How is Brutus's call to "hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear" an example of antithesis?

When Brutus addresses the assembled citizens of Rome in the aftermath of the murder of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play, he describes his actions as one of the assassins in the death of the city-state's popular leader as driven by concern for Rome's future. Brutus is recruited into the conspiracy because he is highly respected and known for his love of Caesar. His words reflect an antithesis because of the contradiction between his sentiments and his actions.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The quote in question—“hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear”—is stated by Marcus Brutus in act III, scene II of William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. It represents an example of antithesis in that the actions of Brutus earlier in the play, along with those of his fellow, less noble, conspirators in the assassination of Caesar, reflect a marked contrast with Brutus’s sentiments regarding his victim.

The scene in question takes place very soon following the assassination, an act in which Brutus was carefully manipulated by others, especially by Cinna, whose machinations involved the use of forged letters to convince Brutus of Caesar’s imperial and autocratic ambitions. Brutus was a loyal friend and ally of Caesar, one whose involvement in the murder of Rome’s leader would be widely viewed by the city-state’s citizenry as lending a great deal of legitimacy to the assassination of a popular leader. As Brutus was well-known and highly respected, and his loyalty to Caesar seemingly beyond question, his involvement in the conspiracy was a useful tool by the other conspirators to protect them from the public’s wrath following the murder. It is in this light that Brutus addresses the assembled crowd and explained his actions thusly:

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus's love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. (3.2.17–22)

In taking part in the assassination of Rome’s beloved leader and possessed of a reputation for an intense love of Rome and of Caesar, Brutus’s involvement in the murder is considered antithetical. He killed that which he confessed to love out of duty to a higher cause: Rome. As Brutus had been convinced that Caesar had grown overly ambitious and determined to rule as a dictator, he viewed it as his duty to save Rome from such a fate. Indeed, Caesar’s final words—“Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar”—reflect an acknowledgement that he, Caesar, had been judged deserving of his fate by even his most loving and loyal of fellow Romans. Brutus’s participation in the assassination was antithetical precisely because of his love of his victim.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial