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Brutus of Julius Caesar is truly a tragic hero. For, he meets the requisite criteria:
1. He is a man of noble stature and nature. A respected member of the Senate, Brutus is a patrician.
2. He possesses a tragic flaw, a flaw that causes him his downfall. Because he is of noble birth, Brutus is more idealistic than he is practical. Likewise, his reasoning is more philosophical than it is pragmatic and expedient. In Act I, for instance, when Cassius enlists the noble Brutus as a co-conspirator, Brutus feels the appeal as a call to protect Rome from tyranny rather than one for self-gain as is really true of Cassius, who enviously speaks of Caesar as a Colossus who towers over him and others,
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves. (1.2.141-144)
But Brutus, inflamed by idealism and poor judgment, forms illogical analogies from nature, thinking Caesar may be "a serpent's egg" and worries that Caesar will not become tyrannical if granted the corrupting power of becoming an emperor as he has seemed to desire in the parade after he has slain Pompey. his former ally.
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may;
Then, lest he may, prevent. (2.1.24-28)
In his idealistic commitment to principle, Brutus fails to assess Marc Anthony correctly; he rejects Cassius's suggestion to kill Antony and, barring that, to not allow him to speak to the Romans.
3. Brutus exerts poor judgment in battle. In Act IV, he argues with Cassius about the plan of battle against the forces of the triumvirate of Marc Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus; for, he wants to march forward and engage war in Philippi, while Cassius suggests that their troops rest and let the troops of the triumvirate come to them. As it turns out, Brutus suffers the worst downfall as he dies of his own sword.
The misfortunes of Brutus result from his character deficiencies and what Aristotle in his Poetics called hamartia, a criminal act for the sake of a greater good created by a man of noble stature. He is the hero of the play because, as Marc Antony admits in his eulogy,
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.
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!" (5.5.74-81)
A noble man of principle, Brutus joins the conspirators because he believes that Caesar will become tyrannical if he is crowned emperor. However, he tragically fails to comprehend "the evil that men do" as Marc Antony says. For, Brutus does not recognize the envy in the hearts of Cassius and the others, nor the expediency and self-serving motivations of Antony, who is willing to create civil war in order to defeat Brutus and the other conspirators. A tragic hero, Brutus errs both in his heart and in the field of battle.
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