Justify why Julius Caesar is or is not the protagonist in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a five act drama.  The assassination of Caesar takes place in the third act.  It is hard to justify Caesar being the protagonist of the play since [other than his evil spirit which is seen in Act IV] Caesar does not appear in the last two acts of the play.

The protagonist of the play must be involved in the action of the play.  Marcus Brutus comes to the forefront as the character although less than heroic serves as the center of the drama.  It is his decisions and actions that take the play to its completion when he is found dead by Antony and Octavius.

What are the major scenes that Brutus controls?

  • Cassius tries to convince Brutus to join the conspiracy
  • Brutus deciding to join the assassins
  • The assassination in which Brutus takes over the leadership of the plotters
  • His funeral oration
  • His argument with Cassius
  • The meeting of the enemies
  • The battle
  • His death

This is actually Brutus’s play and not Caesars.  The assassination of Julius Caesar was better known; and from it, the world was changed.  Brutus’s name would not be known except for the death of Caesar. That is the reality of the assassination of Julius Caesar; however, the drama is different because it is the demise of Brutus that the play follows.  It is also the tragedy of Brutus to join the conspiracy to do harm to a leader for which Brutus felt affection.   

Brutus was a stoic which meant that everything he did was done lacking emotion and based on logic and reasoning.  This philosophy held impassiveness and indifference at its core.  That is why it took Brutus so long to decide to join the conspiracy.

Part of the play’s purpose was to compare the different types of personalities involved: Portia and Calpurnia; Antony and Octavius; and Brutus and Cassius.  As a stoic, Brutus showed great emotion to Cassius when he told him he would think about what he had said.

What you have said
I will consider; what you have to say
I will with patience hear, and find a time
Both meet to hear and answer such high things.
Till then, my noble friend, chew upon this:
Brutus had rather be a villager
Than to repute himself a son of Rome
Under these hard conditions as this time
Is like to lay upon us.

No other character in the play has such an important role as does Brutus.  It is his decisions that move the actions of the play forward.  He is the protagonist of the play.

kurowoofwoof111 | Student

Aristotle once defined the tragic hero as a person of influential birth, who has a moral personality. The tragic hero also must have a hamartia, which is a fatal flaw. This fatal flaw is the cause of the person's downfall. Julius Caesar, is a tragic hero. He was aspiring to become the king of Rome, and had the proper support and popularity to do so. Caesar was a noble person, since he was a great general. He was, according to Antony, a ."..friend, faithful and just..." (III.ii.94). Caesar needed to be a positive person for him to gain such tremendous support from the Roman  people. However, he has a literally fatal flaw; his pride essentially killed him. Caesar was warned numerous times throughout the first acts of the play about the danger on the  March 15th. The Soothsayer warned Caesar on the Lupercal, but Caesar, full of his pride, merely brushed him off. In Caesar's mind, he was basically an immortal, and no mortal can cause him danger. In addition, on the Ides of March, his wife, Calpurnia, faithfully warned her husband not to go to the Capitol that day. However, after a talk with Decius, Caesar was once again convinced of his immortality. It was this terrible mentality that caused Caesar's ignorance to the warnings. If he hadn't been so proud and arrogant, Caesar might have avoided his own death. Tragically, Caesar did not, and was assassinated by the conspirators on the Ides of March.

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Julius Caesar

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