T. S. Eliot wrote, "Between the idea and the reality ... Falls the Shadow." In what instances does this observation apply to Brutus in Julius Caesar?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In T. S. Eliot's lines, "Between the idea and the reality ... Falls the Shadow," Eliot is asserting that there is a great difference between what one conjectures or dreams up and what actually comes to pass in reality. Eliot sees this difference as dark and shadowy because our reality can be so negatively different from what we actually had intended, just as we see with respect to Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Brutus had very good intentions. He was an idealist who sincerely believed in democracy and sincerely believed that Caesar's arrogance may prove to be a threat to the democracy and, therefore, agreed to join the plot to assassinate Caesar. However, while he chose to assassinate Caesar for the common benefit of the democracy, later, he makes mistakes that once again threaten the democracy. For one thing, out of guilt for committing murder, he opted to spare Antony, even though Antony posed a threat to the Brutus's coup because he was such a strong supporter of Caesar. Sparing Antony leads to civil war between the supporters of the conspirators led by Brutus and the supporters of Caesar led by Antony. What's more, Brutus's feelings of guilt even lead him to make some poor military decisions, such as giving his troops the command to attack too soon in the second battle, leading to the death and captivity of most of Brutus's troops, as well as Brutus's own suicide. More importantly, Brutus's democracy was now left in the hands of Antony, which is certainly a reality Brutus had not aimed for.

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