In Julius Caesar, what are some reasons why the murder of Caesar was a bad idea?

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sagesource eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several indications in Julius Caesar that the murder of Caesar is a bad idea.

To begin with, in Act I, Scene 1, the behavior of the commoners indicates that they idolize Caesar. Even though they are fickle, at the present time they are basically on Caesar's side, and unlikely to desert him unless they can be won over by a more popular leader.

A second reason the plot is a bad idea is that the plotters' motives are different. Brutus is motivated purely by his perception of the public interest -- he will not even bind the conspirators by an oath (Act II, Scene 1) -- while Cassius, as Caesar correctly notes, is driven by envy of Caesar and a desire to pull down a man who has risen far above him. When Cassius first hints at the plot, Brutus realizes this divergence of motive between them:

Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius,
That you would have me seek into myself
For that which is not in me? (Act I, Scene 2)

However, he later succeeds in talking himself into the idea that the plot is a good thing by his own standards (Act II, Scene 1), and puts aside these qualms.

A third reason, which grows out of the second, is that the plotters cannot agree on an approach that will neutralize opposition and win over the Roman masses. In particular, Brutus wants to keep everything noble and thus opposes the elimination of Mark Antony. This, as Cassius correctly anticipates, is a gross error (Act II, Scene 1; Act III, Scene 1). Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral elevates him to the position of Caesar's heir with the crowd (Act III, Scene 2), and eliminates the possibility of the conspiracy gaining mass support.

The fourth and perhaps the most important reason is that Caesar is not just an ambitious individual, but the representative of a social trend. As the success of Antony and Octavian indicate, Roman society could no longer be ruled by the same methods it had been before. The mob had become fixated on personalities, not politics in the old sense. It seemed to need a strong man, and if that man were not Caesar, it would be someone else.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From a political standpoint, the assassination of Julius Caesar was a bad idea because ultimately it accomplished nothing. After Caesar's murder, civil war broke out between the forces of Brutus and Cassius and those of Antony and Octavius. When Antony and Octavius prevailed, there was no reason to believe Romans would enjoy any more freedom than they had experienced under Caesar. One of Antony's first acts, for example, was to alter Caesar's will in his own favor. The players at the top had changed, but in the power vacuum created by Caesar's death, one tyrant was replaced by two others.

In terms of human suffering, Caesar's assassination was a disaster. Calpurnia lost her husband, Portia took her own life, and Brutus and Cassius committed suicide on the battlefield in the face of defeat. Countless other lives were lost, as well, in the civil war. Furthermore, once Antony succeeded in driving Brutus and Cassius from Rome, he and Octavius used their new power to execute one hundred Roman Senators, thus eliminating their political opposition.

epollock | Student

"Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare is a staple of high school English classes. It is one of Shakespeare's easier plays to read, while still offering an incredible amount of action to follow for students with readability concerns. There is enough to draw anyone into the play regardless of their circumstances. The murder of Julius Caesar was a bad idea because it eventually caused the downfall of the conspirators, and in the frenzy after Caesar's death caused a breakdown in social order.

The breakdown in social order is demonstrated in the mob's actions after Antony's passionate and persuasive eulogy. The mob says, "We'll mutiny" (iii.2.231), and the First Plebian adds, "We'll burn the house of Brutus," (iii.2.232), but is calmed by Antony when he remarks "You go to do you know not what..." (iii.2.235). But unfortunately, the mob does not stay calm for long as they mistake Cinna the Poet for Cinna the Conspirator, and "tear him [Cinna the Poet] to pieces" (iii.2.28). 

Also, later when Antony says "these many then shall die" (iv.1.1) is a purge of all the enemies of the Triumvirate further causing greater bloodshed.

The phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a phrasethat the conspirators should have heeded before their actions. When Cassius mistakenly believes that Titinius has been taken by the enemy, Cassius has Pindarus kill him with the same sword that Cassius had used on Caesar. Brutus's death is similar in which Brutus has Strato hold out a sword and Brutus runs through it.

In the end, there is so much for anyone to enjoy a great play with war, violence, justice, revenge, and even ghosts.  What could be better than that?


smac-eire | Student

It accomplished nothing in the short term- civil war, still had tyrannical rule, this time from 2 tyrants etc

The main protagonists all lost some bit of their self respect

many noble people degraded themselves brutus mainly

and murder... it judt aint right


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Julius Caesar

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