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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

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Literary scholars have debated for centuries about the question of who exactly is the protagonist of the William Shakespeare’s play called “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.” The seemingly simple answer to this question would be Julius Caesar himself, after all, the play is named after him and all the events of the play relate to him. However, Caesar only appears in three scenes (four if the ghost is included), thus apparently making him an unlikely choice for the protagonist who is supposed to be the main character. Meanwhile, Marcus Brutus, who appears in the play much more often than Caesar (and actually lasts until the final scene), is not the title character of the play. Determining the protagonist is one of the many engaging issues presented in this one. But after examining Brutus’ relationship to Caesar, his involvement in the conspiracy, and his importance to the plot, somehow, the truth is revealed. “He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not, is a slave.” – Said Sir William Drumman, respectively. All men have the power to reason. Some men can reason better, and more thorough than others. Yet nonetheless, all men can reason.

In order to reason, the mind must be clear, completely impartial, and understand the situation to the best of its ability. The play Julius Caesar is the story of a man trying very hard to make rational decisions. Marcus Brutus is this struggling character who evades constant pressure from all sides at any moment and dies at the end. Undoubtedly, Brutus is the main character and driving force of the play, despite the misleading title of Julius Caesar. The story did continue to mention Caesar after his dead, but he did not remain the central idea of the play. He did not accomplish a hard to reach goal before his assassination regardless of his own idolization. He ignored all threats against his life, believing himself as eternal as the North Star. His arrogance led him to his downfall. On the other hand, Brutus honestly believed that his acts were going to repay later on and that it was the best for Rome, not for Caesar, not for himself but for Rome. He placed Rome above everything including his loyalty to Julius.

“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” (Act 3, Scene 2, 23-24). Brutus was a respected and worthy citizen. “Oh, he sits high in all the people’s hearts,” (Act 1, Scene 3, 157) was Casca’s expression referring to Brutus. He knew what he was talking about; he understood very well that Marcus was a truly appreciated fellow, even though he was not easily impressed. Moreover, there were no given reasons throughout the play to think otherwise. Also, in the early acts of the play, Brutus says to Cassius, “What means this shouting? I do fear the people do choose Caesar for their king…yet I love him well” (Act 1, scene 2, ll.85-89), as he was speaking to Cassius. Brutus loved Caesar, but was not going to allow him to “climber-upward…He then unto the ladder turns his back…”(act 2, scene 1, ll.24, 26). As the quote explains it, Brutus was not going to allow Caesar to rise to power and then turn his back onto the people of Rome. Some separate and critical aspects that help to show how unimportant Julius Caesar is to the play are the followings. Caesar appears three times and one time in a dream (after his death where he was giving warnings and special messages).

Another example is illustrated by the way that Brutus seems to dominate his own actions, whatever he was thinking. Furthermore, Antony declared war on Brutus, but not out of love for Caesar, but anger toward the conspirators. As these aspects are explained in further detail there is the certainly of the fact that Brutus, without question, clearly dominates the play as a whole. Calpurnia cried out terrified three times during the night, “Help ho – they murder Caesar!” There must be learned that the dream in which Caesar’s wife visualized her husband’s death was some kind of premonition (a strong feeling of an unpleasant act that was about to happen). Her presentiment was ignored completely putting aside the fact that it was his woman that tried to warn him of what was coming She begged and plead Caesar to stay home that day, however, nobody ever paid any attention to any of her dreams. In the battles between Antony and Brutus, Caesar was often mentioned in their dying words. “Caesar, thou art revenged, even with the sword that killed thee.”

These are Cassius’ dying words. Brutus’s final words are somewhat similar, “Caesar, now be still; I killed not thee with half so good a will.” Their words represent that although final thoughts consisted of the evil crime they had committed, Caesar had nothing to do with their deaths. Caesar, a highly respectable man at some point, had no more influence on the outcome of the play than did any character. Brutus dominated his own actions throughout the story. Moreover, nobody was able to discover if the tragedy was affecting his thoughts. Stoicism, which is the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings or complaint, was one of the characteristics Brutus possessed. He was a model stoic. However, he was only human, and at the play’s end, he committed suicide. This action could have represented a number of unrecognized, painful emotions that resurfaced in Brutus’ heart. Undoubtedly, Caesar was one of these thoughts just as his wife’s tragedy. Caesar was not a main factor in Brutus’ suicide, only an unresolved conflict.

