How could the tragic flaws of Caesar and Brutus in Julius Caesar be compared?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Brutus’s tragic flaw was his need to be noble, and Caesar’s was his arrogance and ambition.

A tragic flaw is a flaw that causes a character’s destruction.  Caesar and Brutus were both ambitious, but in different ways. Caesar wanted power. He believed that he knew what was best for Rome. Brutus also believed that he knew what was best for Rome, but his tragic flaw was his need to be seen as noble. In his quest to maintain his reputation, he destroyed himself.

Shakespeare demonstrates that Caesar is ambitious in various ways. He refuses to listen to the soothsayer who warns him. He also does not even consider reading Artemidorus’s warning letter. However, the most obvious example is when Caesar refuses Metellus Cimber’s plea to pardon his brother. He does not even consider it, even with all of those senators begging him. He says that he never changes his mind.

I could be well moved, if I were as you:
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament. (Act 3, Scene 1)

Caesar is killed mainly because the other senators do not feel that he will be able to work with them. They think he is going to become a tyrant and make himself king of Rome. Therefore, Caesar’s fatal flaw is his arrogance and ambition.

Cassius convinces Brutus that the only way to protect Rome from Caesar is to assassinate him.  The conspirators all have different motives, such as revenge or greed. Brutus really believes that he is doing the right thing. At first, he questions his decision, but he eventually decides that Caesar must die.

In his speech to the people at Caesar’s funeral, Brutus explains to them why he felt Caesar had to die.

As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition.  (Act 3, Scene 2)

He tells them that they are acting as slaves if they do not oppose Caesar, and that under Caesar they lived as slaves.  He continues this liberator imagery as he raises his army against Antony and Octavius. Brutus really does believe that he is in the right.

Brutus does not listen to anyone who gives him advice. Cassius tries to sway him several times, before and after Caesar’s death. Each time, Brutus shows that he has no interest in listening to Cassius. For example, Cassius wanted him to kill Antony as well, but Brutus did not want them to be considered “butchers.” Brutus always acts with his reputation in mind.

While both Brutus and Caesar are ambitious in different ways, Brutus does not have Caesar's arrogance. He is acting to keep his reputation intact, but he does not care as much about himself as the legacy of Rome. He wants it to be known that they killed Caesar not because they wanted power but because it was the right thing to do to stop him. Caesar was killed, and Brutus killed himself, because of these flaws.

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Julius Caesar

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