What is the worst  mistake that Brutus makes in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakepeare's political play Julius Caesar was based on actual events in 44 B.C. Marcus Brutus, a well respected Roman Senator, fears that Caesar has and will become too powerful. Marc Antony offers the crown to Caesar who after initially refusing it, finally accepts it. Several other Roman officials also dislike the idea of Caesar assuming dictatorship over Rome.

A conspiracy is formed, initially led by Cassius. Cassius believes that he must include Brutus in order to win over the people after the assassination. Brutus listens to Cassius and his reasons. Then he tells Cassius that he must think it over. On the evening of March 14, the conspirators congregate at Brutus' house.  In Act II, Scene i, Brutus chooses to join the assassins with these words:

What other bond
Than secret Romans that have spoke the word

And will not palter?  And what other oath
Than honesty to honesty engaged
That this shall be or we will fall for it

Brutus makes enumerable mistakes throughout the drama.

  • He allows Marc Antony to live.
  • He lets Marc Antony speak at the funeral.
  • He leaves the scene during Antony's speech.
  • He does not listen to Cassius who is a much better judge of character and a better soldier.
  • He contradicts Cassius and leads the army to disaster.

However, the most devastating decision that Brutus made was to join the conspirators.  None of the events--the murder of Caesar, the battles, the change of government, the deaths of all the conspirators--would have happened if Brutus had not made that mistake. Murder is never a wise choice, so Brutus suffered the consequences of his actions. In the end, though, even Antony admired Brutus:

This was the noblest Roman of them all.
He only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle...And say to all the world, “This was a man!”

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

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