Should the title of the play have been The Tragedy of Marcus Brutus instead of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The Title of the Play

Should the title of the play have been The Tragedy of Marcus Brutus instead of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar?

From a literary standpoint, yes. I suppose Shakespeare went with the Caesar title since more people recognize his name as a towering historical figure. However, Brutus, more than Caesar, fulfills the conventions of Shakespeare's tragic hero.

Brutus is a man of high position and power, well respected by the people. He is a good man in the beginning, one to be admired. His tragedy lies in a fatal flaw in his character. Brutus's flaw is his completely idealistic nature. It is his idealism that leads him into so many mistakes that result in his downfall and destruction.

Another characteristic of the tragic hero that can be found in Brutus is how he reacts when his world turns around in Act III. Instead of giving up, he fights desperately to reverse his downfall and stop his destruction. He fights with courage and honor, and chooses death over dishonor.

Finally, to complete the tragedy, Shakespeare gives us a glimpse of Brutus as he was before his fall. This is to remind us that once he was a very good man. This reinforces the tragedy. At the conclusion of the play, Antony calls Brutus "the noblest Roman of them all," and reminds the audience that everything Brutus did was done for the good of all Romans.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a valid discussion since the title character is murdered so early in the play.  The play is not so much about Julius Caesar as it is about the character of Brutus, Caesar's good friend, and his being manipulated into the arms of the conspiracy group.  From the beginning of the play, we meet Brutus first.  We understand that Cassius and other conspirators need a man like Brutus--well-liked, well-respected, and considered to be wise and loyal to Rome--on their side.  In fact, Cassius and the others work extremely hard to gain his confidence and his allegiance.  On the fateful Ides of March, Caesar mentions only one conspirator's name--"Et tu, Brutus?"  After the murder takes place, we still are focused on Brutus thoughts, actions, and fate, even though the ghost of Caesar visits him twice.   This play is more about honor or lack thereof, and it focused on the character of Brutus rather than the character of Caesar.  A strong argument can be made for a misnomer in the title. 

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Julius Caesar

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