How would you characterize Brutus after reading Act 2, scene 1, in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar? How would you describe him now that you know his reasoning? Use texual evidence to support your...

How would you characterize Brutus after reading Act 2, scene 1, in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar? How would you describe him now that you know his reasoning? Use texual evidence to support your analysis. 

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In the first few lines we learn that Brutus is one who would not act out of selfish desire but that he would act in the common good. He reasons that Caesar should be killed for it would benefit all.

It must be by his death: and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general.

We also learn from this extract that Brutus carefully considers Caesar's position and his nature. Brutus is clear in his thinking and reasoning, and thus finds justification why Caesar should be assassinated. His decision to assist in the plot is therefore not borne out of passion, but based on what he believes is sound reasoning and judgment. As he says:

The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.

Brutus is of the opinion that once Caesar has gained more authority that he might abuse his power and become a tyrant, forgetting about how he had achieved his title. He honestly believes that the best way of preventing this is to kill Caesar. He should be thought of as a serpent still in its shell, that should be crushed before the snake (Caesar) emerges.

It is clear that Brutus has a conscience, he has been haunted by the hideous thought of killing Caesar and has not been able to sleep:

I have not slept.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:

It is thus not easy for Brutus to contemplate the murder. He had previously declared his love for Caesar and killing him would be extremely difficult.

When Brutus sees the conspirators, it is clear that he is aware of the evil that they all possess. As a man of conscience, he expresses his disgust at the fact that they should seek out the night to plot, when evil roams freely. He is clearly dismayed and ashamed by the fact that they have to follow this most distasteful route.

O conspiracy,
Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brow by night,
When evils are most free?

Brutus displays his honour when he rejects the idea of the conspirators making a pledge. He believes that they have reason enough to commit this foul deed: The looks in men's eyes (their despair, fear, displeasure, etc.) as well as the suffering that they themselves had to endure, and the abuses of that particular time. Their vow is the fact that they want to rid Rome of a possible tyrant and therefore do not need to make an promises. All is for the good of Rome. If that is not enough, then they might all just give up and go back to their rest.

Brutus also shows how naïve he is when it is suggested that Antony should suffer the same fate as Caesar. At the same time he displays the fact that he is not a brutal murderer, who wishes to go around and slaughter every threat in his wake.

Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
For Antony is but a limb of Caesar:
Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers,

Brutus underestimates Antony's powers for he does not see him as a threat and regards him as merely as one who

And for Mark Antony, think not of him;
For he can do no more than Caesar's arm
When Caesar's head is off.for he is given
To sports, to wildness and much company.

And also that Mark Antony

... is given
To sports, to wildness and much company.

This is a grievous error of judgment, for it is Antony who later stirs up the crowd and turns the citizens of Rome against the conspirators.

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