In Julius Caesar, what are Cassius' weaknesses and strengths?
Most round characters have several strengths and weaknesses. In Julius Caesar, Cassius is recognized as intelligent and convincing. On the other hand, his weaknesses include jealousy, a lack of scruples, and cowardice.
In act I, scene ii, Cassius strives to add Brutus to the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar, and he uses flattery to persuade the protagonist:
And it is very much lamented, Brutus,(60)
That you have no such mirrors as will turn
Your hidden worthiness into your eye
That you might see your shadow.
Throughout acts I and II he continues to employ such flattery, and later uses Brutus's love for Rome as the final push. He plants forged letters supposedly written by Roman citizens that ask Brutus to act against Caesar in order to save the republic. Ultimately, he convinces Brutus, who loves and respects Caesar, to become part of the murderous plot. Not only does he persuade Caesar's "loyal" friend, Cassius is also able to convince a large group of senators as well.
Cassius is also recognized as extremely intelligent. Even Caesar who dislikes him acknowledges that "yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look" (200). He is aware that Cassius "thinks too much" and that "such men are dangerous" (201). Caesar would rather surround himself with happy, fat men that sleep at night because this means that they are not scheming plans.
However, Cassius also has some negative traits. For example, he is obviously very jealous of Caesar. In act I, scene ii, he delivers two anecdotes in trying to discredit Caesar and stating that he dictator is weak. According to Cassius, he had to rescue Caesar once, so he does not understand why he has such power. He states, "It doth amaze me a man of such a feeble temper should so get the start of the majestic world" (135-136).
Cassius also shows a lack of scruples. In act IV, scene iii, we learn that Cassius is taking bribes and is asking Brutus to allow his friend to take to do the same. Brutus is upset that Cassius honors corruption and begins to question whether or not Cassius had good intentions in organizing Caesar's assassination:
What, shall one of us,
That struck the foremost man of all this world
But for supporting robbers, shall we now
Contaminate our fingers with base bribes...? (22-25)
Finally, in act V, scene iii, Cassius shows the reader that he is ultimately a coward. Instead of being captured and facing his punishment for killing Caesar, he chooses to take his own life. Even in suicide he is a coward because he orders his slave Pindarus to commit the act and asks him to wait until his master's face is covered and to use the sword "that ran through Caesar's bowels" (44). He could not face his punishment, could not face death with open eyes, and could not stab his own chest, demonstrating his excessive cowardice.