What is the tragic flaw in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and why did Shakespeare named his play this since the title character is not the protagonist?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a challenging question because, as it indicates, Caesar himself is not on stage for very long. Caesar is, however, the most talked about character in the play and so it is, perhaps, not inappropriate that the play bears his name.

One of the interesting things that Shakespeare does in this play is examine the problem of Julius Caesar through perception of Caesar rather than put on display what Caesar himself does or says. If we look at what Caesar himself says in the play, then his "flaw" (if we can even call it that) would be that he did not heed the portents and prophecies that led up to his assassination. Shakespeare has also overshadowed this "flaw," though, in my opinion with what he has Marc Antony demonstrate is a falsely perceived flaw.

Throughout the first part of the play, the conspirators "perceive" Caesar as an ambitious person. Caesar's actions, however, and Antony's funeral oration appear to prove that Caesar is not an ambitious person. Thus, to my way of thinking, Shakespeare does a very interesting thing by creating a perceived rather than actual flaw. Antony's funeral speech hammers home Brutus' incorrect perception of Caesar's flaw:

Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.

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Julius Caesar

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