In Julius Caesar, is Brutus a truly honorable character?

Expert Answers

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

Yes.  Brutus clearly wishes the best for Rome, and kills Caesar out of "civic responsibility," understanding that if no one stops him, he'll become tyrant of Rome and the Republic will be over.  He's the only one acting out of that conviction; most other characters in the play don not act honorably and are interested in how Caesar's death will benefit themselves.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Great question - and there isn't a right answer. Antony clearly doesn't think so when he juxtaposes Brutus' actions with his ideals in the funeral speech in which he - with increasing levels of irony - describes Brutus and the conspirators as an honorable man.

Look, in this place ran Cassius' dagger through;
See what a rent the envious Casca made;
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;
And as he pluck'd his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow'd it...

The huge gulf between Brutus' ideals and his actions is where the problem lies. In his soliloquy he outlines that he has no "personal cause" to attack Caesar, but only the "general: he would be crowned". Yet we've seen Brutus be persuaded by Cassius, who plays absolutely on Brutus' own self-important sense of honour, and even compares Brutus with Caesar, asking "why should that name be sounded more than yours?". Is Brutus only drawn into the conspiracy ("general cause") out of self-regard and arrogance - "a personal cause"?

Perhaps. And, when you compare Brutus' imperative that the conspiracy rises against Caesar's spirit, in which there "is no blood", with the blood that pours out after the assassination itself, you have to conclude that Brutus is somewhat painfully idealistic.

Personally, I don't think he's honorable, but a cynical portrayal of how a self-regarding liberal can bring about absolute disaster. But whichever way you go, he's a political disaster.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Yes, absolutely, Brutus was most definitely an honorable man.  Think about his initial resistance to Cassius' advances:  he asks what sort of dangerous path he is being led down.  Brutus has no personal grudge against Caesar; in fact, he is the last to stab him because he has the least amount of personal hatred toward him.  While Cassius, Trebonius, Casca ("speak, hands for me!") and others fly into him with rage, Brutus simply waits until the end, and without emotion, does what he feels is necessary to protect the Roman state. 

Also, one thing that I think truly separates Brutus from the other conspirators is his sense of conscience and justice.  While Brutus has the least amount of blame for the murder (having done it for the good of his country, rather than out of personal jealousy as did Cassius), he sees Caesar's ghost several times, which is a sure sign of his sense of guilt. 

This also points to Brutus' sense of personal responsibility.  He never felt right about his decision to kill Caesar afterwards; and when he realized that he had indeed acted inappropriately, he used the knife that he plunged into Caesar to take his own life, out of a sense of obligation.  He did what others were unwilling to do:  when he realized he could do no better than his predecessor, and that he was actually harming his countrymen through his rule, he removed himself from power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

@afi80fl 

Brutus has no personal grudge against Caesar; in fact, he is the last to stab him because he has the least amount of personal hatred toward him. 

I know that what you're arguing is the traditional interpretation of this play, but I don't think it's justified in the text. Please provide some textual justification (i.e. quotes from Shakespeare's play) for the above quote. I can't find anything that tells us why Brutus is the last to stab Caesar, or indeed, how most of the conspirators feel about Caesar (and no mention at all of "personal hatred").

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

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