How does Shakespeare show Julius Caesar's strengths and weaknesses?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the focus of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is on Brutus, the tragic hero, the playwright does develop the positive and negative traits of Caesar.  In Act 1, Scene 2, as Cassius tries to woo Brutus into the assassination plot, he mentions that Caesar is obsessed with power.  He states, "[Caesar] doth bestride the narrow world/ Like a Colossus; and we petty men/ Walk under his huge legs, and peep about/ To find ourselves dishonourable graves."  Cassius believes that Caesar will not stop until he is king or emperor.  In addition to portraying Caesar as overly ambitious in this scene, Shakespeare also uses Cassius to narrate Caesar's physical difficulties, which Cassius exploits and interprets as cowardliness.

In Act 3, Scene 2, the funeral speeches by Brutus and Antony provide the audience with a concise image of Caesar's weaknesses and strengths.  Brutus begins by stressing Caesar's ambition and portrays the attribute in a negative light.  Antony, of course, through a masterful use of verbal irony, not only counts Caesar's ambition as a positive trait, but he also reminds the Roman people of Caesar's generosity (he leaves them money and parks in his will).

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Julius Caesar

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