. Brutus realized he was falsely driven to kill his friend Caesar, and realized it in his end, and spoke it with his dying words. But by then, it was too late to make apology to his attempts to change his fate. In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Brutus is representing a moral patriot, but beyond his arrogance is a will for permanent acknowledgement as a person who saved Rome from a dictator named Julius Caesar.