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In Julius Caesar, how does Shakespeare increase sympathy for Brutus?

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dhruvinrulz | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 3, 2013 at 3:11 PM via web

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In Julius Caesar, how does Shakespeare increase sympathy for Brutus?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 8, 2013 at 5:07 PM (Answer #1)

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Shakespeare increases sympathy for Brutus by stressing his many positive qualities throughout the play. From first to last, from his fellow-conspirators to his political enemies, other people always praise him. His good name in Rome is why the conspirators are so eager to get him on their side. As Casca testifies:

O, he sits high in all the people’s hearts,

And that which would appear offence in us,

His countenance, like richest alchemy,

Will change to virtue and to worthiness. (I.iii.157-160)

Casca here remarks that Brutus is generally so well regarded that he will make the conspiracy appear noble and ‘virtuous’. Brutus certainly is courteous and considerate to everyone, save during his quarrel with Cassius, and even then his ill-temper is explained by the fact that he has just heard of the death of his beloved wife Portia.

Brutus’s essential decency is also brought out in his agonising dilemma over the killing of Caesar. Murder is abhorrent to him, yet he is compelled to kill Caesar as he truly believes that this will be for the greater good of Rome. Of course he appears too much of the idealist in this; he is so caught up in abstract notions of republicanism and honour that in a sense he becomes blinded to immediate reality, and to the fact that he is preparing to kill a personal friend in the name of his beliefs. However, in the end, it is really the machinations of the wily Cassius that persuade him to join the conspiracy.

Brutus, then, appears as a noble and dignified man respected by everyone. He is certainly not without his faults but we feel for him as he struggles to reconcile his ideals with his own misgivings and the pressure put on him by others to act.

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