At what point in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare does Brutus realize that his mistakes have left Rome in far worse condition than if Caesar had lived?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Brutus must be labeled an assassin because he was part of the group known as the conspirators who did, indeed, murder Caesar. The difference between Brutus and the others, of course, is that he committed this distasteful act in an effort to save his country from being turned into a monarchy.

Brutus does not do this lightly or selfishly, like the others do. He is not jealous of Caesar, nor does he have any valid fears that Caesar is trying to usurp power and become king. Unfortunately, what Brutus does not know is that all the evidence he is presented with concerning Caesar is fabricated in an attempt to win Brutus over to the conspirators' side. If he had known, he would not have participated in this heinous act. 

Once the deed is done, all of the murderers stand boldly over the body, proclaiming their commitment to the people and claiming they assassinated Caesar to protect them from a tyrant. Brutus gives an effective speech, but Mark Antony gives a masterful oration in which he reminds the people of all the good things Caesar has done for the poor and reminds him that Caesar turned down a kingship not once but three times. 

Things really turn ugly when Antony's speech ends and he reads Julius Caesar's will which grants some money to every citizen. This plays on the emotions of the people (as he knew it would), and the people suddenly turn on their leaders-turned-assassins. Brutus really has no choice but to flee with the others. Civil war has broken out, the consequence of regicide, and the country is in turmoil. 

Brutus really is not the "bad guy" here, though he is guilty of letting himself be deceived into acting against his better judgment. In Act IV scene ii, Brutus does wish he could undo some of the things he has done. He tells Cassius's servant:

Your master, Pindarus,
In his own change or by ill officers
Hath given me some worthy cause to wish
Things done, undone. 
A case could be made that this is where Brutus realizes how bad things are and that he is to blame. What seems more true here, though, is that Brutus is simply having personal regret for his actions rather than regretting the violent turmoil he and his fellow conspirators have caused. It may or may not be the moment of understanding, but it certainly indicates his regret.
Another case could be made that Brutus does not ever fully realize the consequences of his misguided actions. In the next scene, Brutus learns that Antony and Octavius have killed a hundred senators and have amassed an army to kill him and the others. He also learns that his wife has committed a gruesome suicide. Things are bad, and Brutus knows that the people around them are loyal only because they have been forced into it, and those who are legitimately loyal to them have given all they can. Yet he is not deterred, nor does he recognize or admit that his cause is not just. 
That night Caesar's ghost appears to Brutus, and though he is frightened by the experience he does not see it as an omen until much later, when all is nearly lost. Even at the end of his life, Brutus is still deceived. He believes his friends have never been anything but loyal to him and that his cause was the more just cause.
My heart doth joy that yet in all my life
I found no man but he was true to me.
I shall have glory by this losing day
More than Octavius and Mark Antony
By this vile conquest shall attain unto.
 If Brutus realizes the enormity of his actions, it is in Act IV scene ii.
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Julius Caesar

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