Julius Caesar Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are Julius Caesar's strengths and weaknesses?

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janihash24 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Julius Caesar, as Shakespeare presents him, is a powerful, charismatic leader, and brilliant military tactician, whose victories have inspired "the masses" with pride in Roman rule. He is able to compel loyalty, to a fanatic extent, in those under his command.

But, although Shakespeare is at pains to suggest ambiguity in this situation, we are led to believe that he may, in fact, aspire to become a dictator, a supreme ruler whose populist support does not reflect the ideals of the Roman republic. This is why Brutus and the other conspirators fear him and eventually assassinate him. Caesar's success in his military campaigns, which rely on his "top–down," absolute rule, leads him to believe that this system is also the best way to govern a country, or, in this case, an empire. He has not grasped the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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Caesar's greatest strength, as Shakespeare emphasizes in the play, is his willpower. According to Plutarch in his "Life of Julius Caesar," Caesar had truly remarkable determination and willpower. When Caesar decided to do something, he did it, as illustrated by his conquest of Gaul, which took eight years. Caesar also had the ability to command the loyalty of his soldiers. They would do anything for him. They were the source of his strength and support as a Roman politician as well. Plutarch writes that Caesar was responsible for the deaths of two million people and sold many others into slavery. In one incident recorded in his own book The Gallic Wars, Caesar sold a whole city of 50,000 men, women, and children as slaves because they initially refused to surrender to him. 

Caesar's weaknesses included physical ailments. As Shakespeare shows in his play, Caesar suffered from epileptic seizures and had one of them while attending the Lupercal games. Caesar's ambition, or hubris, was probably his main weakness. Shakespeare portrays Caesar as a supreme egotist, and it was this ambition and egotism that led to his assassination. 

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