In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, why does Brutus not want Caesar to be king?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first act of Julius Caesar, Cassius persuades Brutus that Caesar has tyrannical tendencies.  For one thing, he has defeated Pompey, who used to be his ally.  Then, he enters Rome with Marc Antony; together they make a show of Antony's attempting to crown him with Caesar's refusing this crown three times. Cassius tells Brutus that Caesar is a "colossus" standing over them, and ends by saying that "honor is the subject of my story" (1.2.92).

In the privacy of his garden in Act II, Brutus ponders all that he has seen and heard this day.  After having received the forged letters that are supposedly from senators who inveigh the ruler, Brutus tells himself, 

"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 crowned.

How that might change his nature, there's the question.

Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins

Remorse from power; and, to speak truth of Caesar,

I have not known when his affections swayed

More than his reason.... (2.1.10-21)

 Brutus worries that Caesar may rise to power and lose his humility and become the tyrannt that Cassius describes :

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend.  So Caesar may;

Then lest he may, prevent....

And, therefore, think him as a serpent's egg,

When hatched, would as his kind grown mischievous,

And kill him in the shell. (2.1.26-34)

It is Brutus's fear of Caesar's tyranny which leads him to join the conspirators and attempt the assasination.  He nobly tells the Romans that he did love Caesar, but he loved Rome more.


lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Brutus did not want anyone to be king (or dictator). Rome was a republic. That meant it was government by the people, for the people and of the people. Caesar had become very powerful and beloved by his people, so much so, that they wanted to make him a king. It was not so much that Brutus did not want Caesar to be the king but that he did not want Rome to go from being a republic, which Brutus favored as a better form of government, to a dictatorship or empire, under an emperor.

Brutus stated that he loved Caesar, but he loved Rome more. He was more loyal to the idea of the republic than to his friend. For this reason, he took part in the plot to murder Caesar, but it was a painful choice for him. He knew that if there was ever a person who was strong enough to change Rome from being a republic into being an empire, it would have been Caesar, thus he consented to the murder and delivered "the unkindest cut of all."

shaketeach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absoutely.  Shakespeare explores this idea in many of his plays.

Rome was a Republic.  Brutus rightly understands the danger of giving ultimate power to one man, in this case Julius Caesar.  With no checks to this power the people of Rome would no longer enjoy a say in their government.

It doesn't take a genius to see through Caesar when Mark Anthony offers him the crown three times.  He is playing the coy maiden (as does Richard in Richard III).  Caesar knows his audience and knows that the more that he refuses, the more the people will want him as their absolute ruler.

One has only to look into Roman history after the death of Caesar to realize that Brutus was correct in his fears.

catcb1 | Student

The Roman Republic consisted of three branches of government splitting the power. The three branches were the legislative, which makes the laws; the judicial branch that interprets the law; and executive which enforces the laws. Essentially, meaning that it was governed by the people, for the people and of the people of Rome. After Julius Caesar defeated Pompey, many senators thought that he would become king, and overrule the republic, eventually gaining a lot of power of Rome. Brutus’s ancestors were the ones to establish the Roman Republic, so in his name, it is important that Brutus honors it. He believes, “That at [Caesar’s] will he may do danger with [the power],” meaning Caesar will eventually rule of the empire with ample power (49).  Brutus did not support the fact that Rome would become an empire of dictatorship, he was more inclined to a republic. He also was aware that giving too much power to one man can cause danger to one’s country. 

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Julius Caesar

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