Who is the tragic hero in Julius Caesar? 

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Brutus is clearly the tragic hero in the play. His character is developed according to the criteria of Shakespeare's other tragic heroes; he is a good man of high position whose downfall occurs because of a fatal flaw in his own character, a flaw of which he is unaware. His fall is tragic, therefore, because he is an admirable person who ultimately destroys himself.

In the play's beginning, Brutus is a well respected Roman senator whose love of country is unquestioned. His integrity is strong and his principles firm. Brutus tells Cassius, " . . . I love / the name of honor more than I fear death." It is his sense of honor and love of Rome that draws him into the conspiracy to murder Caesar, and once a part of it, his downfall is unavoidable.

Brutus' fatal flaw is that of idealism and naivete. He lives in the world of honor and assumes that everyone is as honorable as he. Brutus cannot recognize deceit in others; thus, he is easily manipulated by Cassius through a series of deceptions. At the end of Act I, Cassius says of Brutus in regard to his joining the conspiracy, "Three parts of him/ Is ours already, and the man entire / Upon the next encounter yields him ours."

After Caesar's assassination, Brutus lets Antony speak at the funeral (an honorable thing to do), and then is driven from Rome after Antony turns the crowd against the conspirators. Brutus' downfall occurs swiftly thereafter; he commits suicide to avoid capture in battle. At the play's conclusion, however, Shakespeare reminds his audience that Brutus had once been a good and great man, thus emphasizing the tragedy of his destruction. Antony declares: "This was the noblest Roman of them all."