Adding more to the issue, as the town people intended to capture the emotions of the moment, they forgotten about Caesar, Brutus, and even Antony in their rage. During the battles between the Conspirators and Antony, Brutus had the audience’s sympathy. Once again, Caesar is at the back of their thoughts, and kept on being unimportant in the unfolding of the coming events. Marcus Brutus is the protagonist of the play. He is the character that the audience felt for, wanted to win, and pitied. Once Caesar’s pompous and classless attitude is understood thoughtfully, he is labeled as the antagonist, and therefore, wanted to be dead. In every aspect of the play earlier mentioned, Brutus is the driving force of nearly everything that occurs. Caesar is but an after-thought that could be looked at as part of the inciting action, and nothing more. Brutus is, by all means, the dominating force in the play from the beginning to the very end. He changed throughout the play, before he served a king he was very loyal to, he noted that Caesar was a dear friends of his.

But because dedication to their country was of higher priority to the Romans than their relationships, he immediately joined the horrible act of killing king Caesar. He was made out to be a great leader and hero, but was driven to commit the worst crime of all. After this action had been done, he began to wonder if he did the right thing or not. This ultimately led to his death, as well as many of the others. Many people used to look up to Brutus to help save their city, but in the end, he destroyed it more than he aided it. Brutus loved Julius Caesar but feared his power. This strange but incomparable kind of love can be seen in these words: “Our hearts you see not; they are pitiful; and pity to the general wrong of Rome…”(Act 3, Scene 1, ll.185-186). Brutus also said that Antony could not see their (members of the conspiracy) hearts, which were full of pity. Definitely, this showed how Brutus felt about Caesar’s assassination but regardless of those feelings of his, his greatest passion was to care for the life of Rome and its people.

Being this the only reason Brutus conspired against Caesar, he said to himself, “I know no personal cause to spurn at him…How that might change his nature…”(act 2, scene1) and analyzing his affectionate words once he considered the treason, there must be deducted that their relationship was more than strong. Just allowing Brutus to speak to Caesar showed his respect for Brutus. Caesar felt that Brutus was noble to him and did the right thing regardless of personal danger. As Caesar was assassinated, Caesar’s last line was: “Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar.”(Act 3, scene 1, l.85). This stated that Caesar would not have died without Brutus’ stab. Caesar acknowledged that there must have been a noble reason for this assassination if Brutus was in it, his good servant and trusted friend. How much Caesar admired Brutus! They had respect for each other, but in very different ways. Marcus was a good friend to Julius, but obviously, not good enough. Brutus was a man of honor, goodness, and a supporter of the republic he strongly believed in.

There must be no doubt that he loved Julius Caesar as his friend, but he opposed the ascension of any man to the position of dictator and he feared that Caesar aspired to such power. His inflexible sense of honor made it easy for Caesar’s enemies to manipulate him to believe that his friend had to die in order to preserve the republic. By giving priority to matters of state, he epitomized (was a perfect example of) Roman virtue. Even though his idealism tricked him to commit such unjustified actions, he did them hoping to save Rome from the jeopardy he saw in its future. Being the tragic hero in this play and having his qualities and actions strictly based on the progress of Rome made him the person he was. His overwhelming pride misguided his judgment but his honor and justice allowed him to make the preeminent choices. Although the people of Rome were against his actions at the time, Brutus’ ideals and purposes were not defected until the end of the play, which made him the hero.


“Julius Caesar: Brutus Is The Protagonist.” 123HelpMe.com. 22 Oct 2012 <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=161713>.
Roadrun A. “Who Is the Protagonist of the Play Julius Caesar?” Yahoo! Answers. Yahoo!, 2007. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070604081955AA4bSDa>. S, Gill N. “What Were Caesar’s Famous Last Words as He Prepared To Die?” About.com Ancient / Classical History. About.com Ancient History, 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/caesar/f/020309ettu.htm>.

[ 1 ]. Roadrun A. “Who Is the Protagonist of the Play Julius Caesar?” Yahoo Answers. 2007. [ 2 ]. Anonymous. “Julius Caesar: Brutus Is The Protagonist.” 123helpme. October 2005 [ 3 ]. Roadrun A. “Who Is the Protagonist of the Play Julius Caesar?” Yahoo Answers! 2007. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. [ 4 ]. Gill N.S. Ancient/Classical History. Julius Caesar Assassination. What Were Caesar’s Famous Last Words as He Prepared to Die? About.com 2012

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