Marcus Brutus serves as the protagonist of the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. He was a good friend of Caesar’s but a better friend of the Roman citizens.
Brutus’s character takes all aspects of life seriously; in addition, his character adheres to a strict moral code. As a senator, he is a powerful public figure.
When Brutus first appears in the play, Cassius sees Brutus outside of the arena and decides to try to convince Brutus to become a part of the plot to assassinate Caesar.
As leader of the conspiracy, Cassius knows that Brutus will be an influential member. The people love him and the senators respect him. It is doubtful that without Brutus the conspiracy would have taken place.
Brutus listens to everything that Cassius has to say about his loathing of Caesar and his attempts to flatter Brutus. Flattery does not work with Brutus. He will make his decision based on logic and reason and only after much cogitation and sleepless nights.
The next time that Brutus is seen in the play. He has made his decision. Caesar must die for the good of Rome. He gives three analogies to explain his decision.
- If a serpent is seen in the daylight, it is best to avoid him or he will sting a person. Caesar is the same. If he is crowned, then this may give him too much power, and he will turn on the Roman citizens.
- The ladder of success is a difficult climb alone. People beneath the climber must support him. When he gets to the top of the ladder, the person may forget those who helped him along the way. This is what Caesar might do.
- A serpent in the egg is harmless. If it is allowed to hatch, then it can bite a person. It is better to kill the snake in its egg before it hatches to avoid the risk. The same is true of Caesar. Kill him before he can do anything. Do not risk the possibility of him turning against the people.
Brutus bases his decision on the potential harm that Caesar could do to Rome. It is not what he has done, but what he might do which worries Brutus.
Typical of Brutus’s style, his oration to the people does not contain strong emotions. It is based on logic and reasoning. It follows a cause and effect organization:
friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.
Initially, the people are won over to Brutus’s reasoning. It is not until the more flamboyant and emotionally charged Antony’s oration is given, the people turn into a mob wanting the deaths of all the conspirators.
At the battle of Philippi, both Cassius and Brutus are defeated by Antony and Octavius’s armies. Cassius kills himself by having one of his servants run him through with a sword. No one wants to kill Brutus; so he has another soldier hold the sword while he runs on it himself.
When Antony finds the body of Brutus, he realizes that this was a man who stood up for what he believed and took action. He was the only one who actually thought that he was helping Rome by killing Caesar. Antony gives the greatest compliment one man can give another: “This was a man. “