Explain Brutus's first monologue in Act II, Scene i in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Brutus has a decision to make that will change history.  In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the conspirators are finalizing their plans to assassinate Caesar in the Senate on the Ides of March. Cassius believes the success of the conspriacy depends on the inclusion of Brutus.

In Act II, Scene I, Brutus contemplates his discussion with Cassius who ask him to join him in the assassination.  Brutus debates within himself whether he should be a part of murdering the “greatest Roman.” Brutus is alone in his garden.  He has agreed to meet with Cassius; consequently, he must make his decision now.

 “It must be by his death…”

Brutus needs to justify within himself why Caesar should die.  He lists his reasons.

  • Caesar must die for the good of the Roman people.
  • If Caesar were to be crowned Emperor of Rome, it might make him become a tyrant.  
  • He may no longer be Caesar.

Brutus compares  Caesar and a poisonous snake to illustrate what might happen if Caesar were to be crowned.

On a sunny day, a venomous snake may come out.  Then, everyone would have to beware of where they walked. 

If Rome gives the crown to Caesar, will it change him and give him too much power? If he has too much authority, he may abuse it.  It is known that when emotions are separated from power that authority may be abused. 

On the other hand, Caesar normally uses logic and is not influenced by an emotional argument.

Analogy of the ladder of success

It is common knowledge when a young person begins the climb up the ladder of success, he keeps his eyes looking toward the top rung.  When he has climbed to the top and has achieved his goal, then he turns his back on those who helped him along the way. There is the chance that Caesar might forget those who helped him to become the emperor.

Therefore, the assassination will occur because of Caesar and the potential for him to become  too powerful.

In his final argument, Brutus compares Caesar to a snake’s egg.  If the snake hatches, then it becomes dangerous.   Then, kill the serpent while it is still in the egg, so that will not have the chance to sting anyone.

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

Brutus’s logic is flawed.  He will dare to become a part of an assassination based on possibilities and potential.  Caesar might misuse his authority.  He might become too powerful. 

Brutus is usually a sensitive, logical thinker.  For some reason, he would rather kill Caesar before he does anything wrong to avoid that confrontation.

The result was the death of Caesar, stabbed over 25 times. All of the conspirators are  killed or commit suicide. A Civil War will ensue between Antony and Octavius and Brutus and Cassius. In the end, Cassius and Brutus kill themselves.

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