In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, could it be said Brutus made a bad decision in killing Caesar, since he knew the citizens of Rome were a fickle, irresponsible mob? Keeping this context in mind, is...

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, could it be said Brutus made a bad decision in killing Caesar, since he knew the citizens of Rome were a fickle, irresponsible mob? Keeping this context in mind, is it truly better to live free in chaos (like the irresponsible mob) than to live in a monarchy with control?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In analyzing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, many readers debate about whether or not Brutus is an effective leader, and whether or not his decision to kill Caesar is a good one. This is a difficult question to answer, as there are many layers to it.

First of all, it's worth pointing out that in context, Brutus' decision is not a good one. Killing Caesar does not preserve peace or political freedom in Rome; rather, it brings about a civil war that results in a monarchy. The mob mentality of common Romans is central here, as its manipulation by Mark Antony instigates the chaos that follows the assassination. Thus, it could be said that Brutus makes a mistake killing Caesar, as he should have foreseen that the mob of Rome could be easily turned against him.

However, evaluating Brutus is not that simple. For instance, Brutus chooses to believe in the integrity of the Roman people. Assuming the common folk can think for themselves and will not be swayed by the rhetoric of politicians like Antony, Brutus exhibits a naive but noble trust in the plebeians. Along the same lines, Brutus shows a passion for protecting political freedom, and he kills Caesar (a close friend, let's not forget) in order to preserve this freedom. Thus, while Brutus' decision to kill Caesar is ultimately not a good one, it is a noble one, and this reality makes evaluating Brutus very complicated.

In regards to the last point of your question: it is undoubtedly better to live in a monarchy with control than in freedom with chaos. That said, it's important not to assume that a monarchy under Caesar would have had "control." Caesar shows himself to be an egotistical individual motivated by a lust for power, rather than a desire to serve the people. Therefore, there's no guarantee that his reign as a monarch would have had stability. Indeed, it's very possible that Caesar's reign would have resulted in chaos of its own. Seen in this light, it's hard to hold up Caesar's monarchy as better than the "chaos" of freedom. 

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Julius Caesar

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