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Brutus's motives and internal conflict regarding his betrayal of Caesar and joining the conspiracy

Summary:

Brutus's motives for betraying Caesar and joining the conspiracy stem from his belief in the greater good of Rome. He is internally conflicted because he values his friendship with Caesar but fears that Caesar's rise to power will lead to tyranny. Ultimately, Brutus prioritizes his republican ideals over personal loyalty, believing that Caesar's death is necessary for the republic's survival.

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Why did Brutus betray Caesar?

The answer to this question can be found in Brutus's funeral speech in Act 3, scene II, where he tries to explain to the Roman citizens why Caesar needed to die. He explains that no one loved Caesar more than he, but that he "loved Rome more." Throughout the speech, he provides reasons for why Caesar was no good to the people of Rome, pointing to the fact that under his rule, they would "die all slaves" and therefore it was necessary for Brutus to "rise against Caesar." Brutus explains to the audience:

As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him.

Though Brutus admires many of Caesar's traits, his admiration does not outweigh the need to stop his ambition. In weighing his strong love for Caesar with his love for Rome, Brutus effectively sways the audience, in this moment, from thinking he has committed a crime to believing he has made a sacrifice for their benefit.

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Why does Brutus join the conspiracy against Caesar?

Brutus has listened to Cassius and has been given evidence that Caesar is an ambitious man who craves power--he denies the crown, but it is made obvious to the crowd and to Brutus that Caesar does crave the position and the power.  It will only be a matter of time before Caesar is Rome's Emperor when Rome had always been ruled by a group of men in order to prevent power from overwhelming and tempting a single man into dictatorship.

Brutus is at war with himself since he has no ill will toward Caesar.  However, with the best interests of Rome at heart, Brutus agrees that Caesar is dangerous with the following quote:  “And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg, / Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous, / And kill him in the shell.”  Therefore, he deserves to die, and he agrees to join the conspiracy to rid Rome of its poisonous serpent. 

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Why does Brutus join the conspiracy against Caesar?

Some critics might add that Brutus is naive and too easily swayed by Cassius, who puts the ideas in his head to begin with in Act 1 Scene 2.  Cassius tells Brutus, who suggests he doesn't quite know what to think about Caesar, "Since you know you cannot see yourself / So well as by reflection, I, you glass, / Will modestly discover to yourself / that of yourself which you yet know not of" (67-70).  If Brutus doesn't know what to think, well then, Cassius will help him out, and this eventually leads to Brutus's monologue in the garden when he decides Caesar is a danger to Rome and should therefore die.

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Should Brutus join the conspiracy against Caesar? What are the pros and cons?

CON:

  • In retrospect, of course, the joining of Brutus in the act of conspiracy is unwise. In the final act, at the battle of Phillippi, Brutus has his forces attack those of Octavius and they are defeated. Of course, after his death, his successors, the triuimvirate of Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus become much more tyrannical than Caesar has been.  For, the only evidence of corruption on the part of Caesar is his having Flavius and Marullus is their "pulling scarves off Caesar's images."  Other than this incident, there is no evidence of Caeasr's tyranny.
  • Brutus allows himself to be deceived by Cassius. For, Cassius's motives for enlisting Brutus are purely selfish:  (a)  He forges letters from the Romans that "testify" to Caesar's acts of tyranny, and he leaves them where Brutus will find them. (b) He flatters Brutus,

...you have no such mirrors as will turn/Your hidden worthiness into your eye,/That you misght see your shadow...I, your glass/Will modestly discover to yourself/That of yourself which you yet know not of....honor is the subject of my story (I,ii,56-70).

  • Brutus is flawed in his judgments.  In Act I, scene ii, hearing the shouting of the crowd and flourish of trumpets, he tells Cassius, "I do fear the people/Choose Caesar for their king." At Sardis, when he and Cassius quarrel, critics have suggested that Brutus's judgment, clouded by the love he has for Cassius, demonstrates his inability to distinguish his own motives from his noble principles.  Ironically, Brutus's remark about the "tide in the affairs of men" (IV, iii) becomes tragically true for him.
  • His moral judgment is flawed.  Often he confuses his own motives in his idealism and his devotion to the principle of republicism.  In his soliloquy of act II, Brutus deceives himself into believing that he is solely concerned about the public good: 

Th'abuse of greaness 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.  But 'tis a common proof that lowliness is young ambition's ladder,/Whereto the climber upward turns his face;/But when he once attains the upmost round,/He then unto the ladder turns his back,/...scorning the base degrees...(II,i, 18-27)   

  • Later Brutus becomes guilty of what he suspects in Caesar.  In his quarrel with Cassius at Sardis, Brutus is guilty of this very pride, especially when he manipulates his troops, telling them they can leave if they do not believe in his "noble" causes. 

Truly, as Marc Antony declared after the assassination of his beloved Caesar, in Brutus, as in the other conspirators,

O, judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts (is it not interesting brutish looks much like Brutus?)/And men have lost their reason!...(III,ii,105-106) 

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Should Brutus join the conspiracy against Caesar? What are the pros and cons?

In the play, Brutus decides to join the conspirators against Caesar because Cassius convinces him that it's for the good of Rome. Brutus loves Caesar, but loves his country more.  It's the same reason many families were split during the civil war; they loved one another, but they had a higher sense of loyalty and responsibility to their homeland.  Love of country is responsible for may heroic and heinous acts all throughout history.

However noble his reasoning for turning against Caesar, one fact remains, though:  they were friends.  Any way you slice it, it still ends up being a strong case of betrayal.  They were not best friends by anymeans, but they were friends nonetheless.  Friendship inherently entails some sort of loyalty, and Brutus clearly forgets this as he joins a group of men who are set against the leader of Rome for a variety of reasons, most of which are the furthest thing from noble. 

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