According to Brutus, why is it necessary that Caesar be killed? (Act 2, Scene 1)Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the "seduction scene" of Act I, Cassius lures Brutus into thinking that Caesar perceives himself as a god, referring to Caesar ironically as "immortal Caesar" and by strengthening his argument that Caesar has become too powerful with allusion:

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. (I,ii,135-138)

Then, in Act II, alone in his orchard, Brutus ponders the words of Cassius and the events of the day in which Marc Antony has tried to put a crown upon Caesar's head, but ostentatiously Caesar has refused it.  Brutus also considers that Caesar has slain Pompey, who was his ally.  Persuaded by the arguments of Cassius that Caesar wishes to be emperor and sole ruler of Rome, Brutus considers the assassination.  For the public good, Brutus reasons, Caesar must be killed:

Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins

Remorse from power; and, to speak truth of Caesar,

I have not known when his affections swayed

More than his reason.  But 'tis a common proof

That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,

Whereto the climber upward turns his face;

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. (II,i,18-28)

Brutus reasons that he has no personal reason to rebel against Caesar, but Caesar, who has always been rational rather than emotional in his rule, may "climb the ladder" and, once, in power, forget abandon humility as so many have done before. Brutus fears that Caesar may be

...a serpent's egg

Which hatched, would as his king grow mischievous,

And kill him in the shell. (II,i,32-34)

That is, once he attains such power as has been offered him by Marc Antony and the people, Caesar may change and become tyrannical.  The idea that Rome "stand under one man's awe" (II,i,52) is so disturbing to Brutus that he makes Rome a promise to "redress what will follow" (II,i,57) and act for the good of Rome by preventing Caesar from becoming a tyrant.