What is Brutus's internal conflict / inner conflict in Julius Caesar?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Julius Caesar" Brutus has internal struggles about his feelings for Caesar.  Part of the problem within Brutus is the fact that he can be influenced, a fact that Cassius is aware of:  "Who is so firm that cannot be seduced?" (I,ii,312) Thus, Cassius persuades Brutus that Caesar is "ambitious" and desires to be crowned as a king and become a tyrant.  In the second act,scene i, Brutus in soliloquy ponders the idea that Caesar seeks power.  He reasons

I have not known when his affections swayed/More than his reason.  But 'tis a common proof/That lowliness is young ambition's ladder/Wereto the climber upward turns his face;/But when he once attains the upmost round,/He then unto the ladder turns his back,/Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees/By which he did ascend.  So Caesar may(ll.22-27)

Brutus worries that once Caesar is given so much power, he may forget "the base degrees," the events and people who helped him ascend. So, he decides that Caesar is like "a serpent's egg"(l.32) and the senators must "kill him in the shell" (l.34).  Once Brutus reaches this decision, he is still troubled because he does love Caesar.  Finally, he decides to put the welfare of the state above his personal feelings.  The irony to this is that Brutus is unsuccessful in his leadership and dies tragically himself.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major internal conflict for Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is that between his principles and his emotions. Brutus is a follower of the philosophy of Stoicism and has high moral ideals. He is a strong supporter of the Roman Republic and feels that a dictatorship and imperial rule would be bad for the character of the Romans.

While assassinating tyrants is allowed under a Stoic moral code, and tyrannicides were widely praised in many literary works, the conflict for Brutus is that Caesar was not an evil tyrant but a good man and a personal friend and mentor. For Brutus, it is precisely because Caesar is a good ruler that he is so dangerous, as the prospect of a good dictator can lead people to accepting dictatorship as a principle. In addition, Brutus knows that participating in the rebellion will endanger his family. Despite this, he bravely sticks to his principles and joins the conspirators. 

lensor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the senators closest to Julius Caesar, Brutus is highly principled and committed to what is best for Rome.  When Caesar returns to the city after a successful military campaign, the citizens of Rome seem ready to offer him the position of emperor.  Brutus wants to see Rome remain a republic and does not support the idea that Caesar should be named emperor.  When Cassius asks Brutus to join the plot to assassinate Caesar, Brutus weighs his friendship with the leader against what he believes to be best for Rome.  This is the basis of Brutus's internal conflict.  Ultimately, Brutus decides that the needs of the republic supersede those of Caesar, and he takes part in the assassination of Caesar on the steps outside the Roman Senate.