"The noblest Roman of them all." How far do you agree with this description of Shakespeare’s portrayal of Brutus in Julius Caesar?
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While Brutus is guilty of serious misjudgments, such as allowing Marc Antony to speak after the assassination of Caesar and insisting that his and Cassius's troops march to Philippi, his motives have always been noble. And, it is for this reason that Brutus truly is "The noblest Roman of them all." Here are instances of the nobility of Brutus:
- Concerned about Caesar's killing of his friend Pompey, and his delight in the offering of a crown to him, Brutus fears the potential for tyranny that Julius Caesar presents to Rome. It is for the preservation of the Roman state as it is that he agrees to join the conspirators.
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell. (2.1.32-34)
- After the assassination, because he possesses such integrity, Brutus treats Antony with respect and believes that because he himself has no ulterior motives, Antony does not either; so he allows Antony to speak.
- In Act IV, unlike the triumvirate, Brutus does not succumb to the corrupting effects of power, referring to unconscionable men as "hollow men." In fact, in Scene 2, he suggests to Lucilius his regret of having killed Caesar--
Hath given me some worthy cause to wish
Things done undone....(4.2.8-9)
- In this same scene, Brutus nobly cautions Cassius about arguing before the troops.
- Despite his friendship for Cassius, Brutus has his friend Lucius Palla punished to taking bribes and scolds Cassius for defending Palla, "You wrong'd yourself to write in such a case."
- Brutus further chastises Cassius's own reputation for taking bribes himself, calling Cassius "a slight man":
Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself
Are much condemn'd to have an itching palm,
To sell and mart your offices for gold
To undeservers. (4.3.9-12)
- Also in Scene 3, Brutus informs Cassius that he is not frightened by threats because he is "armed so strong in honesty" that these threats pass him as an "idle wind."
- Finally, in battle, Brutus is noble as he pays tribute to Cassius and his loyal friend, Titinius, calling them "the last of the Romans" (5.3.111).
- When he realizes all is lost in the battle of Philippi, Brutus asks to be assisted in suicide rather than be taken prisoner, the honorable act of a Roman soldier,
Our enemies have beat us to the pit. It is more worthy to leap in ourselves
Than tarry till they push us. Good Volumnius,
Thou know'st that we two went to school together;
Even for that our love of old, I prithee,
Hold thou my sword-hilts, whilst I run on it. (5.5.28-32)
When, therefore, Octavius arrives, Strato tells Messala that Brutus has been freed "from the bondage" and "overcame himself," gaining honor in his death without surrender. It is then that Octavius declares that he will give Brutus the "respect and rites of burial" due him, and Antony calls him "the noblest Roman of them all" for his uncompromising integrity.
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