If Julius Caesar dies in Act III, then who is the play really about?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is difficult to ascertain who exactly the protagonist of Julius Caesar is. On the one hand, Caesar is the pivotal character, and the entire plot is based around his assassination. But he only appears in three scenes. Brutus, on the other hand, appears far more often, and is really the tragic hero of the play. The drama ends with his death, and Antony's memorable on-the-spot eulogy:

This was the noblest Roman of them all. 
All the conspirators, save only he, 
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar; 
He only, in a general honest thought 
And common good to all, made one of them. 
His life was gentle, and the elements 
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man!”

It could also be argued, perhaps, that Cassius is as important a character as Brutus, as it was he who initiated the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. But his motives were clear from the start, as he clearly detested Caesar and was envious of his newfound power. The only other character that could be posited as the protagonist is Marc Antony, whose role in the play increases in importance after the death of Caesar. Antony is a complex character, whose ambition goes hand in hand with his legitimate grief for Caesar. There is, in short no clear answer as to who the play actually centers on, though Brutus's death scene, and Antony's moving tribute, seem to cast Brutus as the hero. He most embodies the conflicts between freedom and tyranny and loyalty and patriotism that suffuse the whole play.

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Julius Caesar

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