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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, explain Brutus's character as compared to Cassius.

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llavoie67 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 11, 2013 at 8:35 PM via web

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, explain Brutus's character as compared to Cassius.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:40 PM (Answer #1)

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In William Shakespeare’s drama Julius Caesar, the protagonist is Marcus Brutus.  His decisions are based on his personal philsophy of stoicism. Stoics try not to be influenced by their emotions. 

Stoics believe that a person must make his own decisions based on logic and reasoning.  

How does this impact Brutus’s choice to be a part of the conspiracy? 

Brutus tells the audience that he loves Caesar.  This does not stop him from making the choice to kill him.  Brutus struggles with the decision to join the conspiracy; however, in the end, he believes that Caesar must be deposed for the good of Rome and its citizens.

Is Brutus true to himself when he joined the conspiracy?

As a person who makes his decisions based on logic and not emotions, Brutus follows the stoic philosophy.  Another aspect of stoicism comes from idea that the person who makes his choices then keeps them to himself.  Brutus was unwilling to share his decision with his wife Portia. She forces him to share his decision by cutting her leg.

When Portia kills herself, Brutus barely shows any outward emotion.  He does express anger toward Cassius and blames his anger on Portia’s death.  Even when Messala tells him about Portia,  Brutus shows little emotion---he is a stoic.

Was Brutus tricked by Cassius into joining the conspiracy?

A stoic makes his own decisions.  Brutus tells the audience that he has struggled over the choice to become an assassin.  Before Cassius says anything about his own feelings, Brutus was already “at war with himself.”  He listens to Cassius, but chooses his own path.

BRUTUS:

It must be by his death, and, for my part,

 I know no personal cause to spurn at him,

But for the general…

Cassius is obviously not a stoic.  Throughout the play, Cassius shows his emotions at every turn.  During the storm, he bares his chest and tells the gods to let the lightning strike him if he is not making the right decision.  Of course, nothing happens.

What is the difference in the reasons for joining the conspiracy between Cassius and Brutus?

Cassius despises Caesar.  He has seen Caesar at his most vulnerable and found him lacking.  Cassius saves the life of Caesar, sees him beg for water, and witnesses his epileptic seizure.  From these weaknesses, Cassius finds himself to be just as worthy of the crown as  is Caesar. His reasons are emotionally tied to getting rid of Caesar,

Brutus chooses to become a conspirator for the good of Rome.  He does not know how Caesar will use his power.   During the Act 1, Scene ii, Brutus tells the audience that he loves Caesar and has never seen him misuse his power.  Brutus makes his judgment to based on possibilities.  Caesar might…and not Caesar did…

Brutus or Cassius---Who was more noble?

Antony answers this question in Act V, Scene v. He tells the audience and Octavius that it was Brutus who killed Caesar for good of Rome.  All of the rest of them were a part of the conspiracy for personal reasons. 

ANTONY:

This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators, save only he,

Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
And say to all the world, “This was a man!”

This was a great compliment from Antony.  He listens to Brutus’s funeral oration and understands that Brutus believes that killing Caesar is the best thing for Rome.

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