Brutus Soliloquy

Explain the importance of Brutus's soliloquy in act 2, scene 1, in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

The importance of Brutus's soliloquy in act 2, scene 1, of Julius Caesar is that it provides us with a motivation for his involvement in the plot to murder Caesar. Though Caesar is his friend, Brutus regards him as a threat to the Republic. He is potentially a poisonous snake who must be killed before he can do any damage.

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The purpose of a soliloquy is usually to display the inner conflict of a character debating with himself. In Brutus's case, this conflict is so thoroughly resolved that, while at the beginning of act 2, scene 1, he is unsure of whether to join the conspiracy, by the end of the scene, he is effectively leading it.

Two of the most powerful images in Brutus's soliloquy are the crown and the snake. The most compelling argument against Caesar is that he wants to be crowned king, the very idea of which is anathema to Roman Republicans and particularly to the man whose distant ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, drove out the last king and founded the Republic 500 years before. Calling Caesar an "adder" and a "serpent's egg" makes the idea of killing him more palatable, exterminating a dangerous creature rather than murdering a man. When the ideas of the crown and the snake are united, Brutus says that to give Caesar such power would be to "put a sting in him," making him a universal danger.

Brutus finishes his soliloquy by resolving that he will think about the danger posed by Caesar in precisely these terms:

And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.

The serpent is a symbol of both evil and treachery, associated by Shakespeare's audience, if not by the real Brutus, with the fall of man in the Bible. Brutus will later be accused of treachery for killing his friend, and he preempts this accusation by saying that Caesar was himself treacherous and had to be killed before he posed an even greater danger to the Republic.

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Not everyone involved in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar is in it for purely selfish reasons, out for what they can get. Some, like Brutus, genuinely believe that getting rid of Caesar will be good for Rome.

Brutus is of the genuine belief that Caesar represents a real and present danger to the Republic—that if he becomes king, as seems likely, then he will enslave the Roman people, who will no longer enjoy their ancient constitutional rights and liberties.

That being the case, there is nothing for it but to kill Caesar before he can do any lasting damage. The very existence of the Roman Republic depends on it.

In his soliloquy in act 2, scene 1, Brutus attempts to justify the assassination plot and his place within it. He describes Caesar, in highly colorful terms, as potentially a poisonous snake. If Caesar becomes an almighty king, with the absolute power to do as he pleases, there's no telling what he might do.

Likening Caesar to a poisonous snake dehumanizes him, making it easier for Brutus to justify killing him. After all, it could be argued that if one is threatened by a poisonous snake, the best course of action is to kill it.

The comparison of Caesar to a poisonous snake is also significant in that it reinforces Brutus's conviction that his part in the plot to murder Caesar isn't motivated by personal factors. Brutus doesn't hate Caesar at all; Caesar is his friend. What he hates is what Caesar might become and what he might do to the Roman Republic.

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Marcus Brutus has many admirable qualities.  He is forthright, honest, sensitive, and intelligent.  On the other hand, Brutus also displays character flaws that create problems for the assassins. In Act II, Scene i,  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Brutus makes his decision after much contemplation and inner turmoil.  In his soliloquy in his garden, Brutus explains his decision.

The scene takes place early in the morning on the Ides of March.  Brutus talks through his decision to join the conspiracy.

Brutus begins by saying that he has no personal problems with Caesar. [Unlike Cassius, Brutus has been a friend of Caesar.] His concerns are for the welfare of the Roman citizens.  Caesar wants to be crowned emperor of Rome.  Brutus wonders what how that would change Caesar. 

 Brutus gives an analogy:

He  compares Caesar to  a poisonous snake that one might encounter in the day.  The smart person would avoid the snake.  If Caesar is crowned, he might become like the snake, poisonous.  Caesar could misuse his power. He might no longer have compassion for the people if he gains too much authority.  Brutus admits that he has never seen that side of Caesar. He seems always the same and and his not usually swayed in this thinking by his emotions.

Brutus uses a second analogy:

When a person is at the bottom of the ladder of success, he turns his face toward the top and works to climb the ladder.  However, when he achieves the top most rung of the ladder, the person might turn his back on those who helped him along the way.  He may look to the heavens rather than those who are beneath him. 

Caesar might do this.  He could forget those who have helped him in the senate.

If this is a possibility, then it must be prevented.  There is the argument.  He is not at that stage, but if he is given power, he might. 

Brutus uses the third analogy:

And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg

Which hatch’d would as his kind grow mischievous,

And kill him in the shell.


He compares Caesar to a snake in the egg.  If it hatches, there is a chance that it might sting someone.  So before the snake hatches, kill it in the egg.

Brutus has made his decision.  Kill Caesar for the things that he might do.  He does not know of anything that Caesar has done yet.  To prevent the possibility of Caesar becoming too powerful, kill him before he misuses his power.

As soon as he has made his decision, the conspirators come to make sure that Brutus is joining them. Everything is in place for the assassination to take place on this day.

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