What are the internal conflicts faced by Cassius and Brutus in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?
The play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is based on actual events which took place in 44 B.C. Both Cassius and Brutus were actual historical figures that took part in the assassination of Caesar.
Cassius initiated the conspiracy to murder Caesar. His reasons for the assassination are personal. In his discussion with Brutus in Act I, Scene ii, Cassius lists his reasons for desiring the Caesar's death:
- Cassius will not live under the rule of Caesar.
- He believes that he is an equal to Caesar.
- Cassius saved Caesar's life when he was drowning
- He believes that Caesar is weak, tired, and old.
- He watches Caesar have an epileptic fit.
- When he was ill, Caesar begged for water like a woman.
Cassius further explains that Caesar has become too arrogant and thinks that he is better than everyone else.
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colussus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Cassius appeals to Brutus by saying that Brutus is the same as Caesar. Caesar is no better than either of them.
Brutus struggles with what he should do about Caesar obtaining too much power. His major concern is for Rome and its citizens. He does not want to return to living with a tyrant ruling over the government. Initially, he does not agree to become a part of the conspiracy. He must think about what is the best course.
In Act II, Scene i, Brutus lets the audience know immediately that he has decided that Caesar must die. His decision is based on possibilities. He believes that if Caesar gets too much power that he may become tyrannical. He might misuse his power.
But 'tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto 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.
If Caesar reaches the goal of emperor, he may forget his friends.
His major analogy refers to a serpent that in the egg seems harmless; but when it comes from the egg, it is deadly. So it is best to kill the serpent while it is still in the egg; and therefore never give it the chance to sting someone. The same is true of Caesar. Kill him before he has the chance to become a tyrant and the problem will be solved.
Thus, both of the conspirators enter into the plot with different reasons, but the outcome is the same: Caesar dies.