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

Brutus's internal conflict concerns whether to assassinate Julius Caesar and defend Rome from his potential tyranny or remain Caesar's loyal friend and suppress his negative emotions towards his growing popularity. He feels a great deal of struggle regarding the choice to join the conspirators or stay faithful to the emperor.

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In Shakespeare's classic play Julius Caesar, Brutus is depicted as a noble, stoic man who struggles with the decision to join the conspirators against Julius Caesar or passively watch as Caesar continues to gain unchecked authority. Caesar's ascent threatens the Republic.

At the beginning of the play, Cassius approaches Brutus and appeals to his honorable nature. Cassius states that Julius Caesar is nothing more than a fallible human who would tyrannize Rome if given the chance. Cassius recognizes that Brutus is a respected, popular individual and needs his support to successfully assassinate Caesar. Brutus is moved by Cassius's words and begins contemplating joining the conspirators.

In act two, scene one, Brutus reveals his conflicted emotions and internal conflict during his soliloquy by stating,

It must be by his [Julius Caesar's] death; and, for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general... T
he abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power, and — to speak truth of Caesar —
I have not known when his affections swayed
More than his reason...
that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg —
Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous —
And kill him in the shell.
(Shakespeare, 2.1.10-34).

Brutus's soliloquy reveals that he does not harbor a personal grudge against Caesar and has never witnessed him being moved by irrational emotions. However, Brutus recognizes the corrupting nature of power and likens Caesar to a "serpent's egg." Essentially, Brutus fears that Caesar will be crowned king, giving him license to disband the Senate and tyrannize Rome.

Brutus is caught between his loyalty to Caesar and his love of Rome. Eventually, Cassius successfully manipulates Brutus into joining the conspirators and participating in the assassination. Following Caesar's brutal murder, Brutus addresses the masses and explains his reasoning by saying,

If then that friend demand
Why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more
(Shakespeare, 3.2.19-22).

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 21, 2020
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Brutus is torn between his love of Caesar and his love of Rome. When he is approached by Cassius about participating in a conspiracy to assassinate Caesar, Cassius appeals to Brutus on the basis of patriotism. While Cassius is driven primarily by fear and resentment at the idea that he might have to bow down to Caesar, who was once his peer, he knows that Brutus loves and is loyal to Caesar--Brutus is, in fact, one of his closest friends. That's why it is important to Cassius to involve Brutus in the plot: if Brutus is part of it, it will lend credence to the conspirators' claim that they acted for the good of Rome.

Brutus is swayed by the idea that it will be a disaster for Rome if Caesar gains too much power and becomes a tyrant. At the same time, he feels deep respect for and faithfulness towards Caesar, his dear friend. He is forced to weight the good of his country against the personal pain he will experience from turning on and betraying his friend.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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