Julius Caesar Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, was Caesar ambitious? 

Yes, Caesar is ambitious in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, because he wishes to rule Rome as a monarch. See more Shakespeare quotes about ambition.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Julius Caesar could be labeled as an ambitious man. He is by far the most celebrated citizen in the empire and wishes to rule Rome as a monarch. There are several telling pieces of evidence that indicate Julius Caesar is an ambitious man. Casca tells Brutus and Cassius that Mark Antony attempted to place a crown on Caesar's head in front of the Roman public three times, and Caesar reluctantly rejected the crown. Casca describes Caesar as bitterly disappointed at the crowd's reaction before he experienced an epileptic seizure in public. Caesar is also portrayed as an arrogant, proud man who relishes authority and power. Caesar refers to himself using the third person several times in the play and believes that he is incapable of experiencing fear. Caesar has an elevated perception of himself and refuses to consider the numerous warnings for him to avoid going to the Senate. While Caesar never explicitly states his plans to rule Rome as a monarch, his arrogance and prestige lead Brutus to believe that he is an ambitious man. Brutus takes into consideration Caesar's elevated self-perception and compares him to a "serpent’s egg." Essentially, Caesar's personality and behavior indicate that he will attempt to rule Rome as a monarch when given a chance, which is why Brutus decides to join the conspirators.

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Eleanora Howe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the title character, Caesar, is indeed ambitious. The play begins after a civil war, the victor of which, Caesar, is the most powerful man in Rome and poised to become the king (or dictator, to be more accurate). The play begins with characters, especially Brutus, worrying about Caesar's ambition, and this worry ultimately drives the conspirators (Brutus among them) to assassinate Caesar. Though Antony throws doubt on Caesar's ambition during his funeral speech in Act 3, Scene 2, he does so to pursue his own political motive. As such, we can view his implied assertion that Caesar was not ambitious as an intentional lie. 

The problem of Caesar's ambition makes more sense when remembered in its historical context (the play is a fictionalized retelling of real events, after all). Prior to Caesar's rise to power, Rome had been a republic for hundreds of years, governing its people through representative government, rather than a monarchy. Thus, Caesar's personal ambition to gain power as king threatens this democratic status quo. As such, Julius Caesar is a play about how personal ambition, when it is paired with political power and motive, has the potential to threaten the sovereignty of self-governance. 

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