In "Julius Caesar", how many times does Brutus make a blunder?

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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4) Cassius has a good plan for the battle:

'Tis better that the enemy seek us;
So shall he waste his means, weary his soldiers,
Doing himself offense, whilst we lying still
Are full of rest, defense, and nimbleness.

and Brutus over-rules him (I particularly like the first line of this speech):

Good reasons must of force give place to better.
The people 'twixt Philippi and this ground
Do stand but in a forced affection,
For they have grudged us contribution.
The enemy, marching along by them,
By them shall make a fuller number up,
Come on refresh'd, new-added, and encouraged;
From which advantage shall we cut him off
If at Philippi we do face him there,
These people at our back.

5) And, even with his own disastrous battle strategy having exhausted all of the troops and most of the morale, as Cassius prepares for suicide, we hear once more that Brutus has got it wrong again:

O Cassius, Brutus gave the word too early,
Who, having some advantage on Octavius,
Took it too eagerly. His soldiers fell to spoil,
Whilst we by Antony are all enclosed.

Conclusion?

Brutus is a tactical disaster, and a man whose well-intentioned idealism brings everything crashing to its knees. Some people might well disagree with this - but I would invite them to justify their interpretation in the text of the play. Brutus isn't nearly as "honourable" or "noble" a character as most criticism suggests.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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It's basically every time he ever makes a decision. And more or less every time this happens, Cassius then gives the correct answer - which Brutus ignores.

1) Brutus entirely misjudges Casca's character:

What a blunt fellow is this grown to be!
He was quick mettle when he went to school.

Cassius corrects him:

So is he now in execution
Of any bold or noble enterprise,
However he puts on this tardy form.

2) Cassius has a good idea, which the play proves true:

Decius, well urged. I think it is not meet
Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,
Should outlive Caesar. We shall find of him
A shrewd contriver...

Brutus overrules him, getting it wrong:

Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
To cut the head off and then hack the limbs...
For Antony is but a limb of Caesar...
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,
And in the spirit of men there is no blood.

As it turns out, there is quite a lot of blood when Caesar is murdered. Enough for everyone to bathe their hands in. Brutus' idealism is fatal.

3) Mark Antony wants to speak at Caesar's funeral. Brutus says "You shall, Mark Antony." Cassius is right, again:

You know not what you do. Do not consent
That Antony speak in his funeral.
Know you how much the people may be moved
By that which he will utter?

... more in the next post

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