What role does honor have in the lives of the characters in Julius Caesar?Please give specific examples.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of honor is absolutely pivotal to the plot of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. For, it is this quality in Brutus--"...I love/The name of honor more than I fear death" (1.2.94-95) which draws Cassius to use his brother-in-law to be instrumental in influencing the other conspirators.  To persuade Brutus into the plot to kill Caesar, Cassius tells Brutus, "Well, honor is the subject of my story (1.2.98).

It is, thus, this appeal to Brutus's sense of honor that Cassius employs to convince Brutus that Caesar is so power-hungry that the good of the state of Rome will be sacrificed:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

Like a Colossus, and we petty men

Walk under his huge legs and peep about

To find ourselves dishonorable graves. (1.2.141-144)

It is his honorable love for the republic of Rome that convinces Brutus of the necessity of assassinating Caesar who is like "a serpent's egg," one who will become evil given power.

It is honor that first drives Caesar to the Forum on the Ides of March instead of remaining home with his anxious wife, Calpurnia.  He tells her,

Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once. (2.2.33-34)

 It is the honor of Brutus that Marc Antony skewers in his funeral oration in which he discredits Brutus and sways the plebians to riot, effecting the civil war which engages Antony and the other members of the triumvir who fight against Brutus and Cassius. 

But Brutus says he [Caesar] was ambitious,

And Brutus is an honorable man....

So are they all, all honorable men). (3.2.89-92)

Finally, it is honor which brings Brutus and Cassius to their deaths on the battlefied as it is considered by Roman soldiers and officers to be more honorable to die than to be taken prisoner by their conquerors.

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Julius Caesar

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