Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar begins by showing that not everyone supports Caesar. He has made enemies because of the Civil War that he began with his disagreement with Pompey. Caesar has returned to Rome after defeating Pompey and his sons. The problem stems from Pompey’s popularity as a member of the triumvirate that ruled Rome until his murder.
Caesar has many supporters, but there are many who oppose his lust for power. Those who disagree with his desire to be named the emperor of Rome will not stand idly by as he receives the crown. There are those who would rather kill Caesar than live under his authority.
In Act 1, Scene ii, Cassius explains to Brutus that he does not believe that Caesar deserves to rule over either of them. Brutus is already disturbed by Caesar’s actions, but he also is a loyal friend of his. Cassius on the other hand despises Caesar. From his experiences with Caesar, Cassius believes that Caesar is weak, sickly, womanish, and no better than Cassius or Brutus.
In their discussion, no specific mention is made of the conspiracy to kill Caesar; however, Brutus know what Cassius’s intentions were. Brutus tells Cassius that he needs time to ponder what he feels is best for the Roman republic. He tells Cassius to come to his house and he will tell him what he has decided.
Brutus defects to the opposition to Caesar
Brutus spends many sleepless nights trying to decide what he should do about Caesar. In his soliloquy in Act II, Scene I, Brutus gives his reasons for joining the conspiracy.
It must be by his death, and, for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown’d…
Brutus compares Caesar becoming the emperor to seeing a venomous snake in the daylight. A person needs to avoid the snake because it would sting a person if it gets too close. If Brutus is crowned, the senators would put a sting in Caesar that he might use to harm the government.
If Caesar climbs the ladder of success, he would climb with support on the way up. When he gets to the top, though, Caesar might forget those who helped him along the way. He might turn his back on those who supported him. This is what Caesar might do if he became emperor.
Caesar could be compared to a snake in an egg waiting to be born. If the snake hatches, it could sting a person. As long as the snake is in the egg, it is harmless. Then to avoid the sting, kill the snake in the egg and then there is no danger. This is the same with Caesar. Kill him before he has the opportunity to sting or hurt the republic.
Brutus makes his decision to join the conspiracy based on possibilities. Caesar might take actions that would hurt the Roman government. Therefore, he should be killed before he makes in wrong decisions.
Brutus--One of Caesar’s best friends and loyal subjects--chooses to become one of his assassins. As Caesar is being stabbed, when he sees Brutus coming toward him as the last assassin, he says, "Et tu, Brute!" [And you also, Brutus!] This is the last blow that comes as he falls at the base of the statue of Pompey. What irony!