Describe the good and bad traits of Brutus in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

1 Answer | Add Yours

carol-davis's profile pic

carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar was based on actual events from 44 B.C. Caesar’s assassination altered the course of history.  Although the name of the play would indicate that Caesar was the protagonist of the play, the main character was Brutus, a Roman senator. The decisions that Brutus makes control the outcome of the play and history.

Brutus is found to be a troubled man. He usually gave a lot of thought to any of his decisions. When Cassius first speaks to Brutus, he has noticed that Brutus is not acting like himself:

Nor construe any further my neglect,
Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
Forgets the shows of love to other men

Analyzing Brutus as the protagonist of the play encompasses both positive and negative qualities.

Positive

Brutus is by far the most psychologically complex character in the play. Brutus was well-known for his honesty and morality; he did value his friendships.  He employed logic and reasoning.  Brutus's love of the Roman Republic mattered more to him than being a loyal friend to Caesar.

Brutus is popular not only with the citizens of Rome but with the Senators.  His influence is needed by the conspirators.  In addition, his oratory skills are exceptional.  With his clear, cool logic, Brutus convinces the concerned public that Caesar was a tyrant who needed to be eliminated in order for them to be free.

Cassius, be you one--
Nor construe any further my neglect,
Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
Forgets the shows of love to other men

Analyzing Brutus as the protagonist of the play encompasses both positive and negative qualities.

Negative

Although Brutus struggles with his decision to join the conspiracy, he decides that his loyalty to Rome is more important than his friendship to Caesar.  His betrayal to Caesar was both literal and figurative. This hurt Caesar as indicated in his last words: “Et tu, Brute!”

Brutus is willing to murder Caesar based on possibilities: not on what he had done but what he might do.   Brutus' off target thinking led him to believe that it was better to sacrifice an innocent ruler than risk his becoming a tyrant. Despite his reasoning power, he foolishly joins a conspiracy led by Cassius who has none of Brutus’ goals for Rome.

When he joins the conspiracy, Brutus becomes much more assertive.  He overrides several suggestions made by Cassius which were poor decisions.  Cassius had the ability to see into the hearts of other men; Brutus did not.   Brutus’s choices led to the downfall of all of the conspirators.

  • His poor decisions included events that had dire consequences:
  • Cassius wanted to kill Antony.  Brutus says he has no power when Caesar dies.
  • Cassius does not want Antony to speak at the funeral.  Brutus says that he will speak first and convince the people.
  • Brutus decides to leave and go home.  He is unaware of what Antony’s success would be when he spoke to the crowd.

Initially it seems that Brutus cannot be manipulated; however, Cassius writes fake letters to Brutus which he believes and takes to heart.

In the final analysis, Antony was correct when he gave credit to Brutus for owning up to his part in the assassination.  Calling Brutus the noblest and most honorable man of Rome, Antony realizes that Brutus knew that he had to embrace his own death just as much as he decided to kill Caesar. No higher compliment can be given from one man to another: “This was a man!”

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,917 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question