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In Julius Caesar, is Brutus a truly honorable character?

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kewal | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 2, 2009 at 7:09 AM via web

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In Julius Caesar, is Brutus a truly honorable character?

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 2, 2009 at 8:41 AM (Answer #2)

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Yes.  Brutus clearly wishes the best for Rome, and kills Caesar out of "civic responsibility," understanding that if no one stops him, he'll become tyrant of Rome and the Republic will be over.  He's the only one acting out of that conviction; most other characters in the play don not act honorably and are interested in how Caesar's death will benefit themselves.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 2, 2009 at 8:41 AM (Answer #3)

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Great question - and there isn't a right answer. Antony clearly doesn't think so when he juxtaposes Brutus' actions with his ideals in the funeral speech in which he - with increasing levels of irony - describes Brutus and the conspirators as an honorable man.

Look, in this place ran Cassius' dagger through;
See what a rent the envious Casca made;
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;
And as he pluck'd his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow'd it...

The huge gulf between Brutus' ideals and his actions is where the problem lies. In his soliloquy he outlines that he has no "personal cause" to attack Caesar, but only the "general: he would be crowned". Yet we've seen Brutus be persuaded by Cassius, who plays absolutely on Brutus' own self-important sense of honour, and even compares Brutus with Caesar, asking "why should that name be sounded more than yours?". Is Brutus only drawn into the conspiracy ("general cause") out of self-regard and arrogance - "a personal cause"?

Perhaps. And, when you compare Brutus' imperative that the conspiracy rises against Caesar's spirit, in which there "is no blood", with the blood that pours out after the assassination itself, you have to conclude that Brutus is somewhat painfully idealistic.

Personally, I don't think he's honorable, but a cynical portrayal of how a self-regarding liberal can bring about absolute disaster. But whichever way you go, he's a political disaster.

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afi80fl | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted January 2, 2009 at 8:41 AM (Answer #4)

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Yes, absolutely, Brutus was most definitely an honorable man.  Think about his initial resistance to Cassius' advances:  he asks what sort of dangerous path he is being led down.  Brutus has no personal grudge against Caesar; in fact, he is the last to stab him because he has the least amount of personal hatred toward him.  While Cassius, Trebonius, Casca ("speak, hands for me!") and others fly into him with rage, Brutus simply waits until the end, and without emotion, does what he feels is necessary to protect the Roman state. 

Also, one thing that I think truly separates Brutus from the other conspirators is his sense of conscience and justice.  While Brutus has the least amount of blame for the murder (having done it for the good of his country, rather than out of personal jealousy as did Cassius), he sees Caesar's ghost several times, which is a sure sign of his sense of guilt. 

This also points to Brutus' sense of personal responsibility.  He never felt right about his decision to kill Caesar afterwards; and when he realized that he had indeed acted inappropriately, he used the knife that he plunged into Caesar to take his own life, out of a sense of obligation.  He did what others were unwilling to do:  when he realized he could do no better than his predecessor, and that he was actually harming his countrymen through his rule, he removed himself from power.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 2, 2009 at 8:41 AM (Answer #5)

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@afi80fl 

Brutus has no personal grudge against Caesar; in fact, he is the last to stab him because he has the least amount of personal hatred toward him. 

I know that what you're arguing is the traditional interpretation of this play, but I don't think it's justified in the text. Please provide some textual justification (i.e. quotes from Shakespeare's play) for the above quote. I can't find anything that tells us why Brutus is the last to stab Caesar, or indeed, how most of the conspirators feel about Caesar (and no mention at all of "personal hatred").

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thebard | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 18, 2009 at 6:31 AM (Answer #6)

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No, atleast not entirely. Think of Rome's history and all the monarchs it has had. Consider Caesar, the most famous leader of Rome. What makes him different from the countless other emperors preceeding him? Was he truly THAT much more powerful than figures like Sulla and Crassus. Rome had always given supreme authority to its military leaders who established a strong, unified military. The Fall of Rome ultimately occured when into a Western and Eastern empire with different emperors. There had to be some underlying jelousy between Brutus and Caesar, which puts him on the same level as the other conspirators.

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disney353 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted May 11, 2009 at 5:26 AM (Answer #7)

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Brutus is definitely honourable, even though his morality may be flawed. Recall in (Act 2, Scene 1) Brutus perceives Antony as “gamesome” and harmless without Caesar and so dismisses him as a threat to the conspirators. When the other conspirators want to kill Antony along with Caesar, Brutus declares, “For Antony is but a limb of Caesar. Let’s be sacrificers, but not butchers.” By sparing the life of Antony, Brutus feels he will look good and honorable to the people, rather than butchers.

He further says Antony is worthless without Caesar. “And for Mark Antony, think not of him; /For he can do no more than Caesar’s arm/When Caesar’s head is off”

This is pure evidence why Brutus is an honourable, even though it may lead to disaster...but in the context of this play, Shakespeare had dared not write that someone that murdered the king had survived (a bit of history would help understand why Brutus is honourable in every way...the only person to kill Caesar without personal thoughts "I know no personal cause to spurn at him/But for the general"

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crazy4lyf2793 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 11, 2009 at 1:26 PM (Answer #8)

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Yes he is honorable. He did love Caesar very much but he had to join the conspirators for the good of rome. :D

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jessicamartin1997 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:41 AM (Answer #10)

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At the beginning of the play, I believe that Brutus was a much different man than he turned out to be. He did not want to take part in the conspiracy, but Cassius was very persuasive and convinced him that it was what needed to be done. After Brutus had decided to go along with the idea I think that he expected it all to happen too easily. He was too confident that their plan would work exactly like they had planned and that nothing could go wrong. Along with being overconfident, he was also a very impatient man. They had only generated their plan a couple days before and did take not enough time to realize the consequences of their actions. If they had taken more time to think things through and had planned for the worst to happen, I believe they would have been ready for what would happen next. After the killing of Caesar and rioting of the plebeians after the funeral the two armies were ready to fight, which again showed signs of impatience. When going into the battle Brutus advanced too quickly which led to the killing of many of his men and his own suicidal efforts. 

 

  

 

     Many references were made as to why Brutus was an honorable man. He was very noble and everyone around him saw that. However, I believe they saw it as a good quality when in turn it led to his death.  In trying to do the right thing for the good of Rome he was making bad decisions. His only reason for killing Caesar was for the good of Rome and he truly believed that it was the best thing for his city. He also shows his nobility when he speaks at Caesar's funeral in saying that "As Caesar loved me, I weep for him...." He shows signs of compassion and sorrow, but at the same time he convinces the plebeians that it was the right thing to do and gives them just cause. Another way that he shows signs of nobility is that he does not betray anybody at any point in the play. Although he did murder Caesar, it was to better Rome, not to mislead him. Everything that he did was for the advantage of someone else. Even though he killed Antony's best friend, Antony still recognized Brutus as "the noblest Roman of them all." He cared more about others than he did himself. For example, in the course of killing Caesar, he could have without difficulty changed his mind and not killed him because he knew he might have been reprimanded, but he knew in the long run that it would help the plebeians most. At the conclusion when he grasps hold of what he did and how he was fooled, he kills himself with the knife that killed Caesar. This shows how righteous he is because he is man enough to realize what happened and he took accountability. I also do not believe he could have lived with that guilt of failing and killing one of his best friends.  I think Antony sums it up the best when he says, "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 general honest thought/ And common good to all, made one of them./ 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!'" 

 

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