Discuss the personality of Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar casts Brutus as the protagonist of the play. Marcus Brutus moves the play forward based on the decisions that he makes concerning his participation in the assassination of Caesar. The events and people involved in the drama were based on the actual events in 44 B. C. in Rome.
When Brutus comes to the Lupercal, Cassius confronts him expressing his hatred for Caesar, hinting at the conspiracy. Brutus listens and tells Cassius that he will consider what he has said and discuss it with him at a later date. During their conversation, Brutus admits that he has been at war within himself concerning the fate of Rome. His personality demands that he speak only when he is positive that he has made the right decision. Brutus never acts in haste.
In Act II, scene I, Brutus begins by letting the audience know that he has made his decision. Caesar must die. During his soliloquy, Brutus explains his reasons for joining the conspiracy. His honesty precludes him becoming a part of anything that he does not believe is best for the republic. Brutus sincerely admits that Caesar has never shown anything to him but friendship and love. Yet, he fears that Caesar might misuse his power if he is given the crown.
It must be by his death, and, for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
Brutus chooses to assassinate Caesar based on the possibility that Caesar might become a tyrant.
After Brutus makes his decision, the conspirators come to his house. They need to have Brutus as part of the plot because of his popularity with the people and the other senators. He will make the murder more palatable. From this point to the end of the play, Brutus becomes the most dominant of the conspirators. He overrules Cassius in every major judgment.
Cassius: I think it is not meet
Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,
Should outlive Caesar.
Brutus: We shall be call'd purgers, not murderers.
And for Mark Antony, think not of him,
For he can do no more than Caesar's arm
When Caesar's head is off.
After this even though Cassius knows that his experience suggests otherwise, Brutus controls the conspiracy.
In his naiveté, Brutus does not realize the far reaching consequences of the death of Caesar. It will cause the death of every conspirator. In addition, it will bring about a civil war between the new triumvirate and Cassius and Brutus. In the end, Octavius Caesar will become the new ruler of Rome.
In his funeral address to the Roman people, Brutus speaks with little emotion which was his nature. He gave his reasons for the death of Caesar in a logical and reasonable manner. Initially, the commoners received his explanation and applauded him.
Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves,
than that Caesar were dead to live all freemen? As Caesar
loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at
it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious,
I slew him.
After his oration, Brutus honestly believed that his words would be enough to satisfy the public and life would go on without any retribution for the assassination of Caesar.