Julius Caesar Characters
The main characters in Julius Caesar are Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus, Mark Antony, and Cassius.
- Julius Caesar is a popular Roman senator and general who is assassinated by a group of conspirators.
- Marcus Brutus is a senator and friend of Caesar’s who becomes convinced that Caesar is overly ambitious and must be assassinated for the good of Rome.
- Mark Antony is a soldier and loyalist to Caesar. After the assassination, he forms the Second Triumvirate and goes to war against the conspirators.
- Cassius is a senator who convinces Marcus Brutus to join the conspiracy by presenting him with forged letters from the public.
A great Roman general and senator, Julius Caesar has recently returned to Rome after a major victory in Spain. Though the Roman crowds welcome him, several aristocrats and members of the senate are wary of Caesar’s growing power, fearing that his ambition may orient him toward tyranny. However, in refusing the crown thrice on the Feast of Lupercal, Caesar does not show himself to be particularly ambitious. A man prone to epileptic seizures, Caesar is married to Calpurnia and has no children. He is also depicted as superstitious, a trait he hides under a veneer of masculinity. Masculinity and egotism, rather than ambition, are Caesar’s biggest flaws. He frequently refers to himself in the third person and ignores the warnings of his well-wishers, such as Calpurnia, Artemidorus, and the soothsayer. Caesar represents the perils of abandoning one’s private self for a public image.
Often called the “true hero” of Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus is a complex, multilayered character devoted to Rome. Brutus, who is a close friend of Caesar’s, nevertheless opposes the concentration of power in Caesar, especially as he believes Caesar is given to ambition and tyranny. However, Brutus is not shown to be a particularly good judge of character, so his assessment of Caesar remains questionable. A tragic hero must have a flaw, and Brutus’s is his rigid sense of honor, which makes him slow to sense duality in others and quick to be manipulated. Ironically, despite the nobility of his motives, Brutus is the first in the play to suggest that Caesar’s death is the only antidote to his power. Fooled by Cassius into believing that the Roman public desires him to act against Caesar, Brutus joins a conspiracy against Caesar, killing him. However, Caesar’s death does not usher in the utopia Brutus desires; rather, it pushes Rome into chaos. Brutus’s inability to judge the threat represented by Mark Antony plays a great role in his ultimate decline. Routed by Antony, Brutus dies by suicide in Philippi. However, his tragic legacy lives on, with Antony declaring him the “noblest” of Romans. Brutus represents the pitfalls of unchecked and uninformed idealism.
A Roman soldier and a loyal friend of Caesar’s, practical, shrewd Antony is the foil to Brutus. After Caesar dies, Antony buys himself time and opportunity to act by pretending to be friends with the conspirators. Brutus allows Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral despite his co-conspirator Cassius’s misgivings. Antony seizes his chance and delivers a rhetorical masterpiece of a speech to the Roman crowd, pressing upon them the horror of Caesar’s death and the ignoble intentions of the “honorable” men who attacked him in a pack. Moved by Antony’s powerful words, the crowd turns against the conspirators, who are driven out of the city. Antony forms a triumvirate with Octavius (Caesar’s adopted son) and Lepidus and declares war on the conspirators. Though Antony’s side wins the war, his own fate is uncertain. His desire to exclude Lepidus from power hints at his own ambitious nature.
Described as “lean and hungry” in appearance, Cassius is a long-time acquaintance of Caesar’s who has grown envious of Caesar’s “Colossus”-like stature in Rome. Cassius is the catalyst who spurs Brutus into joining the faction against Caesar. However, he shows that he is not above using underhanded methods to do so, forging letters from the public to sway Brutus’s opinion. Later in the play, after Caesar’s death, Brutus accuses Cassius of miserliness and having developed a taste for bribery. Thus, Cassius’s motives in killing Caesar are not nearly as noble as Brutus’s. The...
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obverse side of Cassius’s cynicism is his perceptiveness. At three critical junctures in the play, he asks Brutus to beware of Antony, counsel Brutus rejects to his peril. Although largely portrayed in a negative light, Cassius redeems himself somewhat toward the play’s end through the loyalty he shows to Brutus and Titinius.
Caesar’s adopted son and grandnephew, Octavius Caesar, returns from his travels abroad after Caesar’s death. Joining forces with Antony, Octavius meets Cassius and Brutus in war. Though Antony tries to control Octavius’s movements, Octavius, though young, proves difficult to manage. His authority leads to his ultimate succession as the leader of the Roman Empire.
Another nobleman who joins Cassius’s conspiring faction, Casca is described by Cassius as “dull.” It is Casca who relates to Cassius and Brutus how Caesar thrice refused the crown offered to him by Antony.
One of the only two women characters in the text, Calpurnia is superstitious by nature. Alarmed by her nightmare portending Caesar’s death, she asks Caesar to stay home on the Ides of March. However, Caesar imperiously disregards her advice. Caesar seems to behave authoritatively toward Calpurnia.
The daughter of Cato, a noble Roman who opposed Brutus, Portia is Brutus’s wife. Her relationship with Brutus is shown to be closer than Calpurnia’s is with Caesar. Used to being Brutus’s confidante, she is upset at his secrecy and entreats him to tell her his secret. It is suggested that Brutus reveals some of the conspiracy to Portia. Later in the play she kills herself, fearing Brutus’s decline and Antony’s rising power.
Flavius and Marullus
Flavius and Marullus are tribunes, or public officials elected by the people of Rome. They are sentenced to death for removing the decorations from Caesar’s statues during Caesar’s triumphal parade.
An elderly Roman senator and orator, Cicero speaks at Caesar’s triumphal parade. He is later sentenced to death for treason at the order of Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus, the Second Triumvirate.
Lepidus, a wealthy banker and general, is the third member completing Antony and Octavius’s Second Triumvirate. Antony cynically thinks of Lepidus as a “slight,” or insignificant, man, but Octavius trusts Lepidus.