What led to the death of Brutus in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar creates a time line which is easily followed: before the death of the Caesar, Caesar’s assassination, and the aftermath of the assassination.  As the protagonist of the play, Marcus Brutus makes several decisions that will bring about his demise. 

In Act I, Scene ii, Cassius entices Brutus to join the plot to assassinate Caesar.  Brutus was already contemplating the evil that might come if Caesar became the king. Brutus liked the republic approach to government and feared what Caesar would do to Rome through his arrogance.

In Act II, Scene I, the audience learns that after much contemplation, sleepless nights, and self-examination Brutus has decided that Caesar must die for the good of Rome.  This is his only reason. Caesar is actually a longtime friend of Brutus; there has been nothing that indicated to Brutus that Caesar would become a tyrant.  He has made his decision based on possibilities that Caesar would be too ambitious and ruin Rome and make it hard for the Roman citizenry.

When Cassius suggests that the conspirators take an oath, the high minded Brutus says that there is no need of an oath of secrecy because all of these men were there serving a cause in which they believed.  Unfortunately, someone tells the secret of the plot and Caesar is almost told before the assassination---Again a wrong decision by Brutus.

In Act III, Scene I, Brutus takes part in the murder surprising Caesar and giving him his last words:

Et tu, Brute.

It is during this act that Brutus makes grave mistakes that will cost him not only  his life but the rest of the assassins. 

He allows Antony to live.

  • ----to speak at the funeral
  • ----to bring in the corpse of Caesar
  • ----to speak after Brutus
  • ----Brutus leaves the Capitol after he speaks to the Roman citizens.

All of these decisions were questioned by Cassius; but Brutus over rules him at every turn.

During his oration, Brutus gives his primary reason for killing Caesar:

...he was ambitious and I slew him.

In Act IV, Brutus again over rules Cassius in the decision to take the army to Philippi.  Cassius tries to tell Brutus, who is much less experienced in warfare, that by marching the army to the fight that their army will be more tired and less capable of fighting.  He wanted Antony and Octavius to march to them. 

Lastly, Brutus does not heed the warnings of the evil spirit of Caesar. The ghost tells Brutus that he will see him at Philippi more than once.  Brutus, who is a stoic and does not really attend to the paranormal or emotions, ignores the warning and faces his death by his own hand.

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Julius Caesar

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