In Julius Caesar, what are the similarities and differences between Brutus and Caesar? Who is the protagonist?
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Brutus, like Caesar, is an extremely arrogant and self-regarding man with a cast-iron belief in his own brilliance and his own ability. Like Caesar, he refers to himself in the third person ("When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous..." he says to Cassius during their argument). This shows him, like Caesar does, trying to present an image of himself, trying to further his own mythic reputation as a wonderful politician.
Both are arrogant, both are powerful, both are influential. They are very similar individuals, as is pointed out by Cassius when he compares their names in Act 1, Scene 2 ("Brutus and Caesar. What should be in that Caesar?"). But the key difference is that we see Brutus' opinions and flaws far more clearly than we ever see Caesar's: Caesar remains a mystery at the heart of the play.
With your second question, you've hit, as the posts above show, on one of the key problems of the play. Who is the protagonist? You can, and scholars have, actually make an argument for each of the four central characters being the play's protagonist. Here's a brief summary of each argument:
- Brutus' personal relationships are the play's focus, as well as his decision to join the conspiracy, and ends with his death.
- Cassius is the engine of the drama, and the play's most sympathetic character.
- The play is really about Mark Antony's rise: sort of "Antony and Cleopatra: Part 1".
- Caesar dominates the play like a colossus: even after his death.
Brutus would definitely be the protagonist and Cassius the antagonist. I don't see a whole lot of similarities in the two, but there are plenty of differences. Cassius is power hungry and wants to control Rome and is using Brutus to that. He uses Brutus' nobility and his concern for Rome to intice Brutus to be involved in the conspiracy to kill Caesar. They both are manipulative, but Brutus truly believes what he is doing is honrable, whereas Cassius has no nobility or honorable motives at all.
The play is named after Caesar, but Brutus is the play's protagonist. He is a Shakespearean tragic hero; the play concerns his internal and external conflicts and ends with his downfall and destruction.
Brutus and Caesar are alike in some respects. Both are powerful men with loyal followers. Neither man questions the rightness of his path. Caesar feels justified in ruling Rome as he wishes; Brutus feels justified in assassinating Caesar for the good of Rome. Neither questions his own decisions, although both make poor decisions that result in their deaths. Caesar insists upon going to the Senate despite Calpurnia's fear and warnings. Brutus decides to let Antony live, a major error of judgment. Interestingly, both Caesar and Brutus are poor judges of character; both are deceived and manipulated by those they trust. Cassius tricks Brutus into the plot against Caesar; Brutus and the other conspirators betray Caesar, manipulating him onto the Senate floor where he can be murdered.
There is a major character difference between the two, however. Caesar acts out of love for himself and his own power; he is arrogant. Brutus is arrogant in thinking he can save his country, but he acts out of love for freedom in Rome.
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